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Fraud trial of ex-Quebec lieutenant- governor suspended

QUEBEC - The fraud trial of former Quebec lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault has been put off for a month after she suffered an epileptic seizure.

Lawyer Marc Labelle said Friday his client had the fit overnight and would be unable to attend court proceedings.

Quebec court Judge Carol St-Cyr put off the case until Sept. 2, when the next dates in the trial will be determined.

Thibault is on trial after being charged with fraud and breach of trust in connection with the inflated expenses.

The trial has heard the money was allegedly spent on gifts, trips, parties, meals and skiing and golf lessons.

The charges were laid after a joint report filed by former provincial auditor general Renaud Lachance and his federal counterpart at the time, Sheila Fraser. The document suggested more than $700,000 in alleged improper expenses had been claimed.

Thibault held the provincial vice-regal post between 1997 and 2007.

Labelle told the judge that an aide to Thibault said she had a seizure.

The lawyer reported Thibault was confused in the morning and then her condition worsened. A doctor advised her to take it easy and she was given medications.

Labelle told the court Thibault was asleep at home as court reconvened.

"My duty is to ask you to continue this case at another time," Labelle said.

St-Cyr ruled this week against a pair of motions filed by Labelle, who argued the case should be dismissed because Thibault benefited from royal immunity. He contended that meant she was not a civil servant and therefore could not face criminal charges.

The judge wrote that, according to constitutional law, the lieutenant-governor does not enjoy the same benefits as the Queen.

St-Cyr also noted that under the Constitution, the lieutenant-governor is a civil servant, adding such an affirmation is even posted on the lieutenant-governor's website.

Thibault took the stand after the rulings. Before she did, she vowed to defend herself "so the truth can be known."

“I am 75 years old and . . . I don’t want to leave behind the image of a woman who, after having given everything, tainted an institution as important as that of the lieutenant-governor,” she told reporters this week at the Quebec City courthouse.

Thibault testified that her days were busy and sometimes she awoke at 2 a.m. to fulfil her duties as the Queen's representative in Quebec.

"For me, everything was an official function," she said repeatedly throughout her testimony, adding her responsibilities went above the official agenda filed as a court exhibit.

Thibault testified she has little to show financially for her time as vice-regal — a divorce ate into her savings and she now lives on a $30,000 pension.

She was under an intense cross-examination by the Crown and it was scheduled to continue on Friday.

Labelle told reporters fatigue was a factor in Thibault's health condition and not the difficult questioning she was subjected to during the Crown's questioning late Thursday.

Labelle said he was insulted by anyone who suggests his client was trying to buy some time in the face of tough questioning.

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