Éric Salvail, who used to host some of Quebec’s most popular television shows such as Star Académie, was found not guilty in a Montreal courtroom Friday on three sex-related charges.
Quebec court Judge Alexandre Dalmau acquitted the former star of sexual assault, harassment and unlawful confinement in connection with events alleged to have occurred in 1993, involving former co-worker Donald Duguay.
Duguay, who agreed to be identified publicly, testified during the trial that Salvail confined him in a bathroom at the Radio-Canada building in Montreal and assaulted him after months unwanted advances and harassment.
The decision hinged on the credibility of the complainant and the defendant.
Judge Dalmau criticized the complainant’s testimony in his written ruling that he delivered orally at the Montreal courthouse. He said Duguay “took serious liberties with the truth” and may have fabricated portions of his testimony. The judge said even if Duguay didn’t lie, the reliability and credibility of his testimony were still seriously affected.
Dalmau said he didn’t know what to believe in Duguay’s testimony. The judge said that even if he didn’t believe the accused, Salvail’s guilt had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, Dalmau acquitted Salvail of all three charges.
However, the judge said he was convinced that Salvail engaged in behavior that made the complainant uncomfortable or disturbed enough that he confided in his superior and his friends.
“It is likely that the behavior of the accused constitutes a certain kind of harassment,” the judge wrote. However, he didn’t have enough confidence in the testimony of the complainant to find Salvail guilty.
Salvail left the courtroom without addressing reporters.
Prosecutor Amélie Rivard told reporters it was too early for her to decide whether she will appeal. However, at first listen she said the decision appeared to be well founded in law with a detailed factual analysis.
Friday’s verdict was the second time this week a major entertainment figure in Quebec has been found not guilty of sex-related charges. On Tuesday, Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Just for Laughs festival, was found not guilty on charges of rape and indecent assault.
Rivard said she hoped this wouldn’t discourage victims from coming forward, adding that aggressors are frequently found guilty and others plead guilty.