Mike Duffy trial: Defence rests case as Crown wraps up cross-examination of senator
Trial on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges will continue in 2016
Mike Duffy turned out to be the only defence witness to testify at his criminal trial as his legal team rested its case today following the Crown's two-day cross-examination of the senator in an Ottawa courtroom.
However, the Crown and defence still need to make closing arguments, meaning the trial will continue in 2016.
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Duffy spent eight days in the witness box, six of those being questioned by his lawyer, Donald Bayne, who went through the 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses Duffy claimed as a senator.
But over the course of the cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes grilled Duffy on only some of the senator's controversial travel claims and expenses. Holmes posed no questions to Duffy about the bribery charges or the $90,000 cheque written by then prime minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright to pay off Duffy's expenses.
Pre-signed blank travel claims
Holmes did question Duffy about his practise of pre-signing blank travel claims. Duffy had previously testified that other senators did this and that it was to expedite the process of getting his expenses in to Senate administration on time. He said one claim for around $5,000 was almost rejected because Senate finance officials said they had received it a few days late.
"It was all done so you could get your money," Holmes said.
"Nothing about money, it has to do with doing things on time to meet deadlines," Duffy said.
"You've been trying to create the impression that my life is about money. My life is not about money Mr. Holmes. If it were about money, I'd still be at CTV. My life is about trying to do the right thing, to be helpful to people and make a contribution."
Duffy said he didn't think pre-signing travel claims was wrong, but agreed it was "poor pratice."
'The purist view'
But Holmes pressed on, saying the way the claim is supposed to be completed is that Duffy signs it only after the body is filled out.
"That's the purist view," Duffy said, repeating that many senators pre-signed forms.
Holmes also zeroed in on a $400 per diem claim for a trip to Florida which Duffy admitted was made in error by one of his staff members.
"And whose responsibility is that?" Holmes asked.
It's my responsibility because I didn't look close enough at the forms," Duffy said, clearly irritated. "Making an error is a human problem. None of us are perfect. And there were errors. There's no question about that."
Planned B.C. trip to fair cancelled
Holmes also questioned Duffy about a 2009 trip the senator said he took to attend a B.C. fair on behalf of a Conservative MP, asking the senator why he failed to contact the MP when his appearance was cancelled.
Taxpayers were billed more than $8,000 for the trip.Duffy testified that months earlier, MP Gary Lunn had invited him make an appearance at the popular Labour Day Saanich Fair. Court has heard that on the day of his scheduled appearance, Duffy attended a play where his daughter was performing.
Duffy said when he returned from the play there was a message at his hotel from a Conservative Party of Canada staffer telling him not to go to the fair and that other arrangements had been made.
"It must have occurred to you that you were in the process of blowing though a lot of taxpayers' money," Holmes said.
"That was the consideration I took about whether I immediately turn around and come home or whether I don't incur the change fees and stick on the original ticket," Duffy said.
Duffy said he believed staff in the Prime Minister's Office and possibly then prime minister Stephen Harper had decided that the senator shouldn't appear.
But Holmes pressed Duffy on why he didn't contact Lunn and ask him about the cancellation.
"He was at the event," Duffy said. "What was I going to do, call him up and say, 'Hey Gary, I'd really like to come over?
"I was confused, but I figured they must have had a good reason for it."
Duffy testified that instead of returning home or looking to change flights, he stayed and visited with family.
Duffy said he spoke to Lunn several days later back in Ottawa. Duffy testified that Lunn, who was expected to be in a tight race with Elizabeth May in the next election, told him that he was appearing with the Olympic torch at the fair and that Duffy's appearance would take away the focus on him.
Holmes said the fairgrounds are are huge and asked Duffy if he had ever been to the event. Duffy said no, which led to particularly tense exchange. Holmes pointed out that the fair held a giant pumpkin contest.
"Are we into body shaming now?" Duffy said.
"Pardon?" Holmes said. "You're kidding me."
At which point the judge interjected: "Let's stay on message."
Lunn had previously testified that Duffy's appearance at the popular fair in Saanich was cancelled a couple weeks before the event because the electoral district association had decided it wouldn't pay for Duffy's expenses to attend.
This was the 60th day of the trial. It is expected to resume only briefly on Friday for scheduling discussions, and then resume in the new year.
With files from John Paul Tasker