Guelph trial for Michael Sona, only person charged in robocalls affair, underway

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GUELPH, Ont. - The Crown has laid out its case against a former Conservative staffer charged with election fraud.

The trial for Michael Sona, 25, who is charged with "wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting," got underway today in Guelph, Ont., with the Crown reading out an agreed statement of facts.

Crown lawyers say several witnesses will testify that Sona orchestrated a campaign to divert voters from their proper polling stations during the 2011 federal election.

Court heard that on May 2, 2011, automated calls were made to voters in Guelph informing them that their polling station had been relocated.

The first witness called by the Crown was Chris Crawford, who worked as campaign chairman for local Conservative candidate Marty Burke.

Crawford is expected to testify that he heard Sona discuss a plot to launch a phone campaign to keep a list of voters from registering their ballots.

The calls, which were purported to be coming from Elections Canada but in fact originated at telemarketing firm RackNine, went out to more than 6,000 numbers.

Court heard a fake name was used to register an account with RackNine and pay for the calls; a second campaign was supposed to go out in the wee hours of election day but was never dialed.

The voice on the second set of calls identified itself as the local Liberal candidate and the campaign was ordered to ring voters' phones after 4 a.m.

The Crown says the phone numbers provided to RackNine were consistent with internal Conservative party lists of non-supporters.

Other expected witnesses include Andrew Prescott, a friend of Sona's who co-operated with the Crown as part of an immunity agreement.

The Crown says four other witnesses are expected to testify that they heard Sona admitting to his role in the fraud after the election.

Organizations: Elections Canada

Geographic location: Guelph

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