Paul Pisasale stone-faced for first day in the dock

PAUL Pisasale, once the animated mayor of Ipswich, sat straight-faced in the dock at Court 35 of the Brisbane District Court.

He showed no expression throughout day one of his criminal trial on extortion charges yesterday.

Paul Pisasale extortion trial begins in Brisbane District Court

His appearance in the dock follows a more than two-year absence from public life since the politician spectacularly resigned in his hospital gown.

Paul Pisasale appeared in court after almost two years out of public life. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Paul Pisasale appeared in court after almost two years out of public life. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled

Detectives from the Crime and Corruption Commission pounced soon after the shock resignation, charging the former mayor with extortion.

Pisasale has lived a quiet existence ever since, retreating behind the walls of his family home in the Ipswich suburb of Brassall.

His reclusive lifestyle is a world apart from the reputation he once enjoyed, as one of Australia's most high profile city mayors.

At his most popular, Pisasale was re-elected with more than 80 per cent of the vote, solidifying a 26-year innings at council.

But yesterday, the 67-year-old sat quietly in the dock, straight faced, as the District Court jury listened to intercepted telephone conversations he had with a Sydney taxi driver, from whom he allegedly tried to extort money to help a Chinese-born woman he had just met.

That woman, Yutian Li, who is also known as Angela, joined him in the dock yesterday. Dressed in a knee-length coat and hair pulled back in a ponytail, she sat at the far end of the dock - three seats down - beside her interpreter.

To Pisasale's right sat co-accused Ipswich solicitor Cameron McKenzie.

The three, who have each been accused of extortion, did not speak with each other or even make eye contact throughout the day's evidence.