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Michael Sona found guilty of robocalls scheme in the 2011 federal election 0

QMI Agency

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GUELPH, Ont. — Former Conservative staffer Michael Sona was found guilty Thursday of being part of a scheme that sent thousands of misleading automated phone calls to voters during the 2011 federal election.

Despite the fact there was no evidence proving Sona created or sent the robocalls, Judge Gary Hearn said Sona was “actively involved” in the plot to mislead voters.

Sona was director of communications for Marty Burke’s campaign in Guelph, where more than 6,000 robocalls were sent to voters on election day. The bogus calls told voters their polling stations had changed.

Hearn said Sona likely didn’t act alone.

Conservative spokesman Cory Hann said the party “did all (it) could to assist” Elections Canada investigators.

“As we’ve said all along, the Conservative party ran a clean and ethical campaign,” he said.

But the NDP’s Craig Scott, Opposition critic for democratic reform, said the verdict shows the opposite.

The verdict puts a “dagger through the heart of the Conservative spin that Michael Sona was a lone wolf,” he said.

Scott said the fact the judge, as well as the Crown and defence, admitted Sona didn’t act alone, proves the case should be reopened.

“A new look needs to be given (on the case) to investigate whether or not this was a team effort.”

Sona’s lawyer, Norm Boxall, suggested during the trial that other campaign staffers, including campaign manager Ken Morgan, were behind the calls.

Morgan wasn’t charged and is reportedly living in Kuwait.

Hearn rejected much of the testimony from the Crown’s star witness, Andrew Prescott, because it changed periodically over the past few years. The Burke campaign’s IT manager seemed to remember new damning evidence against Sona years after the election. Prescott received immunity from the Crown for his testimony.

“My concerns about Mr. Prescott’s reliability are obvious,” the judge said Thursday.

He said there was still ample evidence against Sona from several former Conservative staffers who testified Sona boasted to them shortly after the election that he was the robocaller.

The staffers said Sona took pride in the plot to try to dupe thousands of voters so they wouldn’t cast a ballot.

The judge said the staffers’ testimony was candid, consistent, reliable and damning. The staffers knew details of the case “only known by Sona and anyone closely involved in the scheme,” Hearn said.

Sona was convicted of willfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent a voter from casting a ballot.

He faces up to five years in prison.

Lawyers from both sides return to court Oct. 17 to present evidence, such as victim impact statements, which the judge will consider before sentencing Sona.

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