An Ontario judge has found former Conservative party staffer Michael Sona guilty in a trial surrounding the 2011 election robocalls case.
Judge Gary Hearn made the ruling in Guelph, Ont., after reviewing evidence presented during a five-day trial that wrapped up earlier this summer.
Mr. Sona, 25, was accused of executing a plan to direct non-Conservative supporters away from polling stations during the 2011 federal election. Mr. Sona was the director of communications for Guelph candidate Marty Burke during the election. Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote ended up winning the riding with 25,588 votes, more than 6,000 ahead of Mr. Burke.
More than 6,700 homes, mostly in Guelph, received automated calls incorrectly informing residents that their polling stations had been relocated. The calls were ordered through Edmonton-based telemarketing firm RackNine from someone using the pseudonyms Pierre Jones and Pierre Poutine.
In April, Elections Canada closed a three-year investigation into reports of robocalls across the country, and found no evidence of an orchestrated scheme to deceive voters outside of southwestern Ontario.
During the trial, the court heard testimony that Mr. Sona toasted the Conservative majority win that day with the comment “thanks to Pierre,” according to Andrew Prescott, the deputy campaign manager for Mr. Burke at the time. Mr. Prescott was offered immunity in exchange for his testimony, but said he was not involved with the robocalls. He said he thought there was something suspicious happening on Election Day, but decided to keep out of it.
“I was extremely hesitant because obviously I caught wind there was stuff going on that day; we started receiving media reports of fake calls that were going around,” Mr. Prescott testified.
“Whatever was going on, I did not want to get involved.”
Mr. Sona has long maintained his innocence. After the election, he worked in MP Eve Adams’s office but resigned shortly after he was linked to the robocalls through an Elections Canada investigation. Mr. Sona said at the time he was leaving his job because the controversy was preventing him from doing his work, but he insisted he was not involved with the scandal. In April 2013, he became the first person charged in relation to the scandal when he was charged with “having wilfully prevented or endeavoured to prevent an elector from voting at an election.”
Former Conservative staffer found guilty in robocalls trial - G&M