Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/7/2012 (1712 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG — The lawyer for Manitoba Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas has suggested that her accuser was pimping himself out to a neighbour for money.
The blockbuster accusation came Wednesday as Sheila Block, who represents Judge Douglas at a judicial inquiry underway here, was cross-examining Alex Chapman, the man whose complaint of sexual harassment sparked the hearing.
Block was going through Chapman’s own diary entries for three days in May and June of 2003, about the time Chapman’s divorce was finalized and he complained for the first time that Judge Douglas’s husband and Chapman’s then-lawyer, Jack King, was sexually harassing him.
At the time, Chapman accused only King, but about two years ago, when he took his story public, he also alleged that Judge Douglas, who was then a lawyer, had participated in the harassment.
The stunning accusation came as Chapman was describing how King’s harassment had ruined his life.
"Do you want to come clean on this?" Block asked abruptly.
"Do you want to tell them [the hearing panel] this whole Dennis G. and his wife story? Or do you want me to take you through it?’
Chapman replied by saying what he had testified to earlier, that Mr. G, a former neighbour and an elderly man who was dying of cancer, had hired him for $500 a week to teach his wife computer skills.
Block then in short order took Chapman to entries in his original daybook for May 29 and 30 and June 16.
Though the first two entries are included in a document released on the public website of the Canadian Judicial Council, which ordered the inquiry, the final one appears only in the original daybook, which is a confidential exhibit.
In the first entry, Block read, Chapman wrote, "Dennis wants a favour" but didn’t want to discuss it on the phone.
The two men met in person, and, Block read an entry from an hour later the same day where Chapman wrote, "Dennis calls me, he’s really excited about it, says what the plan is. I would flatter his wife with compliments then get [obliterated word, Block told the inquiry] he would walk in, ask me to leave, pay me later."
"That’s not what it says," Chapman sputtered.
Block continued to the next entry that same night.
"He told me he wants to and would pay me $500 a week to do her," she read.
Block moved to the May 30, 2003 entry then, but Chapman interjected with, "This is not right. You need to call these people [meaning Mr. G and his wife]."
Block continued reading.
"He would pay me $500 a week to do her. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her," she read.
Then she read what she said was the June 16, 2003 entry, where Chapman wrote, "Visit Dennis’s home to repair her computer. Dennis would leave and give me time to flirt with his wife."
Chapman didn’t dispute the content of the entry — the original daybook was before him in the witness stand — but rather seized gleefully on the word "cancel" beside the entry, and said the meeting hadn’t happened.
"This is not right," he said.
"It’s your diary, Mr. Chapman," Block snapped.
"It’s not right," Chapman replied.
A few minutes later, Block asked him again if he wanted to "amend" his version. "No," he replied, but he was clearly subdued. "He wanted me to teach his wife an accounting package… He owns a business."
"Do you want to add anything?" Block asked.
Chapman said he’d even mentioned the work to his company’s human resources manager to see if it was OK to "do a job on the side, I guess."
"That’s it?" Block asked.
"Yes ma’am, to the best of my knowledge," Chapman said.
It wasn’t at all plain if Chapman understood the gravity of the accusation Block was levelling at him.
Indeed, in three days on the stand, he has proven to be an oft-obtuse witness, whether intentionally or not. Many times, he has appeared not to understand the point of questions, and he has been frequently argumentative, snapping either at the panel’s independent counsel, Kirsten Crain, or Block that they were twisting his words or that documents put in front of him were inaccurate — even when they bore his signature.
In any case, after the brief but dramatic exchange, Block then moved on to a different area.
By this time, the questioning by Crain and Block had left Chapman’s credibility sorely bruised.
He had admitted to lying about having a computer sciences degree on his résumé and failing to disclose a recent $135,000 payment he received for his interest in a jazz club, the last instalment shortly before he claimed to be penniless. Though he said most of that money was used too pay off club debts, he also claimed an income of only $1,500 before the CJC, which granted him partial standing and agreed to pay for his lawyer, Rocco Galati, of Toronto.
Earlier, Block demolished Chapman’s claim that he had been fired because of his Judge Douglas allegations (she read from a dismissal letter sent by his former employer) and that the harassment by King had cost him his beloved family.
In fact, it turns out, that stormy marriage was marked by allegations of violence and abuse. Chapman at one point had even sued his former wife, her mother and her nephew, and called the police on a stepdaughter who allegedly stole his identity and credit cards.
As Block put it once, "He sues them. This is the family he told the CJC he’s upset about losing."
Chapman admitted the family dynamics were tempestuous, but said variously "I’m not here to debate my divorce!" and "Where are we going with this?" before adding, "I care for my family, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are."
While there is no issue that Chapman was sexually harassed by King — in 2003 he directed him to a hard-core website where he had posted intimate shots of Judge Douglas, emailed him other pictures and was trying to convince Chapman that his wife wanted to have sex with him — the allegation that Judge Douglas participated came only in 2010, when Chapman went to the CJC and the CBC.
In any case, Chapman still managed to have the last word, as he always does.
Just before the panel called it a day, he blurted out that he wanted to see the website pictures of Judge Douglas again. He claimed that one had gone missing, and that it showed Judge Douglas "masturbating in a judge’s chair… It looked like it happened in a courthouse."
Block replied wearily, "That’s another woman."
"I don’t think so, ma’am," Chapman said with a grin, his confidence clearly back. "Let’s put it on the screen and let’s look at it here."
Christie Blatchford is a Postmedia News columnist.