ONDRIVE With SHAM SAMAROO
Speaking publicly for the first time, massage therapist, Leanne Russell, told a New South Wales Supreme Court how West Indies cricketer, Chris Gayle, exposed himself to her.
The incident is alleged to have occurred at a training session during the 2015 World Cup in Australia. Russell told the court that she walked into the change room and saw Gayle wearing a training T-shirt and towel. “He said, ‘what are you looking for?’ I said, ‘a towel’, he replied, ‘are you looking for this?’ and pulled his towel out and down, I proceeded to shield my eyes and I said, ‘no’, and I exited the change room,’ Russell testified. Under examination she was asked what she saw when he pulled away the towel and she reportedly replied, “I saw the top half of his penis, apologies, and I therefore shielded my view and left the change room.” Russell said she went up to the stand and she cried. “Horrific. I was very upset,” she said. “I was crying uncontrollably. I was crying like a child”. “I was upset because of what Chris had done because I’d known him for 10 years.”
Chris Gayle is suing Fairfax Media for a series of articles published in January of 2016 alleging that he exposed himself to Ms. Russell during the 2015 World Cup. The trial began this week and Gayle gave evidence on Monday strongly denying the incident ever happened and said that the “heartbreaking” allegations were “the most hurtful thing I’ve actually come across in my entire life”. Gayle said the allegations “greatly injured,” his business, personal, and professional reputation by exposing him to “odium ridicule and contempt.” But Fairfax Media is standing by the stories and claiming the allegations are true, and that the articles were in the public interest. The articles alleging Gayle exposed himself to Ms. Russell came out shortly after Gayle’s highly publicized sideline interview in 2016 with sports journalist Mel McLaughlin in which he said, “so hopefully we can win this game and we can have a drink after. Don’t blush baby.” After the interview, another female reporter, Neroli Meadows, described Gayle’s comments to McLaughlin on national television as totally out of line. Meadows allegedly told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “He does this constantly. He is a creep, he has creepy behavior.” In 2014, during a CPL league match, Gayle was reportedly asked by a Jamaican female journalist, “how does the pitch feel so far in terms of the training and the weather?” To which Gaye allegedly responded, “well I haven’t touched yours yet so I don’t know how it feels.”
Also appearing in court on Tuesday was Gayle’s teammate, Dwayne Smith, who was present in the dressing room at the time of the alleged incident. Smith said repeatedly that the alleged incident “did not happen.” The Attorney for Fairfax, Matthew Collins, QC, asked Smith if he texted the word “sexy” to Ms. Russell on February 10, a day before the alleged incident. “I don’t recall,” Smith answered. But after he was shown a copy of the text message, Smith admitted he did send the text to Ms. Russell. It was put to Smith that he sent the text to her while she was massaging him at the InterContinental hotel in Sydney on the afternoon before the alleged incident with Gayle. It could have been “a minute before”, Smith answered. The Fairfax attorney continued, “You yourself put Ms. Russell in an uncomfortable position the day before on the 10th of February”. “No I did not,” Smith replied. When asked whether he had given “false evidence” about the alleged incident involving Gayle because he was “seeking to protect” his teammate, Smith replied: “What I said is true.” The court also heard the West Indies team received an email from team manager Richie Richardson on February 12, 2015, (a day after the alleged incident) saying that Ms. Russell had “encountered a few uncomfortable situations with members of the team” and reminding them to treat her with respect. Smith denied receiving or reading any such email. On Monday, Gayle told the court he did not believe the email referred to him.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald Michaela Whitbourn said that the court also heard from “Gayle’s long-time friend, UK-based cricket coach Donovan Miller.” Miller “gave character evidence for the cricketer on Thursday” saying that since Fairfax had published the articles Gayle had become “very reserved and scared” in public places such as bars, “especially [around] females”. During cross-examination of Ms. Russell, her private messages with friends were read out. In a private Facebook message with a friend in February 2015, Russell wrote: “Gayle is a lazy-assed motherf… Does no work or prep.” In another message from Russell to her friend, she said “I told them all to f… off with their late night texts,” in reference to the West Indies players. Gayle’s barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said to Russell, “You’re not a wilting violet unable to say ‘F…, arsehole and motherf…’ are you?” McClintock suggested Russell “hatched up a plot” to frame Gayle, which she denied.
In his summation on Thursday to the jury of three women and one man, Fairfax Media barrister, Matthew Collins, QC, said it was “impossible not to be moved yesterday when Ms. Russell gave her evidence”. “You have the best seats in the house in this courtroom. Raw, honest and candid emotion [came] flooding out from Ms. Russell,” Dr. Collins said. In his closing address on Friday, Bruce McClintock, SC, representing Chris Gayle, accused Fairfax Media of publishing “tabloid trash.” McClintock said Ms. Russell was “plainly neurotic”, “bitter” and “vengeful”, and that
Gayle’s evidence was “eloquent and moving: “he said it did not happen and I say you should accept that”, McClintock told the jury. Jury deliberations are expected to begin on Monday.
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.