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George Pollock

State Kid
Issue 49
Hijacking the Headlines

Before sitting down to breakfast, Richard Goode, Executive editor of the Sentinel, went
out to the mailbox at the end of his long driveway to get the Sentinel. He had it delivered
so he could keep track of delivery times. He took the paper out of the mailbox, looked at
the front page -- and did a double-take. What had happened to the front page?
In big, bold letters across the top of the front page, was the headline: BILLY STONE
SAID TO BE INNOCENT; OFFICERS CHARGED WITH PLANTING EVIDENCE.
The front page was dominated by a big photo of Congressman Waters beaming between a
professionally-suited Billy Stone and a smiling Joy Stojak, his arms around them both.
Goode began reading the story under Debra Florsheim's byline:

In an extraordinary quasi-judicial proceeding Sunday at Granite City School for Boys,


the city's secure facility for juvenile offenders, celebrity inmate Billy Stone put the police
department, the juvenile justice system, the Department of Youth Services, and the
District Attorney's office on trial -- and found himself and eight other inmates innocent.
With the cooperation of Director Carson and a panel of community leaders, which
included Police Captain Wally O'Toole, Stone presented lawyerly evidence that police
officers had planted drugs and/or weapons on him and eight other inmates. Joy Stojak,
whom Stone was accused of assaulting, testified that Stone was innocent of the charges.
“Billy Stone is innocent,” she said. “Anything else you have read or heard is a lie.”
Ms. Stojak, who sat with Mr. Stone, has filed formal charges of physical and emotional
abuse against her father. Mr. Stojak has been taken into custody, Captain O'Toole said.
Two officers were arrested on the spot and charged with obstruction of justice. They were
Officers Richard Collins and Mark B. Lee known as Jag.
Congressman Bruce Waters announced that District Attorney John Conroy and Judge
Joyce Salera had agreed to grant Stone and eight other inmates a new hearing, which is
widely expected to lead to their release. Subheads throughout the long story were: BILLY
STONE PRESENTS EVIDENCE; JOY STOJAK SAYS CHARGES “ALL LIES;”
DIRECTOR PERMITS INQUIRY; COMMUNITY LEADERS HEAR EVIDENCE;
WATERS ANNOUNCES NEW HEARING FOR STONE.
Every picture of Billy Stone showed him in a suit.
***
Goode ran into the house to grab a phone and find out what was going on. He was told to
get into the office fast. And when he got there, he was fired. While cleaning out his desk,
he learned that things had gone on while he slept.
Debra Florsheim had been tipped off by the night editor that her story had been rewritten.
She had asked, “The headline is what?”
“Inmates Seize Granite City School.”
“That _______.”
“Pictures?”
“The Stone kid coming out of court in cuffs.”
“He's not going to get away with this.”
She had rushed into the office. Cashing in chips from her twelve years at the Sentinel,
and enlisting the help of the night editor who hated Goode and who was quitting anyway
to go to law school, she restored her original story and put her own headlines on it.
After she and the night editor had put the restored pages to bed, they broke open a bottle
to celebrate the end of their careers at the Sentinel -- and got soaking drunk.
But instead of getting fired, both received commendations and raises. “You should be
fired, too,” the publisher told her, “but your story is the one the paper is standing by. So
we have to go with you, too.”
Unhesitatingly biting the hand that feeds her, she said, “Backing a winner. Gutsy.”

