The Sudbury byelection bribery trial of two Ontario Liberals ended suddenly Tuesday afternoon when the judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to continue.
Former Liberal Party CEO Pat Sorbara wiped her tears away after a judge ruled she and Sudbury businessman Gerry Lougheed not guilty on the Election Act bribery charges.
The two had been charged with bribing would-be Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier to step aside so Sudbury's New Democrat MP Glenn Thibeault could defect and run for the Ontario Liberals.
Sorbara was also charged with bribing Thibeault to become a Liberal with paid jobs for two loyal staffers, Darrell Marsh and Brian Band, who both came with him from the NDP.
Two weeks ago, the defence told Judge Howard Borenstein that the Crown had no case and asked him to immediately find the two accused Liberals not guilty with what's known as a "directed verdict."
Seeking nomination doesn't make you a candidate
On Tuesday afternoon, Borenstein delivered his verdict and ruled there wasn't enough evidence to continue.
The judge started by reading the facts of the case and said these were the first charges to be laid on this section of the Election Act.
Borenstein said the Crown had argued Olivier was a candidate "based on a broad interpretation of the act," but he said he disagreed with that conclusion.
He said if he were to go by the Crown's definition of candidate and applied it to the nomination process, it would lead to "absurd elections." He concluded someone seeking nomination is not a candidate under the Election Act.
He said a reasonable jury could not convict either Lougheed or Sorbara in inducing Olivier to step aside.
As for the additional bribery charge for Sorbara, Borenstein said "nothing that occurred in relation to this count could be defined as bribery," referencing the two paid staffers from Thibeault's office.
'Misguided decision' by OPP and Elections Ontario office: Lougheed
Not long after the decision was read, Lougheed issued a statement.
"These past three years have been difficult, worrisome and tiresome, especially with the regular humiliation and condemnation by the media in the court of public opinion," he said.
Lougheed thanked people in the community who supported him throughout the trial. However, he did say he does have concerns.
"First, the misguided decision by the OPP and the Elections Ontario office to pursue these charges and the perceived political influence to proceed with the charges," he said.
"Second, the financial burden on the taxpayer for the investigation and the proceedings which were unnecessary and costly."