Former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen found not guilty of sexual assault

Click to play video: 'Former Canuck Jake Virtanen found not guilty of sexual assault'
Former Canuck Jake Virtanen found not guilty of sexual assault
Former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen has been found not guilty of sexual assault. Aaron McArthur has the details and the reaction – Jul 26, 2022

WARNING: Some readers may find details in this story disturbing. Discretion is advised.

A jury has found former Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen not guilty of sexual assault after a week-long trial.

The verdict came after just a few hours of deliberation following the end of closing arguments Monday evening. Virtanen openly wept inside the courtroom as the verdict was read out loud.

In a statement provided hours later, Virtanen said he is “incredibly relieved” that the jury found him not guilty.

“I am glad the truth has come to light,” he said. “I am looking forward to resuming my career as an NHL player. For my whole life, I have dreamed about playing the sport I love, in the best league in the world. I want to thank my family, my friends, and my supporters, the people who stood behind me through these most difficult times.”

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Virtanen was charged with one count of sexual assault following an investigation into an incident that occurred on Sept. 26, 2017. The Abbotsford, B.C., native was playing for the Canucks at the time.

In May 2021, Vancouver police launched their investigation after a 23-year-old woman filed a complaint. She was 18 years old at the time of the alleged incident.

Click to play video: 'Jake Virtanen trial hears closing arguments'
Jake Virtanen trial hears closing arguments

The woman, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, testified during the trial she verbally and physically resisted Virtanen’s advances in a Vancouver hotel room.

Virtanen, who unexpectedly took the stand Thursday and Friday, told the court the complainant never raised any concerns and was an “enthusiastic participant.”

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During closing arguments Monday, defence lawyers said Virtanen was a “reasonable witness” whose testimony held up under cross-examination, adding the complainant’s testimony was filled with inconsistencies that were discovered under cross-examination.

They said the woman changed her story around consent. Under direct questioning, she said she resisted Virtanen’s attempts to kiss her but under cross-examination, she said she did consent to the kissing but drew the line at anything further.

Click to play video: 'Testimony ends in Jake Virtanen’s sex assault trial Friday'
Testimony ends in Jake Virtanen’s sex assault trial Friday

Crown countered that just because the woman misremembered or didn’t remember facts from the night in question doesn’t mean the sexual assault didn’t happen.

He then called Virtanen an opportunistic witness, concocting details or using other people’s versions of events to make his own answers seem more believable.

The lawyer went on to add there is no legal requirement that the complainant’s allegations are corroborated to make them valid and her testimony alone is enough to convict if her testimony eliminates doubt.

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“He is taller than her, stronger than her and had his way with her,” Crown said. “(She) was sexually assaulted. Find Jake Virtanen guilty of sexual assault.”

Click to play video: 'Former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen testifies at sexual assault trial'
Former Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen testifies at sexual assault trial

On Friday, the Crown questioned Virtanen on his intentions the night he picked up the complainant in Vancouver and drove her to the Westin Bayshore.

Virtanen responded that he had not specifically intended for the meeting to be a hookup or for sex. He added that he didn’t know anything was going to happen, but told the court the complainant did not bring up any concerns.

The Crown asked Virtanen if he made an assumption the complainant was there for sex and answered “no,” adding that they didn’t talk about it.

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Asked why he took her straight to the hotel room when there were restaurants and bars they could have gone to, Virtanen testified that they never discussed where they might go.

“You felt that you did all this work, and charmed (the complainant) to meet up and you were going to get sex no matter what,” Crown counsel asked.

“Not true,” said Virtanen.

“You felt you were owed it,” Crown counsel said.

“No,” responded Virtanen.

“You decided you were going to get sex even if she said no,” Crown counsel added.

“She didn’t say no… never,” Virtanen told the court.

Following the launch of the police investigation in 2021, the Canucks placed Virtanen on leave and his contract was bought out the following month. He last played for Spartak Moscow in the Russian-based KHL.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault or is involved in an abusive situation, please visit the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime for help. It is also reachable toll-free at 1-877-232-2610.

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