Arshad Desai, one of Steve Hinder’s key witnesses, today told the Superior Court in Eagle Street he was charged in June 2014 for driving without insurance and was fined $500. He is not entirely sure of the figure. In any event, Desai tells the Court: 

In happier times: Former Aurora Deputy Mayor John Abel, Arshad Desai and former Aurora Mayor Geoff Dawe.

“I was convicted.”

He took out a loan of $15,000 to clear his various debts and a separate loan to finance his (unsuccessful) campaign for election to Aurora Council in 2014. Despite this he brazenly campaigns on a platform of fiscal rectitude. Pullano’s lawyer asks him:

“Did you think you were the model of fiscal responsibility?”

With breathtaking chutzpah, he replies:

“I did.”

He says he cannot recall when he got married. We learn he is now divorced and his fiancée of four years bales him out financially. He has a minimum wage job at York University where he is also a student.

Pullano’s lawyer tells him he fell behind with his child support payments of $460 per month. Desai disagrees. He took out a loan to cover the cost.

Desai comes across as someone with absolutely zero credibility yet, curiously, Hinder calls him as a witness. 

Desai tells us he has known Hinder since 2014 and he regards him as a mentor and friend.

Standing too close for comfort

On the night of the alleged assault, Desai arrives at the Mansion Banqueting Hall around 6.40pm. He checks in his coat and walks over to the (then) Deputy Mayor, John Abel. He says he was standing close to Abel and Pullano. Hinder walks up to Pullano and shakes his hand. Then he shakes John Abel’s hand and then Desai’s. 

Desai tells us they are all huddled together – improbably “less than one foot away” from each other. (As close as people stand when they are being photographed together.)

Desai says the handshake “was at waist level”. 

Earlier witnesses, Fred Rankel and Wanda Cena, both saw Hinder’s arm at shoulder height. They both saw Pullano step backwards. Desai says:

“Mr Hinder did not strike Pullano in the chest. I watched the entire interaction (which) lasted seconds.”

“Mr Pullano did not say anything. He looked embarrassed.”

I don't recall

Desai was approached by Hinder’s lawyers around June 2015 to give a statement on what happened on the evening of 20 March 2014 at Jane Twinney’s acclamation as the PC candidate for Newmarket-Aurora. He is asked if he spoke to Hinder after that approach. He tells the Court:

“I don’t recall.”

“It was three years ago.”

So many key witnesses are so forgetful. Yet they have perfect recall when it suits.

Earlier, Hinder is asked by Pullano’s lawyer why he chose to shake Pullano’s hand.

“He was a candidate.” (in the October 2014 municipal election)

“It might have added to the comfort of shaking Pullano’s hand to have other people around.” 

Hinder is asked about what happened after the alleged punch when, later, Pullano goes up to him and says:

“Listen you fuck I am calling Magna. Tomorrow I am calling.”

Hinder tells the Court:

“I don’t recall that.”

My mind is a blank

It is a funny thing memory. Sometimes it’s there when you need it. But often there’s just a blank.

When he is not giving evidence Hinder, in the row in front of me, is crouched over for long periods gazing intently at his mobile phone, switched to silent mode.

The Court Usher repeatedly tells us to switch off our mobile phones when the Court is in session. 

I am programmed to obey.

For others rules are made to be ignored.

Former Aurora Deputy Mayor John Abel is on the stand tomorrow.

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Read this: Photos, diagrams, documents and other exhibits are regularly shown to the jury on a big 70" TV screen which is not visible to the press and members of the public sitting in the public gallery. This puts us at a huge disadvantage when trying to follow the proceedings. Just so you know.

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