04/22/2016 06:20 EDT | Updated 04/23/2017 05:12 EDT

Mike Duffy's Trial Reveals The Real Deceit Came From Harper's Office


Mike Duffy won.

Two and a half years after warning Canadians he "violated no laws" and "followed the rules," the senator from Prince Edward Island was vindicated Thursday when an Ontario court judge acquitted him of all 31 charges laid against him.

What's more, Justice Charles Vaillancourt sided with Duffy. It was he, the Old Duff, not the Prime Minister's Office, the judge said, who had been the victim of a "mindboggling and shocking" series of events.

Duffy's "free will" had been "overwhelmed" and he had "capitulated" as a result of the PMO's -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office, that is, -- "threatening efforts," the judge said.

The Crown "stated that Senator Duffy's actions were driven by deceit, manipulations and carried out in a clandestine manner representing a serious and marked standard expected of a person in Senator Duffy's position of trust," Vaillancourt said.

Harper's office had basically forced someone who they believe had done nothing wrong to publicly admit the opposite.

"I find that if one were to substitute the PMO, Nigel Wright and others for Senator Duffy in the aforementioned sentence that you would have a more accurate statement."

Harper's office had basically forced someone who they believe had done nothing wrong to publicly admit the opposite just to save the Conservative government from political embarrassment, the judge said.

Except, Vaillancourt delivered that admonishing judgment in a much more vivid and reprimanding fashion.

The emails presented in court revealed the "unbelievable lengths" that "Wright and his crew" had gone to deal with their "Duffy Problem," he said.

"The precision and planning of the exercise would make any military commander proud," Vaillancourt said.

"Could Hollywood match such creativity?" he later asked.

The PMO had first hoped Duffy would stay quiet and the problem of his living expenses would go away. When the "stay quiet and hope things disappear strategy" didn't work, the judge said, it switched gears towards "the mistake and repay strategy." Except Duffy didn't want to be a part of it. He "was resisting and kicking and screaming every step of the way."

Vaillancourt repeated that Duffy was "kicking and screaming" twice, re-emphasizing the senator's reluctance to go through with this plan.

Duffy always maintained he didn't owe any money and his expenses were proper. He wanted auditors at Deloitte to hear his side of the story. "He begged not to have to go through with the plan," the judge said.

mike duffy

But Harper's PMO employed "a steady stream of threats and pressure" from "all quarters," to force Duffy to go along, the judge said.

"It is interesting that no one ever suggested 'doing the legal thing,'" Vaillancourt said to chuckles from the courtroom. "The message was always to 'do the right thing.'"

"I find that the 'do the right thing' message had only one meaning. Senator Duffy was to do the politically right thing by admitting 'his mistake' and repaying back the accrued living expenses," the judge said.

First, the PMO had tried to get the Conservative Party of Canada to provide the funds for the repayment. Then, when that failed, Wright stepped up and provided the funding out of his own pocket, the judge said.

"He explained that the $90,000.00 payment did not impact his bottom line. It seemed that this sum was a mere bagatelle.

"I find based on all of the evidence that Senator Duffy was forced into accepting Nigel Wright's funds so that the government could rid itself of an embarrassing political fiasco that just was not going away."

The "scenario" hatched had not been for Duffy's benefit but rather "for the benefit of the government and the PMO.

"This was damage control at its finest," the judge ruled.

"Does the reading of these emails give the impression that Senator Duffy was going to do as he was told or face the consequences?"

Vaillancourt, a Toronto-based judge who was a school teacher before being appointed to the bench in 1990, seemed particularly troubled by the lengths Wright and his office had gone to fix their political problem.

The emails released at trial between Duffy, his lawyer and various Harper staffers, the judge said, caused him to pause and ask himself if he was really seeing the inner workings of the Prime Minister's Office.

"Was Nigel Wright actually ordering senior members of the Senate around as if they were mere pawns on a chessboard?" he asked. "Were those same senior members of the Senate meekly acquiescing to Mr. Wright's orders?

"Were those same senior members of the Senate robotically marching forth to recite their provided scripted lines?

"Did Nigel Wright really direct a Senator to approach a senior member of an accounting firm that was conducting an independent audit of the Senate with the intention to either get a peek at the report or part of the report prior to its release to the appropriate Senate authorities or to influence that report in anyway?

"Does the reading of these emails give the impression that Senator Duffy was going to do as he was told or face the consequences?

"The answers to the aforementioned questions are: YES; YES; YES; YES; YES; and YES!!!!!" the judge said, reading emphatically from his judgement.

mike duffy nigel wright

"In the context of a democratic society, the plotting as revealed in the emails can only be described as unacceptable," he told the court room.

Duffy, a former television broadcaster who was appointed to the Senate by Harper in 2009, was charged in July, 2014, with 15 counts of various frauds, 15 counts of breach of trust and one count of bribery of a judicial officer.

A year earlier, the P.E.I. senator had been ostracized by his Senate colleagues, kicked out of the Conservative caucus and suspended from the upper chamber by his Tory peers after news emerged he was claiming living expenses for stays and meals in his long-time Ottawa home.

Duffy always insisted he did nothing wrong. He told anyone who would listen that he was only claiming expenses for items that other senators in his situation were also doing. In a speech to his Senate colleagues, right before his expulsion, he urged them to show more backbone than he had in dealing with the PMO.

Stand up and "restrain the unaccountable power of the PMO," he urged, don't take "dictation from kids in short pants down the hall."

"The sad truth is I allowed myself to be intimidated into doing what I knew in my heart was wrong out of a fear of losing my job and out of a misguided sense of loyalty."

"The sad truth is I allowed myself to be intimidated into doing what I knew in my heart was wrong out of a fear of losing my job and out of a misguided sense of loyalty," he said.

"I wish I had had the courage to say no back in February when this monstrous political scheme was first ordered."

The move to throw him out of the Senate amounted to "a serious violation" of his human rights, "including the most fundamental right of all, to be considered innocent until proven guilty," he added.

"I've violated no laws, I've followed the rules, and I've got a ton of documentation," Duffy told them.

The truth, he suggested, would all come out, in due course, when "all the players are under oath and the email chain can be seen in its entirety."

Thursday, the judge said Duffy was right.

The emails cleared him. It was the PMO who had acted inappropriately. Mike Duffy was a believable and hard working senator, the judge said. He was not a criminal.

He was the victim.

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