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Criminal Investigations…

For 17-yrs, from 1973-thru-’89, I worked as a criminal/civil investigator for Detroit area law firms. I’ve had occasion to work all sides…a couple of times even undercover for the federal courts against the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office. Not terribly smart…

Debby Brentz -- One that got away (mea culpa)...

Debby Brentz — One that got away (mea culpa)…

Investigation work is not something that I consciously set out to do. I had served in the 101st Airborne, been active in Southern civil rights, and served a year on a rock-quarry, chain-gang, one of the most brutal in the Old South (1964-65). But, what doesn’t kill you makes you

(Disclosure: I also served 20-yrs in the federal prison system, 1990-2010+. But that’s another story…)

Moving to Detroit, I was active in the antiwar and veterans movements, started Wayne State University in ’68, and worked as a journalist (notably out of Beirut) into 1973. I was 31-yrs-old. That was the first third of my life.
In ’73, Detroit transitioned from white-power rule to a majoritarian, neo-liberal democracy. During that political transition I became the campaign coordinator in a judgeship primary. After the campaign (close, but no cigar), I accepted a position as an investigator to Attorney Shedon Halpern’s law firm.
Given my military, political, journalistic, criminal justice experience, and Shel’s tutelage along w/my lack of any preconceived professional prejudices, I quickly excelled.

(Wealthy clients in Detroit, at least in the area of criminal justice, are relatively rare. Most of my casework involved indigent clients to which I was appointed by the courts. My fees usually had a $600 cap @ $20/hr. The buying power of $20 in ’73 is $110 today; albeit over time, the masses have not been given commensurate raises.)

Starting w/discovery, the prosecutor is required by law to give to the defense prior to trial all police and evidentiary reports. That gave me a solid starting point in my investigations. I also had the defendants, if I could convince them to tell me the unvarnished truth; lying to me is a waste of valuable time and resources (I’m covered by atty-client confidentiality).

I soon learned that the police and prosecutor, given their caseloads and temperament, usually go only so far with their own investigations and trial preparations. Once they have a suspect and some evidence and/or testimony, they more or less end their investigations. That’s where I begin…

Co-investigators knocking back a few...

Co-investigators knocking back a few…

Over 17-yrs of investigative experience, primarily in homicides, rapes and drug cases, the vast majority of my cases either resulted in mitigated charges and sentencing, or outright acquittals. Actually, not really all that remarkable an achievement given the state of police/prosecutorial work.

The sad fact is that the American Criminal Justice system is basically founded on plea bargains and snitches. Detective work, per se, might account for 10%, but I doubt that it’s even that much. Of course, watching cop dramas on TV gives one the opposite impression…

(When I was in prison, some 97% of my fellow prisoners had copped  a plea … only 3% had actually gone to trial. And of course, having the temerity to do so–as did I–results in the full weight of retribution and draconian punishment.There is no greater sin than one’s failure to pay noblesse oblige before the Altar of Justice.

(One corrections wag once told me, “What difference does it make? Y’all are guilty of something!” I laughed and told him, “Then who’s gonna guard us? You just condemned 99% of the Earth’s population!”)

An example of one case in which I was appointed by the court, was in a robbery-homicide that started in a near east-side bar and ended in the victim’s apartment some distance away. My client was a 35-yr-old, mentally retarded black defendant, about 6’2”, 250 lbs.
The police investigation had dragged on for over 2-yrs and pretty much reached a dead-end until the prosecutor’s office offered immunity to the bartender and the girlfriend/prostitute of the victim. It was not a pretty case. The defendant was found trussed and drowned in his bathtub some 2-wks after the crime.

I had the full cooperation of the defendant (being certified retarded) and was thus able to quickly piece together the crime. The motive was robbery … several thousand dollars.
The barkeep and girl, after they retired to the victim’s apartment, convinced my client to help them contain the victim, tie him up and put him in the bathtub. He was given a couple of hundred dollars and left. How the drowning occurred was unknown to him.

