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No deal: London Mayor Joe Fontana's lawyer on plea bargain with Crown

Lawyers handling Mayor Joe Fontana’s fraud case have been given seven weeks to review evidence and negotiate with the Crown.

A plea deal won’t be part of those negotiations, lawyer Gord Cudmore reaffirmed Tuesday.

“They’ll be discussions with the Crown and defence about what facts we agree on (and) if there’s things we don’t agree on,” Cudmore said, speaking outside the London courthouse after the first hearing in the case. “You don’t go in and fight things you agree are true. You point out what it is that the issues are, where you differ from the Crown’s position and what the defence is.”

Cudmore and his assistants will get their first look Thursday at evidence turned up in a month-long Mountie investigation. After that, talks between the sides expected to start.

The next court date is Feb. 26, where Cudmore said one of two things will happen.

“If the Crown and I have had time to talk, we may set a date for a preliminary hearing,” he said. “If we haven’t resolved everything, it will be adjourned again to allow for further talks.”

Fontana — accused of using a $1,700 federal government cheque to cover a room deposit for his son’s 2005 wedding reception — wasn’t at Tuesday’s hearing and isn’t likely to appear next month.

Along with fraud under $5,000, Fontana is charged with breach of trust by a public officer, and uttering forged documents. He was a federal cabinet minister in 2005.

Seating issues

Of the seven media outlets waiting as Mayor Joe Fontana’s court hearing started Tuesday, only one — chosen after drawing straws — was allowed in the courtroom because of space concerns.

The hearing was in Courtroom A — a tight space that Gord Cudmore, Fontana’s lawyer, aptly described as “only slightly larger than a phone booth.”

Having the hearing there followed standard procedure, said Fran Martellotti, manager of court operations.

“It’s a first appearance, and we’re treating it as we treat all first appearances,” she said when asked why the high-profile case wasn’t moved to a larger room.

A February hearing is slated for the same courtroom.

Martellotti did not respond to a Metro email asking if there’s a chance it will be moved.

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