Canadian Judge Finds Radio Star Jian Ghomeshi Not Guilty Of Sexual Assault

Three women told the court that Ghomeshi hit them, pulled their hair, or choked them during intimacy.

TORONTO, March 24 (Reuters) - An Ontario judge on Thursday found former Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi not guilty on four sexual assault charges and one count of choking in a high-profile case that stoked a public discussion on celebrity and consent.

The former host of Q, an internationally syndicated Canadian Broadcasting Corporation music and arts program, had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Ghomeshi, 48, did not testify in response to three women who told the court that he hit them, pulled their hair, or choked them during intimacy.

In a 2014 Facebook post after being fired by the CBC for "consistently" breaching behavior standards, Ghomeshi admitted that he participates in rough sex, including bondage and discipline, but only with the consent of his partner.

After spending about 90 minutes reading his judgment, Judge William Horkins said inconsistencies in the testimony of the three complainants meant the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The evidence of each complainant suffered not just from inconsistencies and questionable behavior, but was tainted by outright deception," Horkins said in his decision.

The two-week trial in February stirred up anger among feminists and victims' rights advocates, who said the three women were attacked on the witness stand. Protesters gathered at the downtown Toronto courtroom on Thursday, chanting that they believed the women.

Social media debate roared on hashtags #Ghomeshi and #ibelievesurvivors after the verdict was announced.

Ghomeshi is scheduled to stand trial on a separate sexual assault charge in June.

(Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Alan Crosby)