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Things get testy at robocalls court case over pollster's treatment, tweets

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OTTAWA - The robocalls court challenge took a testy turn Wednesday over the tweets and treatment of one of its star witnesses.

Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton cried foul after it was revealed pollster Frank Graves — asked to leave the courtroom earlier this week so lawyers could confer with the judge — had examined the Twitter feeds of journalists who were tweeting from inside.

Hamilton produced screen shots from Graves's own Twitter feed to prove he'd been snooping on the courtroom chat.

"He did. Hehe," Graves wrote to someone who asked if he checked Twitter from outside the courtroom.

But the social-media mischief did not amuse Hamilton.

"This is not a light matter," the Conservative lawyer said.

Steven Shrybman, who represents the eight Canadians who are challenging the election results in their six ridings, shot back, taking Hamilton to task for his treatment of Graves during a cross-examination.

Hamilton aggressively grilled Graves, of Ekos Research, earlier this week over his past donations to the federal Liberals and inconsistencies in prior court affidavits submitted as part of the case.

He was trying to call into question the credibility of Graves as a key witness in the legal bid to overturn Conservative victories in the six closely contested ridings.

Shrybman accused Hamilton of crossing the line and abusing the judicial process.

"I can't imagine a more egregious form of character assassination," Shrybman said.

"What there was, was taking almost an hour of this court's time to allow Mr. Hamilton a platform to assail Mr. Graves' integrity because — the assertion is — that he didn't remember the precise nature of a political contribution that he made six years ago."

Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley decided the Twitter incident does not preclude Graves from being a witness, although he cautioned it may colour how he views the pollster's evidence.

"I do not consider that this incident is a matter that would lead me to disqualify Mr. Graves as an expert witness," Mosley said.

"I will have to consider whether it affects the weight I will give to his evidence if I conclude that evidence is admissible."

The heated exchange was the highlight of the third day of the robocalls court challenge, which delved deeply into the legal minutiae surrounding the admissibility of an Ekos report as evidence in the proceedings.

The Ekos report is central to the court case, in which eight people are trying to overturn results in six ridings over allegations that misleading or harassing phone calls kept some people from voting and may have affected the outcome.

The group's legal bills are being paid by the left-leaning Council of Canadians.

The hearing resumes Thursday.

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