Coach accused of sexual assault says apology letter was misinterpreted

Dave Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching

A former high-ranking gymnastics coach accused of sexual assault told his trial Thursday that when he apologized to his accuser for “crossing the line,” he wasn’t referring to any sexual transgressions.

Dave Brubaker said he wrote a letter expressing his regret to a former trainee because he had gone beyond the bounds of a typical coach-athlete relationship by driving her to practice and taking her on family outings, among other things — but he insisted none of his behaviour was sexual.

Brubaker, once the director of the women’s national gymnastics team, has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching at his judge-alone trial in Sarnia, Ont. The charges relate to alleged incidents between 2000 and 2007.

“Boundary transgressions in sport are very clear,” Brubaker said as he testified in his own defence, explaining that he’s taken courses in the matter. “You do not drive a kid to school, you don’t contact them outside of the gym, you don’t contact them on social media.”

RELATED: Sexual assault trial for former gymnastics coach continues

The complainant, who is now in her 30s, has testified that Brubaker would pick her up from school and take her to his house, where he would occasionally spoon her in bed and tickle her belly before driving her to practice.

Brubaker denied the allegations, saying there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to lie in bed with the complainant because his wife was usually at home when he brought the then-teen to their house.

“It never happened,” he said.

He said that when he wrote the letter containing his apology — a note written when he was being questioned by police — he was referring not to sexual misdeeds but to the family-like role he took on in the complainant’s life.

Brubaker said he felt compelled to write the letter by the police officer who was interviewing him at the time.

“(The officer) told me what to say. He told me what to write,” he said.

Video of Brubaker’s police interview was allowed into evidence on Thursday. Its admissibility had been called into question when court heard that the police officer questioning Brubaker, who was the only officer investigating the case, was related to the complainant by marriage.

The complainant also testified that Brubaker would kiss her on the lips to say hello and goodbye starting when she was 12 years old.

Brubaker acknowledged kissing the complainant on the lips, but denied that he had initiated the practice.

“I think it was just out of habit … that she started to kiss me,” he said, insisting that the kisses were innocent. “I don’t come from a kissy family, so to me it’s just part of the gymnast culture, it’s not something I need as a man.”

RELATED: Canada losing ground on abuse and harassment reporting in sports: study

Brubaker’s wife, who also testified on Thursday, said that while the complainant was the only gymnast she and her husband kissed on the lips, they also kissed the gymnast’s parents on the lips as a greeting.

The gymnast has also told the trial that Brubaker occasionally touched her inappropriately during sports massages — an allegation Brubaker firmly denied.

He said he would palpate the area where her upper thigh met her pubic area, as well as the area around her breast to get at pectoral muscles, but maintained that it was all to improve her performance in the sport.

An expert witness who testified earlier Thursday said sports massages such as the ones administered by Brubaker were crucial to success in gymnastics.

“It’s required,” said Ronald Weese, a sports physiologist with a specialization in training gymnastics coaches. “You can’t get (to an elite level) from here without an emphasis on the small, finer details.”

Weese said the muscles in those parts of the body are extremely important for gymnasts, who use them while doing splits or to lift themselves up. He also said it’s possible for an inexperienced sports therapist to touch the wrong part of the body in these massages.

“I’m sure slips occur all the time, but the more expert you are about it the less they occur,” he said.

When questioned by the Crown, Weese said it would be unusual for a coach to lie behind an athlete and rub her belly.

The Crown and defence are expected to deliver closing arguments Friday.

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Claiming she has COVID-19, stranger coughs in Cloverdale woman’s face

Clayton Heights woman will now self-isolate for the next two weeks

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

No, Delta police are not pulling over cars to check for social distancing

DPD dispelling rumour cops pulling over vehicles with two or more people, checking IDs, issuing fines

White Rock/South Surrey experts launch website of mental-health resources

Together White Rock/South Surrey aims to help ease the search for supports

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

Most Read