OTTAWA — The preamble for the political trial of the 2015 federal election year began in the wee, cold hours before dawn this morning outside an Ottawa courthouse.

Dozens of reporters, producers, camera crews, sound engineers and photographers gathered on a busy downtown street awaiting the arrival of the star of the show: former TV host and now accused fraudster Mike Duffy.

Duffy arrived shortly before 10 a.m., surrounded by a moving throng of reporters and television cameras and saying nothing. His lawyer Donald Bayne would only say they would deliver their message in court.

The senator’s trial on 31 charges related to his Senate expense accounts gets underway later this morning under an intense media spotlight.

Startled citizens arriving for their own court dates had to run a gauntlet of cameras and pass a raised platform in front of the courthouse doors where TV reporters were doing live stand ups for a trial that had yet to begin.

Two courtrooms have been set aside for the scheduled six-week trial, including an overflow room where the proceedings will be shown on a video monitor.

However, the immediate public appetite for the show was not in evidence from the lineup outside the courthouse before the doors opened at 8 a.m.

David Cook of Ottawa was one of a handful of civilians mixed among the lineup of reporters, and he likened the trial’s opening day to the Grey Cup or the Stanley Cup for politics watchers.

Robert Gaal said he got the court bug during a jury stint last year and said he hopes the Duffy trial leads to a general clean-up of federal politics.

The Canadian Press