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Robocaller Michael Sona out on bail pending appeal of election fraud conviction

Defendant Michael Sona walks to the courthouse in Guelph, Ont., on June 4, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

Michael Sona, the former Conservative staffer convicted last month in the 2011 robocalls scandal, has been granted bail pending an appeal of his conviction and sentence.

Crown lawyer Nick Devlin confirmed the Ontario Court of Appeal decision Monday.

The Crown contested Sona’s bail application last week, but agreed it would be worthwhile for the Appeals Court to review whether his nine-month sentence was appropriate.

Sona was released on $20,000 bail and was ordered to remain in Canada, not possess any weapons, or consume illegal drugs. He must notify the court if he plans to move from his Ottawa apartment.

The bail hearing focused only on Sona’s intention to appeal his sentence, although his lawyer Howard Krongold said on Friday that he also plans to contest the conviction.

Appeal Court Justice Harry LaForme said in his decision that he granted Sona bail because the process of appealing the sentence could take almost as long, if not longer, than the nine-month jail term itself.

“In this case — a case of a sentencing without precedent and where there are arguable grounds of appeal — Mr. Sona ought to have an opportunity to have this court consider the fitness of his sentence before he is required to serve it,” LaForme wrote.

“The novelty of this case makes it more difficult for the Crown to show that the appeal is frivolous.”

Sona was the only person to be charged after some 6,700 automated phone calls were placed on the morning of the 2011 federal election with misleading information on how to vote.

Sona had been in jail since Nov. 19, when he was convicted under the Canada Elections Act of wilfully preventing or endeavouring to prevent an elector from voting.

Krongold argued Sona’s sentence was unnecessarily harsh, given that he’s already suffered considerably in the aftermath of his arrest.

As a young first-time offender with good rehabilitation prospects, Sona deserved a shorter jail term, he argued, noting that Sona’s life has been turned upside down and irreparably damaged by the charges and the trial, to say nothing of the conviction.

LaForme agreed that Sona has had to endure more stress than the typical first-time offender.

“Mr. Sona has been subjected to more than the usual ignominy of a public trial and conviction,” he wrote.

“Most youthful first-time offenders enjoy some measure of obscurity; Mr. Sona’s trial has been fervently covered by the national media. Given the serious offence he committed, I am not being critical when I make this observation.”

Krongold also said he intends to argue that Sona was punished for not showing any remorse during his trial, although he maintains he’s innocent.

In a statement issued through a friend and posted to Twitter on the day he was sentenced, Sona continued to insist he had “no involvement in the fraudulent phone calls.”

“Furthermore, although I have suspicions based on media reports I’ve read, as other Canadians do, I have no (personal) knowledge who on the … campaign was responsible for these fraudulent phone calls,” the statement said.