Their sworn statement said that my client and the victim had left the bar together the night of the mid-winter murder (precise date established by several factors) and he had later bragged to them of robbing the guy.
The girl further claimed that she had not left the bar until after 2:30am closing and walked the few blocks to her own apartment. She said that she and the victim had “broken up” earlier and she had no subsequent contact w/him. By minimal investigation, I established that she had the victim’s car after the homicide and later sold it on the black market.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy a stroke of professional serendipity, being a pilot I stopped in at the National Weather Service office at Metro Airport and purchased an official copy of the weather report for that date (10¢).

It turned out that one of the largest snowfalls of many a year had fallen in the hours between 11pm and 4am on that night … some 19 inches of snow.

Attorney Halpern thus had an easy time in front of the jury in establishing the lies of the witnesses. She said on the stand, “Yes, it was a cold night but clear. I needed to clear my head so I walked.”

“Your Honor, I’d like to introduce Defense Exhibit number…”

After the jury came back Not Guilty, I was able to speak later to several of them. They explained that the evidence made clear to them that the witnesses were lying about simple things. That the prosecutor’s strategy was to put it all on the retarded guy. They were so incensed, they explained, that there was no way they were going to convict him alone.

Sometimes a dime can go a long way

Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), December 2014…

Category: Crime  One Comment
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Politics or Crime?

The morning of 9/11/2001, as America was learning about the terror attacks in NYC and Washington, DC, I was approached by three prison lieutenants and locked down in the Segregated Housing Unit (SHU, the “hole”) at FCI Jesup, GA. It wasn’t yet noon.

9/11, 2001

9/11, 2001

    I would be held there incommunicado for the next 50 days. I later learned I was one of 130+ political prisoners in the United State’s federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) locked down by a secret Justice Department directive that day. I was in good company…
    Upon my eventual release back to general population in November, I learned of the attacks and that a grab-bag of security-state powers had been enacted as the oxymoronic Patriot Act.
    The business partners of Bush & Cheney— the Saudis and bin Ladens—had been allowed to escape FBI interrogation and returned to their nation (even as all general and commercial aviation in the US had been shut down).
    The most astonishing fact was that wars against Afghanistan and Iraq (and beyond) were in preparation. The attack was obviously an international criminal act, not perpetrated by any nation (unless one considered certain Saudis, who financed Al Qaeda and provided 15 of the 19 terrorists; none of whom were Palestinian, Afghani, Iraqi, Syrian or Libyan . . . the apparent fall guys for neo-con wars for profit). As a former journalist combat-stringer in the Middle East, I knew that blaming Afghanistan or Iraq was pure folly.

(My own research indicated that a criminal vs. a war paradigm was rejected early as not serving the political and commercial interests of the Military Industrial Complex.)
    Millions have subsequently been murdered and displaced. The blow-back continues. The use of the military to combat terrorist groups that have sanctuary w/in national borders is understandable, but only w/in the context of international criminal-justice . . . not a war that can’t help but target innocent populations.
And that’s where we remain today…

“Political” propaganda is the default cloak of state and high crime. “Crime” itself is defined and legislated by those who rule and regulate it. The Koch Brothers are poster boys for political-criminal corporatism. One measure of a civilization is how well the masses can assert political power over themselves.
When I was 13, I robbed my newspaper-route manager. I was given probation. While the juvey detectives were writing me up, one said, “You gotta be pretty stupid to do this knowing that you couldn’t get away with it!

Without thinking, I replied, “YOU gotta be pretty stupid if you think that I did this knowing I’d be caught!” (Actually, I wasn’t “caught,” I was snitched out.) The cop behind me kicked out the chair and slapped the piss outta me. One of my life lessons: Cops (state actors) can say and do whatever they want, you can’t. (As a PsyD, forensic psych, I employ these autobio-memories to evaluate a subject’s basic value beliefs.)
At 16, I was given a choice of going into the Army or facing charges for a number of business burglaries. (Ironically, again, I was never actually caught. Someone else was and–having entirely too much info about me–traded me for walk.) Elvis was in, why not me I figured. When I got to my first recruitment gathering point I’d guess that of the 200+ “inductees”there, easily a third were “volunteers” in the same category as myself. Still the same today.

   In the Army at 17, I found real crime and terror (1959-61; 101st Airborne, GA and TN). I was introduced to the KKK, their police allies (most often one and the same) and a post-bellum population that largely excused and enabled them. I managed to survive…barely. While having a rudimentary class-consciousness,  I now acquired experience with direct police/racist terror collusion.

