NEWS

Mike Duffy's lawyer says no deal as trial preparation begins

02/06/2015 03:21 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT
Two months before Mike Duffy's trial is set to begin, his lawyer says there is no deal in the works for the suspended senator.

There has been speculation in Ottawa this week that a plea deal was being arranged and Duffy was considering accepting it. But Duffy's lawyer, Donald Bayne, quashed those rumours Friday. 

"Absolutely untrue. Senator Duffy is not interested in any deal," Bayne said in an email to CBC News.

The RCMP laid 31 charges against Duffy last July, including 15 counts of fraud totalling more than $200,000, 15 counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery.

Duffy, 68, was appointed in 2008 as a Conservative senator, representing Prince Edward Island, and began sitting in the Red Chamber in January 2009. Amid a scandal over his expense claims, he resigned from the Tory caucus on May 16, 2013. He continued to sit in the Senate as an Independent until his colleagues voted to suspend him without pay for two years on Nov. 5, 2013.

Trial preparation

Meanwhile, the preparation for what could potentially be an explosive trial politically has also begun. A numbers of key witnesses for the Crown have been served with subpoenas and told they should expect to testify during the 41-day trial.

The prime minister's current chief of staff, Ray Novak, was told recently he will be called as a witness. Novak was acting as Stephen Harper's deputy chief of staff at the time.

The Prime Minister's Office said it continues to co-operate with the investigation as it has since the beginning. 

It is also widely expected Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, will be called to testify. The RCMP investigated Wright but never charged him with any wrongdoing. Police have said that investigation is now closed.

Court documents filed as part of the investigation allege Wright offered to help Duffy repay ineligible travel and living expense claims by giving him $90,000. Now, Wright will be a key figure in the trial to support the Crown's case against the suspended senator. Wright has handed over hundreds of emails to the RCMP as part of their investigation.

Other key players in the RCMP's court filings have also been subpoenaed as officials step up their work leading up to the trial date:

- Senator David Tkachuk, who acted as the chair of the Senate's committee on internal economy at the time, was served this week to be a Crown witness.  

- Senator Majory Lebreton, who was part of the Senate committee looking into expense claims, will also be a witness for the Crown. In RCMP documents filed in November 2013, Lebreton says she spoke to Wright on only one occasion. The RCMP allege the evidence shows Lebreton was in communication with the Prime Minister's Office regularly as the situation unfolded.

- Other senators who were part of the Senate committee will also likely be called on to testify.

Duffy has always maintained his innocence and repeatedly said he is looking forward to a fair hearing. 

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