- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

TORONTO (AP) - Former Canadian Broadcasting Corp. radio host Jian Ghomeshi pleaded not guilty Thursday to four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking in a case that rocked the country’s vaunted public broadcaster.

The once popular 48-year-old radio host did not speak with reporters as he walked into the courthouse in downtown Toronto where he was arraigned during a court appearance.

The CBC fired Ghomeshi last October after media reports of sexual assault allegations first emerged. Ghomeshi, the host of “Q,” a radio show on culture heard on many public stations in the United States, has steadfastly denied the allegations, saying he had consensual “rough sex” with women. CBC executives have said they saw what they described as graphic evidence that he had physically injured a woman.

Two senior executives, including head of radio Chris Boyce, left CBC soon after the allegations were levied.

Along with the five charges Ghomeshi entered not-guilty pleas for Thursday, he also faces one charge of sexual assault that is being tried separately. The alleged assaults for which he was charged occurred between 2002 and 2008.

Ghomeshi, who first gained fame as a member of the 1990s satirical pop band Moxy Fruvous, defended his actions in a 1,500-word statement on Facebook when the accusations were first reported. He said women consented to having “rough sex” with him and that he’s the victim of a disgruntled ex-girlfriend. After the Toronto Star reported several more allegations days later, Ghomeshi posted that he would confront the accusations “directly,” but wouldn’t discuss them with the media.

Police urged other women to come forward last year and launched an investigation after nine women contacted various media sources to report incidents of assault involving Ghomeshi.

One of the women who contacted police was actress Lucy DeCoutere, a star of the long-running TV and film series “Trailer Park Boys.”

DeCoutere was the first woman to speak on the record about her allegations against Ghomeshi. DeCoutere said she went on a date with him and alleges that when they returned to his home, he pressed her up against a wall, choked her and slapped her across the face several times.

Author and lawyer Reva Seth became the second woman to go public, writing in the Huffington Post that Ghomeshi put his hands around her throat and sexually assaulted her.

After he was fired, Ghomeshi launched a $55-million lawsuit against the CBC for breach of confidence and defamation. He dropped that lawsuit soon after.

He was granted bail at $100,000 last November on condition he turn over his passport and live with his mother.

Ghomeshi’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 1, 2016 and will be by judge only.

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