Salim Mehajer In Tears As He Fronts Court
Salim Mehajer was a just a child playing a "big boy's game" when he was caught while trying to "gain the love of the community", the former deputy mayor has told a court.
The 32-year-old wasn't trying to get himself elected but he did want love and support when he committed electoral fraud in the lead-up to a suburban Sydney council election, he said.
Mehajer faced a sentence hearing after he was previously found guilty of being in a "joint criminal enterprise" with sister Fatima to influence the 2012 Auburn City Council vote.
Salim was the only sibling elected, and he later became deputy mayor.
In her April verdict, magistrate Beverley Schurr was satisfied Mehajer submitted to the Australian Electoral Commission forms that falsely gave addresses in the Auburn area.
She said the two Mehajer siblings exchanged incriminating text messages shortly before the close of the electoral roll.
Mahajer on Thursday said he was shattered and upset, and he apologised to his sister, his family and the community.
"It was just about gaining the love of the community," Mehajer said in Central Local Court.
He said he'd accepted responsibility for his "reckless" actions after having time to reflect during his stints in custody over other matters.
However, he later said of the offences that there were "some I didn't do".
Mehajer, who stood in the election with a group, also said he didn't know he was doing the wrong thing at the time and he didn't intend to rig the election.
"Being part of this, it was a big boy's game, it wasn't for children and that's what we were," he said.
The court heard Mehajer had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Mehajer said he “accepted” the diagnosis.
“[It affects] the decisions I make … I’m my own worst enemy,” he said.
“Part of my bipolar is to have, have, have.
“I suffered significant depression [when in custody] and [thought] ‘maybe I do need help’.”
His barrister, Carolyn Davenport SC, said a psychiatrist couldn't say if the condition existed during her client's offending but statistically it was possible.
She said a custodial sentence would be more onerous for Mehajer due to his mental illness and his notoriety.
But commonwealth prosecutor Jeremy Rapke QC said Mehajer had betrayed the community he said he had so much regard for, and an immediate custodial sentence was appropriate.
Mehajer wasn't being frank about his role and his intent, and the magistrate could be sceptical about his apologies, the prosecutor said.
Mr Rapke said there wasn't evidence to support the proposition prison would be more onerous for Mehajer, and he questioned the link between his bipolar disorder and his offending.
The Mehajer siblings are both scheduled to be sentenced on June 23. Fatima, 28, previously pleaded guilty to 77 charges of giving false or misleading information.