Ontario settles lawsuit with convicted killer Richard Wills

TORONTO -- Ontario has settled a lawsuit with convicted murderer Richard Wills, who killed his lover and hid her remains then billed taxpayers $1.3 million for his defence.

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After spending seven years trying to recoup some of the money Wills' lawyers billed Legal Aid -- assistance the former Toronto police officer got despite his personal wealth -- the government has now called it a day.

An assessment hearing in 2013, a separate process from the lawsuit, reduced Wills' lawyers' bills by $219,892.25, said Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Attorney General.

"Ontario aggressively pursued Mr. Wills and his lawyers in order to recover money for the taxpayers," he said in an emailed statement.

"In light of the successful assessments, and given that Mr. Wills is in prison, the Crown has now settled the civil action."

Wills was convicted in 2007 of killing Linda Mariani, his longtime lover. His trial heard that he hit her in the head with a baseball bat and used a skipping rope to strangle her, stuffed her body in a garbage can and sealed it behind a wall in his basement for nearly four months.

Wills was once a millionaire, but following his 2002 arrest he systematically got rid of his assets in order to qualify for legal aid.

When the government launched its lawsuit against Wills in 2008, it accused the former cop of "unjust enrichment" through "fraudulent conveyance" of several properties to family members. He also signed over his police pension to his wife.

"Wills took steps to divest himself of all his assets in order to appear impecunious and thereby eligible for state-funded counsel," the suit alleged.

The saga didn't end with his self-imposed poverty.

Wills' behaviour at his preliminary hearing was so outrageous no lawyer was willing to take his case at regular legal aid rates, then about $93 an hour. The judge ordered the attorney general to fund the cost of his defence at an enhanced rate of $200 an hour.

The 2013 assessment decisions chalked more than $200,000 up to overbilling, but that still leaves the total tab at $1 million.

Crawley would not say how much money, if any, Wills will repay as a result of the settlement.

The lawsuit was handled by government lawyers so there were no additional legal costs to the province, Crawley said.

Wills' unusual behaviour continued through the trial, insulting the various lawyers who tried to represent him, as well as the judge, occasionally using racist and sexist obscenities. He also threatened to beat up the prosecutors.

On a number of occasions he reportedly urinated in the police car that shuttled him to court. Another time he loudly complained in court about his filthy clothes, and when he was ignored he either defecated or pulled excrement from his underwear.

He had to be moved to a different room with a video link to the proceedings due to the disruptions.


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