Skip to content

Virtanen's lawyer apologizes for 'insensitive' sexual assault trial questions

"That question was insensitive and I apologize for my suggestion," defence lawyer Brock Martland told the court.
Jake Virtanen
Ex-Vancouver Canuck Jake Virtanen leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

The lawyer representing former Canuck Jake Virtanen has apologized to the woman accusing the player of sexual assault for his line of questioning in court this week.

Brock Martland had asked the woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, why she had not made excuses to not have sex with Virtanen in the alleged incident on Sept. 26, 2017 at a Vancouver hotel.

“You didn’t invent an excuse to him, whether it’s ‘I have a yeast infection,’ ‘I’m menstruating,’ ‘I can’t’? You didn’t come up with something?” Martland asked July 20.

The questions prompted a social media backlash.

As he neared completion of his cross-examination July 21, Martland began with an apology.

“That question was insensitive and I apologize for my suggestion,” he said to the woman in front of the jury.

Martland had also suggested the sex was consensual, a suggestion she refuted.

Her response to the questioning was: "What more do you have to say? Do I have to write it out for him, saying ‘I’ve said no, I’m saying no’? I don’t know what else to do.”

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. 

Thursday’s questioning revolved around a series of exchanges between the woman and an online sexual assault survivor’s page.

On Thursday afternoon, Virtanen took the stand.

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.

More to come.

[email protected]