A Quebec judge will be subject to an official complaint over comments he made during a sexual assault trial suggesting the teenage complainant was “flattered” by the accuser’s attention.
Cab driver Carlo Figaro, 49, was accused of forcibly kissing and licking the face of a 17-year-old girl who was his passenger. Figaro also fondled the victim, touching her breasts and genitals over her clothes. Figaro was found guilty in May and has not yet been sentenced. He is appealing the conviction.
During the trial Judge Jean-Paul Braun remarked, “It can be said that she is a little overweight, but she has a pretty face huh?” He also suggested the victim may have been “flattered” because between the victim’s weight and strict religious upbringing “that is perhaps the first time that a man is interested in her.”
Audio recordings of the court proceedings show that Braun also went back and forth with Crown prosecutor Amélie Rivard, suggesting there are degrees of consent and questioning exactly which actions required Figaro to get the victim’s consent.
The judge said it is not the same to consent to kiss someone and to “mettre … la main au panier,” a French expression that usually refers to touching someone’s rear end. He described the non-consensual kiss as an “acceptable gesture.”
Braun also commented in his written decision on the appearance of the 49-year-old taxi driver.
“He looks good and doesn’t seem his age,” the judge stated. “We can see from his testimony … that he has nice manners and that he likes to wear cologne: with Versace when he goes out, and with other less-expensive colognes during the week.”
In his decision, Braun said that while the victim perhaps didn’t make it clear that she didn’t want to be kissed, through her body language and words, she did make it clear that she didn’t consent to what happened after that.
When asked about Braun’s comments Wednesday morning, Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée told reporters they were “unacceptable” and that she would be filing a complaint with Quebec’s magistrates council.