New book details disgraced Windsor lawyer's path to redemption
'It's about the Don Tait before Africa, and Don Tait in Africa'
There was a time in Windsor when, if you were accused of a crime, you called Don Tait.
He was a fierce and eloquent attorney, one whose courtroom tenacity was legendary.
"His performance, it was such theatrics that sometimes when we'd be covering one case and we knew Tait was in another courtroom, we'd go over just to watch. And you'd have six or seven other lawyers in there watching his performance," said Veronique Mandal, who once covered Tait as a reporter for the Windsor Star, and who just published a book about Tait called, Getting Off: A Criminal Lawyer's Road to Redemption.
Fall from grace
As legendary as his legal prowess was, so too was his fall from grace. In 2000, Tait was accused of assault, after night of drinking and cocaine turned into a brawl between him and his then girlfriend. Tait pushed her into a sink, breaking her nose. Soon after, Tait fled the country.
"By this time, he was in such a dreadful state because of the alcoholism and drug abuse that he wasn't thinking coherently," said Mandal. "All he could think about was getting out of town."
Using her contacts as a journalist, Mandal was able to get a message to Tait who was living in Costa Rica. She got a phone call one morning at work. The voice on the other end said, "Hey, kid. It's Tait."
What followed was a trust between Mandal and Tait that allowed for the writing of this book.
Tait came back to Canada in 2001 and was jailed for three months for his crimes. He now lives in South Africa and works as a rehab councillor at an addictions treatment centre.
"For me, this is a book about two people," said Mandal. "It's about the Don Tait before Africa, and Don Tait in Africa."
Love him or hate him
Tait was a polarizing figure. "I find that people are not on the fence about Don Tait. They either love him or hate him," said Mandal.
He will be 75 in January and has been diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer.
"He's on borrowed time, for sure," said Mandal. She added that she wanted to publish this book before he died.
"While his story is salacious at the beginning, the story of his redemption and dealing with his addictions I think is one that's really compelling to human beings."