Second Nygard lawyer resigns ahead of sentencing

Peter Nygard is driven from a Toronto court on Sept. 27, 2023. He was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault last fall. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
Peter Nygard is driven from a Toronto court on Sept. 27, 2023. He was found guilty of four counts of sexual assault last fall. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

Peter Nygard's lawyer announced her resignation Wednesday by telling the court she no longer wants to represent the 82-year old former fashion executive convicted of four counts of sexual assault in November.

Toronto attorney Megan Savard is the second lawyer to resign on Nygard, and like her predecessor Brian Greenspan, she too cited ethical concerns for her resignation.

The court hearing started out with Savard's request for Nygard to attend the sentencing hearing virtually, a motion the Crown opposed.

Justice Robert Goldstein granted Savard and Nygard the opportunity to discuss the matter in private through a video call.

When Savard returned to the courtroom, she announced she no longer wanted to represent Nygard for ethical reasons but she was not able to immediately present her arguments for resigning.

Chris Young/The Canadian Press
Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Nygard has been bedridden in the Toronto South Detention Centre infirmary in a space equipped with dimmed lights due to an eye condition which he says he's been suffering from since the beginning of the Toronto trial. He was seen wearing a homemade paper visor and blinkers to protect him from the light.

Savard's decision to step down took the judge by surprise.

Goldstein reminded Savard that there is great public interest in this case.

"Mr. Nygard was found guilty more than seven months ago, and now we find ourselves in an awkward position," Goldstein said.

The judge told Savard she is not in the clear yet, and asked her if she would appear as a "friend of the court" or amicus curiae during Nygard's sentencing hearing.

"I will think about it," Savard said, adding she will submit her written reasons for resigning by midday.

A hearing is scheduled Monday to decide whether Savard will stay on as a "friend of the court."

Crown attorney Neville Golwalla, who appeared visibly uncomfortable, said Savard's decision affects Nygard's victims who are still waiting to read out their victim impact statements before the court.

The complainants and the public have the right to a swift conclusion to this trial, Golwalla said.

Nygard speaks out

Nygard spoke at the hearing, but not before the judge warned him about breaking solicitor-client privilege.

He said he is incarcerated under difficult conditions and that Savard would not submit his reasons for wanting to appear virtually at the sentencing at the end of the month.

The judge responded to Nygard's complaint by saying Savard is a seasoned lawyer who has the respect of the court.

Justice Goldstein told Nygard he has the right to disagree with his lawyer's legal tactics, but that conversation should occur outside the court.

''What I need to know is: are you firing her?'' Goldstein said. Nygard did not answer the question.

Nygard said it would be "dangerous" for him to appear in court in person without providing any details.

The judge did not change the date of the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for June 25 and 27.

Justice Goldstein, addressing Nygard, said "we have the dates, it's going to take you a lot to persuade me to cancel the sentencing hearing."

During his last court appearance, Savard asked for a delay in the sentencing because she was trying to line up an expert witness who could speak to the effects of incarceration on geriatric convicts. She also asked for more time to prepare and assured the court that this would not affect the administration of justice.

Shannon Moroney, a therapist who works with many of Nygard's victims, says it's angering to see him attempt to delay sentencing.

Survivors feel worthless, violated and used, said Maroney in a press release, not only by Nygard but by the justice system as well.

Nygard faces up to a maximum 10 years in prison but the crown has already said he is seeking a three to five year sentence.