Former Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, once a political pitbull who defended his party from partisan claims of dirty electoral tricks, has been found guilty of exceeding spending limits during the federal campaign in 2008.
Del Mastro was also convicted of failing to report a personal contribution of $21,000 to his own campaign and knowingly submitting a falsified document.
The now-Independent MP, a former parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, now faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine, as well as the prospect of losing his House of Commons seat.
Del Mastro sat with his hands folded in his lap and a serious look on his face as Justice Lisa Cameron delivered her verdict in a courtroom in Lindsay, Ont.
Cameron said she had concerns about the credibility of Del Mastro's evidence, saying that at times his testimony led her "to believe he was avoiding the truth."
Del Mastro occasionally did not answer questions put to him in cross-examination and he frequently obfuscated the evidence, Cameron said, leading her to reject his evidence on key issues.
Del Mastro took the stand in his own defence during the trial, denying any knowledge of an e-mail exchange with the Crown's key witness: Frank Hall, president of Holinshed Research, the now-defunct data-consulting firm whose alleged services lie at the centre of the case.
Hall said his company provided hundreds of hours of voter-ID calling for Del Mastro's campaign – a claim that was supported by e-mails between himself and Del Mastro that were found on his computer by investigators.
Del Mastro testified that he rebuffed Hall's efforts to get him to buy Holinshed's voter ID services, and denied ever receiving or sending the emails in question.
He also said he was not familiar with spreadsheets attached to some of those e-mails, which Hall said he had been sending regularly to Del Mastro's campaign as part of the voter identification services he was providing.
"At no point did I discuss a voter ID package for the campaign with Frank Hall. At no point," Del Mastro testified in June.
He did acknowledge that he had discussions with Hall about new riding mapping software that was under development by Holinshed to identify the political leanings of would-be voters in a particular constituency.
Del Mastro said he told Hall he was interested in buying the software, called GeoVote, and gave Holinshed a $21,000 personal cheque in 2008 as a deposit when Hall said he needed one.
The software was to be jointly owned by the Peterborough Conservative Electoral District Association and Del Mastro's constituency office.
The Crown, however, alleges that the cheque was actually to pay for voter ID calls, putting Del Mastro over the limit both for personal contributions and overall campaign spending.
The prosecution has also pointed out that while the cheque was dated for August, prior to the election period, Del Mastro's account only had sufficient funds to cover it in October, when it was cashed.
The Crown also alleged Del Mastro tried to use backdated invoices to make it appear Holinshed had only charged his campaign a fraction of the overall cost of its services during the election period – an allegation the MP firmly denied.
Del Mastro told court that GeoVote never ended up working for his campaign and that it became the subject of a small claims court case Hall tried to bring against him that was ultimately abandoned.