Calgary

Calgary Ponzi-scheme trial jurors praised by lawyers on both sides

Lawyers on both sides of a massive fraud trial in Calgary are praising jury members for their dedicated service over the last five months.

13 jury members sat through 5 months of evidence, heard more than 50 witnesses

(Janice Fletcher)

Lawyers on both sides of a massive fraud trial in Calgary are praising jury members for their dedicated service over the last five months.

The 12 members are now deliberating the fate of the two men accused in what police have described as the largest Ponzi scam in Canadian history.

Milowe Brost and Gary Sorenson both face fraud and theft charges.

They're accused of bilking more than 2,000 investors out of between $100 and $400 million dollars between 1999 and 2008.

Since September, more than 50 witnesses testified and often, the evidence was complicated.

"I think we've had a very good jury in terms of their attention, their ability to keep up with the evidence," said Brost's lawyer, Shamsher Kothari. 

That's at least one thing he and Crown prosecutor Brian Holtby agree on. 

"The enormous service they've done to the public just cannot be over-emphasized," said Holtby. 

Complex, lengthy trial 

No juror was ever late and there was only one day the trial didn't sit because one had the stomach flu. In this province, jurors receive a mere $50 stipend.

"It has been extremely complicated for them, I think, with their families, being individuals who have nothing to do with the legal system," said Kothari.

A recent change to the Criminal Code has put this jury, one juror in particular, in a unique situation. 

Fourteen jurors can now be selected instead of the normal 12, particularly in longer trials.

The change was designed to be a protection against a mistrial, which happens if the jury loses too many members. A trial must have at least 10 jurors heading into deliberations. 

When it was time for the jurors to begin deliberating on Wednesday, there were still 13 — so one was randomly selected to be excused.

Though he will not participate in the final outcome, both lawyers say that juror nonetheless contributed to the integrity of the trial by ensuring there would be a complete jury left at the end.

"They're going to melt back into the community and no one is really going to pay much attention to them," said Holtby.

“But in my mind they've done the same type of service as if they had gone to war for us."

Kothari echoed that sentiment.

"I think their responsibility and what they've been asked to do is something most Canadians won't face in their whole lifetime apart from wartime when individuals are asked to fight in a war," said Kothari. 

The panel is now sequestered, deliberating until a verdict is reached.

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