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Mark Bourrie arrives at the courthouse for the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Mark Bourrie arrives at the courthouse for the trial of suspended Senator Mike Duffy in Ottawa, Friday, April 17, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Duffy paid journalist to combat ‘trolls’ online, trial told Add to ...

A veteran journalist says he did not talk about remuneration when Mike Duffy approached him for help in removing malicious Internet posts that the senator said were damaging to his reputation.

But a cheque arrived nonetheless, Mark Bourrie told a judge on Friday, and it came from Gerald Donohue, a former CTV colleague of Mr. Duffy who had helped the senator pay several other bills. The Crown is trying to make the case that Mr. Duffy funnelled private expenses through a firm run by his long-time friend, Mr. Donohue, and then billed back to the Senate.

Now suspended from the Red Chamber, Mr. Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges in relation to his living and travel claims, his contracts with Mr. Donohue and allegations of bribery.

Mr. Bourrie is a journalist and a law student who has freelanced for The Globe and Mail and other news outlets. He has also obtained a PhD and has done much research into the control of news.

He told the court he met Mr. Duffy in 1994 in a room on Parliament Hill that is set aside for the media, and they struck up a friendship that has lasted over the years. Mr. Duffy, he said, then turned to him after he was appointed to the Senate in 2009 and found himself being besmirched online by anonymous “trolls.”

Much of what was being said about the senator was “mean, anonymous crap,” Mr. Bourrie said. Some of it accused Mr. Duffy of being a drunk, and a secondary page associated with Mr. Duffy’s Wikipedia entry was particularly “vile,” Mr. Bourrie said.

He told the court he first advised Mr. Duffy to hire a lawyer. But he also did 80 to 100 hours of work himself, trying to find ways to eliminate the offending material. Through it all, Mr. Bourrie told the court, he was “pretty sure, very very close to positive,” that he did not talk to Mr. Duffy about getting paid.

But, in the spring of 2010, a cheque in the amount of $500 arrived at his home. It was signed by Gerald Donohue and came from the account of a company called Maple Ridge Media. Earlier this week, a former intern, a makeup artist and a personal trainer all described being paid by companies run by Mr. Donohue for services they provided to the senator.

Mr. Bourrie said he had never met Mr. Donohue, but he realized it was Mr. Duffy who was sending him the money. “I thought it was a company that he owned,” he told the court. “I thought it was Mike Duffy’s money.”

Mr. Bourrie arrived at the court with a large bundle of pages he said he had taken from the Internet to demonstrate the scurrilous nature of the comments that had been made about Mr. Duffy.

Mr. Bayne took a look at them and said: “He was a parliamentarian and he was being savagely defamed.” To which Mr. Bourrie agreed. “Nobody deserves to have this type of material on the public record.”

But the day of hearings was cut short when Crown Attorney Jason Neubauer insisted the pages brought by Mr. Bourrie be entered as evidence. Mr. Neubauer said he didn’t believe the comments posted on the Wikipedia site were as vile and scurrilous as the court had been led to believe, and he disagreed that the comments related mostly to Mr. Duffy’s parliamentary life.

When Mr. Bayne objected, the judge called a recess so he could consider the matter over the weekend. The trial resumes on Monday.

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