Duffy worried about Internet ‘trolls’, court hears
OTTAWA – Mike Duffy was so concerned about Internet “trolling,” including allegations that he was a “drunk,” that he solicited advice from a journalist friend and later paid him $500 for the help, court heard at his fraud and breach of trust trial Friday.
That money is now part of Duffy’s 31 charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
The Crown alleges Duffy funnelled $65,000 in Senate contract money to a friend’s companies in order to pay for expenses that were not legitimate.
Freelance journalist and author Mark Bourrie testified that shortly after his December 2008 appointment, Duffy would contact Bourrie, whom he had known on Parliament Hill since 1994, for advice on how to handle the “mean” posts about him.
“It became pretty clear after he was appointed that there was a lot of Internet trolling going on,” Bourrie told the court.
“We’re talking about serious, mean, anonymous crap that would be posted about this guy all the time.”
The “trolling,” as it’s known in Internet speak, took place on blogs, Wikipedia and in particular, YouTube, Bourrie said.
“Mostly on there they were accusing him of being drunk,” he testified.
Later, Bourrie clarified one particular video that bothered Duffy.
It appears to be a 2009 CBC interview with NDP MP Peter Stoffer, in which Duffy was alleged to have been drinking by some headlines on YouTube.
Bourrie also dropped the “f-bomb” in court in order to describe the reportedly “personally demeaning” comments Duffy was subjected to online.
“It was like, Mike Duffy’s a fat f***,” Bourrie said, as Duffy sat stone-faced in the court.
Bourrie said he tried to contact Wikipedia or YouTube to get them to take down the comments from a talk-back page.
On cross-examination, Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne showed Bourrie past Wikipedia pages and asked about the “vile” and “scurrilous” comments made in the past.
But the Crown later called that description into question, and the judge said he would review it over the weekend.
Bourrie, whose wife was in law school at the time, said he told Duffy on several occasions to contact a lawyer, either through the Conservative Party or the Senate.
But Bourrie said he never offered legal advice, nor told Duffy his wife could help the now-suspended senator.
“I think Senator Duffy had the idea that Marion, who is my wife, was helping, and I would tell him no,” Bourrie told the court.
“It never seemed to sink in.”
Crown prosecutor Jason Neubauer asked if Bourrie ever expected to be paid.
“No,” he answered.
“I’m 99.9 per cent certain the issue of me getting paid never came up.”
Court heard that Duffy tried to pay Bourrie’s wife, but Bourrie did not cash the cheque.
But Bourrie himself was ultimately paid $500 in a June 2010 cheque from a company called Maple Ridge Media Inc., signed by Gerald Donohue.
Bourrie said he assumed the cheque was from the company that handled Duffy’s speaking arrangements or his private business life.
The Crown alleges Duffy funnelled $65,000 of his Senate contract budget over four years to his friend Donohue’s companies, and that money was used to pay for services that would not have been approved, such as a makeup artist, personal trainer and to develop photos of his family.
It also includes Bourrie’s payment, a subscription to an online magazine, and speeches from former Sun TV personality Ezra Levant, who will testify Monday.
Bourrie, who has freelanced for daily newspapers since the 1980s and has a PhD in history, is the author of the Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right To Know.
Bayne characterized Bourrie’s work for Duffy as consulting. Bayne said the bulk of the Wikipedia page was about Duffy’s life “as a public figure and a Parliamentarian.”
A subscription he never read
Earlier Friday, court heard that Duffy paid $1,054.66 for a subscription to an online polling publication called Atlantic Matters, using a cheque from Donohue under his company’s new name, ICF.
Marketing executive Elizabeth Grouse said she sent a welcome letter to Duffy in March 2012 but he didn’t know what the publication was, although he said he would pay if she invoiced his office.
When she inquired about payment again in July 2012, Grouse testified that Duffy sent her an email that was “angry in tone,” telling her she had been “harassing him for money.”
She said she told Duffy he didn’t have to pay, since he hadn’t even logged on to the magazine’s website.
But he said he would, and the amount was eventually paid in August 2012.
Under cross-examination from Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne, Grouse said Duffy was signed up along with three other senators for a group subscription by fellow Conservative Senator Percy Mockler, and that she’d never personally talked to Duffy about the subscription.
She was also unable to name the other senators who were part of the group subscription. After much prodding by Bayne, she told him, “You can’t beat me into remembering their names.”
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