Mike Duffy could face trial before 2015 election
OTTAWA – Mike Duffy’s legal team hopes to set a trial date as early as Tuesday, as the suspended senator’s lawyer makes a first court appearance on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
If it happens, the trial could take place as early as 2015 – before next year’s scheduled October election.
It also means Duffy could be the first of three senators charged in the so-called expense scandal to go to trial.
Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne did not respond to a request for comment Monday. But sources say he wants to set a date Tuesday – significantly fast-tracking his client’s legal process.
An early-2015 trial could prove politically damaging for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as Canadians head to the polls for what is expected to be a very competitive election.
Harper’s former star senator has indicated he’s only too eager to reveal embarrassing secrets about the party, as well as more information relating to former chief of staff Nigel Wright’s $90,000 cheque.
Harper has denied knowing about the payment. And while Duffy faces charges for taking the cheque, Wright faces no charges for writing it.
ABOVE: Mike Duffy tells Global News he’s looking forward to his day in court.
Duffy has maintained his innocence and said he looks forward to his day in court. In explosive speeches to the Senate prior to being suspended last fall, Duffy promised there was more to come out “when all of the players are under oath and the e-mail chain can be seen in its entirety.”
Trial could last weeks
The RCMP charged Duffy in July with 31 offences, including several counts of both fraud and breach of trust and one count of bribery of a judicial officer.
The charges relate to residence and travel claims he made as senator as well as contracts he allegedly awarded, plus the $90,000 used to pay off his expenses.
Evidence presented at trial is expected to include more emails between Duffy’s former lawyer, Janice Payne, and officials in the Prime Minister’s Office regarding Wright’s $90,000 payment.
Sources say the trial could take several weeks or even a couple months, and a date depends on the availability of a judge and courtroom.
Witnesses could include Senate bureaucrats, Conservative and Liberal Senators from the Board of Internal Economy, which examines spending, and current and former members of the PMO, including Wright, who was cleared of wrongdoing by the RCMP and who now lives in London.
The trial may also coincide with the release of the spring auditor general’s report, which will examine individual senators’ expenses.
Meanwhile, the preliminary hearing for former Conservative senator Patrick Brazeau’s fraud and breach of trust charges has been scheduled for June 2015.
A trial date for retired Liberal senator Mac Harb, who faces the same two charges as Brazeau, has not yet been set. Suspended former Conservative senator Pamela Wallin remains under RCMP investigation.
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