How much have the times REALLY changed?

How much have the times REALLY changed?

After the Army I remained in the Old South _primarily Nashville), taught roller-dancing and sold encyclopedias door-to-door. I was also active in civil rights throughout GA, FL, AL, MS and TN. My reward was a year+ on one of the South’s most brutal chain-gangs and Finally Got the News.
In September of ’65, they took me outta the hole–after patching me up (minus a few teeth) and operations to repair a hand and remove a soup spoon handle from my gut—took me down to the Trailways bus station, put me on the first bus going north, removed my chains, and warned me, “Don’t let your goddamn yankee, ‘nigger-lovin’ ass, step foot south of the Mason-Dixon again, boy, Or you’ll get what your kind got in Mississippi next time!”
I left them with a gift. I blew the whistle on their criminal-terror system in a series of articles in the Nashville Tennessean, helped get the rock-quarry gang closed down and place the workhouse under federal receivership. At least for awhile. What did I learn? I learned that while the South lost the military conflict, within a dozen years they won the political war. Time to get back to that ol’ business and finish it up.
Trailways took me to Detroit. I got a factory job that exposed me to old-time radicals from the 1930s and and ’40s, and soon acquired a comprehensive class-consciousness (Local #212, UAW). In the summer of ’66 I had a conversion experience and have since considered myself a revolutionary socialist.

(I recalled one time when I maybe 8-yrs-old being dragged down to South Central Park Avenue on the El by my Slovakian aunt, a governess for rich folks like the Trumps. It was snowing, I was being a little shit–wet and cold–on the way back home to our Bronx ghetto. Stopping to cross the street in front of high-end restaurant, I was staring at two of the fattest people I ever saw eating a feast of a meal. The man saw me looking in and tapped his fork on the window. My aunt’s lesson was a ringing slap to the side of my head that had my ears ringing for a while. My auto-bio lesson? Well, not exactly a “Miracle on 34th Street.”)

Turning to political activism, I was elected Chairman of the Detroit Committee to End the War in Vietnam (DCEWV), co-founder and chair of the Detroit Veterans Against the War (VAW) and an Executive Committee member of the Young Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Workers Party (YSA/SWP).
In ’68, I took the SAT and was accepted at Wayne State University (despite my 9th grade education, I had passed the GED in the Army). I attended school on the GI Bill. (Meanwhile, Herr Drumph had graduated w/a mock real-estate economic’s degree, feigned a bad foot thus escaping military service in ‘Nam, and went on to Rentier Glory.) In my freshman year, I became the Managing Editor of the daily student newspaper, The South End. I handled other assignments as well, including being Director of Black Star Productions, the film division of the Marxist League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit.

The skids were well-greased for several years as a journalist combat-stringer (embedded w/various military forces, regular and otherwise) in the Middle East, then 17-yrs in criminal/civil investigations out of Detroit, and eventually a doctorate (PsyD) in Forensic Psychology. I also learned some of the finer merits of capitalism … at least the truly free enterprise side of Carib-Colombian smuggler privateering (I was also a land/sea pilot).

Coming out of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, in addition to rock ‘n roll and free-love, were a variety of drugs … especially reefer and cocaine. Whenever the state prohibits a popular product or service they in fact create a profitable market for it. Kind of like the “war” on terrorism.

Make Love -- Not War!

Make Love — Not War!

The reality is that a significant portion of the US economy is based on under-the-table entrepreneurship … a cash economy. What? You thought all that $$ went into backyard PVC tubes? The real deal is that 99% of illicit cash is either recirculated into the economy and/or “trickles up” into the coffers and pockets of the wealthy elite (the reverse of Stockman/Reagan’s trickle-down dictum.) I wouldn’t hold my breath them voluntarily ending these prohibitions and the criminalization of “surplus” labor anytime soon.
For some of us (on main-street), rather than continuing to seek drugs from a stone-criminal market, we had developed our own sources. Why let our money keep flowing to external criminal orgs? We could finance our own ops.
The market and purchases continued to escalate reaching higher into wholesale suppliers. Mid-level business developed and the standard market-pyramid was created. I was soon marketing lots of 100 lbs of and up of reefer. I recall one delivery of a ton, 2,000 lbs. People major in Harvard for this shit. I think they call economics and business management.
Almost all of the funds went into progressive causes. (Right-wing orgs and gov’t agencies do the same–to wit: Ollie North et al. The difference is we’re not sanctioned–usually–by the State.)

