TORONTO - A sombre Jian Ghomeshi stood silently by his lawyer on Wednesday as she told a large crowd of reporters at a Toronto courthouse that the former CBC Radio host would plead not guilty to multiple counts of sexual assault.
The charges — four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking — capped weeks of mounting allegations against the once-popular media personality who could now face up to life in prison if convicted.
"We will address these allegations fully and directly in a courtroom," lawyer Marie Henein said just moments after the former "Q" radio host was released on $100,000 bail.
"It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media. This one will be no different. We will say whatever we have to say in a court of law."
Several police officers had to escort Ghomeshi and his lawyers through the throng of media. Some onlookers heckled the 47-year-old as he went by, with one person calling him a coward.
In the packed courtroom, Ghomeshi looked tired as he sat in the prisoner's box wearing a dark suit with a light shirt open at the collar. He later donned a tie after he was granted bail.
His bail conditions include living with his mother — who was present in court and acted as his surety — no contact with his alleged victims and an agreement to surrender his passport and remain in Ontario.
When asked by a judge if he understood the conditions of his release, Ghomeshi clasped his hands in front of him, nodded slightly and said "yes" and "I do."
Ghomeshi's lawyer requested a publication ban on the bail hearing, which was granted, meaning the allegations and evidence details at the proceedings could not be reported.
It was the first time Ghomeshi was seen in public since Oct. 26, when he was fired by the CBC after the broadcaster said it had seen "graphic evidence'' that he had physically injured a woman.
Since then, nine women have come forward with allegations — some which date back a decade — that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them.
Three of the women filed police complaints — which led to the charges laid Wednesday — including Lucy DeCoutere, an actress on the show "Trailer Park Boys," who has accused Ghomeshi of choking her "to the point she could not breathe'' and slapping her "hard three times on the side of her head'' in 2003.
In a statement issued Wednesday, DeCoutere said the Ghomeshi scandal has lead to "a major shift" in the conversation about violence against women.
"It has been an overwhelming and painful time for many people, including myself, but also very inspiring," she said. "I hope that victims' voices continue to be heard and that this is the start of a change that is so desperately needed."
At least one observer agreed that the charges against Ghomeshi could help other victims of sexual assault come forward.
"This is a very rare example that the police actually was very diligent, very fast and thorough, and the result is criminal charges. So we do think that it will create a positive effect that women can see that where there is a will there is a way," said Hilla Kerner, a frontline worker at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women's shelter.
Ontario's premier added that any development that helped victims feel comfortable coming forward was welcome.
"If we can, as a society, make it easier for people to talk about those experiences and then move to action, then I think that's a very good thing," said Kathleen Wynne.
Ghomeshi has admitted in a lengthy Facebook post published on the day he was fired that he engaged in "rough sex," but insisted his encounters with women were consensual.
He also said in a follow-up post a few days later that he would meet the flurry of allegations against him head on.
A CBC spokesman declined to comment on the charges against Ghomeshi but noted that they don't involve any employees or ex-employees.
The charges against Ghomeshi were announced a day after it came to light that he had reached an agreement with the CBC to withdraw his $55-million lawsuit against the public broadcaster. Ghomeshi had alleged breach of confidence, bad faith and defamation in his statement of claim.
Ghomeshi is now expected to pay $18,000 in legal costs to CBC as part of the agreement, CBC has said.
He had also filed a union grievance against the CBC alleging dismissal without cause — a matter which still remains active.
The allegations against Ghomeshi led the CBC to launch an independent investigation into the scandal. The broadcaster has also begun its search for a permanent replacement for Ghomeshi on "Q" and is looking at possibly changing the name of the program in the future.
None of the allegations against Ghomeshi have been proven in court. His next court appearance is on Jan.8.
By Diana Mehta and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press