Lawyers, it turns out, are good for something.
Russell Porisky had defended himself throughout a tax evasion case that ended with him being sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail earlier this year. But he will soon be free on bail after a newly hired defence lawyer discovered "points of real substance" that a Court of Appeal panel of justices found could alter his upcoming appeal to his conviction.
Porisky was convicted in January of failing to pay $274,000 of taxes on income he and his common-law wife earned while operating Paradigm Education Group, a company that taught students that they could evade taxes by calling themselves "natural persons." He was also found guilty of counselling others to not pay tax.
While Porisky had persuaded hundreds of students to avoid paying more than $11 million in taxes, he found an unsympathetic audience in Supreme Court Justice Elliott Myers.
Myers said Porisky's self-defence was "a failed attempt at word magic and has no validity."
Porisky continued to represent himself at his sentencing hearing, at which he was handed a four-and-a-half-year sentence by Myers.
He appealed both his conviction and sentence. But he continued to represent and in July was denied bail while his appeal worked its way through the courts.
Having lost three times, Porisky finally hired lawyer Martin Peters. In September, Peters persuaded a Court of Appeal justice to review the decision to not grant Porisky bail. On Tuesday, a panel of five justices found that new arguments presented by Peters gave them legitimate grounds to release Porisky pending the outcome of his appeal.
Justice Ian Donald wrote that Porisky's original grounds for appeal were "prolix, unfocussed and tainted by the nonsense of the 'natural person' theory."
But Porisky's new lawyer, Donald wrote, had "identified several points of real substance which, if incorporated into an amended notice of appeal, could alter the nature of the case considerably."
Most significantly, as a non-violent offender, Porisky is likely to be eligible for parole before his appeal concludes.
The justices thus decided to allow Porisky's release on bail, although Donald, in delivering the decision, also had some advice for Porisky:
"Porisky has the right to represent himself on this appeal. Nevertheless, he may well ask himself whether he can competently argue the points discovered by counsel and which led to his success on this review."
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