In 1974, pursuing a defense witness in a drug case I was investigating, I traveled to Colombia, South America. Long story short, I was on the cusp of a marketing revolution in cocaine…a product that had become ubiquitous in the student/grad/professional community (including lawyers, teachers, doctors, cops, judges, politicians, etc.) and would make a transition to a primary product in the criminalization of poor and black communities.
A kilo of coke (2.2 lbs.) in ’74 in Colombia went for $1500-to-$5000. It flipped in Detroit (wholesale) for $50,000! ($275,000 in today’s $$) I was also a pilot by then, so the transition was logical. Returning vets from ‘Nam were quite ubiquitous in their entrepreneurial skills … yachts, ships, subs … you name it. (One of my yacht captains that the product was dropped to at sea was also a former SEAL and capping-sub commander for a major oil company.)

Captain XX, Santa Marta, Colombia...

Captain XX, Santa Marta, Colombia…

But things changed big-time in 1983 when the CIA and its ultra-right contractors got into the drug and arms trade. Reagan had a war to finance (Congress denied him funding after Vietnam.) Col. North and Admiral Poindexter actually testified to Congress in the Iran-Contra Hearings that they didn’t inform Reagan because, they “knew what he wanted and what needed to be done,” and that it was their duty to give the President “plausible deniability.” In addition to arms, the DEA, CIA and other ops opened up new coke markets in the US (starting in LA) by creating crack. The whole episode is documented in a new film coming out on the subject, “Kill the Messenger.”
Unlike powder coke, usually sold by gram weight, snorted and costing about $100, rocks of crack (free-base coke) was smoked, having a greater and immediate rush-high and affordable rocks at $5, $10 and $20 sizes.
As a marketing strategy, it was brilliant. It was also deadly. It was remarkably cheap, instantaneous, and psych-addictively devastating (especially to populations that simply don’t have higher social safety nets). And it had the dual benefit of financing both the war and providing unending fodder to the prison-industrial complex. (The mirth in gov’t and corporate club rooms must have been quite hilarious.)
Practically every progressive/left org in the US had at least one op who handled “underground fund-raising.” We formed a secret, security-conscious formation (like Mission Impossible, it required that such volunteers swear to individual responsibility . . . like Ollie).  Discussions concerning the social devastation being created upon a susceptible mass of the population led to the Movement’s internal decision to suspend all political sales related to cocaine.

♪"Bringin' in a couple of keys..."♫

♪”Bringin’ in a couple of keys…”♫

By 1988, I became personally aware of a mail-cover, wiretaps and surveillance by the FBI (they got their spies; we had plenty of our own . . . still do). Being out of the drug trade for some 6-yrs at the time, I ignored them and continued my investigation work for Detroit area law firms.
Well, as the ancient Chinese Curse goes, “May you live in interesting times…” A series of incidents, occurred that put me back on the burner. I shot a former client in self-defense who later turned out to have been a confidential informant (CI) for the FBI. Opps… He was a part of their entrapment scheme.
While the state ruled it justifiable homicide, the FBI set me up for charges w/a crew they had just busted (a criminal group; no one I ever worked with). It was a pressure tactic to recruit me. I refused to “cooperate.” They gave several of those conspirators a free ride if they testified against me (putting me in their conspiracy). Three did.
I was tried, convicted and sentenced to 25-yrs. Long story. From 1990 thru 2010, I attended the American Gulag University (the federal Bureau of Prisons) “grad-school” for advanced criminal “justice.” (Hey! What can I say… It’s not like I can get too bent outta shape. Come the revolution, they’ll have no complaints when THEY TOO will pay for their PAST misdeeds.

The irony of course goes further; many of those ops were parallel w/gov’t ones. to my own ops. My primary source was DAS, the FBI of Colombia, and the DEA–also dealing–had a “Live and let live” attitude . . . at least down at that level. I’m sure they’d love to be the fly-on-the-wall in those prison discussions. So even I decided that I would “cooperate” to beat the case–97% of those convicted do–who would I testify against? The gov’t??)

