Western's famous fugitive
Western's famous fugitive
If administration is still taking nominations for honorary degrees, they may want to consider Don Tait, surely Western's most famous fugitive from the law.
Tait's story is cinematic in scope and has a plot akin to a soap opera. Since his graduation from Western's law school in 1969, to his recent flight from the law, Tait's tale is filled with sex, drugs, money and prodigious amounts of alcohol.
Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick in 1943, Tait attended our hallowed institution and graduated second in his class. Two years later he was called to the bar and his infamous law career soon took off. Throughout the '70s Tait became a notorious lawyer, taking on five murder trials in his first two years on the job.
In 1978 his career began to slide due to an addiction to alcohol. In 1980, police raided Tait's home and found a .38 calibre revolver inside. Tait was charged and entered an alcohol recovery centre.
Tait's extraordinary career later resumed, with many high-profile trials and nimerous successful defences. These included, a man charged in a $100 million heroin trafficking ring, a father charged with the beating of his infant son and in 1995, hockey star Ed Jovanovski, who was charged with sexual assault. Each of these clients initially appeared guilty, but with Tait as their lawyer, all were cleared of charges or sentenced to lesser penalties. At the height of his success, Tait commanded a yearly salary of $800,000.
By 1997, however, Tait's career began to crumble. He began drinking heavily again and in June 1999, he was charged with assaulting, choking and uttering threats towards his fiancée. Tait re-entered rehab, but soon discharged himself and began to miss courtroom dates, despite a full roster of clients.
By January of this year, Tait had disappeared. Warrants were issued for his arrest after he breached bail conditions and Revenue Canada announced he owed $700,000 in back taxes.
Before suddenly vanishing, Tait sold his $1.4 million estate, his dozens of Armani suits, his valuable art collection and his cars, a Jaguar and a Mercedes. With the small fortune garnered from his "garage sale" Tait crossed the border into Detroit and booked a flight for Costa Rica. He now lives there in exile, out of the reach of law, in an $18/night hotel. The small fortune he has left will keep him comfortable for years to come.
I'm quite confident no Western alumnus can boast such a story. Sure he was a womanizer, an alcoholic and made his fortune defending accused murderers but the man lived the life, many of us could only dream of. He made mountains of cash, blew almost all of it on alcohol and women and then with what cash he had left, screwed over the government and took off for a tropical climate.
So Western administration, while you're busy handing out honorary degrees to talking heads like Pamela Wallin and other uninteresting "celebrities" don't pass over the name Don Tait. If nothing else, he could sure teach those Ivey kids a thing or two.