September 16, 2014 6:18 pm
Updated: September 16, 2014 8:26 pm

Duffy lawyer won’t rule out calling PM as witness

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WATCH: The lawyer for suspended Sen. Mike Duffy made the case for an early trial, warning he won’t hesitate to call every witness he needs to testify —including, possibly, the prime minister. Mike Le Couteur has the story.

OTTAWA – Mike Duffy’s lawyer said Tuesday he’s not ruling out calling any witnesses in his client’s upcoming trial – including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“We’re certainly going to consider all potential witnesses,” Donald Bayne said.

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“It’s too early to rule anything out.”

But he told reporters outside court, “This isn’t a political case. This is a criminal case,” he said.

READ MORE: Mike Duffy could face trial before 2015 election

“Please understand, this isn’t being run as a personal or political vendetta.”

The Prime Minister’s Office has said it’s “difficult to imagine” Harper would have any relevant information to share in Duffy’s trial, and said the PMO responded fully to requests for assistance from RCMP investigators.

In question period Monday, NDP leader Tom Mulcair asked Harper if he would testify or “hide behind” Parliamentary privilege – which protects MPs from prosecution or litigation as a result of statements made in the House of Commons.

“There is absolutely no reason to suggest that I would do that,” Harper replied.

Following a first appearance Tuesday on Duffy’s 31 fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges, Bayne said he’s working with Crown prosecutors and the court to set a trial date as soon as possible.

“It’s going to be conducted professionally,” he said. “The very strong judiciary in the Ontario Court of Justice will not allow this case to be turned into a political circus  and we certainly don’t intend to conduct the matter that way.”

Bayne will return to court next Tuesday in the hopes of setting a date.

“Senator Duffy wants to get to trial,” Bayne said outside court.

“This will be his first opportunity for a complete airing of the evidence before an impartial tribunal and his opportunity to clear his name, to show that he’s guilty of no wrongdoing,” he added.

He also said his client’s health is a factor in the timing.

“He’s had two open-heart  surgeries,” Bayne said. “Part of  our concern to get the matter on with…is his physical, emotional and mental health.”

Bayne said a trial could “absolutely” happen before the 2015 election, scheduled for October.

READ MORE: RCMP lay 31 charges including bribery against Mike Duffy

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 a $90,000 cheque used to pay off his expenses.

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 the cheque written by former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

Harper has denied knowing about the payment. And while Duffy faces charges for taking the cheque, Wright faces no charges for writing it.

Bayne expects a trial to last six to eight weeks.

WATCH: Laura Stone has all the details as Mike Duffy’s lawyer appeared on the former senator’s behalf in court today

 

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