Joe Fontana guilty of fraud, breach of trust

Mayor Joe Fontana is accompanied by his wife Vicky as he walks to the courthouse London, Ont. DEREK...

Mayor Joe Fontana is accompanied by his wife Vicky as he walks to the courthouse London, Ont. DEREK RUTTAN/QMI AGENCY

Jane Sims, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:53 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. — London Mayor Joe Fontana, the self-styled political street fighter, was dealt the judicial equivalent of a knock-out punch on Friday.

Fontana was convicted of breach of trust by a public official, fraud and uttering forged documents after the Mounties probed the former Liberal MP and cabinet minister’s expenses.

As his guilty verdicts came down, London's mayor leaned back in his chair, his shoulders slightly slumped and stole a quick glance back at his wife, Vicky, sitting in the front row of the packed courtroom.

Then, at London's biggest political spectacle in years, he fixed his eyes squarely on Justice Bruce Thomas.

The judge had blasted apart Fontana's explanation for doctoring a wedding reception contract and submitting it to the House of Commons comptroller for a $1,700 payment when he was a Liberal MP and cabinet minister in Paul Martin's government in 2005.

"I disbelieve him," Thomas said. "While I am perplexed as to why a man of such accomplishments might choose to take these actions for $1,700, I do not find that that detracts from the strength of the Crown case," Thomas said.

"I have long ago abandoned the notion that motive results from a logical cost-benefit analysis."

It was QMI Agency investigative reporting by the London Free Press’ Chip Martin in 2012 that first publicly exposed the questions swirling around the $1,700 payment.

An RCMP investigation led to the charges.

The case revolved around a $1,700 federal government cheque issued to the Marconi Club in London.

It was same amount the Fontanas paid when they booked the hall in October 2004 for Fontana's son's wedding reception.

The police discovered Fontana altered the original wedding contract for Michael Fontana's wedding with a blue ballpoint pen, some whiteout and an eraser, slapped the word "original" on the top, and then faxed it to his Ottawa office for payment in March 2005.

Thomas didn't buy Fontana's story at trial that he doctored the contract to cover the promised deposit for a canceled reception Fontana ordered in February 2005 for then-finance minister Ralph Goodale, who was visiting London to promote his first budget.

Instead of asking the Marconi Club for a proper invoice, the defence said it was easier and quicker to change the copy of the old contract that just happened to be at Fontana's house.

Tears appeared in Fontana’s his eyes when he hugged his wife and made his way out of the courtroom.

Outside, he only had a brief statement to reporters about his being "surprised, shocked, devastated" by the decision, avoiding questions about any appeal or resignation before quickly leaving in a waiting SUV.

Defence lawyer Gordon Cudmore said he’ll focus now on Fontana’s July 15 sentencing hearing.

Cudmore said he'll collect reference letters and compile a long list of the mayor's accomplishments to "see all sides of the picture and see the total Joe Fontana."

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