Over a year after he stepped down as founder of Montreal comedy festival Just for Laughs due to multiple sexual-misconduct allegations, Gilbert Rozon has been charged with rape and indecent assault. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions revealed the two charges today, which stem from offenses that occurred between June and September 1979. Nine women came forward with allegations against Rozon last year that spanned from the 1980s to recent JFL festivals, and in May 2018, the number of women with allegations against Rozon rose to 20 with a still-ongoing class-action lawsuit filed against him alleging rape and sexual harassment. Rozon’s sister-in-law also accused him of sexual misconduct in September.
The charges filed this week are the result of a separate investigation of complaints by 14 different women. Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecutions noted in a statement that only one of the complaints was deemed viable for prosecution. “In criminal law, the burden of proof the prosecution must meet is very demanding. Because of the presumption of innocence, the prosecution must effectively make a demonstration to the court of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt on the part of the accused,” the statement read. “Thus, it can happen that a prosecutor, even while believing the victim, will come to the conclusion that the evidence in a case does not permit guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to be demonstrated.”
According to CBC, Quebec’s provincial justice minister Sonia LeBel said women should not be discouraged by the decision to only pursue one of the 14 complaints. “I can tell you that the worst thing is silence,” she said. “Despite everything, I would encourage women to continue calling people out. I’ll say again, this isn’t a value judgment on their stories, it’s a very precise decision in a very precise context, meaning in the ability to lay criminal charges.”
In addition to stepping down as JFL founder last year, Rozon also stepped down as president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce and commissioner of the organizing committee for Montreal’s 375th birthday celebration. In a Facebook statement he posted at the time (the post has since been deleted), Rozon did not confirm or deny the allegations but said he was “shaken” by them, adding, “I want to dedicate all my time to review the matter. To all those who I may have offended in my life, I’m sincerely sorry.” JFL moved to new ownership earlier this year when U.S.-based talent agency ICM Partners and Canada native Howie Mandel led an investor group that acquired the company.
Rozon will appear in court on the rape and indecent-assault charges on January 22.