I did my time honorably, serving in over a dozen US prisons, mostly clerking for staff, UNICOR (prison factories), eventually even being assigned to the Air Force at Maxwell AFB as an animal trainer, and the Navy as a Haz-Mat officer at Pensacola NAS. (Being sent to Naval Officers school as a civilian prisoner was a trip…the public has no freakin’ idea how embedded the corps and military actually are…)
When several US banks and Wall Street financial manipulators busted the economy in 2008, they had their bribed elected officials loot the public treasury in turn to “bail them out.” They were “too big to fail.” Ponzi taken to the nth power…  Back in ’33 FDR signed the Glass-Steagall Act to prevent bank theft; in ’99, Bill & Hill killed it. (Exceptions like Bernie Madoff were only busted because they targeted fellow corporatists, the hoi polloi.)
I’ve had lots of interesting cellmates (including Chelsea Clinton’s father-in-law, Congressman Ed Mezvinsky). Another cellmate was “Hans,” a Deutsche Bank exec. He taught me another aspect of high crime. He devised his own heist system—based upon the international scams he was daily observing/handling in NYC. Thru a not-so-complicated scheme, he grafted a scam-w/in-a-scam and suckered in Citibank, JP Morgan and Bank of America (not his own bank).
Attributed to P.T. Barnum is the quote, “You can’t cheat an honest man.” His point was that the foundation to most scams is a touch of larceny; the scam works because the sucker thinks they’re stealing from someone else.
The NY bank/financial syndicates thought they were routinely heisting pension funds. Hans took them for $200 million. Of course, these corps were “connected,” so they got their gov’t pols to arrest Hans.
Hans laughed as he related to me how he took an 11-yr rap. The banks never did recover the funds. Hans did his time and, last I heard he was on his 110′ yacht in the Carib. Let’s see … would you trade 11-yrs in Club Fed for $200 million? Sounds like a great retirement plan to me. While I was celling w/Hans, he even received a letter from Deutsche Bank assuring him that his job awaited his release. We got a few more laughs from that. I remain close friendships w/a number of my former cellmates. It’s an international club. Doctoral-level graduates of capitalism (just not from Harvard).
I’m sure you’ve heard of Watergate. A president was forced to resign (the first in history), a US Attys General and a number of others were convicted and sent to prison. (Could you imagine that happening today?) The reporters for the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein, got much of their info from an inside source they called “Deep Throat.” That turned out to be Mark Felt, Associate Director of the FBI. (Got a few more stories there…)

Felt’s advice to the reporters: Follow the Money. There it is: Capitalism-101. For corporatist-political-crime, that’s about as clear as one can get. Where are all those surviving players today? Working for big $$ finance firms, and being interviewed for their current “political and economic” opinions on Fox News, CNN, et al. So you tell me . . . does crime pay? (PS: I’m not talkin’ about the robber-schlep that walks outta the front door of a bank w/a few measley $$ in his pocket. I’m talkin’ about the $billions that go out the back door.)
When Bush & Cheney were (s)elected to the White House by the Gang-of-Five co-conspirators on the US Supreme Court (having heisted the election), one of the first things they did is gut Clinton’s anti-terror/Al Qaeda/bin Laden initiatives.

Just business...

Just business…

The Bushes & Cheney had considerable history and business w/the Saudis and the Bin Laden Group … thick as thieves. They consciously and deliberately ignored all evidence that these Salafist fanatics were also terrorists. To the Bushes & Cheney it was just business… Enter 9/11.
I presume they thought at first when the hit was so massive: Holy Shit ! WTF!! But they soon recovered … “Oh well, how we gonna profit from this and keep our asses outta the line of fire?!?” (Hey! When you own the gov’t and its police, intel, military, etc., what’s the problem?)
When 9/11 occurred, there was a missed opportunity that we and the world are paying for to this day… The corporateers couldn’t afford to regard terrorism as a “criminal” offense, per se. Who knows where that could lead? People might actually start “following the money.”
When we sanction individual/group criminal actions as war, and corporations as “too big to fail,” we empower them and their “ideology.”
A lesson many might take to heart: Capitalism is not “simply” an “ideology.” It’s a CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY.
…and maybe it just takes one to know one

Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), October 2014