Did Geraldo Rivera Make Me a Criminal?
By Jack Heart
By the middle of the eighties Reaganomics had already thoroughly infected the country and with it came crack cocaine for the nation’s urban poor and working class. With my upscale landscape business I made more money than most catering to the whims of the few who prospered from Reagan’s Voodoo economics but my friends for the most part with the exception of John were the “poor and infamous,” as Phil liked to call himself.
Earlier in that decade that saw the American dream die at the hands of the globalist elites my foreman for my landscaping business had been a Black guy named Steve Husbands. We were up at a place in Amityville that was called The Block. At the time it was probably the worst area in the country. The Five Percent Nation of Islam was just taking hold and they had laid claim to the pool hall on the northern corner as their clubhouse. Crack had not yet been invented but these were the same fledgling “gangstas” that would go on to become the Supreme team of Rap folklore. If you take the express from Jamaica to Amityville it’s about a twenty minute ride on the Long Island Rail Road. There were more people from Jamaica than from Amityville hanging around the dilapidated store fronts that comprised the Block and there were always hundreds of people milling around at all hours of the day and night.
At the time Steve was making over a thousand dollars cash a week working for me and in Black culture back then that entitled him to the finest girl. Her name was Candy. And believe me she was. One of the Five Percenters was upset that Steve had taken his Candy and wanted some pay back. Now Steve’s brother Michael was a renowned martial artist whom Chuck Norris refused to fight and Steve himself was a nationally ranked hundred and sixty pound wrestler so it wasn’t much of a fight. Steve proceeded to beat him like the proverbial red headed step child and I sat in the cab of my 1700 International laughing but it soon turned deadly serious. The rest of the Five Percenters came swarming out of the pool hall and engaged the outnumbered Rasta’s who had been cheering Steve on since he was Jamaican.
Predictably in the wild melee that ensued I lost it. The next thing I remember was Steve driving my truck as I was making a perfect shot with my 300 Savage rifle, skipping a six inch chunk of black top right into the back of a fleeing Five Percenter. The whole corner of the pool hall was collapsed. It turned out that I had sent the big flatbed wheel hopping in its lowest reverse gear right through the front window. Then I went home and got the rifle and had Steve drive while I took pot shots at their feet as they scurried for cover. I remembered none of it. Needless to say I had serious anger management issues…
The police force was not yet a paramilitary unit and since my truck had my name and telephone number prominently displayed on both sides I attributed their lack of retribution as a display of their gratitude to me for doing their dirty work for them. That pool hall would remain boarded up till the Block was finally torn down decades later, a reinforced monument to the Mr. Hyde who lived inside me. Eric welded my tail lift back together and nobody from the Black side of town would ever fuck with me again. This was to be my undoing when later I would develop a crack problem.
A few years later I started frequenting a house just south of the Block occupied by a brother and sister; Jonathan and Renee, about the same age as me. Jonathan and Renee were poor and black. The Block was now featuring the largest chunk of freebase that could be had in the NY area for the smallest amount of money. Twenty dollars would buy more than a gram of rock. If you took it to Lafayette and Hunts Point in the Bronx you could make a quick hundred dollars. I knew plenty of guys who were. It seemed like freebase had been legalized at the Block. The police were almost completely absent and the surrounding neighborhood lay in ruins. Those that remained untouched by the madness never left the safety of their own homes. My whole construction crew would smoke at Jonathon’s house and we would leave jobs undone for days while I crashed out there. It got so my mother who was a prominent landscape designer and my business partner was afraid to get paid for fear that she would have to pay me.
One day Renee, a couple of miscellaneous Black guys and I were indulging in our depraved habit in the back bedroom. ‘Rasta Joe’ burst through the door with a shotgun. I threw Renee on the bed behind me. I looked in his eyes and saw he wasn’t going to shoot if I did not force the issue. After all I had been on his side five years ago at the pool hall. Besides rushing a shotgun at anything less than a few inches is suicide. Rasta Joe backed out of the room snarling at Renee to tell her brother “somebody’s got to pay.” Gradually I got to know everybody in the neighborhood even Rasta Joe who was a nice guy when he wasn’t leveling a shotgun at you.
Pi and his family lived in a two story home with a finished basement right across the street from Jonathans. There were two brand new cars in the driveway and the home was immaculately furnished. Everybody in the neighborhood knew the family had nice things. Pi was retired but he had worked hard all his life to acquire those things and his wife still did as a registered nurse. Eventually the whole family would succumb to crack addiction with his wife holding out the longest until one day her car stopped leaving for work in the morning. I will never forget the day Pi and I were in the basement when he started bellowing up the stairs at his son “what did you do with daddy’s pipe?”
