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Novelist Charged in Attempted Murder

December 2, 1999

TORONTO (AP) _ A trial making headlines throughout Canada has all the elements of an action novel _ a reformed convict gone bad again robs a bank and shoots it out with police.

But this time, the man convicted of attempted murder is the novelist.

Stephen Reid, one-time member of the FBI’s most wanted list, was back in court 12 years after being paroled, leaving Canadians wondering why the critically acclaimed author would return to criminal ways.

Reid, 49, was found guilty Wednesday of trying to kill a police corporal during a shootout after Reid and an accomplice robbed a Victoria, British Columbia, bank on June 9.

He was acquitted of three other attempted murder charges, but convicted by Justice Alan Filmer of discharging a firearm with intent to prevent arrest and dangerous use of a firearm. Reid also had pleaded guilty to two other charges from the robbery, and faces a possible life sentence.

Reid was a member of the Stopwatch Gang, a Canadian trio that two decades ago stole millions in scores of robberies across the United States. Sent to prison, he wrote a novel called ``Jackrabbit Parole″ about a gang of escaped convicts that sets off on a crime spree.

The book became a best seller after its release in 1986 and helped Reid start a new life. Poet and author Susan Musgrave, who helped edit the book, married him in prison in 1987, shortly before he was paroled.

After Reid’s release from prison, the couple moved to Vancouver Island, where they had a daughter and Reid enjoyed a kind of celebrity status as a board member of PEN Canada. He even portrayed a security guard in the film ``Four Days,″ about a bank robbery.

But as Reid testified Wednesday, drug addiction dating back to his teens returned to take over his life. He had blown his money on heroin and cocaine, he said, and pulled off the bank heist in a desperate play for cash.

Musgrave told the Toronto Star newspaper this week she feared he was going to overdose on heroin and cocaine the night before the botched robbery in June.

``He was incoherent,″ she said of a phone conversation with Reid. ``I said, `I don’t think you should come home, Stephen. I just can’t take anymore.‴

Reid didn’t come home, and the next day, he and an accomplice robbed a Victoria bank of $60,000. The escape plan fizzled and Reid ended up in a five-hour standoff with police before his capture in an apartment where he was hiding.

The attempted murder charges involve the shootout, in which Reid and police officers exchanged gunfire in the streets. Reid contends he never intended to shoot anyone, but police and witnesses who testified at his trial Tuesday said otherwise.

Reid ``took a shot at me with the shotgun; I believe it was pointed toward my head,″ police Const. Eric Ooms testified.

Reid pleaded guilty to robbery and unlawful confinement of an elderly couple whose apartment he barged into during the botched getaway.

Defense lawyer Dennis Murray said Reid was likely to get a stiff sentence, probably a prison term ``in double digits,″ when Filmer announces the penalty later this month. Musgrave also said she expected Reid to do ``serious time.″

``It’s not a normal family life ... but we have to make the best of this time,″ she said. ``We have to keep on writing, keep on living.″

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