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Independent MNA Harold LeBel to plead not guilty in sex assault trial: lawyer

Parti Québecois MNA Harold LeBel is sworn in at the national assembly in Quebec City on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Francis Vachon/The Canadian Press

Quebec Independent MNA Harold LeBel will be pleading not guilty to a charge of sexual assault, according to his lawyer Maxime Roy.

LeBel appeared Monday at the Rimouski courthouse by videoconference.

He was arrested on Dec. 15, 2020 by the Sûreté du Québec, then removed from the Parti Québécois caucus (PQ).

The charge against LeBel stems from an alleged incident in 2017. The identity of the alleged victim is protected by a publication ban.

Read more: Harold LeBel removed from Parti Québécois caucus following arrest

On Dec. 17, Lebel said in a statement that he had “nothing to be ashamed of” and wanted to continue to exercise his function as member of the national assembly for Rimouski as an independent.

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On Monday, Roy said his client is seeking to have certain bail conditions relaxed and intends to plead not guilty. It is not yet known, however, whether Lebel intends to choose a trial by judge or jury.

“We will reserve our choice as to the mode of trial,” Roy told the judge, “but it is the intention of LeBel to enter, at the appropriate time, a plea of ​​not guilty.”

Prosecutor Manon Gaudreault indicated that the Crown’s evidence consists of three audio-video recordings, which will be transcribed. There are also “sealed packages” to be opened.

Read more: Quebec tables bill to abolish time constraints for civil cases related to sexual assault

The case has been pushed back until Feb. 16.

The news of LeBel’s arrest has created a stir at the national assembly, where the MNA had a good reputation.

LeBel had just been crowned “Best representative of his constituency” in a poll by La Presse carried out among members of the national assembly.

He was also the PQ’s spokesperson for employment, social solidarity, the fight against poverty and independent community action.

— With files from Global News’ Annabelle Olivier

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