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Bertrand Charest's lawyers ask for their client's release from prison


MONTREAL — Lawyers for ex-national ski coach Bertrand Charest told Quebec's top court Thursday their client should be released from prison pending an appeal of his conviction on sex crimes involving teenage girls.

Charest was found guilty last June of 37 of the 57 sex-related charges he was facing and a judge sentenced him to a 12-year prison term last week.

His lawyers said they have serious grounds for appealing the guilty verdicts and that his chances of being acquitted or getting a new trial are very good.

Charest is challenging, in particular, his conviction on a charge of sexual assault causing bodily harm involving a 15-year-old-girl who had sex with him and then had an abortion.

His defence team argues that nothing links Charest to the pregnancy because no evidence was submitted to indicate he was the girl's only sexual partner.

"There is an absence of evidence between the sexual assault and the injuries," said Louis Nicholas Coupal, one of his lawyers.

His lawyers also point out a pre-sentence report presented by the Crown stated the risk of Charest reoffending is slim.

Defence lawyer Antonio Cabral proposed $50,000 bail and a $50,000 undertaking on Charest's property and said his client would agree to report to provincial police on a regular basis, abide by a curfew, abstain from working as a coach and stay away from parks and schools.

Justice Martin Vauclair took the case into deliberation and said he wants to make a decision quickly, possibly as early as Friday.

The convictions involved nine of the 12 women who'd accused Charest of crimes dating back more than 20 years.

All but one of the 12 were under the age of 18 at the time, with the youngest being 12 years old.

The Crown opposes Charest's release, partly because of the seriousness of the crimes as well as the extent of the consequences for the victims.

"He destroyed their trust to satisfy his sexual urges," said Maxime Lacoursiere.

Lacoursiere also noted Charest had been incarcerated during the proceedings at the lower-court level.

"He has (since) lost the presumption of innocence" because of the guilty verdicts.

"His situation hasn't improved and it does not militate for his release," Lacoursiere added.

Charest's lawyers also announced Thursday they will be appealing the 12-year sentence.

With time served in detention since his arrest in 2015, Charest has seven years and 10 months left in the sentence.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press

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