NEWS

Michael Sona robocalls trial hears from 3 Tory staffers

06/05/2014 08:51 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:00 EDT
Three more former friends of Michael Sona are expected to testify today that he bragged about unleashing a misleading robocall to try to prevent some Guelph, Ont., voters from casting ballots in the 2011 federal election.

Sona, a former director of communications for then Conservative candidate Marty Burke, is the only person accused in the so-called robocalls case. He faces a single charge of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent a voter from casting a ballot. 

On Wednesday at the trial in Guelph, Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager for the Conservative candidate in Guelph in 2011, suggested Conservative campaign manager Ken Morgan was involved in setting up the misleading robocalls that confused voters.

Prescott described the campaign office getting reports from supporters on May 2, the day of the federal election that year, that they had received phone calls telling them their polling station had moved, as well as a call that said the polls would close early.

Prescott says Morgan told him he had to help stop the calls and had him log into a website used by the campaign to issue automated calls. But the account information Morgan gave Prescott wasn't for the campaign's primary account, suggesting it was the account set up by the person using the pseudonym Pierre Poutine.

Sona's lawyer questioned Prescott's memory and his motivation in recalling evidence that pointed to Sona as the culprit.

The trial also heard from Rebecca Docksteader, who in 2011 worked for Conservative MP Chris Warkentin.

Docksteader told the court that she and a colleague were working in their office in the same Parliament Hill hallway where Sona worked, when he started chatting with them and then bragged about the bogus call.

Former Conservative staffers testifying

On Thursday, that colleague, John Schudlo, will testify along with two former Hill staffers.

- Mitchell Messom, a former Conservative Party intern who also worked for Stewart Olsen and in 2011 for Steven Fletcher, then democratic reform minister of state. Messom now lives in Nova Scotia. 

- Benjamin Hicks, who used to work in the Prime Minister's Office and was president of the University of New Brunswick Conservatives. Hicks's name was raised in the Senate in 2010, when he was working in the PMO, after he posted on Facebook a call for students to blow the whistle on "lefty" teachers and professors bringing politics into the classroom.

Two Conservatives mentioned in Elections Canada's probe haven't yet been announced as witnesses:

- Tyler Barker, who works for Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, a former director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In court records, the investigator noted Barker's reluctance to talk about Sona.

- Conrad Johnson, who formerly worked for Senator Doug Finley and started a job in government relations at Fasken Martineau, the same firm where former Harper chief of staff Guy Giorno is a partner, a few months after speaking to Elections Canada. Johnson has severe cerebral palsy and can't speak. He uses a BlackBerry to communicate.

Sona has always said he had nothing to do with the calls, but faces up to five years in prison if convicted. 

The trial, which began Monday, is to last eight days.

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