Wakefield, Quebec’s ‘Mr. F*cker’ didn’t buy senate aide’s story, court hears

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by Mark Burgess on December 17, 2009

Wakefield, Quebec’s Neil Faulkner testified at Senator Raymond Lavigne’s trial Dec. 10, recounting the tree-cutting event on his property that led to the charges of fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice for which the Liberal Senator is currently standing trial.

Faulkner – whom Lavigne’s Senate aide Daniel Cote referred to as “Mr. F*cker” – recounted his experience July 20, 2005, when he found Cote cutting down trees on his property.

Upon hearing a chainsaw, Faulkner investigated and confronted Cote, telling him to stop what he was doing and not buying the aide’s line about the work being Hydro-Quebec-approved.

The letter Faulkner wrote to the Prime Minister, to find out whether a member of Lavigne’s staff had been cutting down his trees on a work day, led to probes by the Senate and then the RCMP, which laid charges against Lavigne in 2007.

Cote testified that he was on the Senate payroll while cutting down the trees, contradicting 2005 statements that he was doing unpaid work during days off. Cote said the false statement was made to deflect blame from Lavigne.

Cote’s credibility was questioned in the cross-examination, as Lavigne’s lawyer asked about inaccuracies in his curriculum vitae, and a former assistant in the Senator’s office said Cote was prone to anger, kept a police baton in his briefcase and threatened to build a case against Lavigne when he was fired a few weeks after the tree-cutting incident.

Also last week, a Senate financial officer testified that Lavigne received travel money owed to his staff by leaving the “Beneficiary” field blank on travel claim forms. Two former aides testified that they had special understandings with the Senator whereby they didn’t make travel claims.

The court also heard that Lavigne carpooled  frequently with staff, which saved the Senate money, and one former aide testified that he was always appropriately compensated for his trips.

Lavigne pleaded not guilty to the charges of fraud, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

His lawyer, Dominic St-Laurent, made a pre-trial motion to throw the case out because the RCMP didn’t hand over transcripts of a Senate sub-committee meeting on Lavigne it received in 2006 and returned to the Senate after two months. Three RCMP inspectors testified that the transcripts did not play a role in their later investigation.

The judge said he would rule on the motion before the defence begins its case. The Crown was set to wrap up its case Dec. 15.