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The jury had expected to be sequestered after both sides made their closing arguments in the case against the former PQ MNA.

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In a surprise development in the sexual assault trial of former MNA Harold LeBel, the jury heard more testimony from the complainant Monday morning.

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Last week, after lawyers from both sides made their closing arguments, Superior Court Justice Serge Francouer told jury members he planned to deliver his final instructions and they would be sequestered. On Monday, the judge said he would allow defence lawyer Maxime Roy to pose more questions to the complainant.

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“This procedure is not exceptional,” the judge told the jury. “It is part of the law and it was up to me to make this decision, on the question on whether (the evidence) should be reopened.”

The woman, who had been friends with Lebel, alleges she was sexually assaulted by him while she was a guest in his Rimouski condo during October 2017.

LeBel, 60, testified in his defence last week and denied he sexually assaulted the young woman, whose name cannot be published.

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Roy’s additional questions on Monday morning focused entirely on a documentary being prepared by Québecor’s news investigative team on the complainant’s experiences with the justice system.

The defence lawyer learned of the documentary on Wednesday. The complainant confirmed she did interviews for the documentary before and after she testified at the trial.

“It is a journalistic process that is very rigorous that will explain the steps of the legal process and I accepted to participate in the project,” the woman said. “At the start, I didn’t expect to take part in a project like that.”

She filed a complaint against LeBel in December 2020. She said hesitated to take action before then because she thought she would be identified when he was charged and her family would be dragged into the process.

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“I knew there would be consequences. A part of me felt bad because (LeBel) was my friend. I knew there would be repercussions on him and his life and that his family would want nothing to do with it,” the woman said.

“He is not a bad person. He did something that is serious that should be judged,” she said. “But I still have sympathy for him.”

She said she was juggling all these emotions the morning LeBel was going to be arrested by the Sûreté du Québec, and that it took only an hour for a reporter to send out a tweet that did not name her — but included details that could identify her.

“I was in all kind of states,” the woman said of her reaction to the tweet, adding her father called her in tears after figuring out she was the complainant. Dozens of other people began calling her as well.

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On the day the tweet was sent out, the woman noted, the director of criminal and penal prosecutions (DPCP) issued a reminder to reporters that a standard publication ban had been placed on her identity.

Three months later, the woman said, she was approached by a Québecor reporter about the documentary.

“The only thing I accepted was if it would contribute to demystifying the steps of the legal system,” she said. “The journalist said that was exactly what they had in mind — to do something rigorous.”

While answering other questions from Roy on Monday, the woman confirmed the SQ had taken extra steps to protect her identity, including making arrangements to let her into the Rimouski courthouse through a back door.

Roy told the jury her participation in the documentary is an “example (that questions) the sincerity of her (overall) testimony.”

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The lawyer also questioned her participation in the documentary while the prosecution and the SQ had taken extra steps to protect her identity.

“Everyone has the right to take part in a documentary,” Roy told the jury. “I’m not calling into question whether, yes or no, she should take part in a documentary. What I wanted to present to you is that she never presented this information before — not just to you but everyone working on her case.”

Lebel was first elected to the National Assembly for the PQ in 2014. He sat as an independent after his arrest in 2020. He did not run in the most recent provincial election, on Oct. 3.

Francoeur said he plans to deliver his final instructions to the jury Monday afternoon.

This story will be updated.

pcherry@postmedia.com

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    In a twist, judge allows more testimony in LeBel’s sex assault trial

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