Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic language heard in court that could be disturbing for some readers.
Appearing frail and with a bushy white beard protruding from under a mask, local businessman Paul Sadlon pleaded not guilty to sexual assault on Monday.
Sadlon, now 89, is accused of sexually assaulting a woman in the lunchroom of his Paul Sadlon Motors business on Bayfield Street on Dec. 4, 2019.
The trial began on Monday at the Barrie courthouse.
Taking the stand as the first of five witnesses at the start of what is expected to be a three-day trial before Ontario Court Justice Joseph Wilson, the woman said she had met Sadlon for a business meeting.
The woman cannot be identified due to a publication ban.
Responding to questions posed by Crown attorney Miriam Villamil-Pallister, the woman said the conversation degenerated during the meeting, which included two of her male colleagues.
“Mr. Sadlon put his hand on my arm and made a joke about having another pussy around the house to pet,” she testified.
The woman said she believed that he was referring to her, but she didn’t say anything, finding it easier to just laugh it off.
Once the meeting had come to an end, everyone left the room, but she said she was unable to pass Sadlon, who had got out of his chair, to get to the door.
She said he initiated a hug, kissed her cheek and then her lips, tried to stick his tongue in her mouth, and grabbed her left breast.
“I took his hand and I said: ‘Paul, you can’t do that',” she told the court.
“At the same time, he was rubbing himself against me with his pelvis.”
On her way out of the building, she said she passed her two colleagues who were talking with Sadlon’s son. One of them, she testified, commented that it couldn’t have been too bad because her coat was still on.
The woman said she didn’t respond and testified she was just trying not to cry.
She drove around before attending another meeting and it wasn’t until after a business dinner that she told a superior what had transpired, which led her to send an email later that night to a manager about the incident.
Francesca Yaskiel, one of Sadlon’s two lawyers, suggested during cross-examination that the woman made up the event because she was about to lose his business after several years.
“Mr. Sadlon actually told you he’s closing your account,” suggested Yaskiel, later adding that she remained in the room so she could talk to Sadlon about not closing the account.
“That never happened,” the woman responded.
The woman said there was no indication that he was about to close the account and that Sadlon never expressed dissatisfaction about the business relationship.
The defence lawyer said the woman could have exited the room by turning the other way and going around the table to get to the door.
She further suggested that the woman was angry about losing the account and that he was going to make a complaint about her and hatched the story as she drove around after meeting with Sadlon and prior to her next meeting.
Sadlon, whose name appears on Barrie’s Sadlon Arena and Georgian College Sadlon Centre for Health & Wellness, had walked into the courtroom slowly on the arm of his lawyer, Karen Jokinen. Not long after the trial began, he abruptly broke into a coughing fit, prompting his son to get his ventilator and his daughter to sit next to him at the front of the courtroom.
The trial resumes Tuesday with the next Crown witness.
Jokinen wouldn’t say if the defence planned to call Sadlon or any other witnesses.