On Thursday, November 9, 2017, a judge in Toronto ruled that there is sufficient evidence against two aides of Dalton McGuinty, the former Ontario premier, for their trial to continue.
The two defendants are David Livingston, who was the chief of staff at the end of McGuinty’s tenure, and Laura Miller, his deputy. The pair are charged with unauthorized use of a computer and attempting to commit mischief to data.
The latter charge is an improvement from the previous charge of actually committing mischief with data, which Justice Timothy Lipson downgraded at Thursday’s hearing. Lawyers for the two had asked the judge to dismiss both charges.
The defendants allegedly had data wiped from twenty different government computers under illegal conditions, destroying government documents in the process. In his ruling, Lipson said that the evidence seen so far allows for the interpretation that Livingston did, in fact, do so with “dishonestly obtained” special administrative access.
According to the charges, the motive for destroying the data was to hide information about two gas-fired power plants which were canceled during McGuinty’s term of office.
According to the auditor general of Ontario, the cancellations of the gas plants caused the province to lose about $1.1 billion. Livingston and Miller allegedly destroyed the information about them around 2012, at the height of Opposition demands for the documents’ release and around the same time that McGuinty announced his resignation, effective in 2013.
The justice emphasized that while he wants the trial to go forward, he is not yet ruling on the defendants’ guilt or innocence. Concerning the downgraded charge of mischief, he explained that the prosecution failed to present compelling evidence that the data was actually wiped, though it did provide enough to suggest that they may have attempted to do so without the proper authority.
Among the evidence is testimony that Miller’s husband, Peter Faist, who is an IT consultant, was paid $10,000 by the Liberal caucus to erase government computers after being given a special password. The defense has argued that the data in question was only that which would not be needed by the incoming premier’s staff.
There was also a breach of trust charge dropped by the government last week.
The case will pick up again on next Thursday, November 16. At that point the defense lawyers have the option of either calling witnesses or simply moving on to their final arguments.