Ontario Election 2018

Nothing Unfair About Brown's Fall from Grace

Presumption of innocence is a legal term referring to criminal charges. In civil matters, we evaluate allegations based on the balance of probabilities.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 29, 2018

Last Wednesday, a bombshell report from CTV News documented serious sexual misconduct allegations against Patrick Brown, who was the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.

Brown tearfully denied the allegations and vowed to stay on as leader in a short, awkward press conference just minutes before the story aired, but it was too late. His senior staff resigned en masse and a middle-of-the-night caucus conference call made it clear that he had no choice but to step down.

Since then, a number of commentators have seized on this to claim the #MeToo campaign against sexual misconduct has gone too far. A frequent argument in the anti-MeToo backlash is the claim that Brown has been denied his right to "the presumption of innocence." See, for example, here, here and here.

This is a highly misleading line of reasoning from people who ought to know better.

Presumption of Innocence vs. Balance of Probabilities

The presumption of innocence is a legal term referring specifically to criminal charges. Everyone who is charged with a crime has a presumption of innocence and has the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Civil matters, on the other hand, are guided not by the presumption of innocence but by the balance of probabilities, also sometimes referred to as the preponderance of evidence.

This is why, for example, OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murder in his criminal murder trial - his lawyer managed to introduce a reasonable doubt - but was then found guilty in his civil wrongful death trial. The balance of probabilities was strongly tilted toward his having caused her death.

Patrick Brown has not been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of a crime or sentenced to prison. He was pressured to step down from the leadership of a provincial party, not hauled away in handcuffs. As such, presumption of innocence is strictly a moot point.

Allegations are Credible

The important issue here is whether the allegations are credible.

It certainly looks like CTV did their due diligence as professional journalists before running the story. It documents a similar pattern of behaviour described by two different women and is backed by documentation and corroborating statements from several other people.

In addition, we have learned that several news agencies have been investigating sexual misconduct allegations against Brown for months.

We found out that PC MPP Lisa MacLeod brought her concerns about Brown to the party several times, most recently last December, and was ignored. Likewise, we have also learned that Conservative aide Dimitri Soudas knew about the rumours.

We are also hearing that it was something of an "open secret" in Barrie that he was known to be creepy with women. A staffer has even acknowledged that Brown's staff ran drills on how to respond if serious allegations came out.

I am quite confident that more women will come forward now that this is in the open.

In other words, the balance of probability strongly supports taking this seriously, and it is entirely proper that Brown was forced to step down from his leadership role in the party.

There is nothing unfair about Brown's abrupt fall from grace. The #MeToo movement has not overreached, but is proceeding exactly as needed to identify patterns of inappropriate behaviour and force a necessary, long-awaited conversation about how we can transform the terms of engagement to uphold the respect and dignity of all people, especially women.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 29, 2018 at 09:32:58

In the end, what matters about Patrick Brown is not any sort of legal test, and there is no universal standard of "burden of proof" that can satisfy everyone of particular facts. There will no doubt be some who wish to adopt a tighter standard than balance-of-probabilities before they believe some particular fact. There are some of us, who recognize patterns of conduct, and may require less evidence (although the testimony of two victims unknown to each other, plus other confirming accounts off the record as identified by the reporter, plus confirming accounts by contemporaries of the reported incidents at the time is a great deal of evidence, especially for something's first report in the papers... trust me, almost everything you read in the paper is more thinly sourced than this.)

It is important to remember that Patrick Brown resigned because he had lost the confidence of his caucus. This is exactly what happens to any party leader. Those elsewhere in the media decrying the haste of Brown's exit (which I'd just note is mostly a rogues' gallery of the very worst and arsiest voices our media has to offer) should train their fire specifically upon those MPPs, and the brains trust close to Patrick Brown who made him realize the untenability of his position. They were the proximate cause of the resignation, accomplished even before the public had a chance to evaluate this evidence.

Instead, most of the voices discussing the matter have chosen to blame us, the public, for some ill done to Patrick Brown when we had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

We now know the reason why, of course: the patterns of Brown's behaviour with teenaged women was an ongoing semi-public scandal, known to the whole of the Queen's Park media as well as vast numbers of locals in Barrie. It had been kept out of the paper due to the reticence of journalists and media to properly source the facts.

Yes, the state of political analysis in the Canadian media is truly dire.

