PETERBOROUGH, Ont. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former parliamentary secretary Dean Del Mastro was granted bail Friday after spending one night in jail as a convicted electoral fraudster.
A grim-faced Del Mastro refused to comment as he left court and was driven away by his mother.
Del Mastro, 44, was released on $5,000 bail pending an appeal of his conviction related to his re-election campaign in 2008 for which he was given a one-month jail term.
Prosecutor Nick Devlin did not oppose bail for the first-time offender, agreeing with the defence that Del Mastro’s appeal was not frivolous and that he posed no danger to the community.
Following the brief hearing, Ontario Superior Court Justice Drew Gunsolus accepted the submissions and signed the bail order, saying it would not be in the public interest to keep him in jail.
A short while later, Del Mastro brushed past reporters waiting in the blazing sunshine, and left wordlessly.
Del Mastro was convicted last fall of three electoral offences: overspending, failing to report a contribution he made to his own campaign, and knowingly filing a false report.
After spending the night in jail following sentencing on Thursday, he arrived for the bail hearing Friday handcuffed in a police cruiser.
“It’s a great day to be in Peterborough,” he said.
A day earlier, he appeared stunned when Ontario court judge Lisa Cameron handed him the month-long jail term, placed him on four months house arrest, and ordered him to pay $10,000 in restitution.
He was also given 18 months probation for what Cameron called his “cheating and lying” in his “affront” to democracy.
The bail order also applied to the other parts of the sentence, his lawyer said.
Del Mastro, who is barred from running for Parliament for five years, used to speak for Harper against electoral-fraud allegations levelled at the Conservatives. He resigned his Peterborough seat, which he had won three times, after his conviction.
The disgraced politician has steadfastly maintained his innocence, but in sentencing him Thursday, Cameron pulled no punches.
“He was prepared not only to break the rules but to be deceitful about it,” Cameron said.
She also gave Del Mastro’s elections agent, accountant Richard McCarthy, 68, a two-month conditional sentence plus one year of probation for his role, saying he could have stopped the fraud but did not do so.
Defence lawyer Leo Adler, who said the challenge to the conviction is based on “substantial errors” made by the judge, played up the fact that the prosecutor and judge agreed the appeal was not “frivolous.”
“It’s not just whether Mr. Del Mastro is a danger to the community,” Adler said after winning bail for his client.
“The issues that are set out in the notice of appeal are not fictitious.”
Del Mastro was “resilient,” the lawyer said, adding he had no doubt his client would be able to “overcome.”