VANCOUVER - The reporter behind a newspaper article that accused former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong of abusing students at a school in northern British Columbia four decades ago has included explosive new accusations in her statement of defence, alleging Furlong physically abused a former spouse and sexually assaulted another.
None of the allegations, contained in a statement of defence filed Monday, have been tested in court. Furlong and his lawyers declined comment through a spokeswoman.
Laura Robinson authored a story for the Georgia Straight newspaper last September, which included allegations from eight former students who claimed Furlong was physically and verbally abusive while he was a volunteer teacher in B.C. in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The story also suggested Furlong hid details of his past, particularly the story of his arrival to Canada, in his memoir "Patriot Hearts."
Furlong sued, insisting in a statement of claim filed last November that the story was false and accusing Robinson of waging a personal campaign to discredit him. He held a news conference the day the article was published denying he had ever abused any students.
In her statement of defence, Robinson stands by her story, insisting she was diligent in verifying the allegations and attempted to contact Furlong to seek his side of the story. She also argues the article amounts to fair comment and is protected by a relatively new legal defence known as responsible communication.
But the 22-page statement of defence also adds to the allegations that have haunted Furlong's reputation since the story was first published.
Robinson's statement of defence says that since her article was published, she was contacted by a former common law spouse of Furlong's, with whom Furlong lived with in Nanaimo from 1979 until 1982, after he left Prince George.
The statement of defence says the woman alleged Furlong "felt that he had a licence to have sex on demand, which resulted in her being forced to have non-consensual sexual relations on many occasions." The woman is not named.
"The plaintiff had a habit of exposing himself to her, which caused her to feel sexually debased," says Robinson's statement of defence.
"The plaintiff raped her many times. On one particular occasion, he forcibly raped her while she was taking a shower, without saying a word. He continued to force himself on her, even though she was hitting him and trying to get him off her."
The statement of defence also says Furlong was controlling and routinely made derogatory, belittling comments, on one occasion threatening to throw her cat off a balcony.
Robinson's statement of defence also alleges Furlong physically and emotionally abused another woman, his former wife Margaret Furlong, when they were living in Prince George, B.C., and working at the same school between 1970 and 1972.
The statement of defence says on one evening, students outside their living quarters could hear Furlong yelling at his wife inside. The next morning, "Margaret Furlong had a huge bruise on her face and her eyes were red and swollen," the statement of defence says.
On another occasion, the statement of defence says, students heard Furlong slap his wife.
Furlong declined comment on Monday evening in a brief email from his publicity company.
"As this matter is before the courts, Mr. John Furlong, the TwentyTen Group and his counsel are not available for public comment," Cathy Locke wrote.
The allegations are included in Robinson's response to defend emails she sent staff at Own the Podium, an athlete development agency, of which Furlong is chairman. The emails, sent in November of last year, suggested she had received new allegations and described Furlong as "violent and a racist."
Robinson's statement of defence says she wrote the emails while attempting to seek comment about two additional stories, which have yet to be published.
Furlong told a news conference last September that someone had attempted to blackmail him over the same allegations in 2009, telling him he could make the story "go away" with money. He alleged in his statement of claim that Robinson knew about the blackmail attempt before the article was published.
Robinson denies that allegation in her statement of defence.
She denies Furlong's claim that she is waging a personal vendetta against him, insisting that she repeatedly sought his side of the story but was either shouted at by Furlong or given a blanket denial by his lawyer.
Robinson also denies Furlong's claim that she attempted to report an abuse allegation to the RCMP. Robinson's statement of defence says the report was made by a former student, not Robinson.
The Georgia Straight newspaper, its editor and its publisher filed their own statement of defence earlier this month, denying the story was defamatory and, like Robinson, arguing the article is protected as fair comment and responsible communication.
Most of the allegations in the Georgia Straight article involved Furlong's time as a volunteer teacher at Immaculata Catholic School in Burns Lake. Immaculata was a religious school run by the Oblates, a missionary order, but it was not an Indian residential school. Students, including non-natives, attended by day.
After teaching and coaching at Immaculata for 14 months, Furlong moved to another religious school in Prince George.
Furlong said he never hid or purposely omitted speaking about his time teaching in Burns Lake or Prince George. He said it didn't appear in his biography because it wasn't related to the Olympics and because it was brief and uneventful.
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