OTTAWA—Charges of assault and sexual assault have been withdrawn against former Toronto Maple Leafs player Dave “Tiger” Williams after he apologized for his “actions” during a military goodwill trip.
But in an impact statement, the complainant — a military flight attendant — said the 2017 incident and the fallout has cost her a flying career she loved and may bring an end to her time in uniform.
“I feel entirely worthless as a result of being objectified by Mr. Williams and his actions, and left to deal with it on my own when the military should be supporting me,” she wrote. “I was blamed for ruining the fun that Team Canada flights used to be.
“For him to give a half-hearted non-apology does not make my heart happy.”
Williams was charged in February 2018 with a single count each of assault and sexual assault in relation to incidents on board an Air Force CC-150 Polaris aircraft.
The December 2017 trip took senior officers and former NHL hockey stars, Olympians and entertainers to Athens, Greece to meet the crew of the frigate HMCS Charlottetown and then on to Latvia to visit Armed Forces personnel on deployment.
Williams was originally scheduled to stand trial for eight days in June, but the case was resolved Tuesday afternoon in a brief hearing at an Ottawa courthouse before Justice Norman Boxall.
The former NHL player did not appear, but his lawyer Michael Lacy presented a signed statement from Williams.
“During the (flight) I consumed alcohol. My behaviour towards one staff member on the plane caused her to feel uncomfortable. I do regret my actions and I apologize,” Williams wrote in his statement.
In response, Crown attorney Meaghan Cunningham sought to have the charges against Williams withdrawn.
“Although there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction in this case, given the statement by Mr. Williams that has been filed and the apology that he has made, we do not feel that it is in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution,” Cunningham told the near-empty court. “The Crown is asking that the charge be withdrawn on that basis.”
A statement of “agreed background facts” filed with the court said Williams was taking part in a military-organized trip with troops overseas. During the flight, most passengers consumed “alcohol,” people mingled through the cabin and music was played. “There was a party atmosphere,” the statement said.
“One of the flight attendants … reported that she had been physically touched on two occasions by Mr. Williams while he was interacting with her during the flight,” the statement said.
Lacy stressed that Williams’s statement was not an admission of civil or criminal wrongdoing.
“The matter was set for trial. It’s being resolved in a different way,” he said. “If the manner had proceeded to trial, we would have vigorously defended.”
Lacy also said that Williams “was not admitting any of the contents” of the complainant’s statement. “Mr. Williams is not acknowledging the accuracy or correctness or otherwise of the document,” he said.
In her impact statement, the complainant — whose identity is protected by a publication ban — painted a picture of military goodwill flights on which booze flowed freely and the military flight attendants felt powerless to curb bad behaviour by passengers.
“These ‘party flights’ had gone on for years … and it took a major incident to become public and a pilot to make the right choice that this needed to stop and that none of this behaviour was acceptable,” she wrote.
“Some of the passengers were so inebriated, they were stumbling, drooling, urinating themselves,” wrote the complainant, who was in court Tuesday.
She criticized the senior ranks for not being supportive, including those on the flight. “The incident happened right in front of high ranking military officials, who did nothing,” she wrote.
“I’ve lost so much from this already, and to know that I may lose my career as well, and have to start over with everything right from the bottom is incredibly disheartening,” she continued.
“None of this would have been an issue if Mr. Williams had not imbibed a large amount of alcohol, both prior to and on the flight, and did what he did.”
Bruce Campion-Smith is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @yowflier