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Duffy Trial

Friend thought money was Mike Duffy's own

Corey Larocque, Postmedia Network

Mark Bourrie leaves the Ottawa courthouse after he began testifying at the Senate expenses trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy, April 17, 2015. (TONY SPEARS/Postmedia Network)

Mark Bourrie leaves the Ottawa courthouse after he began testifying at the Senate expenses trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy, April 17, 2015. (TONY SPEARS/Postmedia Network)

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OTTAWA - Journalist Mark Bourrie didn't want to be paid for helping Sen. Mike Duffy fight the Internet "trolls" who started posting "mean, anonymous crap" about him after he was appointed to the Senate in 2009.

But a $500 cheque showed up anyhow.

"I'm positive I didn't ask him to pay me," Bourrie said Friday from the witness stand at Duffy's criminal trial.

"He may not be the best listener in the world."

Bourrie was the fifth witness the Crown called who testified he did some work for Duffy and was then paid by one of two companies run by Gerald Donohue, an old friend of Duffy.

Duffy's on trial for 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery.

The Crown alleges he billed the Senate for improper travel and living expenses and issued contracts to his friends.

The Crown's implication is that Duffy got money for Donohue's companies under the guise of research contracts — a legitimate use of a senator's $150,000-a-year office budget.

Donohue, in turn, paid for some personal services for Duffy including fitness training, make-up services and Bourrie's help battling his online critics, court has heard.

Bourrie worked as a freelance journalist for the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star in the 1980s before moving to Ottawa in 1994.

Then, as a member of the parliamentary press gallery, he struck up a friendship with Duffy, who was then a TV reporter covering Parliament Hill.

"I'm sort of a short, fat, balding guy ... sort of like Mike, so we got along," Bourrie said.

They kept in touch when Bourrie went on the earn a doctorate in history and to teach at Carleton University and Concordia University in Montreal.

When Duffy became a senator, he became the victim of mean-spirited attacks on blogs, Wikipedia and YouTube.

Bourrie, who had earned a doctorate studying "news control" and censorship felt he could help Duffy navigate those sites' processes for removing defamatory content.

Blogs, Wikipedia and YouTube had disparaging comments about Duffy dating back to about 2006 when he was still a journalist, Bourrie said.

Some of the comments that upset Duffy were that he had "brow-beaten" Margaret Trudeau about the death of her son Michel, that he must be a big a drinker because he sometimes slurred his speech, and insults about his weight.

In 2010, Duffy sent a cheque to Bourrie's wife, then a law student, because Duffy thought she had done some work battling the trolls. They sent it back because she hadn't done any work and it would have been inappropriate for her to do legal work as a student, Bourrie testified.

Next, Duffy sent Bourrie himself a cheque.

It was written from the account of Maple Ridge Media and signed by Donohue. "I knew it was connected to Duffy. He said, 'did you get the cheque I sent you?'"

Bourrie said he didn't know why the payment came from Maple Ridge Media instead of a government of Canada cheque. He figured it must come from a company Duffy had established to handle his speaking engagements.

"I thought it was his money,” adding it was a small fraction of what he'd usually charge for such service.

"It was really a token payment, I thought."

corey.larocque@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @Corey_Larocque


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