Mike Duffy trial: Defence says case against senator was 'manufactured'
Judge Charles Vaillancourt to deliver ruling on 31 charges on April 21
Mike Duffy's defence lawyer wrapped up his case today with harsh condemnation of some of the Crown's star witnesses.
Donald Bayne ripped into Nigel Wright, who had been prime minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, as a man who espoused virtue and ethics yet took clandestine steps to deceive the public, whitewash an audit and browbeat Conservative caucus members in a quest to protect political interests.
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"This is an end-justifies-the-means guy," Bayne told the Ontario court of justice in Ottawa, adding that Wright and fellow Conservative staffer Chris Woodcock are worthy of "no credit."
After both sides rested their cases this afternoon on day 62 of the trial, Judge Charles Vaillancourt set April 21 to deliver his ruling on 31 charges related to fraud, breach of trust and bribery.
Bayne concluded his case by arguing the Crown had failed to present evidence to support convictions on any of the counts. He suggested this is a case of "vast over-charging."
"There isn't a Crown case here on any of these counts that's worthy of a conviction," he said, arguing the only "right verdict" is not guilty. "The man's been through a tremendous ordeal. He's been humiliated and ridiculed and that will continue to go on. Few have been in his position."
Bayne accused Crown lawyers of stitching together "snippets" of evidence and ignoring or misrepresenting swaths of testimony in order to "manufacture" a case against Duffy.
He insisted there is "wide latitude" in the Senate expense rules, and that his client had no financial motive, purpose or deliberate intent to commit fraud. The onus is not on Duffy to prove his innocence, but on the Crown to present evidence to support the charges — which he said did not happen.
"We'll throw up 31 charges and hope that the judge makes one of them stick," he said of the Crown's strategy.
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust related to his living allowances, travel claims and other expenses, as well as a $90,000 cheque he received from Wright to repay some of his questionable claims.
Bayne rejected the Crown's assertion that Duffy was the chief architect of the repayment scheme, insisting it was the creation of officials in the Prime Minister's Office.
He said there are "acres" of emails revealing that Duffy wanted to be up front and open, but that he was met with growing resistance as the political problems swelled. Duffy was not making demands to control the situation as the Crown had suggested, but instead was behaving more like a man "going to the gallows."
Bayne recalled one email that said, "If I take a dive for my leader when I'm innocent, then I'm totally at the mercy of the media and the opposition," he read in court.
He said it remains "a mystery" why Duffy was punished for what the Prime Minister's Office did.
Bayne also took issue with the Crown's use of the term "slush fund" during closing arguments yesterday, after referring to a "reserve pool" throughout the trial. Slush fund implies "illicit" activity when Duffy did not get back one penny, the defence lawyer said.
Residence no secret
Continuing on the over-arching theme that the Crown misrepresented key testimony, Bayne said Duffy never attempted to hide the fact his primary residence was in Ontario, not Prince Edward Island. He never tried to mislead anyone and was well-known in Ottawa as a high-profile broadcaster.
"He didn't try and keep that secret, nor could he," Bayne said.
In the same vein, Duffy did not abuse travel expenses because his trips were all for public or Senate business, he said, citing examples of meetings with veterans, municipal leaders and media outlets that were all recorded in his diary.
The Crown rested its case Monday, recapping some of the key evidence and calling into question the senator's credibility as a witness. Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes described Duffy as a "storyteller" who was prone to exaggerate and often recited lines drafted by others.
Moments after the Crown wrapped up its case Monday, Bayne launched into a strong rebuttal, accusing the prosecution of taking a "piecemeal" approach that ignores "vast" amounts of critically important evidence.
The defence lawyer's brief but blistering rebuke offered a glimpse of what followed during his closing arguments today.
Both sides have provided the court with hundreds of pages of written submissions to summarize their cases. The move was intended to reduce the time required for verbal closing arguments in court.