OTTAWA—Sen. Mike Duffy has been cleared of all 31 fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges he had been facing in relation to the long-running Senate expense scandal.
Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt’s 308-page decision amounts to a complete vindication for Duffy and a scathing indictment of the tactics of the Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper.
It’s the long-awaited finale to a stubborn political drama that dispatched Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, staggered the Conservative re-election campaign, embarrassed and diminished the Senate and laid bare the inner workings of a notoriously guarded and secretive government.
Duffy had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The bribery charge stemmed from Wright’s decision to personally pay the $90,000 in living expenses Duffy claimed by declaring his long-time home in an Ottawa suburb was actually a secondary residence.
The remaining 30 fraud and breach of trust charges related to Senate money the Crown alleged Duffy either received for trips that had nothing to do with Senate work or that he funnelled through a friend’s company to cover costs the Senate wouldn’t pay for.
Vaillancourt, who spent the first hour of the ruling describing Duffy as a “credible witness” and casting doubt on the allegations levelled by the Crown, called a short recess after dismissing the first two charges.
“This case provided me with ample opportunity to assess the credibility of Sen. Duffy,” Vaillancourt said. “He was on the stand for many hours; at the end of the day I find that Sen. Duffy is an overall credible witness.”
As he dismissed the charges related to Duffy’s travel claims, he said “the Crown has not established the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Vaillancourt said Duffy “did not ignore the gathering storm around his appointment,” but rather “sought out reassurance about those issues and was assured that he has no valid concerns.”
He said Duffy “honestly and reasonably believed and relied on the advice he received regarding his appointment and his primary residence, and he acted upon it.”
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day as news from the courtroom emerges