Mike Duffy trial adjourns, returns in August with Nigel Wright as 1st witness
PM's former chief of staff scheduled to appear in provincial court in Ottawa on Aug. 12
The second phase of the Mike Duffy trial wrapped up Thursday, with key witness Nigel Wright, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, set to be the first witness to testify when the case resumes in August.
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Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid with money from Wright.
Duffy's judge-only trial, which began April 7 in the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa, has so far lasted for 36 days. The third phase will begin on Aug. 12, and continue until Aug. 28. The start date, originally set for Aug. 11, was later pushed back a day.
If more time is needed, the trial will break again, before restarting Nov. 18 and running to Dec. 18.
Wright, who paid off $90,000 of Duffy's expenses, was dismissed as chief of staff after the arrangement between Wright and Duffy was made public. He has said that his "actions were intended solely to secure the repayment of funds, which I considered to be in the public interest."
Wright said he never advised Harper about this transaction, and the PMhas denied knowing about the arrangement.
Earlier, the Duffy trial finished hearing from forensic accountant Mark Grenon, who had been testifying for his third day at a voir dire — a sort of trial within a trial to determine admissibility of evidence.
Grenon had previously testified that Duffy, over a six-year period, was withdrawing more money from his bank account than making deposits and forced to fund the difference with his line of credit.
But Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, argued his client was not spending beyond his means, rebuffing any notion that his client was in financial straits.
"I suggest to you sir, that's not overspending at all," Bayne said to Grenon. "Senator Duffy didn't overspend. He didn't spend beyond his means. Overspending is spending money you don't have."
But Bayne pointed out that Duffy had a $100,000 line of credit (one that had been extended by the bank from an original $25,000) had no mortgage on his P.E.I property and had more than $100,000 of equity in his Kanata, Ont., home he had refinanced.
"It's not just what you make. It's your assets too. It's the money you have access to, it's the means you have access to," Bayne said.
Grenon said that he was still of the opinion that Duffy was spending more than he was making on a monthly basis and using the line of credit as a source of funding.
Bayne suggested Duffy was no different than a significant number of Canadians who carry debt or lines of credit.
Grenon also agreed with Bayne that there was no evidence the bank was pressuring Duffy about his line of credit, or evidence of mortgage foreclosures, cancellation of credit cards, or proof that Duffy couldn't pay or didn't pay off his credit cards.
Bayne also noted that Duffy had incurred "extraordinary expenses" over that time frame, spending $100,000 on home renovations.
"A reasonable explanation for this is not Senator Duffy spending beyond his means at all. Yes he spent more than just his income, but looking at his means, he never spent beyond his means. He always lawfully paid his debts and he had the means to do it. Right?
"He had the means to do it. Absolutely," Grenon said
Earlier, Bayne had suggested that Grenon lacked objectivity in the case. Grenon admitted that he has never been retained by the defence or called to be an expert witness for the defence in a criminal trial. He said that in the past eight years, the RCMP has retained him to testify in cases.
But Grenon, who said he's also had other clients other than the RCMP, said he believes his work is impartial.
"I feel like the work is for both sides, not just one," Grenon said.
Following the voir dire, Judge Charles Vaillancourt said he will take written submissions to determine how much, if any, of the testimony will be admissible.