Senator Mike Duffy is expected to learn his fate in an Ottawa courtroom at 10 a.m. Thursday, a little more than a year after his criminal trial began.
In the summer of 2014, Duffy emerged from a major scandal still holding his seat in the Senate, but facing a total of 31 charges including fraud, breach of trust and bribery. If he’s found guilty — depending on the charges he’s convicted of — he could face up to 14 years behind bars.
The Duffy saga has been a long and complex one, filled with both fascinating glimpses into the top offices on Parliament Hill, and mind-numbing minutiae surrounding Senate procedure and rules.
The controversy surrounding Mike Duffy began back in late 2012 when initial questions were raised about some of the senator’s expense claims. Some expenses – mainly relating to Duffy’s living arrangements – were flagged as inappropriate. According to Duffy, then-prime minister Stephen Harper told him he needed to pay the Senate back, to the tune of $90,000.
He obliged, but the question quickly turned to who had actually paid the money. In the spring of 2013, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had written a cheque covering the payment.
Duffy quickly resigned from the Conservative Senate caucus, and Wright stepped down as well. But it wouldn’t be enough to snuff out the scandal.
Within the next few weeks, the cops showed up. The RCMP took over the investigation into Duffy’s expenses and, in the process, exposed an alleged ‘slush fund’ presided over by Duffy’s friend, Gerald Donohue, and the frantic Conservative damage-control that went on behind the scenes in the first half of 2013.
The charges against Duffy were formally laid in July 2014, with the trial beginning the following April.
Duffy maintained during his own testimony that his expenses were above board, testifying that he is “a senator from P.E.I., I live in P.E.I., and I followed the rules … I did not break the rules, let alone the law.”
In order for Duffy to be found guilty of fraud, it has to be proven that he acted with intent; that he know his actions were wrong and went ahead anyway. That, according to some experts, is where things got tricky for the Crown.
Meanwhile, the bribery charge, which is linked to the cheque written by Wright, is further complicated by the fact that Wright himself wasn’t charged with bribery. In strictly legal terms, the judge must also consider whether Duffy took the money in his “official capacity” as a senator.
If Duffy is found guilty of a criminal offence and is sentenced to anything other than a discharge, he would be automatically suspended from the Senate without pay and without office resources until all legal proceedings, including appeal, have concluded.
If he’s acquitted, Duffy stays in the Senate for as long as he wishes or until he reaches the age of 75, which is exactly what Leger predicts he would do — mainly out of necessity.
With files from Global News