GUELPH, Ont. – An Ontario judge is set to determine the fate of a Conservative party staffer charged with preventing voters from casting their ballots during the 2011 federal election.
Justice Gary Hearn’s decision on whether 25-year-old Michael Sona plotted to obstruct voters is expected to come down this morning in Guelph, Ont.
Sona faces up to five years in prison if he’s convicted of the charge of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent a voter from casting a ballot. He has denied having anything to do with the call.
He’s the only person charged in the so-called robocalls scandal.
Automated calls rang more than 6,700 telephone numbers on election day, mostly targeting Liberal supporters in Guelph with misleading instructions on where to vote.
The Edmonton-based technology company RackNine had been hired to make those calls by a customer who tried to mask their identity by using fake names, including the pseudonym Pierre Poutine.
Court heard testimony from a number of Sona’s former colleagues, who said he spoke of wanting to employ some underhanded campaigning tactics before the election, and then bragged about launching the calls afterwards.
Defence lawyer Norm Boxall elected not to call any witnesses at the trial and argued that the Crown failed to definitively prove that Sona was involved in the scheme.
Boxall and Crown attorney Croft Michaelson both told Justice Gary Hearn during their closing arguments that they believed more than one person was involved in the plot.
Court had heard testimony from a number of Sona’s former colleagues, who said he spoke of wanting to employ some underhanded campaigning tactics before the election, and then bragged about launching the calls afterwards.
The Crown’s star witness was former friend and co-worker Andrew Prescott, who testified against Sona in exchange for an immunity agreement.
He told court he heard Sona jubilantly declare, “It’s working,” on the morning of election day. Prescott said Sona later delivered a toast following Stephen Harper’s majority win with the mysterious comment “thanks to Pierre,” an apparent reference to the pseudonym used to order the calls.
But both the Crown and defence said Prescott wasn’t an entirely credible witness. During his closing remarks, Michaelson told Hearn that Prescott’s testimony “should probably be approached with caution.”
Boxall noted Prescott gave inconsistent answers during pre-trial interviews with the Crown and Elections Canada. He suggested Prescott had more technical know-how than Sona and was more likely to have been behind the calls.
“Mr. Prescott is deflecting responsibility from himself and perhaps others,” Boxall told Hearn.