Image dissolves as court proceeding begins

There was nothing suggestive of the trademark bravado — no windblown tresses, no pose-enhanced, poster-ready tanned biceps, no unnaturally white smile or flashy and predictably furry garmentry — apparent in the Peter Nygard who appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Tuesday to face an extradition hearing at the behest of U.S. authorities.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2020 (722 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There was nothing suggestive of the trademark bravado — no windblown tresses, no pose-enhanced, poster-ready tanned biceps, no unnaturally white smile or flashy and predictably furry garmentry — apparent in the Peter Nygard who appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Tuesday to face an extradition hearing at the behest of U.S. authorities.

Instead, the image long associated with the locally spawned myth of the fashion mogul was supplanted by the in-person presence of a very ordinary, dishevelled, grey-haired 79-year-old man — a stooped, frail, sweatshirt-clad individual in shackles who had been arrested by RCMP investigators and was now being apprised of the particulars of a 24-page indictment alleging decades of sexual misconduct against numerous female victims.

The nine-count indictment, unsealed early Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, lays out in detail the charges — racketeering, sex trafficking, and prostitution-related offences — Mr. Nygard will face in the U.S. if the extradition request is granted.

A courtoom sketch of Peter Nygard who looked like an ordinary, dishevelled, grey-haired 79-year-old man when he appeared in court Tuesday. (James Culleton / The Canadian Press)

That this day in court had finally arrived surely came as a great relief to many, both here in Winnipeg and in the various other international locales in which he is alleged to have carried out his crimes. So, too, must have been the class-action suit launched last February in a Manhattan court, alleging a lengthy and horrific ongoing series of offences involving the claims of more than 50 women, some of whom were minors when the alleged crimes occurred.

In the aftermath, the once-storied fashion empire has crumbled.

That Mr. Nygard’s appearance in a local courtroom was a result of charges laid in the state of New York rather than the province of Manitoba, however, seems a bit out of balance. Despite decades of widely circulated rumours, numerous specific allegations and several investigations, as well as reported secretive settlements with purported victims, local authorities have never been able to successfully pierce the dual shields of money and influence that allowed the fashion kingpin to remain a prominent and often-celebrated member of the community.

The advent of the #MeToo movement, which laid bare the abuses of powerful, high-profile men such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, NBC personality Matt Lauer, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K. and writer/director Paul Haggis, brought the voices of victims to the fore and empowered those who had long been silenced by intimidation, threats and harassment to finally speak out about their ordeals.

Mr. Nygard — for many decades wealthy beyond description, fiercely protective of his privacy and reputation and surrounded by underlings, associates and “friends” who apparently enabled his behaviour and helped to maintain his presumed untouchability — was necessarily and inevitably going to be among those brought to account in this new era of reckoning.

The list of rumours and allegations was simply too long, the stories of victimized women too plentiful and similar, for any other outcome to be imaginable. And what remains now is for justice to be done.

It was only a matter of time before Peter Nygard was finally arrested. (John Woods / The Canadian Press files)

Mr. Nygard’s lawyers maintain that their client is innocent, that he vehemently denies the allegations, and that he is ready to fight the charges in court.

He is, of course, entitled to a presumption of innocence as the legal proceedings in New York continue, and similar processes inevitably are enacted in other jurisdictions. Evidence and testimony will determine Mr. Nygard’s ultimate fate.

What might be of concern to this rather ordinary accused person, as he maintains temporary residence in Winnipeg’s remand centre, is that there seems to be an extraordinary volume of both.

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