Lawyers, Guns and Money

Legislative candidate’s strange past involves killing his mother and losing his Texas law license

Bobby Wilson’s checkered past has drawn national attention, though he decries it as fake news.
Bobby Wilson’s checkered past has drawn national attention, though he decries it as fake news.
Wilson recounts the ordeal ending in the deaths of his mother and sister (now that he remembers it) in Bobby’s Trials.

A few weeks ago, if you asked Arizona State Senate candidate Bobby Wilson about the night he had to kill his own mother because she was trying to kill him, he would tell you the whole story in detail with a calm and deliberate demeanor.

"I woke up in the middle of the night as she was shaking me," he recalls. "She had a rifle in my face and she was screaming at me. She was telling me to get out of bed and I could see this look in her eyes, as I had seen before when she would be threatening to kill somebody. I saw it several times."

Wilson wrote a memoir about the experience in 2010 and claims he's got nothing to hide. But in recent weeks, as the story of how he shot and killed his mother while he was still a teenager has spread following a viral moment at a gun-violence forum, Wilson is turning to long-time practice of threatening to sue for libel.

Wilson's past recently made national headlines when he showed up to a Moms Demand Action forum on gun violence prevention and told the crowd—some of whom were victims of the Tucson's mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011—that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun present at the scene. He used his personal experience of defending himself against his mother as an example, as well as evidence that no amount of new legislation will stop gun violence.

According to his own account in his book Bobby's Trials, Wilson spent his childhood with his mentally ill mother and younger sister. They moved frequently at his mother's discretion until settling in rural Oklahoma during his teenage years.

"She had told my sister and I that she had no relatives, we had no father, no aunts or uncles, no grandparents, nothing," he said. "We were completely alone."

Wilson said in the book that he was 18 years old when he woke up that night to his mother pointing a rifle in his face. As she screamed at him, Wilson turned off the lights and she fired six shots in the dark room. Wilson was able to dodge all of them and hide under his bed as the bullets ricocheted off the walls.

Becoming frustrated, his mother began to swing the rifle around, hoping to strike her son. Instead, as Wilson's younger sister entered the room, she broke the rifle over her daughter's head, killing her.

At this point, Wilson grabbed a pistol he had kept under his bed and shot his mother in the head, killing her in self-defense. He got up to turn on the light, not knowing that minutes earlier a stray bullet struck a can of gasoline that was stored in a corner of the room. With gas escaping into the house, the light switch set off a spark and the entire house exploded in flames, sending Wilson's body flying into the yard.

He survived, amazingly, and had no recollection of what happened after authorities were called by neighbors who spotted the house fire. With two dead and the only witness unable to remember what happened, Wilson was placed in jail for the murder of his mother and sister.

He was tried twice in court but never received a conviction because he claimed his amnesia prevented him from giving a proper testimony. Years later, the case was dismissed completely after Wilson regained his memory of that night.

The crowd at the Moms Demand Action forum did not respond well to his comments. Arizona Daily Star political reporter Joe Ferguson's account of the forum led to national attention from outlets such as VICE, CNN, Fox News, Time magazine and others.

On Sunday, Wilson told Tucson Weekly that he will no longer be speaking with reporters, because he has obtained legal counsel and plans to sue several media outlets for libel. He didn't specify which publications will be sued.

Through Facebook, Wilson has complained about all the "fake news" that has impacted his image, after reporters dug a little further into his life and discovered some shady acts in his career as a lawyer in Texas. He was particularly irked by an article from Dan Shearer with the Green Valley News, who reported: "In 1987, [Wilson] was convicted on a forgery charge involving a client and sentenced to three years of probation. There was a professional misconduct charge in 1989, then his law license was suspended in 1990. He continued to receive fees as part of a deal with other lawyers—a violation of the suspension—and was held in contempt. He eventually resigned from the Texas state bar in 1994, and moved to Arizona, where he has not practiced law."

Wilson told the Weekly the letter of resignation on record is a forgery and that there was a conspiracy between his former law associates to "run him out of the law business." He sent a letter in 2012 to the State Bar of Texas threatening to sue them for libel, because their records say that he "resigned in lieu of disciplinary action." However, he never followed through with a lawsuit.

After moving to Arizona, Wilson began teaching in the Maricopa Community College District. He helped create an online paralegal program for Rio Salado College, where he still teaches remotely from his home in Green Valley. Wilson is a self-described "retired lawyer" and said that he left the law profession because he prefers to be an instructor.

Wilson also plans to sue Shelley Kais, his political opponent in the LD-2 race for Senate.

"I put Shelley on notice that after the election, I'm going to file a slander case against her," he said, referring to comments she made in June about his suspended law license. "She has been saying bad things about me all over the district."

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