Dean Del Mastro asks judge to set aside election overspending guilty verdicts
Maximum penalty ex-MP could face is 3 years in prison and $6K fine
Former MP Dean Del Mastro is asking the Ontario Court of Justice to dismiss his Oct. 31 guilty verdicts related to overspending in the 2008 federal election campaign and declare a mistrial.
But at Del Mastro's sentencing hearing in Peterborough on Tuesday morning, Crown prosecutor Tom Lemon said that move would only be justified under exceptional circumstances.
Lemon told Judge Lisa Cameron that the arguments set out in the defence motion aren't substantially different from those made at trial.
"Nothing has changed" since Del Mastro was found guilty on four counts, Lemon said.
"Mr. Del Mastro doesn't get a do-over because he doesn't like the result."
Leo Adler, Del Mastro's Toronto-based lawyer, argued the judge made mistakes in her finding of guilt, particularly when it came to whether Del Mastro had gotten $21,000 in services during the election campaign.
Adler said the judge has the discretion to reopen the case if she chooses, and said he raised his concerns as soon as he could given that he wasn't the trial lawyer.
The lawyer said he has an obligation to point out errors he found in her decision.
Cameron said she will hear submissions on whether to reopen the defence and queried Adler periodically on points he was making.
Del Mastro's lawyer also presented a motion challenging the submission of victim impact statements. Adler further moved that, if the judge allows the statements, he should be able to question the witnesses.
The sentencing hearing has been rescheduled to Feb. 19.
MP, agent found guilty of overspending
Del Mastro and Richard McCarthy, the Conservatives' official agent for the Peterborough riding campaign, were found guilty in November of exceeding the federally mandated spending limit and of submitting a false or misleading document to Elections Canada. Del Mastro, who at one time served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, was also found guilty of donating too much to his own campaign.
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As the official agent for the campaign, McCarthy handled the money and signed off on expenses.
Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $2,000, one year in prison, or both, according to a release from the Crown prosecutor's office.
Nine-month sentence in Guelph robocalls trial
Weeks after Del Mastro and McCarthy were convicted, a judge in Guelph, Ont., sentenced Michael Sona to nine months in jail for planning and conducting illegal robocalls to deter people from voting in the 2011 federal election. It is thought to be the first incarceration for an offence under the Canada Elections Act.
Sona is appealing his sentence, arguing it is unnecessarily harsh given he is a first-time offender who has already suffered considerably. The Crown is also appealing the sentence, arguing it fails to reflect the gravity of the offence.
Del Mastro, in an interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Oct. 31, the day he was found guilty, said there was a debate until the last few days of the trial on whether his lawyers should bring a motion to present additional evidence.
In the end, they did not.
"We were confident that the ruling was going our way. We felt that we had put forward a very strong case, we thought that we had not just Elections Canada precedent but actual statements and evidence provided by the chief auditor at Elections Canada that entirely supported our case, but ultimately we didn't hear that considered in the ruling," he said.
Just the judge's opinion, Del Mastro says
Del Mastro also characterized the guilty finding as a matter of opinion.
Judge Cameron's ruling "was not a final decision," he said. "I've in no way broken any of the laws governing elections."
"I know what the truth is. That's her opinion. My opinion is quite different."
Del Mastro resigned his seat in the House of Commons a few days after the conviction, just before MPs were to vote on whether to suspend him.
He served as an MP from Jan. 23, 2006, until Nov. 5, 2014.
The Conservative Party has not yet chosen a candidate to run in the Peterborough riding for this year's federal election.
- A previous version of this story said Dean Del Mastro and Richard McCarthy were found guilty of submitting a campaign return that didn't properly provide the information required. However, the guilty finding on this charge was stayed.Jan 27, 2015 5:35 PM ET