A Toronto jury on Sunday found Peter Nygard, the high-profile executive behind a fallen fashion empire, guilty of four counts of sexual assault after just over three days of deliberation at the end of a six-week trial.
He was found not guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement. His sentencing date will be set at the end of this month. The maximum prison sentence for sexual assault in Canada is 10 years.
The verdict represents the first criminal conviction against Mr. Nygard, 82, who has been in prison for the past two years. He is also expected to stand trial on sex crimes charges next June in Montreal and Winnipeg, where a trial date has not been set.
At the conclusion of the Canadian proceedings, Mr. Nygard will be extradited to New York to face sex trafficking, conspiracy and other charges in a nine-count indictment. Mr. Nygard has appealed New York’s extradition ruling to Winnipeg—his hometown and former base of Nygard International, his clothing company—citing poor health, but the court has not yet issued his decision.
In Toronto, the jury delivered its verdict in front of a packed courtroom. Sitting on a bench in the front row was one of Mr. Nygard’s sons, Kai Bickle, who said outside court that he had renounced his father’s surname and participated in the investigation against him.
“It’s not a good brand association to be the son of a monster,” Mr. Bickle said. “I lost everything. “I walked away from a legacy to do the right thing.”
“I loved my father,” she added. “It hurts me to see all these things.”
Five women, whose testimony made up the bulk of the prosecution’s evidence in the Toronto trial, testified that they were lured by Mr. Nygard to a personal suite at his Toronto headquarters under false pretenses, such as being given a tour of the building , and sexually assaulted. . The complainants were aged between 16 and 28 at the time of the attacks, which they accused Mr Nygard of committing between the 1980s and 2005. Their names are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
“It’s something that has tainted my life,” said one complainant, now in his 60s, who first accused Mr. Nygard in 1998 of raping her nearly a decade earlier. She filed the complaint with Toronto police soon after, fearing retaliation from the fashion mogul after learning that his head of security had flown to Toronto to seek information about his identity, she said.
Another woman, a former employee, broke down in tears as she testified that Mr. Nygard sexually assaulted her during a party at the Toronto office where he had hired her to work as a hostess.
“I don’t know why anyone would hire me and do something like that to me,” he said, adding that he didn’t tell anyone what had happened. “He is so rich and powerful, who would believe me?”
Mr Nygard was acquitted in relation to his sexual assault charge.
The women were not in the courtroom, but Shannon Moroney, a therapist representing them and other women in a class action against Mr. Nygard, called some of them from outside the courthouse with the verdict.
“There are always so many different emotions,” Ms. Moroney said after delivering the news. “It’s relief. It’s the victory. It’s joy. It’s pain. It’s a disappointment. “This is a battle won in a much bigger war.”
Prosecutors and defense lawyers spent much of their time digging into the memories of people on the witness stand, including Mr. Nygard, who testified in his defense for about a week.
He consistently denied the allegations and said he did not remember ever meeting four of the complainants, but said he recognized his former employee. Mr. Nygard’s testimony was marked by frequent bouts of what he called “short-term memory loss,” even as prosecutors questioned his ability to remember, in great detail, other facts.
Where memory fails him, Mr. Nygard swears that the sexual assaults and rapes described by the women were not in his character.
“My position is that I would not have behaved that way,” Mr. Nygard said, responding to prosecutors’ claims that he had asked some complainants for contact information and offered to help their careers.
“I wasn’t going to take numbers from some woman who was trying to approach me,” Mr. Nygard said. “This is suicidal in front of the media, and this is a total no-no.”
Ana Serban, a prosecutor, called Mr. Nygard’s testimony evasive, inconsistent and wrong.
“Her memory was unreliable and selective,” Serban said in her closing argument to the jury. “You shouldn’t have any trouble dismissing her outright denials.”
The documents that allegedly contributed to Mr. Nygard’s rebuttals, he said, had burned in “a mysterious fire” at a former warehouse in Winnipeg about 10 days before his arrest in October 2021. The building was placed into receivership by a court after his company filed for bankruptcy in 2020.
“The only thing that was lost was the paper documents that the receiver had placed in this shed under their control,” Nygard said, adding that a hacking incident that year had also compromised his electronic data. But she insisted that she tried to help the police investigation by participating in an 11-hour interview with a Toronto detective.
The guilty verdict comes after Brian Greenspan, a defense attorney, urged the jury during closing arguments Tuesday to reject the “revisionist story of events” told by the five women and the prosecution’s narrative of “Jekyll’s personality and Hyde” by Mr. Nygard. “
Four of the women are involved in a class action against Mr Nygard in the United States, a point raised by the defense during cross-examination to suggest the women were making up their stories for financial gain. “The search for gold is very deep,” Greenspan said of one complainant’s testimony.
The civil action is yet another legal battlefront for Mr. Nygard. In May, a New York state judge ordered him to pay $203 million in damages in a defamation lawsuit against Louis Bacon, a hedge fund billionaire whose feud with Nygard began over an estate dispute in the Bahamas and turned into two decades of legal battles. .
Mr. Nygard attributed the stamina he maintained during his hectic lifestyle — glamorous parties, trips around the world on his private plane, the company of dignitaries — to his obsession with health. He told the profanities that he avoided sugary and starchy foods, did not take drugs or smoke and maintained an active lifestyle that left him full of energy despite him often working 18-hour days.
Mr Nygard wore a black suit and orange glasses, and his trademark long hair was pulled back into a low bun for the duration of the trial. He was visibly relaxed throughout most of his testimony, sometimes laughed at his own observations of him, and spoke confidently of his effort to learn a new word a day.
But he said he didn’t know the word “Cognac,” the type of brandy the younger victim testified Mr. Nygard served her before raping her when she was 16.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to learn a word about liquor,” Mr. Nygard said during cross-examination.
In her closing argument, Ms. Serban, the prosecutor, cited the exchange as an example of why the jury should not rely on Mr. Nygard’s testimony.
“Here is a man who enjoys the finer things in life,” he said. “Someone with a taste for luxury. “Does he want to offer his guests the best experience and will he make you believe that he doesn’t know the word ‘Cognac’?”