TORONTO — The former Conservative staffer convicted in the 2011 robocalls scandal will have to spend another few days in jail before learning if he’ll be granted bail pending an appeal of his sentence.
The Crown contested Michael Sona’s bail application on Friday, but agreed it would be worthwhile for Ontario’s Court of Appeal to review whether his nine-month sentence is appropriate.
Crown attorney Nick Devlin argued that Justice Gary Hearn made no legal errors in convicting or sentencing Sona and bail should not be granted.
“This is one of those rare offences where he’s actually done some damage to the fabric of society,” Devlin said.
“This one resonated, I think, with Canadians across the country because they all imagined (being) the person who at the end of a very busy day, juggling all their work and family commitments, went to vote and went to the wrong place because of this.”
Sona’s lawyer, Howard Krongold, said an appeal without bail would be of no good to his client.
“This is a sentencing appeal that almost certainly would be moot by the time the appeal was decided,” said Krongold, while arguing that the sentence handed to Sona was unnecessarily harsh.
Sona has already suffered considerably and his experience serves as a strong deterrent for others who might consider committing election fraud, Krongold said.
Most young first-time offenders “benefit from a measure of obscurity” when they are tried and sentenced, but that hasn’t been the case with Sona, he noted.
“Quite frankly, he’s been front page news; his life has been completely devastated and turned upside down,” Krongold said.
“Nobody who was thinking about offending would look at Mr. Sona’s situation and want to be in his shoes – even if he were to be given a short, sharp jail sentence, house arrest, that sort of thing.”
Appeal Court Justice Harry LaForme – who called the election scheme “an atrocious offence” – reserved his decision following the bail hearing, but indicated he would issue a ruling as soon as possible.
Sona has been in jail since last Wednesday, when he was convicted under the Canada Elections Act of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting. While Friday’s hearing focused on an appeal of his sentence, Sona also wants to appeal his conviction.
Sona was the only person to be charged after some 6,700 automated phone calls were placed on the morning of the 2011 federal election with misleading information on how to vote.
“The whole thing about depriving people of one of the most important privileges that we have in our democracy, it really makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” LaForme said.
Krongold also intends to argue that Sona was penalized in his sentencing for not showing any remorse, even though he maintains his innocence.
In a statement issued through a friend and posted to Twitter after he was sentenced, Sona said he had “no involvement in the fraudulent phone calls.”
“Furthermore, although I have suspicions based on media reports I’ve read, as other Canadians do, I have no (personal) knowledge who on the … campaign was responsible for these fraudulent phone calls,” Sona said.