Suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau's lawyer appeared on his behalf Monday in an Ottawa court over charges of fraud and breach of trust.
Christian Deslauriers asked that the court set the next date for April 28, but said Brazeau isn't likely to appear until either the preliminary hearing or trial starts, a process that isn't likely to begin for months. Deslauriers said that will depend on the complexity of the case and the amount of evidence.
"We could expect at least a year, I'd say, before we get into a courtroom and start proceeding," he said outside the courthouse.
Brazeau, who was named to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Mac Harb, a Liberal-appointed senator who's now retired, face charges of fraud and breach of trust following allegations they claimed living expenses to which they weren't entitled.
Harb is due in Ottawa court Tuesday morning.
Both Brazeau and Harb say they did nothing wrong and that they complied with Senate's rules.
'Determined to proceed'
There's a presumption of innocence unless and until the Crown proves its case, Deslauriers pointed out. He also noted a report by Deloitte into living expenses filed by Brazeau, Harb and two other senators found "grey zones" and failings in the Senate's rules for claiming such expenses.
Deslauriers said his intention right now is to fight to the end. He said he hasn't spoken to Brazeau today but expects to talk to him in the next few days.
"So far as I understand, he has to face the reality and the reality is he's charged and he's going to face the allegations," he said.
"He's determined to proceed, that's for sure."
Deslauriers said both Michel Swanston and Gérard Larocque will work with him in defending against the charges. Swanston and Larocque are defending Brazeau in Gatineau, Que., just across the river from Ottawa, against unrelated charges of assault and sexual assault.
It's not clear how Brazeau is paying for three lawyers: he started work recently as the day manager at an Ottawa strip club, noting that he has children to support, and still owes the Senate for most of the $48,745 he claimed in expenses.
Deslauriers said he isn't working pro bono and legal aid isn't involved in paying him, but wouldn't answer how Brazeau can afford his lawyers, or whether somebody else is paying.
"I won't answer these questions. I think they're personal to M. Brazeau and I'm not in a position to answer to that," he said.
The Crown prosecutor in court noted that it will fall to the provincial Crown, not the federal Crown, to handle the case. Deslauriers said that surprised him, especially given the RCMP's involvement in the investigation.
"Usually when the RCMP is involved, we see the federal Crown handling the matter," he said.