Michael Sona’s ‘apparent arrogance’ led to conviction in robocalls trial
WATCH: Former Conservative party staffer Michael Sona has been found guilty of trying to prevent voters from marking their ballots during the 2011 federal election. Mike Drolet and Tom Clark report.
GUELPH – It was Michael Sona’s “apparent arrogance and self-importance” that led to his conviction in the robocalls case, court heard Thursday.
An Ontario judge found Sona guilty of trying to prevent voters from casting their ballots during the 2011 federal election through the use of misleading phone calls.
INTERACTIVE: Timeline of key dates in the robocalls controversy
While Justice Gary Hearn discredited the evidence of so-called star witness Andrew Prescott, it was Sona’s own bragging to fellow Conservative staffers after the fact that proved to be his undoing.
“His apparent arrogance and self-importance prevailed,” Hearn wrote in his ruling.
Sona, 25, was the only person charged under the Elections Act with willfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent people from voting.
WATCH: Prosecutor in Michael Sona case comments on guilty verdict
He faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 17 in Guelph.
When reached by phone Thursday, Sona said he wasn’t able to comment.
“I wish I could but I can’t,” he said. “Life’s just sh***y sometimes.”
Following the verdict, Sona’s parents hugged each other and left the court crying.
Prosecutor Croft Michaelson said the charge is a serious one and he would be making “forceful submissions,” but wouldn’t say whether the Crown would be seeking jail time.
WATCH: Will Michael Sona appeal the guilty verdict?
“It’s a very serious crime for people to interfere with the democratic rights of citizens in this country,” he said.
Sona’s lawyer, Norm Boxall, said he is disappointed in the decision and will carefully review it.
“We’ll obviously consider everything,” Boxall said. “There has never been a case like this in Canada before.”
Sona has consistently maintained his innocence, and has said he is a scapegoat for the Conservative party. A Conservative spokesman said the party reached out to Elections Canada and “did all we could to assist them.”
“As we’ve said all along, the Conservative party ran a clean and ethical campaign,” spokesman Cory Hann said. “The Party was not involved with this conduct that was subject of the case in Guelph.”
Although Hearn said in his ruling he does not believe Sona acted alone, he said there was enough evidence to suggest Sona was involved in the creation and implementation of the plan – including the creation of a robocalls account and registering a cellphone to “Pierre Poutine.”
“I am satisfied Mr. Sona was involved in the scheme very actively,” Hearn said.
He said Sona is guilty of at least aiding and abetting the robocalls.
Some 6,700 misleading calls registered to a cellphone in the name of “Pierre Poutine” were sent out on election day in 2011 in Guelph.
READ MORE: Who is Pierre Poutine?
The calls were intended to target Liberal supporters and misdirect them to the wrong polling stations.
Court also heard how campaign manager Ken Morgan had access to the robocalls account and asked Prescott, the deputy campaign manager and IT specialist, to stop a second round of calls. Morgan never spoke with Elections Canada. Prescott received immunity to testify.
Hearn said he disregarded Prescott’s evidence including his testimony that Sona emerged from his cubicle on election day shaking euphorically and saying, “It’s working,” and that he later held a cigar and said “Thanks, Pierre.”
But he found the evidence of staffers whom Sona bragged to in Ottawa to be credible.
In particular, Hearn referenced that of Mitchell Messom, a former Conservative party intern, who told Sona he should probably “shut the f**k up,” about the scheme.
“He should have heeded the advice of Mr. Messom,” Hearn wrote, “but he did not.”
WATCH: Global’s Mike Drolet and Laura Stone break down the verdict and some key factors that led to Michael Sona’s conviction.
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