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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Patrick Brazeau awaits word on preliminary hearing on fraud charge

Patrick Brazeau

Patrick Brazeau

OTTAWA-A lawyer for Sen. Patrick Brazeau says his client wants to have a preliminary inquiry, but wouldn’t be surprised if the Crown tries to have the fraud case go straight to trial.

If prosecutors choose that route, they would have to receive permission from the federal justice minister for what’s called a direct indictment.

A preliminary hearing could last two to three weeks, said Brazeau’s lawyer, Christian Deslauriers.

Preliminary hearings for retired senator Mac Harb could last just as long and could see some of the same witnesses appearing to testify.

Going straight to trial would “avoid witnesses testifying two or three times,” Deslauriers said.

“I’d be surprised if they don’t try to get one (a direct indictment).”

A decision about a preliminary inquiry should be made in early September when Brazeau’s case returns to an Ottawa court.

Brazeau’s case will not be the only Senate-related one in court in early September: One week after Brazeau has another hearing, Mike Duffy and Harb will have hearings on the same day. Those three hearings should ensure the Senate scandal remains top of mind as Parliament returns from its summer break.

Brazeau and Harb each face one count of fraud, and one count of breach of trust stemming from their Senate living expenses. Duffy faces 31 criminal charges, including fraud, breach of trust and bribery charges stemming from a $90,000 payment he received from Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff.

None of the allegations against the three have been tested in court.

Deslauriers said he has spoken with Harb’s lawyer, given the overlapping issues in the case, and will be talking with Duffy’s lawyer in the fall.

Brazeau was not in court Monday morning.

The former Conservative senator was suspended without pay in November along with Duffy and Pamela Wallin over what some senators called “gross negligence” with their Senate expenses. Since then, Brazeau has had a series of personal issues, including a stint in rehab for addiction issues after a domestic incident.

More recently, a Quebec judge ordered Brazeau out of his Gatineau home on July 29, months after Scotiabank moved to repossess the house, saying Brazeau and his girlfriend had fallen behind on mortgage payments.

The bank was trying to recoup almost $190,000 left on the mortgage and a loan of more than $11,000.

“We knew that was coming,” Deslauriers said of the seizure. “He (Brazeau) has had better days.” -CP-

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