Former Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard is facing more legal troubles as his defence lawyer Brian Greenspan has withdrawn from representing him in two criminal cases, citing ethical reasons and a breakdown in their professional relationship.
Nygard convicted of four counts of sexual assault in Toronto
Nygard, who is in his early 80s, was found guilty on Nov. 12, 2023 of four counts of sexual assault involving five women who accused him of attacking them in the private bedroom suite of his downtown Toronto office building. The assaults happened over a timespan from the late 1980s to about 2005. He was acquitted of a fifth count of sexual assault and one count of forcible confinement.
Nygard is awaiting sentencing for the Toronto convictions, which could result in a lengthy prison term. He has faced ongoing health challenges during the court process, and his condition was expected to be raised at sentencing.
Nygard faces more charges in Manitoba and British Columbia
Nygard is also facing sexual assault and forcible confinement charges in Manitoba and British Columbia, related to offences allegedly committed in the 1990s involving two women who were then in their 20s. The women allege Nygard held them captive and raped them after inviting them to modelling jobs.
Nygard has denied all the allegations and has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has been in custody since his arrest in December 2020, when he was extradited from the United States, where he is also wanted on sex trafficking and racketeering charges.
Nygard’s defence lawyer quits for ethical reasons
Nygard’s defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, who represented him in the Toronto trial and was expected to do the same in the Manitoba and British Columbia cases, has requested to withdraw from the cases, saying he can no longer act in a professional capacity in relation to Nygard.
Greenspan told the courts in Winnipeg and Toronto that there was an “irreconcilable breakdown” in the solicitor-client relationship, characterizing it as “adversarial”. He said this was the first time in his 50-year career that he had made an application to be removed from a case.
Greenspan said he had a professional obligation to advise the court and the Crown of the situation and to be removed from the record in a timely fashion. He did not provide further details, citing solicitor-client privilege, but said the decision did not relate to the non-payment of fees.
Nygard objected to the timing of the request, noting he was still in the process of finding new counsel. He said he did not want to have any kind of court appearance without a lawyer present. He accused Greenspan of “needlessly wasting the court’s time and building up his expense bill” by engaging in an “open conflict”.
The judges in both provinces granted Greenspan’s application and urged Nygard to retain a new lawyer as quickly as possible. Until then, Nygard will be representing himself. The Crown prosecutors indicated that they would seek to set a date for his sentencing and trials regardless of whether Nygard has a new lawyer by his next appearances.
Nygard’s victims call for justice
Nygard’s victims, who have testified against him in court or filed civil lawsuits against him in Canada and the US, have called for justice and accountability for his crimes. They have described Nygard as a manipulative and violent predator who used his power and wealth to lure and abuse young women and girls.
Some of Nygard’s victims have also accused Canadian authorities of failing to protect them and investigate their complaints for decades, allowing Nygard to continue his predatory behaviour. They have called for a public inquiry into the handling of the Nygard case and the systemic barriers that prevent survivors of sexual violence from accessing justice.