Three Quebec City varsity football players who were implicated in a violent bar brawl five months ago were not criminally charged until Monday – two days after they took part in winning the national championship.
The three members of Laval University's Rouge et Or team, including the starting quarterback, were charged in connection with a June 28 brawl at a nightclub near the school campus in suburban Ste-Foy.
The three teammates and a fourth accused, described as a girlfriend, were handed summonses on Monday to appear in court on Jan. 8. Two days earlier, Laval had clinched the Vanier Cup by defeating the University of Calgary Dinos 25-14.
Officials say unusual delays and complications explain why the charges stemming from the summer bar fight were not laid until after the team won its second straight Vanier Cup.
Well-financed and with crowds packing their home games, the Rouge et Or are highly popular in Quebec City. In the absence of a major professional franchise, the team, a powerhouse of Canadian university football, and the minor-league baseball Capitales monopolize the attention of fans.
A spokesman for Quebec City police, Constable Pierre Poirier, said his force only concluded its investigation a month ago because of the number of witnesses who had to be questioned and because of delays prompted by people being away on summer vacation.
Constable Poirier said the file was handed to Crown prosecutors on Sept. 25.
René Verret, a spokesman for the provincial office of criminal and penal prosecutions, said the file was then transferred from Quebec City to the Crown office in another city, Saguenay, because the alleged victim was an off-duty police officer who would have been known to local Crown attorneys.
On the week of Nov. 4, the Saguenay office assigned two different prosecutors because there were mutual allegations – the football players having also accused the police officer of having attacked them.
"The work was done promptly. It was a matter of circumstances," Mr. Verret said. "The decision could have come out a week earlier and we would have been criticized too."
He said the allegations against the police officer are still being reviewed by the Crown.
The accused are starting quarterback Alex Skinner, 21, wide receiver Artchill Monney, 26, and Michel Savard, 23, a 285-pound defensive lineman.
The fourth person who was also charged is a 19-year-old woman, Leila Barlovits-Martel, a competitive boxer who was described in Quebec City media as a girlfriend of one of the players.
Constable Poirier said the alleged victim was a male patron, who was with his wife at the nightclub, the Ste-Foy franchise of a chain called Commission Des Liqueurs.
Quebec City media said the man, an off-duty police officer from nearby Lévis, suffered a broken jaw in the fight.
Mathieu Tanguay, a spokesman for the Rouge et Or athletics program, said the team knew about the incident but not about the criminal charges until Monday.
There had been media coverage of the fight in the days afterward, though the names of the players hadn't been made public, he noted.
However, the team never tried to influence the timing of the summons, he said. "It's not within our powers. We learned about it at the same time as everyone else."