A renowned ex-coach in Canadian pairs skating was found guilty Wednesday of sexual assault and gross indecency dating back nearly 40 years.
Richard Gauthier was on trial on three charges in connection with crimes he committed in the 1980s involving a teenage male skater whom he trained.
Gauthier, 61, was found guilty on two charges, in a ruling rendered in Montreal by Quebec court Judge Josée Bélanger. He was acquitted of a third count of indecent assault against the victim, whose identity is covered by a publication ban.
“The evidence demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused’s conduct caused the plaintiff serious harm,” the judge wrote in a 49-page ruling.
The victim was 14 at the time of the incidents while Gauthier was in his 20s. Gauthier coached him for about six years, until the victim turned 18.
Gauthier was accused of having bathed naked with the victim, taken showers with him and spooned naked with him in a bed at the accused’s residence.
“These are sexual gestures made by the accused toward the athlete he was training, whom the latter loved, and toward whom he had great admiration,” Bélanger ruled. “As the complainant’s testimony pointed out, due to the behaviour of the accused, he suffered serious psychological harm. This prejudice is high.”
The judge did not believe the version of events of Gauthier, who was charged in 2020.
“Not only is the accused not credible, but his testimony is also unreliable. It contains certain additions, flagrant contradictions, and evolves over the questions asked in cross-examination,” the judge ruled.
Prosecutor Amélie Rivard told reporters she was hopeful the verdict will send a message to survivors that time doesn’t erase criminal actions. She said she hoped the ruling encourages victims of sexual assault to come forward.
The case will return to court next month.
In a statement Wednesday, Skate Canada said Gauthier “has been permanently expelled” from the national governing body for figure skating.
Gauthier had been suspended from the organization since Oct. 2, 2020, after it received confirmation of the criminal charges against him.
“Permanently expelled individual’s rights and privileges as a member of Skate Canada have been revoked, and application for reinstatement is not permitted,” the governing body said in a statement Wednesday.
Gauthier has a lengthy track record of coaching world-class skaters. He was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame as a coach in 2015.
According to an entry on Skate Canada’s website, Gauthier was described as having “the golden touch” in pairs skating, and as being “one of the most respected pair coaches in the world for the better part of three decades.” The entry noted that Gauthier wanted his legacy to be his coaching record.
The organization said Wednesday it is committed to “providing an environment where everyone can experience the joy of skating in a safe and healthy manner.”
—Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press