POLITICS

Mike Duffy's Lawyer Takes Aim At Nigel Wright's Image During Cross Examination

08/14/2015 07:49 EDT | Updated 08/14/2016 05:59 EDT

OTTAWA — Mike Duffy's defence lawyer ripped into Nigel Wright's choir-boy image Friday as he used his cross-examination of Stephen Harper's former chief of staff to slowly pick apart the bribery charge against his client.

Donald Bayne pulled no punches during his inquisition, trying to discredit Wright by suggesting he and others in the Prime Minister's Office had strong-armed Duffy into a expense-repayment scheme the senator did not support.

The confrontation made for a day of dramatic, often testy exchanges between the pair as the proceedings continued what appears to be a steady march back towards the prime minister's doorstep.

"Why did you use the language, 'We had to force him to do this,' rather than saying, 'I was persistent?"' Bayne asked about statements Wright gave to police about the effort to get Duffy to repay his disallowed expense claims.

"Because I had to apply a lot of pressure," Wright replied. "I had be persistent."

"You said, 'We basically had to force him,"' Bayne said.

"I'm telling you the connotation I was intending to convey with those words," Wright replied.

To which Bayne said, "You know what, sir, you are a great champion — when it suits you — of common-sense rationale."

Later, Bayne cited an email in which Wright, describing the need to contain the escalating Duffy scandal, called it "Chinese water torture," and asked him what he meant.

"What I call Chinese water torture is the dribbling out of new facts," Wright replied.

Sen. Duffy faces 31 charges including fraud, bribery and breach of trust, including three which relate to Wright's famous $90,000 payment to Duffy to cover the cost of repaying his disallowed expenses.

Bribery is one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code, as it carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. The Crown needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Duffy accepted the payment with corrupt intent.

Duffy, meanwhile, has long insisted he's a victim of the scheme, not a co-conspirator — someone who was forced against his will to take part in a PMO ploy — the "monstrous scheme," he once called it — to mitigate the political damage and make him take the fall.

Bayne is arguing that his client was coerced by the most powerful political figures in the country to go along with the plan, which originally involved the Conservative party footing the bill when it was believed closer to $32,000.

Wright ended up picking up the tab, out of his own pocket, when the cost soared to more than $90,000. On Thursday, the devoutly religious Wright quoted the Bible to explain his motives.

But Wright was not simply doing "a good deed," Bayne said. He was motivated by politics, not faith.

"It was done ... because you wanted to end the Chinese water torture," Bayne said.

Wright's cross-examination continues Monday.

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