Comment edited by Tybalt on 2018-01-29 09:38:02

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted January 29, 2018 at 13:55:18

I think there was a more than a little bit of skullduggery going on there. What should have been looking like a sure thing for the PCs this spring was not and it was mostly due to Brown. Nice clean way to get rid of him. I'm not saying the allegations are untrue but certainly if Brown was pulling killer poll numbers the party would have found a way to sweep this under the rug.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 29, 2018 at 14:31:17 in reply to Comment 122388

I believe the accusations against Brown are entirely credible. If there was skulduggery, it was to exploit Brown's ethical lapses rather than to manufacture them - and the timing is more consistent with an inside job than some kind of Liberal sabotage.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted January 29, 2018 at 14:41:50 in reply to Comment 122389

By no means am I suggesting the Liberals had anything to do with it. I think most likely PC insiders who had knowledge of Brown's antics - and wanted a change in leadership - decided to pull the cord.

Comment edited by ergopepsi on 2018-01-29 14:42:05

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted January 29, 2018 at 15:53:18 in reply to Comment 122390

That wouldn't be consistent with how the story was reported, including the statements of the principal sources and witnesses, both in the story and since then, including subsequent corroborations of key allegations by other outlets. The path of how this broke extremely swiftly and chaotically, with key figures scrambling to find out information as the evening progressed, told me it was simply a breaking story, although various things were likely known about the underlying facts.

Not that it's impossible, but it would have required an active political conspiracy by journalists, sources and PCPO insiders to pull it off and that explanation is far too complicated to credit, where the explanation that this was reported the old-fashioned way is easier and overall more consistent with the evidence we have...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 29, 2018 at 22:56:13 in reply to Comment 122391

That certainly seems the most plausible scenario.If it had been a PCPO conspiracy, it would have happened sooner. If it had been an LPO conspiracy, it would have happened later.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 30, 2018 at 14:29:56 in reply to Comment 122392

I will note that the internal party reactions to this breaking story have followed an almost military precision - like Brown's senior staff resigning en masse just as he was giving his teary presser, and the caucus unanimously coalescing behind Fedeli. At least one staffer has acknowledged that they had run drills on how they would respond if and when the story came to light. Again, I don't think the story is a political hatchet job, but it's clear that several factions were already prepared for the day that it came.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted January 30, 2018 at 16:32:27 in reply to Comment 122393

Exactly. There was no one (other than Brown himself) huffing and puffing at a podium about 'allegations' and 'due process'. No cadres bemoaning their future with the loss of their leader. It has many of the hallmarks of a calculated process.

It looks a lot like the long knives were out for Brown. This wasn't a sudden turn of conscience for the PCs.

Comment edited by ergopepsi on 2018-01-30 16:32:53

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 01, 2018 at 10:20:51

How about CTV and all their due diligence now? Turns out the accuser and the reporter were friends and that was never disclosed.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 01, 2018 at 14:26:14 in reply to Comment 122407

Do you have a citation? I can't find anything online about that.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 04, 2018 at 17:19:22 in reply to Comment 122408

You’re a reporter, maybe your should hold yourself to the same standards as you hold others in respect to due diligence. Using google and not coming up with an answer is pretty lazy.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2018 at 15:04:51 in reply to Comment 122408

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2018 at 09:18:51 in reply to Comment 122408

You can find a picture of the accuser and the reporter (who both worked together at The Hill Times online http://jacksnewswatch.a2hosted.com/dirty...

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 01, 2018 at 15:38:12 in reply to Comment 122408

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 04, 2018 at 09:46:54 in reply to Comment 122409

There’s nothing fake about it. They knew each other.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 04, 2018 at 22:13:40 in reply to Comment 122412

Yep you're right. Interesting. Doesn't mean much tho does it? Are we assuming it didn't happen?

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 08:43:49 in reply to Comment 122415

Definitely puts some doubt into the mix. Why would they feel the need to hide their relationship? It also adds some doubt as to the motivation.

The guy seems like a creep, don’t get me wrong, it’s just something doesn’t smell right about the way this was reported.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 10:03:51 in reply to Comment 122416

I don't know. A reporter gets a tip-off from a friend? I think that happens far more often than anyone realizes. Apparently Brown's 'antics' were already well known but like any accused, a presumption of innocence is supposed to be given until guilt is proven (burden of proof etc...).

