What next in the long trial of Mike Duffy?

In the last chapter of his long trial, Mike Duffy himself is expected to appear

Blair Gable/Reuters

Blair Gable/Reuters

OTTAWA — The last chapter of the long trial of Sen. Mike Duffy will be headlined by a much anticipated appearance by the main character himself.

On Thursday, Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt will resume hearing the Crown’s case against Duffy on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery. The senator for Prince Edward Island has pleaded not guilty, arguing he followed all the Senate’s expense and spending rules as they were spelled out at the time.

Crown prosecutors will be wrapping up their evidence over the span of roughly a week, bringing forward a final set of witnesses. Chief among them will be Duffy’s friend and former colleague Gerald Donohue.

Duffy himself is expected to take the stand once the defence begins presenting its case, once the Crown is done.

Duffy awarded Donohue some Senate contracts for research and consulting services, and Donohue in turn cut cheques to other service providers through family companies, including a private trainer and a makeup artist. Donohue has been in poor health, and the court has had difficulty organizing dates for his testimony.

Related reading: The Duffy diaries: Four years, 232 pages, plenty of juice 

That particular element of the trial will hardly be as compelling as the testimony in August of senior members of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s staff, including former chief of staff Nigel Wright. The details of who was involved in dealing with Duffy’s $90,000 in contested expenses, and who knew that Wright secretly repaid them, reverberated through the first weeks of the election campaign.

With Harper and the Conservatives now out of power, interest in the details of how his Prime Minister’s Office and Senate leadership tried to make the scandal go away might wane.

Still, the main attraction for the late fall sitting will be Duffy himself, who defence lawyer Donald Bayne has always promised would appear as a witness. Duffy has said almost nothing publicly since the trial began in April.

Duffy, a former broadcaster, made two dramatic speeches on the Senate floor two years ago, striking out at Harper and his team and promising that he would have many more details to reveal.

He has always maintained that he was coerced into saying he would repay his Senate living expenses, even though he never thought he had done wrong.

“Canadians know me as an honest guy. To pay back money I didn’t owe would destroy my reputation,” Duffy told the Senate in October 2013.

Related reading: A rough guide to the charges against Mike Duffy 

“The PMO piled on the pressure. Some honourable senators called me in P.E.I. One senator in particular left several particularly nasty and menacing messages: Do what the prime minister wants. Do it for the PM and for the good of the party. I continued to resist. Finally, the message from the PMO became: Do what we want or else.”

The court has scheduled this portion of the trial to run until Dec. 18, but there is a possibility the lawyers will need more time to present their final arguments at another juncture.

“It’s been a very long and difficult experience for Sen. Duffy and his wife, Heather,” Bayne told The Canadian Press. “Any Canadian can understand how difficult this is and particularly for someone dealing with the health issues he has.”



What next in the long trial of Mike Duffy?

    • Yup….focus will be on Duffy’s wrongdoings alright. But I hope that enough mud is thrown around to splash back at Harper and the PMO. We need to know how to do it better.

  1. I think many Canadians are stil very interested in this story. Duffy is the pawn and the key to more needed exposure on the workings of the PMO and the Senate. Both topics that are front and centre. How can changes be made unless the “loopholes” are exposed?
    It talks to the general problems within the Senate as they were effectively bombarded with Harper’s attempts to control their actions. When the PMO tried to interfere in the independent audit, the clerk of the Senate stood his grounds. Thank goodness for someone’s integrity. Now I note Nigel Wright, a lawyer, gave unsolidited testimony that the PMO can not be guilty of interfering with the independent audit, because after all their attempts were unsuccessful. This alone is a troubling loophole…..is it not a crime to attempt to interfere? If not then it should be. Much like Michael De Groote fianlly being exposed to have paid a hit man $500,000 after earlier recorded discussions reveal that the hit man offers to take care of business with the Carbone brothers, and DeGroote recorded to be saying that he was going to give him $150,000 but it was for him to do “nothing”. A gaping loophole eh? We all know what happened to one of the brothers. Prior to the revelation that DeGroote did in fact wire $500,000 to the hit man, there was no direct evidence connecting one to another. Now there is a link, but who is going to take up the long and exhaustive investigation. But he can (and should) be charged with perjury. And yet nothing has happened to date.
    So I would like to see some “backlash” aqainst Harper and Nigel Wright. Maybe Duffy will expose something that can be acted upon. Like why wasn’t Harper and the PMo office charged with offerring a bribe? Are the RCMP not independent?

    • “I think many Canadians are stil very interested in this story.”

      I, in contrast, am confident very few Canadians are still very interested in this story. In fact, I rather suspect the Harper-philic media outnumber Canadians “very interested in this story” 2:1. The media is staring into the void of having no one to demonize for the next four years (“Trudeau snapping selfies while Paris bleeds? Pshaw!) so I’m sure they will be out in force to once again to lead every newscast for a month with the nano-trivia they conclude inculpates him – “Harper” and “Wright” have the same number of letters, ergo, he MUST have known!

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