Is Michael Sona 'Pierre Poutine'? Robocalls verdict due today
Former Conservative staffer to learn his fate, 3 years after hundreds of Guelph voters misled
A judge in Guelph, Ont., is set to address the question that many voters thought would go unanswered: Was 25-year-old Michael Sona part of a plot to mislead voters in the 2011 federal election?
Judge Gary Hearn's decision will be released Thursday morning, two months after Sona's five-day trial wrapped up.
Elections Canada investigators and the Crown prosecutor believe Sona engineered a misleading phone call that directed more than 6,000 voters to the wrong polling station the day of the 2011 federal election. It's illegal to interfere with a voter's right to cast a ballot.
Sona had been under suspicion for more than a year before the charge was laid last year. His name was initially floated one day after the first media report detailed the probe, although court records filed by investigators didn't zero in on him until later.
Sona worked for the Conservative candidate in Guelph at the time of the call. The Conservative Party won the 2011 election, but Liberal incumbent Frank Valeriote held on to his Guelph seat.
Sona faces up to five years in prison if he's convicted of the single charge of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent a voter from casting a ballot.
He has said he had nothing to do with the call, which was traced to a disposable phone registered under the pseudonym Pierre Poutine. He did not testify in the court case against him.
Verdict doesn't mean case over
The probe by Elections Canada seemed at times to be crawling since the first report, on Feb. 27, 2012, by the Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia that revealed the surprising investigation.
But Thursday's decision doesn't necessarily mean the case is over. The judge could render a verdict, but ask to hear sentencing arguments on another day. The judge could also render a verdict and either side could appeal.
While Crown prosecutor Croft Michaelson told the judge that the evidence points to the involvement of more than one person, he said Sona "played an instrumental role" and committed one or more of the acts needed to pull off the scheme.
Sona's lawyer, Norm Boxall, suggested the Crown's star witness, Andrew Prescott, was the real culprit behind the calls.
Boxall questioned Prescott about his knowledge of the online system used to make the misleading call, as well as his experience selling cell phones. Prescott worked with Sona on the Conservative campaign in Guelph in 2011 and reached an immunity agreement with the Crown before speaking to investigators.
Prescott told the court that Sona came out of his cubicle on election day and said, "'It's working.'" He also said he saw a disposable, or burner, cellphone on Sona's desk.
Another witness, testifying against Sona, suggested another party was involved, but didn't know who that might be.