Police: New info reopened hockey assault case

Sports

LONDON, Ontario — The London Police Service cited a discovery of new evidence for reopening an investigation into an alleged sexual assault involving five players from Canada’s 2018 World Junior hockey team.

Chief Thai Truong and Detective Sgt. Katherine Dann of the LPS’s Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Section met with the media Monday to provide details on where the case stands after charges were formally laid nearly six years after the original complaint in June 2018.

Truong confirmed that Philadelphia’s Carter Hart, Calgary’s Dillon Dube, New Jersey’s Cal Foote and Michael McLeod, and former Ottawa Senator Alex Formenton (who has played recently in Switzerland) surrendered to London police in recent days to be charged with sexual assault. Hart, Dube, Foote and Formenton were each charged with a count of sexual assault, and McLeod faced a second charge for “being a party to the offense.”

In his opening remarks, Truong said there were “insufficient grounds” after the first investigation to bring charges in the case, which was closed in February 2019. He then apologized to the woman who filed the original complaint that it “took so long to reach this point” and said she had fully cooperated with police from the start of their inquiries.

Neither Truong nor Dann spearheaded the first investigation, but Dann was asked to launch a new inquest in July 2022.

“Upon review of the [initial] occurrence, it was determined that there were additional steps that could be taken to advance the investigation,” Dann said. “When the case was reopened in 2022, our team explored investigative opportunities in addition to the [original] team investigation. Those leads were followed, and additional witnesses were spoken to, and we collected more evidence.”

Dann also read a statement from the woman’s representatives, stating that, “It takes an incredible amount of courage for any survivor of sexual assault to report to the police and participate in the criminal justice system. That is certainly true for E.M. Yet she remains committed to seeing this process through. We simply ask that the media and others respect her privacy and her dignity as this matter proceeds through the court process.”

The woman has been identified only as E.M. in court documents.

Truong said the London Police were encouraged to reexplore the case in part based on the local community facilitating those new leads. He would not answer whether the newly found evidence was available to the investigators in 2018 or was entirely fresh.

“This is one investigation, not two,” Truong said, “with the evidence that was collected in 2018 and 2019 used in combination with newly gathered evidence to form reasonable probable grounds to charge these five individuals with sexual assault.”

Truong refused to explain why it took six years for the London Police to bring these charges.

“Why it took so long will form part of the proceedings,” Truong said.

The alleged sexual assault took place on June 18, 2018, after a Hockey Canada banquet in London that featured players from Canada’s gold medal World Junior hockey team. Both Hockey Canada — the sport’s national governing body — and the London police were informed of the alleged incident when it occurred, and both entities launched investigations. Hockey Canada closed its inquiry in September 2020.

The woman subsequently filed a $3.55 million lawsuit in April 2022 against Hockey Canada and eight players she alleged to be involved; Hockey Canada quickly reached an out-of-court settlement with the woman, details of which were never made public.

In her court filing, the victim referenced being allegedly assaulted by eight individuals. Only five individuals have been charged, and there is no indication any more charges will be brought.

“We have laid changes for all the parties that we have reasonable grounds for,” Dann said. “We had varying levels of participation [in speaking with other members of the 2018 world junior team], but I won’t provide specifics on who cooperated.”

Dann did clarify that McLeod is facing a second charge related to the behavior of someone else involved in the alleged assault. She also said there has been no contact between her department and the NHL over the last several months.

Both Truong and Dann repeatedly assured the public it would provide more answers on the case after judicial proceedings were completed.

The assault case has now been adjourned until April 30 following a video conference on Monday with lawyers representing the accused and a justice of the peace. None of the players were present for Monday’s meeting, where no charges were read and no pleas were entered.

Lawyers for each previously released statements stating their clients would defend themselves against the allegations.

During Monday’s hearing, prosecutors obtained an order protecting the identity of the alleged assault victim and of two witnesses in the case. Assistant Crown attorney Heather Donkers also told lawyers they would receive “substantial disclosure” from London Police over the next few days.

The NHL did not learn about the alleged incident until May 2022, and did its own investigation into the matter thereafter. League commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters on Friday that the NHL spoke with every player from 2018 World Junior team as part of their work, but the woman involved in the case refused to speak with them. Bettman said the NHL will not release their findings until after the criminal court proceedings have finished.

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