All that aside, the party brass seemed more than happy ( and prepared ) to be shot of Brown. Not a single word of defense from anyone in his party and here we are a week later with a full cast of leadership hopefuls getting lots of attention with a comfortable four months to go until the election.

So, I think the reporter was doing her due diligence. Phone calls were being made to higher ups in the PC party, people were getting nervous and likely the whisper campaign had been going full tilt before the story broke and Brown 'left'.

Remember, reporters don't just publish stories on their own. It goes through their editor whose responsibility it is to make sure the facts as reported can stand up to scrutiny. Only then does it get released.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 11:22:16 in reply to Comment 122418

I can’t agree. I think it ruins the credibility of her entire investigation and I think they should have handled it differently.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 11:41:20 in reply to Comment 122419

Huh? I know Ryan. Does that reduce the credibility of the photographs and articles I publish here?

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 12:15:30 in reply to Comment 122420

It was a hit piece where they purposely hid information. I don’t think this needs to be explained. Apples and oranges.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 12:28:23 in reply to Comment 122421

Journalists are under no obligation to reveal their sources unless that source has provided untruthful information. I don't understand how previously knowing someone makes their information less valid?

Can I assume you are a PC supporter? If so, aren't you also glad Brown is gone? Honestly I think he was leading the PCs to a loss in an election that should have been a cakewalk.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 12:43:49 in reply to Comment 122422

Can’t stand the PCs.

I’m a fan of responsible journalism.

I would argue that when your source is also the victim and the allegations have such dire consequences and we have seen here that the relationship should be disclosed. Maybe that’s just me.

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By ergopepsi (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 13:37:21 in reply to Comment 122423

The most responsible thing a journalist could do would be to a) not identify the victim of a sexual assault unless that victim agreed to be identified and b) to not reveal their sources. All of the journalistic i's are dotted and t's crossed. You should be cheering.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 05, 2018 at 14:15:51

They could have revealed the relationship without revealing the name of the source.

As the author of this article guaranteed. Where are all the other girls that are supposed to be coming forward?

Comment edited by Hammer-guy on 2018-02-05 15:18:43

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted February 06, 2018 at 16:18:03

I read the links above and noted the photograph with the shirt with the message about "the future being female" and the big smiles and "hugs."

If anyone thinks this was objective journalism I am happy to hear the reasons why you think it could be.

It would appear that the author Aeillo had a significant non-objective motivation in promoting the story which unfortunately detracts from the main issue being reported. It takes away from the entire credibility and reliability of the reporting. Doesn't mean it's inaccurate but probably means that it has little value. The shirt wearer says she was harassed based on her subjective feelings. One might tend to doubt this based on how this was reported.

(As an aside I bet Wynne is nowhere behind this because she lost her best chance to win by losing Brown as a competitor unless Doug Ford gets in somehow. If the Conservative establishment is not behind this they certainly jumped for joy when they found out about it.)

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2018-02-06 16:25:23

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 06, 2018 at 18:32:53 in reply to Comment 122427

I agree.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 07, 2018 at 10:38:33

Ryan, I think the responsible thing to do would be to retract your article.

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By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted February 09, 2018 at 17:57:00

Just as an aside (and not really relevant to the discussion here) I have also learned that Glen McGregor, the other journalist who "broke" the story, is the author of the famous Frank Magazine contest to deflower Caroline Mulroney in 1991. I can get the cite for this if you want.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 10, 2018 at 20:16:35

http://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ab...

Somebody somewhere is lying.

I also think a responsible reporter would have waited and reported on facts rather than speculation.

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By Hammer-guy (registered) | Posted February 14, 2018 at 14:33:37

Now we find out the accuser actually lied and wasn’t underage in a bar or in high school.

Ryan, maybe you should write an article about that. At least address the changes and facts that have come to light since you wrote your hit piece.

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By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted February 22, 2018 at 11:42:16 in reply to Comment 122464

Patrick Brown is wittingly or not destroying the opportunity of us all to be saved from Wynne at least even briefly. Living in Hamilton Centre it really doesn't make a difference to me voting wise. It is sad none-the-less. (That this story comes from the Liberal rag Star is irrelevant. This man is trying to take everyone down with him.)

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2018-02-22 11:44:28

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