Trials and tribulations in 2015

From ‘the Old Duff’ to same old Ezra, our courtrooms will be as busy as ever in 2015

Senator Duffy arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa

As the wheels of justice keep on turning, these five cases are sure to trigger some headlines—and maybe even an early federal election.

Matthew de Grood

It was the grisliest crime scene Calgary has ever seen: five university students dead, slashed during a house-party stabbing spree that no one saw coming. Adding to the shock was the suspect’s identity: a 22-year-old aspiring lawyer—and the son of a senior city police inspector. Charged with five counts of first-degree murder, de Grood has undergone multiple psychiatric assessments since the night of his arrest, but the conclusions (including possible motive) remain sealed under a court-ordered publication ban. A preliminary hearing, the next step before trial, is scheduled to begin in early March.

Mike Duffy

The disgraced senator faces 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery—but it’s the Prime Minister who could suffer the worst fate when Duffy’s trial begins on April 7. Although the bulk of the allegations involve inappropriate expense claims (from housing to travel to consulting contracts), one particular transaction is at the heart of the scandal: a $90,000 cheque written by Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper’s then-chief of staff, to help Duffy reimburse those dubious residency claims. The Prime Minister insists he knew nothing about the suspicious cheque until after it made the news, but the senator’s lawyer tells a different story, insisting Wright and the PMO “concocted” the repayment plan “for purely political purposes.” With a fall election looming, Harper himself may be called to the witness stand. He may want to consider dropping the writ a bit early.

Hasibullah Yusufzai

Of the dozens of “foreign fighters” who have left the comforts of Canada to join terrorist organizations overseas, he is the only one facing criminal charges. The RCMP issued an arrest warrant last July, six months after the 25-year-old left his family in Burnaby, B.C., to allegedly link up with Islamist militants in Syria. Although he has not been heard from since, his case suddenly resurfaced in October, when reports revealed that Yusufzai had email contact with Parliament Hill gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau.

Jian Ghomeshi

If his first court appearance was any indication, Toronto may need a much bigger courthouse for the eventual trial. The former CBC radio star—facing four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to enable a sexual assault—was swarmed by a mosh pit of reporters at the bail hearing following his November arrest. The 47-year-old said nothing as he inched through the crowd of cameras, his two lawyers on either side. Although a trial date has not been set, one thing is certain: According to his bail conditions, Ghomeshi must live at his mom’s house as the case winds through the system.

Ezra Levant

As libel judgments go, the conclusion is difficult to dispute: The conservative pundit displayed a “reckless disregard for the truth,” engaged in “little or no fact-checking,” and his “dominant motive” was “ill will.” But, as soon as the ruling was released—ordering him to pay $80,000 to a law student (now lawyer) on the receiving end of his defamatory blog posts—Levant vowed to appeal, describing the decision as a “national gag order” that should “concern any Canadian who is worried about radical Islam, and the right to call out anti-Semitism in the public square.” Stay tuned for the next scheduled court date (and rant).

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