WINNIPEG — At the request of the inquiry chair, independent counsel Kirsten Crain, one of two prosecutorial equivalents in the curious proceeding unfolding at the Federal Court building here, very delicately fetched a blank sheet of white paper and handed it to the man in the witness box.
Alex Chapman was to use it, please, as a cover sheet as he flipped through 35 pages of sexually explicit photographs of a Manitoba Queen’s Bench judge.
By then, of course, Chapman had already zipped past the first couple of pages, briefly exposing parts of the offending pictures, and the lady in them, to the public gallery.
And in any case, these same photographs, or some of them, were and apparently are still available on the web -- indeed, the fact they were and are forms one of the complaints in the case -- so the horse had long ago bolted the barn on this one.
Yet when it came time to make the photos exhibits, the committee nonetheless had them labelled as confidential, as ineffective and ostentatious a bit of window dressing as there could possibly be.
As a metaphor for the Canadian Judicial Council hearing itself, the committee’s handling of explicit intimate photos of a fellow judge is not half-bad: The entire business is as salacious as hell and everyone knows it, but it has been gussied up as a woeful necessity worthy of grave mien and serious affect.
The five-member committee is probing the conduct of Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas.
She faces four allegations — the most serious that she knowingly participated in the plan of lawyer husband Jack King to entice Chapman, his former client, into having sex with her or them — any one of which could see her deemed unfit and removed from the bench.
In 2003, King, then apparently in mid-mental breakdown, posted the intimate pictures on the Dark Cavern website, which caters to white couples looking for black male partners.
He has admitted doing this, and to sexually harassing Chapman, who is black, but has always maintained he did it all without Judge Douglas’ knowledge and that it was a grotesque betrayal. And at the time, King paid Chapman $25,000 for his silence and to return the pictures and emails he’d sent him, a deal Chapman reneged on seven years later, when it appears he’d decided another judge, in another of his court matters, was being influenced by Douglas, and went to the CJC and the CBC.
Indeed, Chapman himself Monday acknowledged that he had no direct personal knowledge, even from King in full fantastical flight, that Douglas ever knew what her husband was up to.
But, he said, and he said it a number of ways a number of times, "the impression I got was that him and his wife are into this crazy sex stuff but he want to go further... all these pictures, she’s posing for them, with all these labels, labels like ‘waiting for black c--k’... He didn’t tell me she knew the pictures were on the Internet, but they had a splash page on the website, they were married 25 years or whatever...
"But that’s just my opinion," Chapman said.
Suffice to say, he was happy to give his opinion, and volunteered it frequently.
He maintained that King — who had represented him in his divorce, the case just wrapping up when the weird overtures began — was a magnetic bully who was controlling him, and whom he feared.
He agreed that when King suggested he check out the Dark Cavern website, or talked about how he was trying to persuade his wife to be more sexually adventurous, or sent him explicit pictures — tried essentially to pimp Douglas out to Chapman — he never explicitly told him he wasn’t interested.
He was disgusted by the pictures, Chapman said, repelled. He wondered if King wasn’t trying to set him up; after all, he was then suing the Winnipeg police and he figured maybe the cops were behind it. King "got into my head" and he hated it.
"It was so scary," Chapman said once. "I never told him no because he had control over me."
A tentative settlement agreement in his divorce had been reached, he said, admitting King had done well for him, and he figured if he could "just hang on for a couple of weeks," he’d have the divorce. As he put it once, "I wanted him (King) to believe I was interested, but I wasn’t interested."
At least once, when he talked about King’s Svengali-like hold on him, Chapman grew teary. He was at the lowest point of his life — his marriage was over, he was out of his house, his lawyer was harassing him — and he was afraid, he said. He even considered that perhaps "people were going to try to kill me. I was paranoid. My skin is black and I’m in a society where minorities don’t get favours, you know."
Yet in the witness stand, he was occasionally bellicose, and often aggressively confident.
When Crain was taking him through his datebook for 2003, and pointing out how some of the entries reporting meetings or conversations with King were in black ink while the rest of the notes on the pages were in blue, she repeatedly suggested Chapman had added the damaging notes at a later time.
He at first appeared not to understand the inference, and kept answering that he had pens of many colours on his desk.
But when the penny dropped at last, he snapped, "If you don’t believe me, let’s all go take a polygraph test because I don’t like this witch hunt."
Several times, when Crain pressed him, he launched into unrelated lurid descriptions of what King had posted on the Dark Cavern sites, at one point saying of Douglas, "She’s not even my type anyway. She was this hairy woman. I’m sorry, but she was." At another juncture, Chapman snapped, "I mean, come on! She (Douglas) had to, ought to, have known. Back then, I didn’t know my rights. I thought my lawyer was to protect my interest. He raped my mind, basically."
The evidence has just begun to be heard, but it is hard to imagine that all it took to kick-start this entire process was for this strange man to shout, "J’accuse!"
Christie Blatchford is a columnist of Postmedia News.