Escape charges against Manitoban dropped in Florida court
A judge has dropped escape charges against a Manitoba man who fled the custody of the U.S. government in Florida three decades ago.
Ian Jackson MacDonald was arrested in Florida on drug-related charges issued by a Canadian court more than 30 years ago. In June of 1980, before the case went to trial, he escaped custody by faking a heart attack and fleeing from a Florida hospital, U.S. marshals say.
MacDonald was arrested last year. Until March 1 of this year, he was facing prosecution by the U.S. government for the escape. However, court documents show Florida judge Barry Garber dismissed the escape charges last week following a submission from the prosecuting attorney, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Thakur.
MacDonald remains in custody, pending proceedings to extradite him to Canada, the documents show.
Senior Inspector with the U.S. Marshal's Office Barry Golden previously told CTV News that the U.S. government had a solid case on the escape charges.
If MacDonald is eventually extradited and brought back to Canada for a trial, it won't be his first time back to the country since he escaped custody in 1980. Golden says MacDonald admitted that he entered Canada three times while he was on the lam using a Pennsylvania drivers licence issued under his assumed name, Jack Hunter. MacDonald was working with the Hienz Hitch, a horse show sponsored by the Heinz Corporation, at the time.
Officials with the Canada Border Services Agency said they can't confirm or deny whether anyone has previously entered into Canada for privacy reasons, even if they that person is a wanted fugitive.
The original charges against Jackson relate to a scheme to import 500 pounds of marijuana, hidden in boats, from Florida to Winnipeg.
During the massive investigation, police tapped phones at the legislature. Manitoba MLA Bob Wilson was eventually impeached and served seven years in prison for his role in the operation.
MacDonald was a yacht dealer and Wilson's friend. MacDonald is believed to be the mastermind behind the drug smuggling case.
MacDonald is a former Winnipegger, also known as Whitey for his once light-blonde hair. He is now white-haired and 71-years old.