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Accuser in Virtanen sexual assault trial cross-examined

The name of the woman is protected by a publication ban.
Jake Virtanen takes a shot during warm-ups with the Vancouver Canucks. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by former Canuck Jake Virtanen has testified she was not interested in him because he was an NHL player — that she just wanted to get to know him.

The woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was cross-examined Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court as part of Virtanen’s sexual assault trial. The alleged incident happened on Sept. 26, 2017 at a Vancouver hotel.

Virtanen, 25, was charged with sexual assault in January 2022 following a police investigation while he was still playing in the NHL. He pleaded not guilty to the charge on Feb. 17.

The investigation was launched in May 2021 after the 23-year-old woman filed a complaint. 

The judge and jury heard the pair had met during the Calgary Stampede earlier in 2017 when the woman was 18. She told the court that she did not recognize him, nor follow the Canucks.  

On Tuesday, the woman testified she shared a bed with Virtanen at a post-bar after-party the night they met.

She said nothing happened, telling the court she was not attracted to him because he was drunk.

Virtanen’s lawyer, Brock Martland, showed the woman a video from the house party where Virtanen had been vomiting and had urinated on himself. She was heard on the video helping him and offering him water.

“He was blotto,” Martland said.

“Yes,” the woman agreed.

She said there was no mutual attraction the night of the party and refuted a suggestion she had followed Virtanen around that evening.

She said it wasn’t until the next morning that she found him “charming” and they kissed and exchanged numbers.

“That’s you pursuing him,” Martland said.

“That’s me wanting to get to know him,” the woman said.

Martland ran the woman through a timeline of events — from the Stampede through to the pair exchanging messages between then and her September Vancouver visit.

“There was a lot of flirting,” she said.

At times, the defence lawyer questioned her memory of events or locations of occurrences, suggesting some were fuzzy.

He also suggested she came forward with her story shortly after losing her serving job. He asked if it was due to financial worries.

“No, it wasn’t,” she said.

She said she had not gone to police earlier because she didn’t want to accept what had happened.

The court heard she also feared a backlash from hockey fans, and those around Virtanen.

Woman testifies she repeatedly told Virtanen ‘no’

In September 2017, when in Vancouver for a photoshoot, she told Virtanen that she was in the city and he suggested meeting up. She testified that she initially resisted but eventually agreed. 

She said she wanted the meet-up to be somewhere in public but “felt sick” when they arrived at the hotel. 

“I didn’t want to be put in a situation,” she said, later testifying she had “this kind of sinking feeling” in her stomach.  

“I thought we were just going to get to know each other — go for a drive, a walk,” she told the court. 

At two points, she testified she told him, “I seriously don’t want to have sex with you,” and repeatedly said “no.” 

She said she wasn’t interested in sex, saying she would have showered and shaved her legs if she had been. “I didn’t do any of that,” she said. 

The court heard extensive details of the alleged assault.

Virtanen is not in custody. 

The Canucks placed Virtanen on leave in May 2021. He was later released from his contract and played for the KHL team HC Spartak Moscow in Russia until March 2022. 

The trial is expected to last five more days.

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