Monday 30 June 2014

In Mexico, Michoacán struggles for stability

Mireles in custody (Milenio)
The state of Michoacán in central-western Mexico remains in crisis.  Ongoing political instability, cartel activity, rampant corruption, armed civil defense groups, militarization...It has been a chaotic scene since 2006, when then president Felipe Calderón launched Mexico’s war on drugs in his home state. Things have gotten so bad that they have even disrupted the avocado and lime markets.

In late June, José Manuel Mireles, the former leader of the Tepalacatepec self defense group, was arrested. The charges were related to carrying military grade weapons such as AK-47s (the weapon of choice for both cartels and self defense groups), hand guns, and explosives.

Friday 27 June 2014

“Now you’re trying to trick me”: Del Mastro trial continues with testy cross-examination

The defence got its first shot at the Crown’s star witness during the Dean Del Mastro trial on Friday, and if today’s proceedings are indicative of what’s to come, we can expect some fireworks when the trial resumes on Wednesday next week.
Jeff Ayotte and Dean Del Mastro
Del Mastro, the federal Member of Parliament for Peterborough, is on trial along with the official agent for his 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy. Both men are charged with overspending during the election, and then covering it up.

In the morning the Crown concluded its examination of Frank Hall, the pollster whose firm, Holinshed, was hired by Del Mastro to help with his 2008 re-election bid. Crown Prosecutor Tom Lemon concluded by thanking his star witness, and saying that “I have never questioned a witness for this long.”

Thursday 26 June 2014

Was Frank Hall Dean Del Mastro’s patsy?

A pattern is emerging in the Dean Del Mastro trial.

According to evidence provided by Frank Hall, who ran the now defunct Ottawa polling firm Holinshed, for almost a year he was strung along by Dean Del Mastro, the Peterborough MP accused of overspending on his 2008 campaign, and then covering it up. 
Frank Hall on the stand

Hall backdated numerous invoices in the hopes of getting additional business from both Del Mastro’s Peterborough riding association and his parliamentary office.

However, once Del Mastro was in possession of a timeline that put him in the clear of any appearance of wrongdoing, and after Hall and his brother Colin raised red flags on suspicious Election Canada reporting and unpaid invoices, the relationship was abruptly terminated.

On August 28, 2008, Dean Del Mastro sent a scathing email to Frank Hall. In it, he asserted that he “has a job to do,” and that Hall’s invoices didn’t correspond to what had been agreed to in conversation. He further asserted that he was “sick of this entire saga,” though he concluded that that they could “discuss compensation for costs, and hopefully this can end amicably.”

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Crown tightens evidence chain around Del Mastro

The trial of Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro and his official agent during the 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy, continued on Wednesday. Former pollster Frank Hall was on the stand the entire day, with crown prosecutor Tom Lemon building an evidence trail littered with alleged backdated quotes, invoices, and cheques.

(For updates scroll to bottom of story.)

It's a lot of money
“In my experience, the rules for election spending have nothing to do with a date on an invoice,” testified Hall. “It is for when it is used”.

In this instance the ‘it’ being referenced by Hall represents the services and products offered by his now-defunct Ottawa-based polling firm, Holinshed.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Documents decision a setback for Del Mastro

Crown prosecutor Tom Lemon
At the beginning of court proceedings on Tuesday, June 24, the legal team defending Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro and the official agent for his 2008 campaign, Richard McCarthy, was dealt a legal setback.

Judge Lisa Cameron had adjourned early on Monday as it had become impossible for the trial to proceed without having her rule on the admissibility of printouts of electronic documents. These are documents used by the crown that may or may not be entered as evidence, but that the prosecution wants to reference when examining its key witness, pollster Frank Hall.

“Yesterday was a good day for us,” Del Mastro’s lawyer, Jeff Ayotte, told La politica before proceedings began on Tuesday. “But in a trial of this length I have learned not to judge on the basis of one day.”

His comments proved prescient. Upon opening the proceedings Judge Cameron ruled that the Canada Evidence Act allowed for documents to be referenced if the creator of those documents was present and testifying under oath.

Monday 23 June 2014

Defence and crown battle over evidence admissibility on first day of Del Mastro trial

The Dean Del Mastro trial opened Monday in a courthouse in Peterborough, Ontario, with crown prosecutor Tom Lemon and defence attorney Jeffery Ayotte embarking on a day-long sparring match over the admissibility of electronic evidence.

Dean Del Mastro in court
In the end, Justice Lisa Cameron decided to adjourn early and make a ruling in the morning.

Del Mastro, the federal Member of Parliament for Peterborough, and Richard McCarthy, the official agent on Del Mastro’s 2008 election campaign, are charged with overspending during the campaign and then covering up the alleged misdeed.

In his opening statements Mr. Lemon asserted that the crown would prove that Mr. Del Mastro backdated a cheque for $21,000 to Holinshed, a polling company owned by Frank Hall, to make it look like it was written in August when it was written in October. The crown further claimed that evidence from the RCMP would prove that Del Mastro did not have the resources in his account in August.