After reading a 21-page written decision in a packed room at the Ottawa courthouse yesterday, Justice Douglas Cunningham dismissed both charges against Mayor Larry O’Brien.
O’Brien was found not guilty on two charges of influence peddling which stemmed from allegations that he had offered to help Terry Kilrea obtain a position on the National Parole Board in exchange for Kilrea withdrawing from the mayoral campaign.
Cunningham said O’Brien may have made a rookie mistake, but “it is not an offence to want an opponent to withdraw from a political race, nor is it a offence to encourage an opponent to seek alternative employment,” he said. “Were this an offence, there would be a need for many more jails.”
During the trial, O’Brien’s defence lawyer Michael Edelson had attempted to portray Kilrea as an unreliable witness who gave inconsistent testimony. Cunningham agreed, saying that evidence supported O’Brien’s version of the story that the appointment was a dead issue after their initial July 12, 2006 meeting.
“I have no doubt he encouraged Mr. Kilrea to pursue an appointment,” he said. “I am unable to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a criminal offence … Both charges are dismissed,” he said, as the courtroom erupted in applause.
O’Brien, accompanied by his wife Colleen, later emerged from the courthouse smiling.
“I regret that we had to go through that, but quite frankly it was important for me to take this battle and have the truth come out so that I can look my two boys in the eyes and say their family name is still what it was before,” he told reporters.