Duffy acquitted on all counts

Senator Mike Duffy was acquitted of fraud and bribery charges on Thursday, marking the end of a high-profile political trial that contributed to the defeat of the ruling Conservative government last year.

Duffy, a former television journalist, had faced 31 criminal charges related to roughly $90,000 in expenses he charged after former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to the Senate, the upper chamber of Parliament, in late 2008.

The trial started last August, shortly after Harper had launched an election campaign.

The court heard that Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had pressed Duffy to repay the expenses, even though Wright felt they were most likely legal. Evidence also showed Harper's team had given orders to the Senate, which is supposed to be independent.

Duffy chose to be tried without a jury. In a 308-page ruling, Ontario Court Judge Charles Vaillancourt said he found the senator to be a credible witness and strongly criticized Harper's aides for their behavior.

As the case progressed amid enormous media coverage last year, polls showed the Conservatives starting to lose support. Justin Trudeau's Liberals won a majority in the federal election on Oct. 19.

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