I was partying one day with Pi’s nephew; Andre, in a room he rented in Pi’s house. Andre was a really tough Black guy about the same age as me. He looked at me and suddenly got introspective. He said “I know you ain’t no cop but I’ll tell you this. Somebody’s watching you. Some Nigger from the city was hot on Renee and he was really jealous of you. Crackheads told me he was laying for you outside in the bushes with a gun. Somebody jumped him and knocked him out, threw him in a car. Nobody’s seen that Nigger since.” I never even asked Andre whether the guy who jumped my would-be assailant was Black or White. I just figured I got lucky. The guy had already done someone dirty and payback came at an opportune time for me.
When I was 14 years old I had been in a work program where urban kids were given summer jobs by the state cleaning out local parks. Kenny’s brother and I were the only White kids in that program. Kenny was my best friend at the time and his stepfather had used his position as the Bay Constable to pull some strings and get Kenny’s brother, his biological son, and I in there. I became close friends with a girl in the program named Tracy Bowen. We had remained friends all through high school and she had even signed my favorite pair of blue jeans which considering the kind of juice her brothers wielded in the Black underworld was like a free hallway pass through Black occupied sections of a school notorious for its race riots.
Tracy’s family had been heavily involved with the local commerce and had burnt the house to the ground one night while cooking shit up. Tracy now lived in a trailer next to the burnt out shell of the house. Her bodyguard Clyde was her constant companion. Clyde looked like a giant black fire hydrant and had a similar personality. Tracy needed a bodyguard because the bottom of the trailer was paved with stacks of twenty dollar bills. I am not exaggerating. There looked to be at least a million in twenty’s strewn carelessly around that trailer at all times. Sometimes I would get high with my childhood friend but it always made me really nervous being around all that cash in that neighborhood. I do not care how tough either Clyde or I were.
Nietzsche’s most famous maxim is “what does not kill me makes me stronger.” Freebase cocaine did not kill me. It became inevitable that I would give it up. When I did kick the habit I was angry. I had sat in a front row seat and watched sorrow and human misery be distributed in a highly addictive and smokable form.
At the time I was naive and blamed the Suffolk County Police Department. I was streetwise enough to know that cocaine could not be sold that cheap, illegally, for a profit. I knew it was coming in at the Chinese restaurant on the south corner of the Block and I thought I knew who was bringing it there. I contacted Geraldo Rivera through one of my mother’s clients; Dr Frank Fields, who was the Science Editor for WABC, the network Rivera was working for at the time. Having grown up in Babylon, the neighborhood adjacent to the Block, Rivera took an immediate interest in the story. After confirming that there was an open air drug market in the middle of suburbia Geraldo set me up with his brother; Craig. In those days they were a team. Craig did all the field work, principally the filming and Geraldo took care of the production and presentation.
I took Craig into Jonathon and Renee’s house where we placed a duffel bag rigged with a camera in a prominent position on the dresser. One of the Crackheads became fixated with the duffel bag and started asking questions about it and Craig’s abstinence. Craig started stammering an answer that he had to keep an eye on the bag but I put an end to the whole matter by telling the Crackhead that if he was going to smoke and get paranoid he would have to leave. We stayed for hours and when we finally left Craig talked incessantly about all the great footage he had and how none of it would have been possible without me. Craig asked me to go for dinner and drinks but I declined. I was there to do a job not socialize.
Craig spent days filming the Block and the Chinese restaurant with a film crew hidden in a van in the parking lot of the Social Services center across the street. He was very excited about the footage he had acquired of the police ignoring blatant transactions as they sat in a squad car next to his camera crew across the street. He had also caught some of the mysterious comings and goings at the Chinese restaurant. The restaurant was frequented by two or three middle aged Black men who seemed incapable of dressing without finishing off their ensemble with some off-white raincoats they had purchased from central casting of the Pink Panther. One of them had a large birthmark on his face that made it impossible for him to go unnoticed. We figured the raincoats had to be from a precinct in the city which had worked a deal out with Suffolk County PD.
Both Craig and Geraldo seemed to think we had the story of the year. Geraldo said that this would be a one hour special but when the show finally aired it was less than fifteen minutes and used none of the footage I had got them and never even mentioned the Block. I was told by Geraldo that’s just the way the TV news business is. The studio made the final decision on what would be aired.
The next time I saw Geraldo it was on TV as I watched along with the rest of America and he failed to produce the ‘hidden treasure of Al Capone.’ He made a fool out of himself and the station which had relentlessly promoted the one hour special before it aired. By then I was already charged with second degree assault on a police officer. My life would never be the same again. I remember how much I enjoyed watching Geraldo tarnish his career forever on national TV. At the time I did not know that he had been fired from his job at ABC over his criticism for their refusal to air investigative journalism that was critical of the government. I just knew that I needed to get my teeth capped.
When the show had not aired I had not been disappointed. I picked at least half of my labor up from the Block every morning and I enjoyed living in Suffolk County where I still did some work, even though most of my jobs were in Nassau County. I continued living my life as if nothing had happened because nothing had. I pulled into the Block one day and I was stopped by Suffolk County PD. Two cops about thirty five years old each got out of the squad car and I got out of my International truck.
