In testimony, ex-PQ MNA Harold LeBel denies sexually assaulting wife

“It’s not true. I’ve never done that,” he says during his trial in Rimouski.

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Former Parti-Québécois MNA Harold LeBel denied assaulting a young woman at his condominium in Rimouski in 2017.

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“Did you, yes or no, sexually assault (the accuser),” attorney Maxime Roy asked LeBel at the beginning of his testimony Monday morning.

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“No; I never did,” LeBel told the Rimouski courtroom Monday morning.

“You heard her testimony; you heard her testify that you caressed her buttocks, squeezed her buttocks, ran your fingers down her anus or tried to insert them. What do you have to say to this?”

“It’s wrong. I never did that,” LeBel said.

“Have you tried taking off her bra and forcing the bathroom door?”

“I didn’t either,” he said. “I can explain. When I went to the bathroom, it was because I was worried. I wanted to make sure everything was okay.”

“(The prosecutor) said you kissed. What do you have to say about that?”

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“Yes. That happened. At the table. We were talking together, just at that moment. We were talking about our personal situations, sitting elbow to elbow, and that happened, but very quickly we both pulled back and ( the woman) went to the bathroom.

Due to a court-ordered publication ban, details of how the woman, who is from the Greater Montreal area, and her boyfriend ended up at LeBel’s residence cannot be published. They also cannot be identified.

The prosecution said she had known the politician for a long time and got to know him as a friend who had never before shown signs of being attracted to her.

The complainant alleges that while she was staying at LeBel’s home, in October 2017, he groped her in a bed set up in his living room and tried to push his fingers into her anus. She said this happened after she rejected his advances, which included placing his hands on her thighs and kissing her on the mouth.

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Testifying last Tuesday and Wednesday, the woman said she was particularly disturbed by how LeBel became aggressive and tried to force his way into the bathroom while she was getting ready to shower.

She said he took a shower after that, and later returned to the living room where she lay in a bed and asked, “Can I at least sleep next to you?”

She said she agreed to let him get into bed with her for fear he would no longer want to be her boyfriend. She also said she thought he “got the message” when he stopped trying to get into the bathroom with her.

She told the jury that it didn’t take long for Lebel to run her hands over her buttocks and other parts of her body. At one point, she said, Lebel tried to push his fingers into her anus.

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In LeBel’s testimony on Monday, he said the two were left alone after the other woman went to sleep in his bed. This was the second night both women had stayed with LeBel. The first night they had both slept in a folding bed. That night, however, the woman chose to sleep in LeBel’s bed, ostensibly to allow them to continue talking without disturbing her sleep.

LeBel said after the two kissed that he was not comfortable with the situation as he did not want a romantic relationship with the woman. It seemed that she too was not comfortable, he said.

She left and went to the bathroom. I walked up to her after she came in to ask if everything was okay,” he told the jury. “I asked her, ‘Are you okay? Are you okay?’ She said yes’.”

He said that after he used the bathroom, one woman slept in his bed, the other in the Murphy bed in his living room. He decided to sleep in the living room, because the second woman, the accuser, was still awake.

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He said he woke up in the morning with his left hand on the woman’s shoulder and his nose in her hair. She slept with her back to him.

“I immediately backed off,” he said. “I was not comfortable with that situation.”

He later texted the woman, “Thanks for letting me cuddle with you yesterday; I didn’t feel comfortable with that.”

LeBel was a PQ MNA in 2017. He sat as an independent member after being indicted, and did not run in Quebec’s most recent election on Oct. 3.

Only two witnesses were called by the prosecution: the prosecution and a Sûreté du Québec detective who took pictures of LeBel’s apartment in December 2020, three years after the alleged assault. The photos were taken in support of statements the woman made to SQ describing LeBel’s apartment.

LeBel testified Monday morning in his defense. He was to be questioned by the Crown in the afternoon.

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