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“It's okay,” Billy said, touching her hand. “I won't let anyone hurt you.” Mrs. de Cruz started haltingly, fearful of what everybody would think of her poor English. She began in a little girl's voice that no one who knew her would recognize as her own. But as she spoke, and especially when she said Julio's name, she became a mother whose son had been grabbed from her front stoop, taken away and killed in the lock-up. She told how the police had swept through the neighborhood... how Julio had been caught in the sweep ... how they found cocaine on him ... how she knew the cops put it there... how her boy who never caused trouble got put in the lock-up ... and how she wanted to get a gun and shoot Stansky. Billy made no attempt to reign in a grieving mother. As she spoke, the tears gushed and many in the audience wiped at streaked faces. Her voice went tremulous, then failed. Billy put his arm around her shoulders and his cheek to hers. Then, giving the stricken mother a chance to compose herself, Billy walked to the head table and paced before it, looking at, into, and through each member. Mrs. de Cruz managed to pull herself together. Returning to her side, Billy said, “Mrs. de Cruz, I am so very, very sorry. May I ask: Is the police officer who took Julio in this room?” “Yes.” “Will you point him out, please?” Mrs. de Cruz stood and walked over to the knot of city officers sitting behind Billy's place at the lawyer's table. She stopped, pointed and said, “Him! He did this to Julio.” The officer jumped to his feet with his chin jutting out in indignation. Mrs. de Cruz and the officer stood glaring at each other. The TV cameras moved toward them for close-ups. Billy approached the head table. Addressing Captain O'Toole, he said, “I have sworn depositions from credible witnesses stating that Officer Richard M. Collins routinely planted drugs and weapons on suspects.” Billy placed the papers before him. The Captain looked them over. “These prove nothing. They are accusations, nothing more.” “We have also learned that Officer Collins had ready access to the property room where confiscated drugs were stored. Drugs were taken and not returned during times when only Officer Collins could have done so. We have a signed deposition to that effect, as well.”
Billy placed a paper before Captain O'Toole who looked at it -- and grimaced. The deposition was signed by one of his own officers. This was the jewel of Debra Florsheim's research. In the press section, she clenched both fists in her lap. Billy gave her an epochal wink. She gave him a knowing nod. “Officer Collins routinely carried drop drugs and a drop weapon for the express purpose of placing them on suspects. Since this very morning might well have been seen by Officer Collins as promising for such plants, it would not be surprising if he were carrying concealed drops on his person at this very moment.” “Captain!” Officer Collins said. “Captain?” Billy said. Captain O'Toole's neck reddened. He put his right index finger to the side of his nose. He was trying to avoid eye contact with Vera, who sat directly in his line of vision. But he felt her resolute gaze and could not fail to see her head moving up and down, sending him an unequivocal message. He glanced at the press gallery where reporters sat poised with pencils and notepads. “Wynette, Mancini, Oliver. Search Officer Collins.” Collins bolted, but Officer Wynette, an idealistic rookie, grabbed him and the two other officers helped wrestle Officer Collins under control. While two officers held him by the arms, Officer Wynette patted him down. Feeling something, he reached into an inside pocket and pulled out three small white bags. He opened one bag, took a pinch of its contents and put it to his nose. He held the bag up. “Cocaine.” The hall gasped. Reporters in the press section scribbled in notepads. TV reporters talked animatedly into TV cameras. Captain O'Toole, a portrait of misery, grabbed the back of his neck as if he had just felt a stab of pain. Officer Wynette removed Officer Collins' padded vest. He patted his shoulders, arms, chest; at the chest, the officer paused, and, instead of unbuttoning his shirt, ripped it open -- revealing an under-the-arm holster and gun. Officer Wynette held the gun up. “AND a drop weapon.” Captain O'Toole leaned forward on his elbows. Head lowered, hand over his eyes, he said in a profoundly sad voice, “Take Officer Collins into custody and charge him.” The three officers escorted Officer Collins out of the hall. *** Reporters ran to phones, and in smooth, authoritative voices, TV reporters intoned the breaking news. A forlorn Congressman Waters, now a party to police bashing on TV, searched for an exit strategy. Director Carson's eyes darted everywhere, but no longer seeking an escape hatch. Now, ambition having shoved aside fear and better judgment, he scoped constituencies and weighed voter sentiment. Dr. Kurlan, already piqued at being gagged by Carson, ignored, and forced to listen to a delinquent he had diagnosed with Anti-social Personality Disorder, had reached the end
of his patience. He leaned over to Director Carson and said, “Do something, for God sakes!” “You keep quiet or leave,” the Director shot back. Dr. Kurlan slumped back into his seat. He was not used to being talked to that way. Father Colahan, having been in the presence of an emotional outpouring that made his St. Sebastian homilies seem unfeeling by comparison if not irrelevant, sat with hands clasped prayerfully. Morbid dread of exposure casting a pall over his face, he blew softly through interlocked fingers. Dr. Bridges looked on pensively, untroubled; he was the only panelist about whom that could be said. As everyone in the hall began to settle down, Officer Lee, saying he needed to use the facilities, got up and headed toward the door. Billy saw him and, in a loud voice, said, “I now ask Officer Mark B. Lee to step forward.” Officer Lee kept walking, but Officer Wynette, returning from putting Officer Collins in a cruiser, blocked his way. Officers Mancini and Oliver took hold of him. The officers looked to Captain O'Toole. With a pained expression, he nodded. The officers searched Lee and found cocaine and a concealed drop gun. “Take him into custody and book him,” Captain O'Toole said. The officers led Officer Lee out of a buzzing, incredulous dining hall. And it was owned by the prisoner, Billy Stone. *** No timid performer hugging the podium afraid to look out at the audience, he roamed the stage making eye contact, connecting, developing