Just for Laughs comedy festival founder and former CEO Gilbert Rozon has been charged with rape and indecent assault stemming from offenses alleged to have taken place in 1979.
The criminal charges were unveiled Wednesday by Quebec’s director of criminal prosecutions and follow a #MeToo scandal at the Montreal festival that is known for helping Los Angeles talent scouts find talent for Hollywood movies and U.S. network shows.
According to the charges against Rozon, the offenses occurred between June and September 1979, in Saint-Sauveur, Quebec. The veteran Canadian impresario is set to appear in court in January to answer the twin charges.
In October 2017, Rozon announced he would sell his shares in Just for Laughs after being hit by allegations from 10 women that he sexually harassed or assaulted them. His exit was followed by Canadian media giant Bell Media, Montreal Canadiens owner Groupe CH, and ICM Partners and longtime client Howie Mandel banding together to acquire the Just for Laughs comedy group.
In addition, a Quebec judge in May 2018 allowed 20 women to bring a class-action lawsuit against Rozon for alleged rape and sexual harassment committed between 1982 and 2016. The province’s director of criminal prosecutions separately investigated complaints by 14 women against Rozon that also allegedly took place over two decades.
Quebec’s top prosecutor on Wednesday said the two criminal charges Rozon now faces stem from only one of the 14 complaints, and that the other 13 claims against Rozon were not judged to be viable for prosecution. “In criminal law, the burden of proof the prosecution must meet is very demanding,” the director of criminal prosecutions said a statement.
“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 added.
The director of criminal prosecutions said it would make no further comments on the charges against Rozon, given the civil and criminal proceedings now in the works.