John Nunziata, the former maverick MP who once ran for mayor of Toronto, has been fined $5,000 by the Law Society of Upper Canada for “conduct unbecoming” a lawyer, after he lied under oath about kicking his ex-wife’s partner at a hockey game.
Mr. Nunziata, 57, famously kicked out of the federal Liberal caucus for protesting Jean Chrétien’s broken promise to abolish the GST, was before his profession’s disciplinary body this week for a confrontation that dated back to 2008.
At a hockey arena in west end Toronto, where his then-11-year-old son was playing, Mr. Nunziata kicked his ex-wife’s partner, Murray Milthorpe. The former MP initially denied kicking the man, but later recanted and was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to take any counselling directed by his probation officer.
But the three-member Law Society panel did not discipline Mr. Nunziata for the assault itself. According to an agreed statement facts signed by Mr. Nunziata, he was “not truthful” when he initially told a Justice of the Peace that he had not kicked Mr. Milthorpe – something he later admitted to a judge. (The Crown dropped counter charges Mr. Nunziata had tried to press against Mr. Milthorpe.)
Mr. Nunziata referred a request for comment to his lawyer, Ferhan Javed. Mr. Javed said his client and the Law Society jointly agreed on the penalty and that his client was pleased to have the matter resolved.
“He was going through a difficult period in his life at the time that his happened, the divorce and the impact that it had on his kids,” Mr. Javed said. “And he made a mistake and he’s happy to put it behind him.”
At the time of the altercation, Mr. Nunziata, who faded from public view after his failed 2003 mayoral campaign and has since worked as a lobbyist and consultant, denied his actions to the media, claiming that Mr. Milthorpe had upset his daughter.
“I didn’t kick him. I don’t know how he got the bruise on his ass, but I mean, he deserves an ass-kicking, but I didn’t give it to him,” Mr. Nunziata said at the time.
According to the agreed statement of facts, when he met with a Law Society investigator last year, Mr. Nunziata said his denial to the justice of the peace about kicking Mr. Milthorpe was “misleading,” the result of being “in a bad state at the time” and that he regretted it.
“I received a call from the media before I received a call from the police…my reaction to them was that I didn’t, that was just my instinctive reaction, that I didn’t kick [Mr. Milthorpe].…So I was just caught by the media, and my reaction was to deny having done it,” Mr. Nunziata said, according to a transcript in the agreed statement of facts.
It was this contradiction that the Law Society deemed “conduct unbecoming.” In addition to the fine and an official reprimand, Mr. Nunziata was also ordered to pay the Law Society’s legal costs of $6,021.41.
Mr. Milthorpe said in an interview he was pleased with the result.
“I hope it puts closure to the situation, and the healing can start,” he said. “It has been a long process.”
Mr. Nunziata was once a prominent figure in Canadian politics, serving as MP for the Toronto riding of York South-Weston from 1984 to 2000, winning the seat as an independent in 1997 after his departure from the Liberals.
In the 1980s, he was part of the Opposition Liberals’ so-called “rat pack” that included Brian Tobin, Sheila Copps and Don Boudria – a group of young politicians known for unrelenting attacks on Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government.
He ran for mayor of Toronto in 2003, finishing well behind runner-up John Tory and winner David Miller.