It "strains credulity" to believe that then-prime minister Stephen Harper remained in the dark about machinations by his senior aides to quell a Senate expense scandal, according to Mike Duffy's lawyer.
Speaking days after his client was cleared of all 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery – in a decision by Ontario Justice Charles Vaillancourt that delivered a scathing critique of the PMO's "mind-boggling" tactics to hush up "a political fiasco" – Donald Bayne also suggested that Nigel Wright, Mr. Harper's chief of staff and the man behind the $90,000 payment at the centre of the trial, should face further investigation.
"It's hard not to come to that conclusion when you read the judge's findings," Mr. Bayne said in an interview on CTV's Question Period with The Globe and Mail's Robert Fife.
Still, he acknowledged, the police, "have already made their decision about and arrangement with Mr. Wright and they did that long ago."
Looking ahead, Mr. Bayne told The Globe on Sunday that he expects Mr. Duffy to return to his post when the Senate resumes sitting on May 3. He declined to comment on whether his client would pursue a civil suit, although he has previously said he would not be representing him in such a case.
On Question Period, he reiterated that the Senate should "absolutely" pay back the salary lost during his client's suspension over the past two years – what would amount to roughly $270,000, plus benefits. "They were wrong.
The judge has told them they were wrong. There's a presumption of innocence in this country and that's a severe punishment."
Mr. Bayne was critical of the "rush to judgment" in the Senate, saying Mr. Duffy was targeted because he had become a "political thorn" for the PMO. This assessment was supported by the judge who pointed to Mr. Duffy's reluctance to misrepresent a cheque from Mr. Wright as his own money, and then use it to pay back travel, staff and residency expenses he believed he was entitled to claim.
Mr. Bayne pointedly noted that the defence was never given the opportunity to provide evidence to the RCMP or the Crown before charges were laid – a step, he suggested, that might have avoided the costly trial. To that end, he said, it was "past time" for charges facing other senators over expenses to be dropped.
While saying that his client would soon return to work, Mr. Bayne also cited concerns for Mr. Duffy's health. "There are serious things going on with him," he said, without providing specifics.
Mr. Duffy did not speak to reporters after last Thursday's verdict, and also, according to Mr. Bayne, said little at the time to his lawyer.
"I think he was so overwhelmed by multiple emotions. This has been over three years. He and his wife have gone through a very difficult time."