VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A man the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation called "a career criminal" sued the CBC for defamation, claiming it falsely identified him as a snitch in an investigation of thefts of native art from Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology. Martin Weigelt claims the CBC falsely reported that he had been paid $20,000 for information that led to the recovery of 12 pieces of gold jewelry art by the late Haida artist Bill Reid.
Weigelt also sued the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Police Department, in B.C. Supreme Court.
Weigelt was in jail when the story was published, and identifying him as a snitch put his life in danger, the complaint states. The case remains unsolved.
"In or around October 2008, the plaintiff was placed in custody in a provincial jail for charges unrelated to the Bill Reid theft," the complaint states. "The plaintiff was released from jail in November 2010."
The complaint cites a CBC story published "on or around Jan. 30, 2009."
Weigelt adds: "Plaintiff was harassed, physically assaulted and subject to death threats by other inmates while he has been incarcerated. ... The harassment, violence and death threats caused the plaintiff to fear for his life and to seek out and remain in protective custody for the duration of his jail sentence. The plaintiff has also feared for his life since his release from jail."
Weigelt seeks damages for libel and slander, and an injunction. He is represented by Monique Pongracic-Speier of the Ethos Law Group.
In a Jan. 30, 2009 article under the headline "Career criminal paid $20,000 for helping recover stolen artwork," the CBC reported that Weigelt, then 42, "has a long criminal history dating back to 1988, according to court documents. He has at least 55 convictions, which include breaking and entering, theft, weapons possession and drug trafficking."
The complaint cites that article, and quotes from it at length. The complaint does not object to the phrase "career criminal;" it objects to the part about being a snitch.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.