Four NHL players charged in 2018 World Juniors sex assault case

Click to play video: '5 pro hockey players charged in 2018 World Juniors sex assault case'
5 pro hockey players charged in 2018 World Juniors sex assault case
WATCH: Five professional hockey players - Alex Formenton, Michael McLeod, Dillon Dubé, Carter Hart, Cal Foote - have now been charged in connection with an alleged group sexual assault in London, Ont. in June 2018. Mackenzie Gray reports – Jan 30, 2024

Four former members of Canada’s 2018 World Juniors hockey team who now play in the NHL have been charged with sexual assault in connection to allegations involving that team, their lawyers confirmed Tuesday.

Lawyers for New Jersey Devils players Michael McLeod and Cal Foote and Calgary Flames forward Dillon Dube told Global News their clients have been charged by police in London, Ont. Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart has also been charged, his lawyers said in a public statement.

A fifth former member of the 2018 team who now plays in Switzerland, former Ottawa Senators player Alex Formenton, surrendered to police on Sunday.

McLeod’s lawyers David Humphrey and Seth Weinstein said in a statement Tuesday that their client “denies any wrongdoing.”

“He will be pleading not guilty and will vigorously defend the case.”

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Click to play video: 'Hockey Canada faces reckoning over arrests in alleged 2018 sex assault'
Hockey Canada faces reckoning over arrests in alleged 2018 sex assault

Louis P. Strezos and Kaleigh Davidson, who said they represent Dube, released their own statement saying he will also plead not guilty “and maintains his innocence.”

“He will defend the allegations in court,” they said.

Toronto lawyer Julianna Greenspan said in a statement that Foote is charged with sexual assault.

“Cal is innocent of the charge and will defend himself against this allegation to clear his name,” she said.

A statement posted to social media by law firm Savard Foy LLP confirmed Hart was charged with one count of sexual assault by London police.

“He is innocent and will provide a full response to this false allegation in the proper forum, a court of law,” lawyers Megan Savard and Riaz Sayani said in the statement.

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On Sunday, Formenton turned himself into London police headquarters. Formenton’s lawyers told the Globe and Mail that he was charged in connection to “an accusation made in 2018,” and would plead not guilty.

Click to play video: 'Hockey player Alex Formenton turns himself in to London Police'
Hockey player Alex Formenton turns himself in to London Police

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Earlier this month, all five players’ teams publicly announced they had been granted indefinite leaves of absence, but the teams did not mention the London case. The Flames’ statement said Dube was taking leave “while he attends to his mental health” and that he is “under the care of health professionals.”

In a new statement Tuesday, the Flames said they “had no knowledge of pending charges at the time Dillon’s request for a leave of absence was granted.”

The Devils and Flyers, as well as Formenton’s Switzerland team HC Ambri-Piotta, have not commented on the charges.

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London police are expected to hold a press conference on the case on Monday, Feb. 5.

The charges stem from an alleged group sexual assault in London, Ont., in June 2018 after a Hockey Canada gala event.

News of the event first broke in May 2022 after TSN reported Hockey Canada had settled a civil lawsuit with the complainant. That report triggered a series of events, which included renewed investigations, as well as intense scrutiny focused on Hockey Canada that eventually led the entire board and leadership team to resign.

Foote’s agent previously told Global News in 2022 his client was not involved in the alleged sexual assault. A lawyer for Hart at the time said his client had not “engaged in any wrongdoing.” Dube’s agent said at the time his client “did not engage in any wrongdoing.” Attempts to contact representatives for McLeod and Formenton at the time went unanswered.

Court documents first reported by the Globe and Mail last December and confirmed by Global News revealed London police said they have “reasonable grounds” to believe five members of the 2018 team were involved in a group sexual assault.

Click to play video: 'Former junior hockey stars to surrender to police over sex assault: Report'
Former junior hockey stars to surrender to police over sex assault: Report

At the time, London police asked a judge to approve a series of investigative measures, like search warrants and production orders, related to their probe.

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“I believe, on reasonable grounds, given the totality of the circumstances that I will described below, that (E.M.) was sexually assaulted. Her perceptions of the evening were one in which she understood and initially (specific sexual act(s)) with (Player #1). The (specific sexual act(s)) that occurred after that was non-consensual,” wrote Sgt. David Younan in the court documents at the time.

“I believe, when taking a global view of the evidence, (E.M.) subjectively believed that she had no alternative but to engage in the (specific sexual act(s)). Further, I believe that each of the suspects knew or ought to have known that (E.M.) had not consented to the (specific sexual act(s)) in which each engaged.”

Two investigations — one by London police and another by law firm Henein Hutchison LLP, which was retained by Hockey Canada to conduct an independent probe — were launched a day after the incident allegedly occurred. Both were closed months later with no charges or sanctions against any of the players alleged to have been involved.

However, after the allegations became public in May 2022, both investigations were reopened.

Hockey Canada in November said the final report from an independent adjudication panel that looked into the alleged sexual assaults would not be released publicly amid an appeal, which will be held behind closed doors.

Henein Hutchison LLP’s investigative report has also remained sealed throughout the adjudication process, which itself was carried out in private.

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All players from the 2018 world junior team remain suspended by Hockey Canada and are ineligible to play, coach or otherwise participate in any Hockey Canada-sanctioned events — including international competition — pending the completion of the appeal process, the organization said.

—With files from Global’s David Baxter, Naomi Barghiel, Aaron D’Andrea and Nathaniel Dove

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