The Superior Court in Newmarket has ordered Aurora businessman and PC activist Anthony Pullano to pay a whopping $174,400 in costs to Magna’s Steve Hinder on top of the $50,000 awarded by the jury last December in general damages for defamation.

Brock Weir quotes the trial judge in his recent piece in the Auroran. Hinder and Pullano

I sat through the trial and I found the judge to be, at times, impatient and irascible. He was often exasperated – and let it show. 

Pullano his own worst enemy

And not without some cause. Anthony Pullano was his own worst enemy. He couldn’t answer a straight question. He was meandering and long-winded and very often off-point. But he had a story to tell and the jury delivered its verdict on the facts after being instructed on the law by Mr Justice McCarthy.

I am not a lawyer or a pretend lawyer. I am Joe Public. But the judge’s reasoning raises a few red flags for me. (Photo: Hinder of the left, Pullano on the right)

The judge said:

“The plaintiff was entirely unsuccessful at trial. The finding by the jury that he had been punched by Hinder, in all circumstances, cannot be viewed as constituting any measurable level of success. The jury dismissed the notion that Pullano sustained any physical, emotional or psychological injury. The jury rejected the suggestion that the punch had caused the infection of his [cardiac] implantation site. There was no basis for an award of general damages. I have found that an award of nominal charges is unwarranted.”

But Mr Justice McCarthy chose not to instruct the jury on the law of battery despite being asked to do so by Pullano’s sterling lawyer, William Reid. In fact, the judge sought and received the consent of counsel from both sides to abandon the charge of assault and substitute battery. In law, these have different meanings. The jury was left in the dark about the elements of the tort of battery. At the time I thought this was a big deal. I was asking myself how I would approach the issue had I been on the jury. The judge also misdirected the jury on the law on damages. 

The judge goes on:

“The jury found no conduct on the part of Hinder deserving of aggravated or punitive damages. Conversely, the jury found multiple instances of defamation of Hinder by Pullano; implicit in its verdict is that it accepted Hinder’s evidence that he had suffered emotional upset and embarrassment as a result of Pullano’s defamatory comments being disseminated via social media to the broader community.”

The damning evidence of Fred Rankel

I heard things at the trial that the jury did not. If there was legal argument about the admissibility of evidence the jury was asked to leave but members of the public were allowed to stay and hear the exchanges.

The judge excluded important evidence from Fred Rankel, a successful Auroran businessman of many years standing who knew Hinder and Pullano but was beholden to neither. He told the Court under oath how Hinder described the former Mayor of Aurora, Phyllis Morris, in an uncouth and deeply offensive manner.

The judge stopped Reid’s line of questioning in its tracks and asked Fred Rankel and the jury to leave the Court while this was dealt with. 

Reid said Hinder’s counter-claim for defamation meant his (Hinder’s) previous statements about people should be put before the jury to give them a rounded picture of the type of man that Steve Hinder is. 

Reid told the Judge that on 10 June 2014 Hinder said to the former Mayor of Aurora, Tim Jones, in the presence of Mr Rankel:

“If these WOPs get elected we will have to roll up our tents and leave town.”

Pullano’s lawyer told the judge these and other similar statements by Hinder were crucial to the defence and to rebutting the counter-claim on defamation. The judge disagreed and ruled such statements would be severely prejudicial to Hinder and he would not allow them to be put before the jury.

We are told Anthony Pullano has until 15 May to decide on an appeal. I do not envy William Reid who must advise his client on whether or not to go down that perilous road.

Pullano has already been taken to the cleaners financially and the thought of him forking out even more money for what may be a lost cause makes me shudder. 

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You can read Mr Justice McCarthy’s decision on costs here.

Update on 10 May 2019: Anthony Pullano has confirmed his lawyer has filed a Notice of Appeal