POLITICS

Mike Duffy Trial: Prosecutors Tie Up Loose Ends In Evidence

11/19/2015 09:28 EST | Updated 11/19/2016 05:12 EST
CP

OTTAWA — Crown prosecutors are looking to tie up a few loose ends in their evidence as they finish laying out their case at the trial of Sen. Mike Duffy.

That includes testimony from a friend of Duffy's who received $65,000 in unusual contracts and two Senate staffers who were to shed some light on office practices.

Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

Some of the charges relate to Senate contracts Duffy awarded through his friend Gerald Donohue for research and consulting services.

The Crown alleges that the contracts were used as a slush fund. A number of other service providers, including speech writers and a makeup artist, were paid through Donohue's family companies rather than directly by the Senate.

Donohue was slated to testify Thursday by video-conference from his suburban Ottawa home, because of poor health. The prosecution tried in vain to schedule his key testimony on several other occasions.

One of the Donohue payments was to a former administrative assistant of Duffy's, Diane Scharf. Donohue reimbursed Scharf for cellphone bills, after the Senate told Duffy that he had exceeded the number of phone plans he was allowed by policy.

The Crown called Senate telecommunications supervisor Jason Cooke to take the court through the cellphone rules. Senators are permitted a total of seven telecom plans and a typical phone would include two, one for phone service and one for data.

"What is a senator to do, if they wish to have more than seven plans? Would the Senate pay for that?'' asked prosecutor Jason Neubauer.

"No they will not,'' Cook responded.

"And so in that situation, who must bear the expense of paying for plans that exceed the seven?'' Neubauer continued.

"The senator himself.''

Defence lawyer Donald Bayne's cross-examination was aimed at emphasizing that while unorthodox, the way that Duffy paid for services was not criminal.

"You will agree with me that equipping office staff, someone who's as important as an executive assistant, to do her office work and do key work in the office is part of the senator doing parliamentary functions, right? It's not private use for the senator is it?''

"No,'' said Cooke.

Many of the witnesses called to testify by the Crown are there to either shoot holes in a specific part of Duffy's defence, or to confirm individual pieces of evidence that are part of the prosecution's main argument.

A case in point was Senate staffer Gillian Rokosh. She testified Thursday that she never told one of Duffy's administrative assistants that having senators pre-sign expense forms was common practice.

Melanie Mercer had testified earlier in the year that someone named ``Gillian'' who worked on the same floor as she did had once given her that advice.

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