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Duluk court decision expected in July

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Liberal exile Sam Duluk must wait till next month to find out whether a magistrate has been convinced he is guilty of basic assault stemming from an incident at a boozy parliament house Christmas function in 2019.

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The trial of the Waite MP, who stood aside from the Liberal party-room pending the outcome of the charge, wrapped up yesterday with his lawyer, Marie Shaw QC, insisting there was “reasonable doubt” about his guilt because of conflicting evidence by two key witnesses.

One of those was his accuser, SA best MLC Connie Bonaros, who claimed he had “whacked” her on the bottom towards the end of the party, after a series of interactions she said were inappropriate and unwelcome.

But Greens staffer Emily Bird, also for the prosecution, gave a different interpretation, suggesting the contact was less forceful, and occurred earlier in the evening.

The court also yesterday released a photograph that had become central to much of the evidence, after Bonaros told the court she had posed for photographs with Duluk and Labor MLC Justin Hanson earlier in the evening.

The photograph of Labor MLC Justin Hanson, SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros and then-Liberal MP Sam Duluk was released by the court on Wednesday.She said Duluk had picked her up for the photograph after she joked that she was “clearly very short in this line-up”.

Shaw revealed Bonaros had weeks later discussed the photographs via text message with a staffer, whom the court heard was told: “I don’t want them to see the light if (sic) day.”

Bonaros replied that she did not recall the text messages, “but if I did say that, I did it for very obvious reasons”.

“I was under a huge amount of stress, and I didn’t want the entire thing to see the light of day,” she said.

The court was yesterday told that both prosecution and defence agreed that Bonaros did not tell a police interviewer about the existence of the photograph during an initial interview on February 3 last year.

“Ms Bonaros did not tell [the interviewing officer] during that. meeting about the photo or the circumstances in which the photo was taken,” prosecutor Anika Francis said.

She said that during a follow-up interview the next day “Ms Bonaros first told [the officer] that a photograph was taken with herself, Mr Duluk and Mr Hanson on the night of 13 December 2019”.

Francis said that Bonaros had “handed over her mobile phone to police” at the start of the initial interview “and that was not available to her during the statement-taking”.

She told the court the interviewing officer “has no recollection of being shown the photograph thereafter”.

Francis that another police officer who was overseeing the investigation “was unaware of the photograph until he rediscovered it after 11 May 2021, in response to a defence request for disclosure”.

That officer, she said, “had not been advised by Ms Bonaros [about the photograph] and was unaware that the phone records showed that [a staffer] had sent the photo to Ms Bonaros”.

She said the staffer had not been approached by police to provide a statement.

Magistrate Jonathan Wells will hand down his decision on July 15.

If found guilty, it is not expected Duluk will be forced to forfeit his seat, but an acquittal would ignite Liberal tensions over his return to the party-room.

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