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Politics Judge reserves decision in robocalls sentencing until Nov. 19

In August, Michael Sona was found guilty of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting in connection with the 2011 federal election’s robocall scandal.

Michael Sona will have to wait another few weeks before learning whether he will face jail time for his role in the 2011 robocalls scandal.

On Friday, the Crown asked that Justice Gary Hearn consider a sentence of 18 to 20 months in jail given the seriousness of the fraud committed in Guelph on the morning of the 2011 federal election.

About 6,700 phones received automated calls that day with misleading information on where to vote. In August, Michael Sona was found guilty of willfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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The scale of the fraud, which was deliberately planned out and not an impulsive act, merits jail time for Sona, Crown attorney Croft Michaelson argued

Anything less would not adequately reflect the public's condemnation of the act, Michaelson added. Sona has also refused to accept responsibility for his role in the scheme, he noted.

"We have a complete lack of contrition. We have no remorse."

Defence lawyer Norm Boxall, on the other hand, tried to convince Hearn that Sona has suffered enough, given the ensuing embarrassment and the loss of his political career.

"In my submission it's not necessary to separate Mr. Sona from society," Boxall said. "We're not at risk of him, he's not dangerous."

He asked that Hearn consider a six-to-12-month conditional sentence with house arrest, parole and a requirement to complete community service.

If Hearn feels jail time was required, Boxall said, it should be a "short, sharp sentence" that would send a message without putting his client away for a significant amount of time.

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Hearn asked Sona if he had anything to say before a sentencing decision was made. Sona shook his head no.

Sona is scheduled to receive his sentence on Nov. 19.

Earlier Friday, court heard from two of the 16 people who submitted victim-impact statements following the election.

Sarah Parro said she initially believed that the automated call she received on election day was legitimate, but was later convinced by her father that something about it was suspicious.

Parro said she felt naive assuming such fraud would never happen in Canada. The experience left her disillusioned with politics, she added.

"Since then, I feel I have lost my voice in society to apathy."

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Anne Budra, the returning officer responsible for the vote in Guelph, said her reputation and the credibility of Elections Canada were "threatened in a very serious manner" by the phoney calls.

"It was a panic situation and was totally out of control," Budra said of the scene in her office on election day as angry would-be voters flooded her with calls.

"What happened was extremely serious for our democratic way of life in Canada."

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