Day Two of Fontana Trial
The second day of Mayor Joe Fontana’s trial began right where it had ended on Monday, but this time there was a lot more action on tape.
On Tuesday, court began with the end of a video of Fontana’s interview with police after his arrest on November 21, 2012. In the video, Fontana can be seen hunching over documents presented to him by RCMP Constable Shawn Devine, the lead investigator on the case. Devine is looking for a confession, that Fontana doesn’t give.
Devine asks the mayor if he knows who Svend Robinson (a former MP who confessed to the RCMP that he stole a ring from a public auction in 2004) is, before drawing a comparison between the Robinson investigation and Fontana’s.
“He came clean with his story,” Devine can be heard saying on the video. “…and you know what happened after, after that story, directly after that story, it went away Joe… It all goes away and you know why it all went away Joe? Because he told the truth.”
After almost two hours of grilling, Devine tells Fontana he wants to hear his side of the story.
“All along throughout this investigation you have said, once I review the facts I’ll tell my side of the story. I feel we’ve done that today, would you agree?” Devine asks.
Fontana tells the Constable he doesn’t think the dates match up, that things aren’t coming together for him with the information he’s presenting. Later on in Devine’s cross-examination Fontana’s lawyer Gord Cudmore argued that’s because the mayor was seeing the documents for the very first time in that interview room. He argued it could be confusing to see numbers and dates almost seven-and-a-half years later and be able to decipher them. But still, Fontana tells Devine very clearly, “I’m confident that I’m innocent of, of, of, of any of these charges.”
Those documents were also the centre of testimony for four other witnesses on Tuesday. The Crown called an RCMP criminal intelligence analyst who verified what documents were found, and a forensic specialist who concluded the signature on the altered copy of the Marconi Club statement was probably Fontana’s (something his lawyer already admitted to on Monday).
Then finally, the man who approved that heavily altered Marconi Club provisional event contract for government reimbursement testified –with the help of an interpreter. Accounting officer Michael Champagne told the court he processed the $1700 claim because he believed it appeared to be legitimate.
But, it was a clerical error that changed everything; the memo on the claim for the London deposit asked that Fontana be reimbursed directly, but Champagne says his colleague –through a possible “lack of attention”– submitted the claim to be paid out to the Marconi Club. That month the Club received the cheque, and later used it to pay for part of Fontana’s son’s wedding reception.
Finally, the court heard from the Crown’s last witness: House of Commons CFO Mark Watters. Watters told the court he first became involved in the case when his Communications department received a call with an allegation from a media member. That prompted Watters to order a search for related documents in the archives, documents he later sent on to the RCMP.
He also said those archives show no record that the $1700 sent to the Marconi Club was ever reimbursed or refunded to Public Works.
On Wednesday, Fontana’s lawyers will have a chance to present their defence in court. Outside the courthouse, lawyer Gord Cudmore says while he hasn’t decided if Fontana will testify, he is expecting to be done presenting his own evidence by the end of the day.
Justice Thomas has said if the trial wraps up by Friday, he will be ready to make a judgment on Fontana’s guilt or innocence on June 6.
On Monday, Fontana pleaded not guilty to fraud, breach of trust and uttering forged documents. The Crown alleges he submitted a heavily altered Marconi Club contract to the House of Commons in hopes of being reimbursed for a deposit paid for his son’s wedding reception.