A clue in The Black Rod may be Bob Wilson's last hope
Bob Wilson's last hope of exoneration lies with a memory stirred up by The Black Rod.
The former MLA has been fighting for 30 years to clear his name after being convicted on a drug-smuggling conspiracy rap that sent him to prison for 7 years.
Last January we told Wilson's story on the heels of the arrest of Ian (Whitey) Macdonald, Wilson's former friend and the kingpin of the pot smuggling ring that brought Wilson to the attention of the RCMP.
Before he could be extradicted to Manitoba, Macdonald managed to break out of jail in Florida, leaving Wilson to take the fall. Thirty years later he was tracked down, arrested and returned to Winnipeg on the original drug charges.
We said then that elements of the Manitoba Justice department weren't happy to see him surface because it put them in an uncomfortable position regarding Wilson's claim that he was innocent and wrongly convicted.
We never expected that our story would wind up playing a crucial role in Wilson's generation-long battle for vindication.
The 77-year-old Wilson had just been released from hospital in Vancouver following a bad fall when he learned Macdonald had betrayed him again. In January, Whitey, told a television interviewer that Wilson was not part of any drug smuggling; six months later, after arranging a plea bargain whereby he pleaded out in exchange for a sentence of house arrest, Whitey implicated Wilson.
According to an "agreed statement of facts", Wilson, Macdonald and William Wright, Whitey's local drug contact, met at Wilson's home where they discussed a deal to fly 500 pounds of marijuana into Manitoba.
Wilson was devastated. He had counted on Macdonald as the ace that would prove his innocence. And time is running out. Wilson is 77. Macdonald is 72 and stricken with prostate cancer among other ailments. Other potential witnesses are equally old and likely to die soon.
Bob Wilson expected Macdonald's testimony would be the slam dunk evidence he needed to convince Ottawa officials to grant him a new trial. But if Manitoba Justice expected Wilson to give up they just don't understand his tenacity.
Which is where The Black Rod comes in.
In our January story we explained how the Crown tried to paint Wilson as the Mr. Big Moneybags behind Macdonald's drug ring, the man who financed the deals and lived large on the illicit profits. It was an image radically different from the man people knew. We wrote:
"Wilson was the quintessential Winnipegger---save-a-dime and stretch-a-dollar. At the time he was being wiretapped for allegedly financing drug deals, he was selling warehouse clearance blue jeans out of his office in the Legislature and worrying he didn't have the sizes to fit the secretaries who were buying from him."
It was a fortuitous comment, as we soon learned. Someone brought The Black Rod to Wilson's attention, and he was ecstatic---he had forgotten the blue jeans, but now that his memory was refreshed HE HAD FOUND HIS ALIBI.
At the exact time that Macdonald and his drug contact Wright were meeting downstairs, Wilson was on the second floor of his house on the phone, talking to a friend ABOUT THE BLUE JEANS.
Wilson's phonecalls were being tapped and his house was under surveillance by police parked in a car. The police record says Wilson was talking to an UF---unknown female. But Wilson knows exactly who he was speaking with. She was never called as a witness.
And it now begs the question if the RCMP knew her identity, questioned her and failed to disclose her evidence to the defence. Even if they didn't, they certainly know who she is now because Wilson will tell them.
But Wilson hasn't got the resources to follow up on his lead. He can't force the RCMP to give him tapes of the call. He has no lawyer to pressure the police and he has no money to hire a lawyer.
Exoneration might be within reach, but in this case his reach exceeds his grasp.