The Law Society of Manitoba has reprimanded Winnipeg attorney Jay Prober and fined him $4,000 after he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct for making media comments about women abusing his client Peter Nygard of sexual assault accused of assault.
Prober, 79, pleaded guilty to one charge of not being civil and courteous to all people he dealt with professionally at a Monday bar association hearing after telling the media multiple times in 2020 that women Nygard of sexual assault were liars who were “on the money train”.
Prober said in the virtual hearing that his comments were made as his client was being “brutalized” in front of the public opinion court.
“I’ve made some harsh comments, comments that were harmful and hurtful, and I acknowledge that. I truly regret any harm or pain my comments have caused anyone,” he said.
Prober was also initially charged with prejudicing a tribunal, but that was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to the other case.
Richard Wolson, Prober’s attorney, and Law Society Attorney Ayli Klein made a joint proposal to have Prober reprimanded and pay a $4,000 fine towards prosecution costs for his misconduct hearing.
A reference is “very serious,” Klein said at the hearing.
It’s a formal and public sanction by the attorney’s colleagues and a “permanent blemish” on their record, Klein said.
Wolson said the joint pleading was “fair, balanced and with precedent”.
The joint proposal was accepted by the Disciplinary Committee.
“These were very serious, disturbing comments,” Kathy Bueti, one of the Disciplinary Committee members, said in her oral statement Monday.
“Lawyers are held accountable for what they say in and out of the courtroom. We recognize that there can sometimes be media involvement… but that does not lower standards and expectations.”
Bueti said the punishment will haunt Prober for the rest of his career.
A written decision will be posted on the bar association’s website in the next 60 to 90 days, she said.
“Added Insult to Injury”
KC Allan, a former model who grew up in Winnipeg and now lives in the United States, filed a complaint against Prober with the Bar Association in October 2020.
She has accused Nygard of raping her at his Winnipeg warehouse when she was 17 after they met at a nightclub and he offered to give her a ride home.
Allan said in her victim statement on Monday that there was “no reasonable excuse” for the harm done to her and other people who say they were bullied by Nygard.
Shannon Moroney, a therapist and survivor advocate, said Prober’s words were deeply damaging.
Moroney said in a statement read at the hearing that instead of helping the women heal from sexual assault, forced incarceration and human trafficking, she must help them “heal from the harm done by Mr. Prober’s words.” and allegations against them, which literally added insult to injury.”