Explosive: The Mikolajewski Report exposes the shoddy work done on this case and how Jack Ewatski helped block a proper re-investigation to protect a retired inspector and the secrets a warranted search of his premises would reveal.
Thomas Sophonow has dropped his lawsuit against the province and will receive a $2.3-million compensation cheque within the next few days.
"We have received notice that (Sophonow) has accepted the settlement," said Justice Minister Gord Mackintosh. "The money should flow from his lawyer's account early next week."
In 2001, a judicial inquiry awarded Thomas Sophonow $2.6 million compensation for the four years he spent in jail, wrongly convicted of the brutal 1981 murder of doughnut shop waitress Barbara Stoppel, 16.
Following the Sophonow inquiry report, retired Supreme Court judge Peter Cory issued a letter that suggested the province pay 40% of the award, the City of Winnipeg 50% and the federal government 10%.
But the City of Winnipeg refused to pay its share. The details were ironed out last August when the province agreed to cut a cheque for the outstanding amount and be reimbursed by the city later.
A spokesperson for the Justice Department said the city is still negotiating with its insurance company and has not yet reimbursed the province for its share.
Sophonow accepted the federal government's $260,000 portion of the award, but refused to cash the province's $2.3-million cheque because it was issued on the condition that Sophonow drop his lawsuit against the province and because he wanted to know why compensation had taken so long.
Yesterday, Sophonow said he agreed to drop the suit and accept the compensation deal in an effort to move forward with his life and put the nightmare of his time in jail behind him.
"It is time to leave that part of the battle behind," he said from the home he shares with his wife and three children in New Westminster, B.C.
But Sophonow said he will continue to act as an advocate and spokesperson for people wrongly accused of crimes.
He said he plans to offer his services by testifying on behalf of other victims of wrongful conviction.
"I want to help people who find themselves in a similar situation," he said. "I have accepted the settlement, but I'm not leaving this behind completely. I will keep (the justice system's) feet to the fire in other ways."
Yesterday, Mackintosh said he's pleased Sophonow has agreed to accept the compensation package.
"As much as money can bring some sense of justice to this travesty, I hope it can bring some healing and moving on for (Sophonow)," he said. "This closes a difficult case in Manitoba's legal and social history."
Sophonow's lawyer, Norman Boudreau said his client is delighted that the deal is done.
"(Sophonow) would like to thank the people of Manitoba for supporting him through this ordeal," he said.
Since the inquiry, Thomas Sophonow has lived in B.C. with his family. He has not returned to his job as a machinist. Recently, Sophonow and his wife bought an 1891 heritage house in New Westminster. He said he'll use the compensation to restore the home.
The family will move into the home when the restoration is complete.
See also Monique Turenne where Winnipeg police have again made serious mistakes.
One year ago, everyone interested in seeing justice done for wrongfully charged, prosecuted and indicted people was watching the Cory commission unfold. The recommendations arising from this commission are thoughtful and necessary. Judge Kaufman is now presiding over an inquiry into Steven Truscott (right). Greg Parsons (right) was bullied into a paltry settlement and Joyce Milgaard has once again called for the inquiry into David's case. Perhaps this year will see some consistency -- and some attention paid to the recommendations of these inquiries. Now Winnipeg says it won't pay! Shame on Mayor Glen Murray! On April 1, suspect Terry Arnold was released from prison but no charges were laid against him.
Thomas Sophonow will not decide whether to drop his lawsuit against the province until he sees this week's offer to pay him the rest of the compensation owed to him in writing.
On Tuesday, the province and the city reached an agreement to give Sophonow the $2.26 million they owed by having the province pay up front and recoup the city's $1.3 million portion later.
Premier Gary Doer said the cheque should be sent by the end of the week but added the lawyers were still working on the final details.
Sophonow, through his Winnipeg lawyer, Norman Boudreau (right), (www.boudreaulaw.ca) said he was making no statements until the province sends him the offer in writing. Sophonow launched a lawsuit against the province in June to get the rest of his compensation.
Justice Peter Cory recommended Sophonow be paid $2.6 million for pain and suffering after he was arrested and wrongly convicted in the 1981 murder of Winnipeg teenager Barbara Stoppel. Sophonow was exonerated in 2000.
Boudreau only learned of the province's intention to pay the total through the media on Tuesday. He has not yet spoken to the government's lawyers or to the Justice Minister, but has said he will urge Sophonow to accept the deal.
Thomas Sophonow will be compensated in full before the end of the week, more than nine months after an inquiry into his wrongful conviction determined he was owed $2.6 million for pain and suffering.
An agreement between the city and province, announced by Mayor Glen Murray and Premier Gary Doer yesterday, ends a months-long dispute over who owed Sophonow what.
"We have agreed that the Province of Manitoba will pay the outstanding amount of money to Mr. Sophonow pursuant to the Cory report," Doer said yesterday. "We will recover $1.3 million from the City of Winnipeg, and in the future we will develop a protocol agreement to allow us to deal with wrongful-conviction cases that is more systemic and appropriate."
Last month, Sophonow launched a lawsuit against the province to recoup the $2.26 million still owed to him. The federal government sent $260,000 to him in April to cover its 10 per cent share. When the province sent him about $953,000 in June to cover its 40 per cent share, Sophonow returned the cheque, claiming the province owed him all the rest.
