Robocalls trial: Michael Sona sentenced to 9 months in jail
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014 6:25AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 19, 2014 5:39PM EST
A former Conservative staffer convicted of misdirecting voters in the 2011 federal election has been sentenced to nine months in jail.
In an Ontario courtroom on Wednesday, Michael Sona, 26, was sentenced to jail time as well as 12 months’ probation for orchestrating robocalls that led voters to incorrect polling stations in a riding located in Guelph, Ont..
Sona, who was in court with family members, hung his head as the sentence was read out.
In handing down the sentence, Superior Court Justice Gary Hearn said although Sona is a first-time offender, his conduct must be taken seriously.
“Individuals such as Mr. Sona, notwithstanding the lack of record and apparently good character, must appreciate that this type of an offence is an affront to the electoral process,” Hearn said.
In August, following a months-long trial, Sona was found guilty of wilfully preventing or endeavoring to prevent an elector from voting in what became known as the robocalls scandal. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Sona’s lawyer Norm Boxall had requested a suspended sentence or a six-to-12 month conditional sentence with house arrest, parole and a requirement for community service. The Crown meanwhile, had been pressing for Sona to spend at least a year-and-a-half behind bars.
Boxall said Wednesday that Hearn had a difficult decision to make, and that the defence knew jail time could be a reality in this case.
“These are extremely difficult cases. You’re dealing with a young man who’s got no history with the law,” Boxall told reporters.
Crown prosecutor Ruth McGuirl said outside the court the sentencing sends a message that the “type of conduct which interferes with the fundamental rights of voters” warrants jail time.
The charge stemmed from investigations into fraudulent phone calls during the general federal election, which was held on May 2, 2011. On the day of the vote, approximately 6,000 voters received automated phone calls directing them to go to incorrect polling stations.
The trial found that the robocalls were an effort by Sona to get the Conservative candidate, Marty Burke, elected in the riding. Despite the robocalls, the Liberal candidate, Frank Valeriote, was elected.
In handing down Sona’s conviction in August, Justice Hearn said that evidence showed the Sona did not likely act alone.
However, no one besides Sona has ever been charged in the case.
With files from The Canadian Press