relationships. He paced back and forth before the head table. He went over to Debra Florsheim in the press section and said softly, “ Let's see Goode keep that out of the news columns.” He approached Vera and whispered in her ear, “Your father has courage.” He took his time; savoring the sensational developments; inviting his vast audience to get to know him, feel comfortable with him, trust him; letting the full enormity of what had just happened sink in. His message: Understand this -- two police officers have been exposed as criminals on television and led away. You saw it with your own eyes. You may not forget it because I, Billy Stone, will not let you. Memo to Richard Goode, Executive Editor of the Sentinel: Well, Mr. Big Shot Executive Editor, do you see the news here? You do? Good. Well, print it! I dare you not to! Billy looked upon as many faces as possible, communicating, building rapport, developing credibility. Milking it, hogging the spotlight, he calmly leafed through his papers knowing full well that everybody in the hall awaited his next move. Finally, with everybody leaning forward to hear, he spoke. “Thank you for your statement, Mrs. de Cruz. You may return to your seat.” Then, addressing the assembly at large, Billy said, “I know that we are all deeply saddened by what we have just witnessed. But when there is a commitment to the truth,
as there is today, what we find will not always be to our liking. I pay public tribute to Director Carson for his courage in convening this truly open forum, which is unprecedented. Thank you, Director Carson.” He made a little head bow toward Director Carson, who acknowledged the tribute with several nods -- including a couple of vigorous ones aimed at the Channel Nine TV camera -- that covered every section of the hall. “I would also like to acknowledge Captain O'Toole's dedication to law that is enforced equally, without fear or favor, even when the accused are officers within his own command. No one should misunderstand the significance of this, which is fundamental to the rule of law and which protects all of us lucky enough to live in this great country. Captain, my deepest respects.” Billy gave him a little head bow, too. The captain accepted the tribute with the smallest possible movement of his head. “With your permission, Director, I shall continue. Julio de Cruz, may he rest in peace, is not alone in his innocence. He has much company. The following students in this school are also innocent of drug and weapon charges. When I call your name, please stand. Roberto De Jesus... Booker T. James... Julius Cardoso... Horacio Gonzales... Hector Ramirez... John. R. Jones... Jones? Did I pronounce that right?” Titters around the hall broke a little of the tension. Six inmates stood. Billy continued. “Philip E. Tyler... Thomas Gurney.... Would you all please come forward and stand before the head table?” They did so. “Director Carson, each of these students has been victimized by either Officer Collins or Officer Lee. Thanks to an exhaustive investigation by the Sentinel, we have evidence that I believe can lead to no other conclusion. This evidence, which I have with me this morning, is being made available immediately to the press, law enforcement authorities, Judge Joyce Salera of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Social Services and of course to all members of the head table.” As Billy said this, inmates distributed papers to reporters, who grabbled them and ran or filed a live, breaking-news TV report. “I would like to acknowledge the indispensable role that the Sentinel has played in the development of this evidence. The investigation was commissioned by Executive Editor Richard B. Goode. The investigative team, which worked diligently for many weeks, was headed by Debra Florsheim. I understand that the Sentinel will be running a series of articles starting within the next few days.” Billy sat the named students with him at the lawyer's table. “Now, to continue. I was interviewed here at the school by Lt. Gordon McIver and Sgt. Michael Milberry of the homicide department concerning the death of Julio de Cruz. Their questions seemed to imply that I myself was a suspect in this horrendous deed. At this moment we are distributing to the press sworn statements by 46 eyewitnesses to Julio's murder. Each names Roger Stansky as the killer.” “In the absence of a taped recording -- the tape machine having been unaccountably disabled -- this is the best evidence that we have. I myself was present in the day-room at
this time, but did not see the actual act. I was reading. When I realized what was happening, I rushed to disarm the killer. All forty-six of the statements corroborate this.” “At the time of my interview with Lt. McIver and Sgt. Milberry, I gave them a statement which, unaccountably, they left behind. Therefore, with your permission, Director Carson, I would like to read that statement for the record.” Billy read as follows: To: Lt. Gordon McIver and Sgt. Michael Milberry From: Billy Stone Subject: Julio de Cruz, Officer Richard M. Collins, Officer Mark B. Lee Gentlemen, I hereby formally accuse Roger Stanksy as the killer of my friend, Julio de Cruz, who was a brother to me. I offer to present facts and testimony to prove his guilt beyond a doubt. I also formally accuse officer Richard M. Collins, known as Rick, of illegally and wantonly placing drugs on the person of Julio de Cruz, causing him to be sent wrongfully to Granite City School for Boys, and I offer to present facts and testimony to prove his guilt beyond a doubt. I also formally accuse Officer Collins together with Officer Mark B. Lee, known as “Jag,” of illegally and wantonly placing drugs on the persons of nine (9) other inmates, including myself, causing them to suffer extreme harm and prejudice, and offer to present facts and testimony to prove their guilt beyond a doubt. The foregoing is true, so help me God. Signed, Billy Stone “This statement is being made available to the press immediately.” Billy was now a freight train. “There is another innocent in this school that we should all look upon.” He nodded toward the dining hall entrance. Four inmates entered the hall carrying, pushing, dragging a struggling beast-eyed figure with long, matted brown hair. He was gaunt, pale and had sunken cheeks. He wore an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs, leg chains and he was gagged. The creature searched the hall wild-eyed, as if looking for prey to pounce upon. “Ladies and gentlemen, Jean Valjean!”
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