GUELPH, ONT. – The Crown has completed its case against Michael Sona in the robocalls trial but the 25-year-old former Conservative staffer is not expected to take the stand in his own defence.
Three young Conservatives told the court Sona talked about participating in a voter-suppression scheme after the 2011 federal election – describing his role as something akin to the action TV series “24,” according to one witness.
But details about exactly who was involved and what Sona did varied somewhat as his former colleagues took the stand. One witness, John Schudlo, told the court Sona said there was at least one other person involved.
On Wednesday, court heard from star witness Andrew Prescott, who said he was told by campaign manager Ken Morgan to stop the calls on election day using an account login with automated calling firm RackNine.
He also said Sona emerged from his cubicle early in the morning to say, “It’s working.”
Sona is charged with “wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting.” If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison.
Morgan, who moved to Kuwait in 2012, did not give information to investigators and did not testify at the trial.
Sona’s lawyer, Norm Boxall, repeatedly tried to stress that Sona was prone to exaggeration. Another witness, Mitchell Messom, said Sona bragged about stealing Liberal signs during the election and being chased away.
“He made it seem like it was a Dukes of Hazzard thing,” Messom said.
The defence is not expected to call any witnesses. Both Crown prosecutor Croft Michaelson and Boxall are expected make their final submissions in court Monday.
‘At least one other person’
About a week after the May 2011 election, Sona came into Conservative MP Chris Warkentin’s office and told two staffers about the scheme to mislead Liberal voters in Guelph, Schudlo testified earlier Thursday.
Sona used the word “we” to describe the plan, Schudlo said. Rebecca Docksteader, a fellow staffer who testified Wednesday, was also in the office.
“He told us about this plan that he and at least one other person had executed on the Guelph campaign.” He doesn’t remember if Sona said another name, he said.
Schudlo said he initially had his doubts about Sona’s confession. “He would tell a colourful story,” he said. Sona also told Schudlo he “called in a favour” to get the list of Liberal voters, he said.
On cross-examination, Schudlo agreed with Boxall that he’d seen the stories about Sona having been in Aruba at the time of his alleged confession in Warkentin’s office.
WATCH: A courtroom in Ontario heard testimony that links Michael Sona to robocalls made in the 2011 election campaign. Jacques Bourbeau explains.
He also told court he reluctantly came forward after Sona’s name appeared in the media and Docksteader encouraged him to tell their boss.
“No disrespect to anyone here, but I don’t want to be here right now,” Schudlo told the court, adding it has been a “stress-inducing” experience for him.
“I feel like I’ve lost a centimetre off my hairline.”
Schudlo added that he thinks Sona is a nice guy.
“This is an ugly situation, but I do like Mike.”
Another witness, Ben Hicks, told court that Sona had revealed the scheme to him and another staffer one night in July, 2011.
Looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was listening, Hicks said Sona “very readily” said he’d been involved in a plan to misdirect Liberal voters from their polling stations.
The plan involved the use of a cellphone, a computer and automated calls, but Sona said nothing specific, Hicks said.
“He mentioned that he had the feeling [he was] on the television show 24,” Hicks said.
“I was very shocked by the whole conversation.”
WATCH: Star witness at Michael Sona trial testifies against his former friend. Laura Stone has the details
Hicks said he wasn’t sure if Sona mentioned whether he was acting alone or not.
“I don’t remember the comments about whether it was by himself or with others.”
Rather proud of himself
Messom, who used to work for Conservative Steven Fletcher, said Sona shared details with him about a month after the May 2 election about using prepaid credit cards to buy a burner cellphone to call a “daemon dialler,” a term for automating calling.
Messom said Sona told him he got the list of Liberal supporters by impersonating a staff member and calling Liberal headquarters.
He testified that he distinctly remembers Sona telling him he registered the phone to Separatist Street in Joliette, Que.
“He was rather proud of himself for coming up with that,” Messom said.
“It’s like he did something really good and nobody knew about it, so he had to explain to people.”
Messom recalls telling Sona that he should “shut the f*** up” about it because he shouldn’t be telling people, he said.
Under cross-examination, Messom said Sona never brought up the name Pierre Poutine – the name registered to the burner phone.
He also agreed that he first gave his statement to Elections Canada in March 2012 – after Sona’s name and details about the investigation had been printed in the media.
Messom and Shudlo both told court Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton was present in their interviews with Elections Canada.
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