It's shaping up as the biggest news story in Manitoba in 2012. And the timing couldn't be more perfect.
On the eve of the resumption of the Manitoba Legislature, former MLA Robert Wilson has come face-to-face with the exoneration he's chased for more than 30 years, from the day he was arrested in 1979, to the day he was convicted in 1980, to the day he was expelled from the Legislature in 1981, stripped of his pay and pension.
And his honour. Above all, his honour.
For literally a generation, Bob Wilson, now 78 years old, has professed his innocence of the charges of conspiracy to import and traffic marijuana that destroyed his life.
He became the monomaniacal Captain Ahab of Manitoba jurisprudence, hunting his personal white whale--- Ian Jackson "Whitey" Macdonald, a former friend and drug dealer whose surprise visit one evening enmeshed Wilson in an endless nightmare of accusations, prison, shame and regret.
Wilson was arrested, went to trial, was convicted, appealed, lost, and wound up in prison serving a seven year stretch.
Macdonald was arrested, escaped under mysterious circumstances,and lived a long and fulfilled life with his wife at his side for three decades until U.S. Marshalls caught up with him two years ago.
Two years ago Wilson was over the moon, positive that his old pal Whitey would clear his name. Macdonald told reporters Wilson was innocent, but to get out from under the old charges he was still facing, he signed an agreed statement of facts for the court saying Wilson was guilty as charged.
He got 14 months in an old folks home in Winnipeg in a version of house arrest. Bob Wilson was crushed.
But, like Wile E. Coyote, Wilson pried himself out from under the boulder of despair, rearranged his bent-back limbs and started all over again. But lately his barrage of emails had become an incoherent melange of phrases and odd word pairings as if his brain couldn't focus enough to even form a whole sentence. He was losing hope.
And, then--- just like that--- everything changed again.
Macdonald's daughter turned up in Winnipeg to plead for his father's early release to live his final days with her mother in her new home in Pennsylvania. Macdonald, 73, has terminal cancer. He's betting Obamacare can do better for him than Canadian Medicare.
In support of her request, the daughter filed a letter with the court. It was the letter Bob Wilson has been waiting 30 years to see.
It reads, in part: “Mr. MacDonald is a documented informant for the U.S. Customs Service and has provided reliable information in the area of large scale narcotics smuggling.”
"His movements in and outside the United States are necessary in the accomplishment of gathering information on narcotics and alien smuggling activities."
Wewers confirmed to CBC the next day that the letter was authentic.
The implications of the letter still haven't been grasped by the Winnipeg news media.
Wilson has been saying for literally decades that Whitey Macdonald was a government drug agent of some kind. Here's an excerpt of one of the many emails sent to The Black Rod in which he states this fact.
MAY 18 1979 WPG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT ..... JAMES LOWELL AND "MR JACKSON" IAN JACKSON MACDONALD.....'POT' IN BOAT'S CAPTAIN'S LUGGAGE. PERSONAL USE ONLY. JACK "WHITEY" MACDONALD FORCED TO SHOW HIS 'ID' us agent. LOCAL POLICE/RCMP MIIU JOINT DRUG TEAM WHY NO ARREST..."MR JACKSON" HAD HIS AGENT PROOF IN PERSON THE RCMP CHECKED IT OUT WITH CEO "D" div COMM .VINCE CAIN...SOON THREE LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT KNEW "MR JACKSON' EXEMPT FROM ARREST. THE RCMP CONSTABLES KNEW LITTLE OF EASTERN LISTS OF AGENTS. UNDER THE CHARTER OF RIGHTS AN AGENT WAS EXEMPT AND HAD TO BE RELEASED.
Note that this was barely two months after the Wewer letter was written. Wilson wasn't arrested for another four months.
THE RCMP KNEW FOUR MONTHS BEFORE BOB WILSON WAS ARRESTED THAT THE TARGET OF THEIR TWO-YEAR-LONG POT SMUGGLING INVESTIGATION HAD A U.S. GET-OUT-OF-JAIL-FREE CARD IN HIS WALLET.
The investigation, which had cost $2 million, had just been blown out of the water. They needed to justify the time and money. They needed a big fish, even if they had to create one.
Did the prosecution know? If the RCMP kept the information from them at the time of the trial, that's one thing.
But they have no excuse for NOT KNOWING at the time of Wilson's appeals.
He was telling everyone and anyone he could that Whitey was a protected drug informant. The onus was on the Crown to confirm or denounce this allegation.
We can see now that the story was true. The Crown knew or should have known in 1979 or 1980 at the latest that Macdonald was not your ordinary drug smuggler. And what about that escape? There were questions even at the time that the story of how he just wandered away from his police escort seemed a bit fishy. More fishy even now.
As we said, the implications are huge. The RCMP deliberately withheld vital information from Wilson's defence. Suddenly those charges of RCMP perjury in the case take on a new urgency.
The Crown failed its onus to investigate Wilson's allegations about Macdonald.
The only conclusion left is that Bob Wilson was made the fall guy for a drug smuggling operation that was led by an American drug informant who couldn't be prosecuted.
Where are all the self-style humanitarians who could be found accusing police and prosecutors of malfeasance at the NDP mock-inquiries into alleged wrongful convictions. When convicted murderers were being freed on made-up evidence and paid millions, they were first to pat themselves on the back for their "investigative journalism".
Now that there's clear evidence that Manitoba prosecutors and RCMP might have deliberately hidden evidence to convict an innocent man, these "professional journalists" are MIA.
The Manitoba Legislature should be abuzz this week, not for the Throne Speech, but for the possibility that a former MLA may soon be in line for 30 years of back pay, pension accrual, and his lost honour.
The Crown attorneys who sent Wilson to prison and their police witnesses are not getting younger.
If the NDP government is serious about wrongful convictions, it shouldn't be waiting on a federal process that's already meandered for two years. It should immediately start questioning its own former employees to get at the truth of, who framed Bob Wilson?