The two of them belligerently asked what I was doing there and one climbed into my truck and started fumbling around. I really had no answer for them. I was there every day frequently mingling in the crowd. It was as if I had showed up for work and was suddenly asked what I was doing there. One of them began poking me with his nightstick. He poked me quite a few times before I decided to disarm him, wrenching the club from his grip and tossing it away. His partner came around behind me and grabbed me in a chokehold with his nightstick. I grabbed the club and used his grip on it to whirl him over my back at the same time dislodging the stick and taking possession of it, which I dutifully tossed away.
I was well aware that they could shoot me. All the while more cops and people were arriving. The crowd was becoming openly hostile witnessing the police assault one of the few reliable employers in the area. They had to be forcibly restrained by the arriving cops. Suddenly a guy comes running out of the crowd and starts throwing powder puff punch’s at me. It was none other than birthmark still wearing his Pink Panther raincoat.
I brushed him aside and looked around. I thought about letting Mr. Hyde loose but I knew it could only end in my death so I let them handcuff me. The two cops I had disarmed took me in their squad car and as we pulled out of the parking lot the passenger cop said take the long way and with that turned around and proceeded to knock almost every one of my front teeth out. He struck me viscously as many times as he could and with as much force as he could generate with the nightstick within the cramped quarters of the squad car.
Every time he smashed me in the face I would sneer fuck you and spit blood and teeth at him. When we finally did arrive at the station house I figured the Commanding Officer would want to know how my face got like that but instead I was taken into his office and the door was shut behind us. He mocked me as the beating continued all night we me hand cuffed to his desk and hidden from view of the other cops.
The three of them were all laughing at me with the Commanding Officer saying “you’re supposed to be such a tough guy. I never seen no tough guys cry before.” I don’t know why but I just blurted out “someday somebody’s going to break into your house and beat your son the same way you’re beating me.” I saw his face drop and his ruddy red complexion go pale. He looked like a suddenly staggered prize fighter. Weeks later he would make repeated teary calls to my mother asking how I had known. It turned out that was exactly what had happened years ago. Four men in ski masks had broken into his home and beat his son into a coma. He was now a vegetable. I heard he quit the force shortly after my beating. By then he was a mental case.
I was bailed out the next day. When the case went in front of the Grand Jury I chose to testify. By now my regular lawyer; Sidney Chase, had been disbarred for accepting stolen merchandise for his services. Chase had sued the Amityville Police for me and won twenty-five thousand dollars. He had sued a lot of other cops during the course of his career. I guess they got tired of him and set him up; at least that’s what I heard. He was steering all his clients to a legal lightweight named Bruce Torino. I believe it was under Bruce’s advice that I did not mention Geraldo Rivera at the Grand Jury hearing. In retrospect Bruce was probably Sidney’s brother-in-law.
The two cops showed up looking only slightly less gay than Don Johnson in Miami Vice. Charlie Bartle, the one that had done most of the clubbing, was even wearing Topsiders with no socks along with some kind of theatrical plastic caste. Many of the people in the grand jury were Black and made it obvious that they did not believe either the cops or the heavy hitter District Attorney who was assigned to prosecute me. They were deadlocked for hours which I was told is very rare at a Grand Jury hearing. But she did finally get the indictment. I would end up with a felony conviction that virtually assured the strangeness that would follow in my life.
The Reagan administration was perhaps the most corrupt in American history. Gary Webb chronicled the drug dealing in his 1996 expose book; Dark Alliance. The CIA was trading guns for cocaine with the contras in Nicaragua and bringing the coke into America for distribution as crack cocaine in America’s cities. In response to Webb’s book Reagan’s successor Bush senior appointed an Inspector General to the CIA. The newly minted Inspector General Frederick Hitz issued two reports in 1998 containing devastating admissions about the CIA’s knowledge and protection of contras known to be active in the cocaine trade. In Volume Two, published on Oct. 8, 1998 Hitz identified more than 50 contras and contra-related entities implicated in the drug trade. He also detailed how the Reagan administration had protected these drug operations and frustrated federal investigations throughout the 1980s. The reports were ignored by the media in favor of the by now President Bill Clinton’s sex life. Webb ended up committing suicide by shooting himself twice in the head.
It had never made sense to me that a police department, even ones as well heeled as SCPD or NYPD could shut a reporter of Geraldo Rivera’s stature up. At the time he was the biggest thing on television. Only after reading Webb’s book around the turn of the twenty-first century did I realize what exactly had happened to me. I would run into birthmark again when I became head of security at the Café Royale, New York’s swankiest strip club, shortly after reading the book. He liked groping the girls and handing them 100 dollar bills. He even had the nerve to say hello to me. I thought about shooting him in the birthmark but instead I stashed the Devil and my 357 magnum in my shirt…
Jack Heart 2018
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