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Ex-Quebec media star Eric Salvail calls sex assault accusations 'bizarre'

MONTREAL — Former Quebec media star Eric Salvail categorically denied the accusations against him Thursday, testifying that the claims he harassed, confined and sexually assaulted a one-time co-worker were simply "bizarre.
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MONTREAL — Former Quebec media star Eric Salvail categorically denied the accusations against him Thursday, testifying that the claims he harassed, confined and sexually assaulted a one-time co-worker were simply "bizarre."

On his second day on the witness stand, the fallen television star told the court he wasn't even working at Radio-Canada in 1993 when he is alleged to have sexually assaulted Donald Duguay in a bathroom in the public broadcaster's Montreal headquarters.

He also showed the court photos taken of him that year to illustrate his physique at the time, in an attempt to convince a judge that he wasn't the intimidating predator he is accused of being.

"I visibly didn't have either the stature or the imposing manner that (Duguay) described, as if I was six feet tall and I could dominate and hold someone down and at the same time undo his belt," Salvail said.

He said he was no longer working at Radio-Canada at the time of the alleged assault in October 1993, and that when the harassment is alleged to have begun the previous spring, he was not working in the mailroom with Duguay, as Duguay has testified.

"I never grabbed the buttocks of Mr. Duguay in April or May or June of 1993," he said. "I didn't work in the mailroom."

Salvail said he was just beginning his career at the time and wouldn't have taken such a risk. He said the first time he heard the name Donald Duguay was when he received an email from the prosecutor outlining Duguay's accusations.

Duguay alleges Salvail repeatedly harassed him over a period of several weeks in 1993, and also cornered him in the bathroom, exposed himself and tried to force him into performing a sex act. He has had the standard publication ban on the identity of alleged victims in sexual assault cases waived.

Salvail told the court he doesn't remember making lewd comments about Duguay's rear end.

During his cross-examination, Salvail admitted he used to make those kind of comments often. "That's the kind of guy I am," he said. "I make comments like that: 'Your dress looks good on you, it makes your breasts nice.' It's possible I said things like that."

But the ex-TV host said if those comments are unacceptable in more traditional workplaces, they are more common in the media industry. Salvail said, however, that he "never crossed the line."

Prosecutor Amelie Rivard confronted Salvail about a Facebook post he made shortly after Montreal's La Presse published an article in 2017 containing allegations against him by several people. In it he said he was shocked and was taking stock of the consequences of his actions and how they affected people.

Rivard suggested to him that the Facebook post was an admission he had problematic behaviour.

Salvail responded that the post was written for him by a public relations agency. "I had lost everything, professionally. Personally, it's extremely difficult to live with," he said.

The case is adjourned until March 11, when the Crown will declare whether it intends to provide a rebuttal to the defence case. Closing arguments have been scheduled for April 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Press