Guelph trial for Michael Sona, only person charged in robocalls affair, underway

A Conservative staffer charged with election fraud was overheard discussing underhanded tactics to sway the vote, but wasn’t taken seriously, a fellow campaign worker testified Monday.

GUELPH, Ont. — A Conservative staffer charged with election fraud was overheard discussing underhanded tactics to sway the vote, but wasn’t taken seriously, a fellow campaign worker testified Monday.

The so-called robocalls trial for Michael Sona, 25, who is charged with “wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting,” got underway Monday in Guelph, Ont.

Court heard that on May 2, 2011, automated calls were made to more than 6,700 phone numbers, mostly in Guelph, informing them that their polling station for the 2011 federal election had been relocated.

Crown lawyers began the trial Monday by saying several witnesses will testify that Sona orchestrated a campaign to divert voters from their proper polling stations.

Chris Crawford, who worked as campaign chairman for local Conservative candidate Marty Burke, told court that he recalled overhearing a conversation between Sona and another worker late one night in Burke’s campaign office in the weeks leading up to the election.

At first, Crawford said he didn’t recall specifics from the conversation — just that Sona was talking about how underhanded tactics were a common feature of election battles in the U.S.

“It was very general — it wasn’t specific techniques, it was a general conversation,” Crawford said under questioning by the Crown.

“Sometimes you get conversations like this, people speaking off the cuff, no one really thinks anything of it.”

After reviewing a statement he gave to Elections Canada investigators back in March 2012, however, Crawford became more specific.

“He mentioned about calling Liberal supporters late at night, like 11 o’clock at night, to make them mad, that type of thing.”

Earlier, the Crown had read aloud an agreed-upon statement of facts about how the calls were made.

Court heard a fake name was used to register an account with the telemarketing firm RackNine, which placed the automated calls to Guelph voters, purportedly from Elections Canada.

A second campaign designed by the same customer was supposed to go out in the wee hours of election day but was never dialed. The calls, which were supposedly on behalf of the local Liberal candidate, were ordered to ring voters’ phones between 4 a.m. and 6:45 a.m.

The Crown says the phone numbers provided to RackNine were consistent with internal Conservative party lists of non-supporters.

Under questioning, Crawford was adamant that he didn’t take Sona’s comments seriously, although he did mention to him that he didn’t approve of such tactics.

“In campaigns you often hear yammering on about different things and you don’t think these things actually will happen. You give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Sona’s lawyer challenged Crawford’s memory of the conversation and noted that he told Elections Canada investigators “I recall it vaguely” when recounting the incident in 2012.

Other expected witnesses include Andrew Prescott, a friend of Sona’s who co-operated with the Crown as part of an immunity agreement.

The Crown says four other witnesses are expected to testify that they heard Sona admitting to his role in the fraud after the election.

Just Posted

Red Deer city council aims to force larger non-profits to become more accountable

New bylaw defines which not-for-profits must pay for a business licence

Red Deer city council will seek public input on portable signage March 4

Council gave initial approval to retaining 100-metre separation distance

Smaller, more affordable, lots wanted in Red Deer’s Evergreen neighbourhood

Council approves first reading of requested lot-size changes

RDC’s new name to be unveiled in February

The next big milestone for Red Deer College is a new name,… Continue reading

Lacombe considering licensing cats

Council is expected to take a look at cat potential licensing regulations next month

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

Opinion: Faith in immigration must be preserved

Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but… Continue reading

Olympian Adam van Koeverden wins federal Liberal nomination in Ontario riding

MILTON, Ont. — Former Olympic flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden will be carrying… Continue reading

World champion Osmond says it’s “really nice” not to know what future holds

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Kaetlyn Osmond has a world title, Olympic medals… Continue reading

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

Timberlake pops in on patients at Texas children’s hospital

DALLAS — Justin Timberlake has pulled some sunshine from his pocket for… Continue reading

UK police speak to Prince Philip about not wearing seatbelt

LONDON — British police have spoken with Prince Philip after the husband… Continue reading

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Curtain rising Sunday night on total lunar eclipse

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The celestial curtain will be rising soon on… Continue reading

Most Read