Conservative friends point finger at Michael Sona on Day 3 of robocalls trial
WATCH ABOVE: A courtroom in Ontario heard testimony that links Michael Sona to robocalls made in the 2011 election campaign. It was the first piece of evidence that links the Conservative campaign in Guelph to the controversial calls. Jacques Bourbeau explains.
GUELPH, ONT. – They were longtime Conservative co-workers who looked at politics the same way and wanted “to see this country do better.”
In doing so, he was offered immunity – to protect himself.
The two former friends barely looked at each other outside the court, with Sona taking notes or shaking his head at various points during Prescott’s testimony.
It was a day that saw another former Conservative staffer, Rebecca Docksteader, point the finger at Sona for taking “full credit” for a scheme to mislead Liberal voters on election day 2011 – even though she admitted he was often guilty of animated storytelling.
“I wasn’t sure if I could take the story seriously or not,” she said. Docksteader told her former boss, Conservative MP Chris Warkentin, about the conversation after Sona’s name was made public in February 2012.
Three more Conservative staffers are expected to testify Thursday.
Calls falsely said to be from Elections Canada were sent out to more than 6,700 people on May 2, 2011, telling non-Conservative supporters their polling stations had changed.
It was later revealed the calls came from automated firm RackNine Inc., registered under the fake name Pierre S. Jones, and that a Pierre Poutine had used a burner cellphone to call the company.
Sona, 25, is charged with “wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting.” If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
Prescott, who was the deputy campaign campaign manager for Conservative candidate Marty Burke, also admitted on the stand that he withheld information from investigators for almost two years.
He also recalled specific information about Sona he had never before revealed in interviews.
Prescott testified that Sona emerged from his cubicle in the early morning hours of May 2, 2011 looking “euphoric,” and saying ‘It’s working.’
WATCH: Sona ready to clear name as testimony begins in robocalls case (June 2)
Prescott had his own RackNine account and testified that he gave information about how to set one up to campaign manager Ken Morgan, as well as Sona.
Both of those details were withheld from investigators until Prescott got immunity in February of this year, he said Wednesday.
On the day of the election, around 4:15 am, Prescott said he showed Sona along with other staffers in the office how to log into RackNine.
He said Sona expressed interest that caller ID could be manipulated.
“Sona expressed a little bit of surprise and said, ‘Let me understand this: you can make it appear to be coming from anywhere,”‘ Prescott said.
“To pre-empt any thought of using things for nefarious purposes, I actually specifically said, ‘Everything can be traced.”‘
Later in the morning on May 2, after media outlets began reporting the fake calls, Morgan told Prescott: “I need you to stop the call.”
Prescott said Morgan gave him a log-in and password on a piece of paper, and Prescott then logged into the account from his computer.
“I did not want to get involved,” Prescott said.
Prescott said he never spoke about the call until contacted by Elections Canada in November 2011.
Prescott said after the election when the Conservative won a majority, he was out for drinks and celebrating with the team.
“I heard the name Pierre once,” he testified. He said Sona had a cigar and said something like, “Thanks, Pierre.”
Prescott also testified that he saw a cellphone on Sona’s desk as well as packaging in the garbage in the days leading up to the election.
Prescott denied buying the cellphone and the prepaid Visa cards used to load up the “burner” phone, but says he didn’t know who did.
Before his testimony Wednesday, Prescott had never told investigators he saw the phone on Sona’s desk.
Another immunity deal
Prescott also said he reached out to Morgan in February this year to see if he, too, would be interested in getting immunity from the Crown.
“I was concerned for him,” Prescott said about Morgan. “I wanted to protect those that I did not think were involved.”
Morgan, who moved to Kuwait in 2012, has never spoken to Elections Canada and is not expected to testify.
Boxall noted that it was Prescott who leaked news of his immunity agreement to the media, and suggested that he did so to protect himself.
Prescott agreed, saying he felt his reputation was being unfairly maligned. He also said he expected Sona to expose the deal to reporters and he wanted to release the news himself.
It would be good for Prescott if his former friend was convicted, Boxall suggested.
“Only if he’s guilty,” Prescott replied.
When asked about his relationship with Sona, Prescott said:
“Until recently it was very good.”
WATCH: Star witness at Michael Sona trial testifies against his former friend. Laura Stone has the details
-with files from the Canadian Press
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