By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press
Gatineau, Que.: Sen. Patrick Brazeau said Wednesday he’s focused on getting back to the upper chamber “as quickly as possible” after a Quebec judge agreed to grant him an unconditional discharge on assault and drug charges.
The decision means Brazeau avoids the prospect of jail time and even a criminal record, despite having pleaded guilty to the charges in September.
“This nightmare, I’ve been living with this for two and a half years and it’s finally over,” Brazeau said outside the courtroom in Gatineau, Que., after the decision came down.
Partway through the trial, Brazeau pleaded to reduced charges of assault and possession of cocaine, while the more serious charge of sexual assault was dropped due to a lack of evidence.
Quebec Court Judge Valmont Beaulieu read a lengthy decision that outlined why he agreed with the joint recommendation of the Crown prosecutor and Brazeau’s lawyer, who urged him to grant a discharge.
The victim did not make a statement to the court before the sentencing.
Beaulieu emphasized certain extenuating circumstances, including that Brazeau had lived for several months under the cloud of being accused of sexual assault, and that the victim did not suffer any injuries.
He also noted a Supreme Court judgment that outlined how a person’s public position can subject them to additional media scrutiny and public shame.
“Each time any individual, regardless of colour, creed or anything, in this country gets accusations of sexual assault, obviously it’s going to taint that person’s reputation,” Brazeau said.
“Unfortunately, there are situations where people do commit these crimes, but I haven’t.”
Brazeau still faces a criminal trial for fraud and breach of trust arising from his Senate living expenses, scheduled to take place in March 2016. The trial of Sen. Mike Duffy, which involves similar issues, is set to resume next month.
Brazeau was kicked out of the Conservative caucus after he was charged and put on leave with pay. Months later, he was suspended without pay over the expenses issue along with Duffy and Pamela Wallin, but that suspension was lifted when Parliament was dissolved for the federal election.
Brazeau remains on leave with pay from the upper chamber, and his salary is being clawed back to repay nearly $50,000 in disallowed housing expense claims.
Brazeau, who said he voted Liberal last week, said he intends to sit as an “independent, First Nations” senator.
“Seeing as this case is finished, I’m going to focus on my other Senate case, and I have no problem saying I’m very confident I will win that case,” Brazeau said.
“I’m certainly not a fraudster, and I’m going to fight to the end to get back my job.”