Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Adscam: Getting Ready to Rumble

This probably isn't news that Paul Martin wanted to hear: Jean Brault and Chuck Guité are going to try to beat the rap for Adscam.

The two men reiterated their not-guilty plea Wednesday after being charged with five counts of fraud and one of conspiracy each stemming from alleged improprieties related to the program.

They allegedly defrauded the federal government of nearly $2 million.

Jury selection is set for Oct. 3 but may be delayed after the trial judge publicly mused about whether Ottawa could delay the Nov. 1 release of Justice John Gomery's inquiry report.

Justice Fraser Martin says he hopes to hear next week if the federal government will delay the release of the first report. He says he needs an answer so he can take steps to make sure the jury is not tainted by revelations in the report.

The reasons Paul Coffin got a wrist-slapping instead of jail time were a) he pleaded guilty early and b) he documented his attempts to make restitution for his crimes. The resulting sentence is still too light in my view, but at least it's justifiable.

There'll be no such mercy for Brault and Guité. If they drag out the trial, the press and the blogosphere will dine out on the details for weeks, especially if anything comes out that gives the Opposition parties ammunition. Certainly it won't help Paul Martin; he weathered the Gomery testimony but this threatens to be a completely new storm.

As for Justice Martin's wish for delay of the Gomery report, he can't really make a case. The explosive details of the testimony are still available on Gomery's website, so any jury members with Net access can still be informed as to the details. The report may dilute some of the details, but the odds of it revealing anything new are pretty slim.

Looks like we're getting ready for a mud fight. I wonder if the PM's managed to learn to duck?