Had he accepted the cheque, Sophonow would have been forced to give up his right to sue the province. The cheque that will be sent later this week will include a similar release.
Sophonow's lawyer, Norman Boudreau, was not able to find Sophonow yesterday. The province released the agreement to Boudreau only when it was announced to the news media, and it was unexpected.
But Boudreau said he will recommend that Sophonow sign the release.
"I think this is a fair settlement," the lawyer said.
Boudreau said the one sore point may be that the lawsuit makes a claim for additional general, aggravated and punitive damages due to the delay in paying the compensation.
If Sophonow accepts the agreement, it will bring some closure to a 20-year ordeal that began when he was arrested for the slaying of Winnipeg teenager Barbara Stoppel (right) in 1982. Sophonow spent four years in jail for murder and went through three trials after guilty verdicts were overturned on appeal. He was exonerated in June 2000.
The one-man inquiry into the case by retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory reported last fall. It recommended that Thomas Sophonow be compensated with $2.6 million -- 10% from the federal government, 40% from the province and 50% from the city.
The city balked at paying, believing it to be a provincial matter, and that the distribution of responsibility was done too arbitrarily. It is the first time a municipality has been held financially accountable for a wrongful conviction.
Mayor Glen Murray said Cory's recommendations were not a court order and could not be used to make an insurance claim. But the province will take legal action against the city, which will give the insurance company reason to pay.
"That may seem like splitting hairs, but insurance companies do not pay unless there is a court order or legal action demanding payment," Murray said.
City taxpayers will be on the hook for the $250,000 deductible on the insurance policy. Provincial taxpayers are on the hook for the entire $1.1 million the province owes Sophonow, because the province chose not to go after the insurance companies, worried the process was taking too long.
Thomas Sophonow has sent back a $900,000 cheque he received from the Manitoba Justice Department to cover the province's portion of his $2.6-million wrongful conviction award.
"We take the position that the province is liable for 100 per cent of the compensation," said his Winnipeg lawyer Norman Boudreau.
Boudreau said Sophonow refused to sign a release that accompanied the cheque from the province because it came with conditions.
One of the conditions stipulated that Sophonow had to accept that the province was responsible for 40 per cent of the $2.6-million award.
"Clearly, for the government to do this is like dangling a carrot in front of him,'' said Boudreau. "He decided to say thanks, but no thanks."
After a lengthy judicial inquiry, retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Peter Cory ruled last September that Sophonow deserved $2.6 million in compensation for the nearly four years he spent behind bars wrongly convicted of the 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel, 16.
After he released his Sophonow inquiry report, Cory recommended the federal government should be held responsible for 10 per cent of the compensation, the province of Manitoba should pay 40 per cent and the City of Winnipeg should bear 50 per cent of the financial burden.
The federal government has already paid Sophonow $260,000 dollars. The city has balked at forking over its recommended share.
Sophonow formally filed a statement of claim against the provincial government on June 17. The province has until July 8 to file its statement of defence.
WINNIPEG - The Mayor of Winnipeg says the city will not pay its half share of the $2.6-million in compensation awarded to Thomas Sophonow by a judicial inquiry last year.
Glen Murray said last weekend he believes Mr. Sophonow deserves to be compensated for the nearly four years he spent wrongly imprisoned for the 1981 murder of Barbara Stoppel, 16. But he doesn't think the city should write a cheque.
"The province should pay the $2.6-million now and then negotiate with the federal government for reimbursement," Mr. Murray said.
"That's the tested formula in cases like this. I can't find any precedent where a town or municipality has had to pay."
Mr. Sophonow, who is originally from British Columbia, criticized Mr. Murray for his comments.
"You have said more than any public official would ever dare to say. The irreversible damage has already been done," Mr. Sophonow said, aiming his remarks directly at Mr. Murray.
"Take your negotiations and a mirror into your board room and try to resolve the issues that you have in your mind and make sure you come out feeling good."
Earlier this month Mr. Sophonow and his lawyer travelled to Winnipeg to meet senior Justice Department officials in an effort to speed up the process.
But last week, Mr. Sophonow said the process is "destroying" his life and family and he's decided to let the compensation drama play out without him.
Mr. Sophonow said he will not pursue an extension of the deadline to launch civil lawsuits against any of the three levels of government.
"It's caused so much grief already," Mr. Sophonow said. "If I get the money, I get it. If I don't, I don't. My family and our peace of mind is worth far more than anything."
In the inquiry's final report, retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory singled out the Winnipeg police service as having been chiefly responsible for putting Mr. Sophonow behind bars.
Judge Cory recommended the province should pay $1.1-million, the federal government should be responsible for $260,000 and the City of Winnipeg should fork over "at least" 50% of the tab, or $1.3-million.
Legal observers say they believe that by highlighting the city's role, Judge Cory opened the door for a new precedent on compensation awards.
"It was utterly appropriate that [Judge Cory] would recommend the city should pay part of the compensation," said Louis Sokolov, a Toronto lawyer who acted for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted at Thomas Sophonow's inquiry.
"It's outrageous that they'd now balk at their responsibility to make it right."
The provincial government announced it would pay its share as soon as negotiations with its insurer are complete.
Ottawa has also agreed to pay its portion.
James Lockyer, lead counsel for the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, said compensation awards that stem from judicial inquiries are not enforceable by law. Mr. Sophonow's only option may be a civil lawsuit against the city, he said.