It’s Friday September 12th at Toronto’s Old City Hall courthouse. I’ve come to see Matthew Ward-Jackson aka Krucifix14 aka Big Iisho, who currently has three sets of charges pending against him, including having supplied Dellen Millard with the gun he allegedly used to kill his father Wayne. That’s the case I’m really interested in but it’s not the one on the dockets today. This session is about an earlier drug possession and intent-to-traffic case. (Ward-Jackson is pleading not guilty to all three sets of charges against him.)
Things were supposed to get underway at 10 a.m. but, because many judges operate in a parallel time universe, at 10:30 we were still all sitting around waiting for her honour to arrive. There was the accused, Matthew Ward-Jackson; the co-accused; the co-accused’s mother; the two defence lawyers, making (minimum) $300 an hour small talk; the wife and paralegal of one of the defence lawyers; the Crown; the court clerk; the court reporter; me; and the Toronto police constable guarding the prisoner and fixing her wonky chair.
When the door finally opened, we were all expecting the judge, but no, not yet. Instead it was a 50-something down-on-his-luck looking guy with long thinning brown hair, a leather Harley Davidson jacket, torn jeans, and some very well worn cowboy boots.
“Hey MJ,” he said to Ward-Jackson in the prisoner’s box.”How’re you doing? I put some money in the canteen for you. It’s only 20 bucks.”
“Thanks for coming,” Ward Jackson replied graciously. It was the second occasion I’ve seen him in person and he’s lost weight over the past two months. He’s also better dressed than he was last time, wearing what looks like a brand new Roots Maple Leafs jacket, a blue plaid shirt, dark wash jeans and navy sneaker-type shoes, all fresh and clean. He has enough hair growth on his shaven head that I can’t clearly make out the tattoos underneath, including the one I’d really like to see of the man with his eye blacked out.
MJ’s buddy sits down next to me while the police constable guarding the prisoner gives him the once over. “I know you,” she says. “You’re Butch. We went to high school together.”
Butch does a double take. “You’re the boxer,” he says. “You still box?”
Their conversation gets cut short as the judge finally makes her entrance. Apologetically, she tells us all she’d like to take care of the other case on her agenda, a brief sentencing, before hearing the further evidence in the Ward-Jackson case. She says it will take half an hour so we all clear out of the courtroom. By now, it’s almost 11.
I ask Butch if he has time to talk. And he tells me I can join him for his smoke break. On the courthouse steps, he explains that he was Ward-Jackson’s cellmate at the Toronto South Detention Center from the Canada Day long weekend until a few days ago when he was released. He was there for violating probation for an assault charge. He’d run into his lawyer in the courthouse halls earlier and she’d asked him what in hell he was doing here. Just showing support for a friend, he had explained much to her relief.
I told Butch I was interested in Ward-Jackson because of the gun trafficking charges related to the Millard case. “Whaaat?” he asked “Who?” I gave him a primer on Tim Bosma, Wayne Millard, Laura Babcock, etc. Butch only knew the vaguest of outlines. He said that prisoners don’t talk to each other about stuff like that.
He also emphasized that Matthew was a good guy, not dumb, and not guilty. That’s why he’d come to court to support him.
“At the very least he did some dumb things,” I suggested.
“Who hasn’t?” said Butch. “That’s why pencils have erasers.”
I kind of liked Butch. If you’ve got to have a cellmate, he seemed like just about the best you could have. Putting $20 in the canteen for MJ was a generous move.
We headed back inside and up to the courtroom where I spotted some familiar faces. There was a young blonde woman who looked like one of the Gotass Girls from Big Iisho’s various videos. And the guy with her was definitely Blanco Oro, a rapper and music producer.
“You’re Blanco Oro, right?” I said as I introduced myself. He looked simultaneously worried and disappointed. No doubt when he’d imagined people recognizing him from his videos, it was young fangirls not nosy reporters old enough to be his mother.
Like Butch, Blanco said he knew nothing Millard-related. He just wanted to see Matthew — who he described as an “up and coming artist” — get back to making music. I gave him my business card and a high five and sat down to wait for the judge. The sentencing was taking way longer than half an hour.
Butch was now talking to Blanco who had taken him aside to show him something on his phone. I assume it was my National Post article on Matthew Ward-Jackson and his ties to the Millard case because after that Butch stopped speaking to me. At noon when we eventually filed back in to the court room, no one wanted to sit beside me. Given that the kickboxing police woman was now chatting and joking with Ward-Jackson as she escorted him in and out, I felt it was unjust that I was the most feared and unpopular person in the room.
According to the dockets, we were there for a further evidence session, which began with the crown summing up the evidence against the accused. In a nutshell, some $50,000 worth of cocaine and $13,000 in in cash had been found in an apartment allegedly occupied by Ward-Jackson and his co-accused, who was his ex-GF. In my laywoman’s opinion, the crown made some good points but it was hardly an airtight case.
I was especially puzzled by the crown’s reference to marijuana supposedly found in the apartment between the mattresses.The crown said veteran drug squad officers recognized it as marijuana and not, for example, oregano, which would have been in the kitchen not the bedroom.
WTF?! I thought. This all seems very vague. Why didn’t they just test it? You don’t need to be CSI to tell oregano from marijuana. As it turned out, this was a subject the defence would later address although not the oregano angle.
Ward-Jackson’s lawyer for these charges is Deepak Paradkar, who is also Dellen Millard’s lawyer, defending him against all three charges of first degree murder. Along with wanting to talk to people who knew Ward-Jackson, Paradkar was the other reason I’d come to court. I wanted to see him in action.
As the crown wrapped up and we were about to break for lunch, he asked the judge if he could have two minutes. One of the points he raised was the marijuana issue. “If these officers are so veteran, why didn’t they seize it and inventory it?” he asked. “I have serious concerns.”
After lunch, both Paradkar and the co-accused’s lawyer made their case for a directed verdict. Paradkar is an impressive and forceful speaker, with a sarcastic streak when it comes to the cops. He was out to show the crown needed more proof his client had lived in the apartment where the cocaine was found. “Where is the lease, cable records, Bell records?” he asked. “Police college 101.”
“My friend,” he said, referring to the Crown, “emphasized that these were veteran officers, but that can be to their detriment.” Paradkar went on to cite a kidnapping case where 25-year veterans hadn’t followed the basic rules of evidence collection or performed what should be standard due diligence.
Amused, at one point, by his turn of phrase, I LOLled, which caused Butch to turn around and give me the stink eye. I wanted to explain I wasn’t laughing at his friend’s lawyer, I was laughing with him. But it was too late. I’d lost Butch.
As court wrapped up, Ward-Jackson thanked the judge for everything including her order that he receive a meal. Is he flirting with her? I wondered. Earlier, he’d called out cheekily to his co-accused as she walked by the prisoner’s box, plus there was all that chitchat with the kickboxing constable. Ward-Jackson appeared to think — not necessarily incorrectly — that he had a way with the ladies. Or maybe he was just genuinely grateful to be getting a non-prison meal. Butch had told me earlier that the food at Toronto South sucked and, as the old joke goes, there wasn’t enough of it.
The judge’s ruling is scheduled to be delivered on October 29 at 10 a.m. Ontario standard judge time. I promise to let you know what happens.
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