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Trial date may soon be set in hockey players’ sexual-assault case

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The date of a much-anticipated trial of five members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team charged with sexual assault likely won’t be set until at least next month.

During a brief hearing Tuesday in London’s Superior Court of Justice, during its monthly online scheduling court, Justice Alissa Mitchell ordered the case return on June 11 to confirm trial dates and schedule additional dates for pre-trial motions.

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Some pre-trial applications in the matter were scheduled for Sept. 5 and 6 before Justice Bruce Thomas.

The pre-trial motion dates in September will mark the first in-person appearances for the five accused players in a London courtroom. Until now, only their defence lawyers have been required to attend court dates.

Defence lawyer David Humphrey, who represents one player, Michael McLeod, and speaking on behalf of the other defence lawyers, told Mitchell they are still working out with the court and the Crown “whether the accused will be attending in person or otherwise. But, yes, they will be in-person appearances.”

There has been much activity behind the scenes. The Crown and the defence have been involved in judicial pre-trials – closed hearings with a judge to iron out procedural matters – with one as recent as Monday.

Charged with sexual assault are Dillon Dube, 25, of the NHL’s Calgary Flames; Carter Hart, 25, goaltender for the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers; McLeod, 26, and Cal Foote, 25, both of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils; and Alex Formenton, 24, a former London Knights and NHL Ottawa Senators player who spent this season playing in Switzerland.

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Alex Formenton; Cal Foote; Michael McLeod; Dillon Dube and Carter Hart. (Canadian Press) Photo by Matt Slocum, Noah K. Murray, Paul Sancya, Corey Sipkin /The Canadian Press

Four of the players face one count of sexual assault. McLeod faces a second charge of sexual assault “by being a party to the offence.”

All players are on leave from their hockey clubs. The contracts of all four NHL players expired at season’s end.

The criminal charges were laid in January following a revived London police investigation into what happened in a Delta London Armouries hotel room in June 2018 following a gala fundraiser for Hockey Canada.

A woman who was 18 at the time alleges that members of the hockey team sexually assaulted her after meeting them at a Richmond Row bar and, after being separated from a friend, went to the hotel room with one of the players to engage in consensual sex. Others were invited into the room and she alleges she was sexually assaulted by several men.

No charges were laid after the initial London police investigation in 2019. She launched a $3.5-million lawsuit, which was quietly settled by Hockey Canada but in May 2022 sparked public outrage. London police then re-opened their investigation.

All five players have selected trials by judge and jury.

jsims@postmedia.com

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