TV veteran's sex assault trial: Complaint fabricated to 'take down' ex boss: defence

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Jan 2020, 3:49PM
The accused was granted interim name suppression so the Herald cannot identify him, or the specifics of his work in the industry. Photo / 123rf
The accused was granted interim name suppression so the Herald cannot identify him, or the specifics of his work in the industry. Photo / 123rf

TV veteran's sex assault trial: Complaint fabricated to 'take down' ex boss: defence

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Jan 2020, 3:49PM

A woman who claims her entertainment industry boss sexually assaulted her at a wrap party has been accused of fabricating her complaint in a bid to get back at her former employer after she lost her job.

His lawyer told the court the woman had to be let go because - while she was good at her job - she constantly clashed with colleagues and was "difficult".

In response to being cut loose, the defence say the woman made a complaint to police with the sole motivation to destroy the accused's company.

The woman is one of three former employees who went to police and made allegations of sexual offending against the man.

The first says she woke on the couch of his motel room after a wrap party to find him with his hand down her pants touching her genitals.

The second complainant has been giving evidence today.

The third - who will give evidence later this week - says the man groped her several times at another wrap party and followed her to her hotel room when she tried to get away from him.

The man is currently on trial in the Auckland District Court facing a charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and five of indecent assault.

An interim suppression order prevents the Herald from publishing the man's name or specific details of the work he does in the industry.

However‌, ‌it‌ ‌can‌ ‌be‌ ‌reported‌ ‌that‌ ‌he‌ ‌has‌ ‌been‌ ‌involved‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌number‌ ‌of‌ ‌high-profile‌ ‌film‌ ‌and‌ ‌television‌ ‌projects‌ ‌in‌ ‌New‌ ‌Zealand‌ ‌and‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌world,‌ ‌including‌ ‌working‌ ‌with‌ ‌Disney‌ ‌and‌ ‌Netflix‌ ‌-‌ ‌and‌ ‌some‌ ‌significant‌ ‌retail‌ ‌brands.‌ ‌

The second complainant claims the man ran his hand up her thigh at a post-filming party and said "if you look after me, I'll look after you".

The incident was witnessed by her husband, who stepped in.

However, she kept working for the man, saying the position was a good opportunity for her to further her career in a limited part of the industry - and that she wanted to stay close to him to make sure he didn't assault anyone else.

Soon after she was at another wrap party where the man allegedly assaulted another female employee - the third complainant.

But today under cross examination defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg put to the second complainant that she fabricated the incident and has lied about what happened between her and the accused to "take down" his company.

The complainant confirmed that she loved the job she did under the accused and did it to the best of her ability.

Dyhrberg put to her that she had "a lot of conflict" with other colleagues and was put on "a last warning" after she failed to get on with people and "caused rifts and divisiveness" among people and quite constantly made derogatory remarks about them ran them down.

As a result Dyhrberg said the complainant had been spoken to by a senior person on a project and it was "made clear" that they would not be hired "at all" in future projects.

Dyhrberg suggested the complainant had also made comments about "taking down" the accused and his company over certain "substandard" working conditions and operational matters she was dissatisfied with.

The complainant said yes, she had concerns around parts of the operation, including wage conditions.

But she denied planning any "take down".

The complainant said she had good relationships with other staff and denied any interpersonal issues in the workplace, apart from with one other woman.

Dyhrberg put it to the complainant that as a result of effectively losing her job and the money that came with it, she had fabricated the details of the assault to get back at the accused.

"For that reason, you really resented him for that, didn't you?" she said.

"You and (the third complainant) decided to fabricate these allegations to bring him down?

"You decided to fabricate these allegations so that you remove him from the competition and that opens further avenues of work for you with him out of the picture?

"You know that in the current climate even your allegation is enough to stop the defendant getting contracts in the industry?

"And that's why you've made the allegations?"

The complainant was adamant her allegation was solid.

"That is untrue," she shot back at Dyhrberg.

"I've made the allegations because I'm speaking out about the truth … (the accused) did touch my thigh … he did say to me 'look after me and I will look after you'.

She admitted she was upset to lose the work he had offered her.

But she denied any dishonesty around her complaint, and maintained she saw the third woman being assaulted.

"I had a lot of sadness and felt my integrity had been compromised and things happened that shouldn't have happened when (the accused) was my boss."

She said the accused's actions were "unacceptable".

The woman's then-husband also gave evidence today.

He described what happened that night to the jury.

Initially the pair were "just talking", then he saw the accused touch his wife.

"He put his hand down the inside of her thigh… after that I said we should go.

He was about 2m away from the pair when he saw the alleged incident.

"It was just the inside of her leg, where her skirt finished," said her husband.

"I thought that was a bit weird.

"I just said 'it's time go to home cos I'm not having fun anymore'."

The man said he had not been drinking that night and remembered the incident and how strange it was.

And he remembered driving the accused home that night.

He was "a bit cross about it" but was the designated driver so was obligated.

"I said they we should just leave him here, he's a big boy," he said.

"(The complainant) just wanted him to get home safely."

The trial, before Judge Russell Collins and a jury, continues.

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