***
When District Attorney John Conroy was agitated, he tended to tug at his crotch. Upon
seeing Congressman's Water's announcement on TV -- the event was carried live by
Channel 9 after a big build-up by the anchor, Jim McGarvey-- he jumped to his feet and
stood in front of the TV shaking his fist at it while furiously yanking at the front of his
pants.
“What the hell was that?” he said.
“That's not what we agreed.”
“Ahem, dear,” Mrs. Conroy said. “Look at you. What if we had guests?”
“Do you realize that Waters just announced that Stone and a slew of other Granite City
inmates are going to be released. He was supposed to make a plea-bargain offer, period.”
“Well, if they're innocent, what's wrong with letting them out?”
“That's NOT the point.”
Mrs. Conroy backed off. But there was worse to come for her husband. Immediately after
Waters' big announcement on TV, Conroy called Congressman Waters to find out what
was going on. Waters said two things. The first was, “I'm out of here.” The second was,
“He wants to know how Ann is and if she spells her name with an 'e,'”
“I don't know an Ann,” Conroy said.
But he did. It was his girlfriend. Her shadowy existence had become known to Billy
through Vera via her mother, who knew everybody's business in town. (She did not use
the 'e.')
The next morning, John Conroy sat at breakfast and picked up the Sentinel. He looked at
the headline and his head fell, freely, like that of a condemned man at the stake who had
just taken a full volley from the firing squad.
“Now what?” said Mrs. Conroy.
Conroy opened his eyes and looked at the front page again, just to make sure. He did a
slow-motion shake of the head. “The little _______ did it. The little_________ did it.
That_________ Sentinel. That goddamn _________ Goode. Doesn't he have any control
over what goes in the __________ paper? That muckraking________ _________, Debra
Florsheim. If she's not a ___________ pinko, I don't know who is.”
“Dear, you promised you wouldn't use that kind of language around me. You know I don't
like it. It's so gutterish. What if we had guests and you were scratching yourself and
talking like that? I would be humiliated, humiliated.”
“Dear, I'm sorry. I never got my ass kicked by a kid before.”

***
Mayor Harper and Chief Bronson started their days off with people rushing into their
offices waving copies of the Sentinel. Seeing police scandal, they swung into damage
control mode. In a conference call with District Attorney Conroy, the Mayor and Police
Chief decided that Officers Collins and Lee, already in custody, could be sacrificed. They
had already been finished off on TV, anyway.
Not so easy was another problem that had developed. Having refused a direct order from
Chief Bronson to take the school by force, Captain O'Toole had informed officers willing
to do so that he would defend the school, by himself if necessary. But standing alone
turned out to be not necessary.
In an unheard of breaking of police ranks, more than half of the officers present pledged
their loyalty to Captain O'Toole. The other half stood with Captain Morrill. For a short,
tense time, the two police groups faced each other. Never had any officer present ever
imagined that he would be squared off against fellow officers, fellow brothers in the long
blue line. Yet there they were in the dining hall of Granite City School, officers on
opposing sides staring at each other, armed, angry, confused, afraid of what might happen
next.
With the two sides sliding fast toward civil war, Vera O'toole stepped into no-man's-land
between them. In her white shirt and phantom black tie and smiling, she went up to her
father and gave him a big hug and kiss on the cheek.
“I love you Daddy,” she said.
“I love you, too, sweetie. But please go home. You shouldn't be here.”
“No.”
She turned around and faced the officers arrayed against her father and his men. “My
Daddy is a good, brave police officer. He's not afraid of you and neither am I. Now, all of
you, get out of here before something terrible happens!”
She went to her father and hugged him and nuzzled into his neck. The resolve of the
officers standing against Captain O'Toole melted. One by one, the men broke away until
the group was no more.
Fairfield students returned to classes. East Side Mothers and relatives went home. Granite
City School for Boys became very quiet.
***
“Well, Captain,” said Billy. “Mission accomplished. You got yourself a prison without
firing a shot. Nice piece of police work. Now what?”
“Now you surrender.”
Vera left her father and went to Billy's side.
“What's this surrender fixation?” Billy said. “Why not ask me if I am willing to cooperate
in bringing this to a peaceful and fair resolution?”
“Are you?” Captain O'Toole said.
“Yes.”
“Good. But I will have to confiscate your weapons.”
“We are willing to have you do that, Captain. But first, I am sure that you will understand
that I and my brothers -- he nodded toward Kali, Jesus, Durk who had taken up positions
behind him -- would need certain assurances.”
“I can't negotiate with you, Billy. You and your associates have broken the law.”
“Yes. So has Vera. So has Director Carson. And, forgive me, sir, so have you.”
“Me?”
“You refused a direct order from Chief Bronson. You interfered with law enforcement
officers trying to perform their duty. Both actions against the law, I believe.”
“Dad! Billy!” Vera said. “Listen to the two of you.” She looked at her father. “Surrender.
Confiscate.” She looked at Billy. “He saves your ass and you accuse him of breaking the
law? Will both of you just talk to each other like two human beings? Please.”
Captain O'Toole said, ”What assurances do you need, Billy?”
“I can only repeat what I have already told Director Carson. We need two things, both
achieved by a stroke of the pen. First, setting the date of the hearing no later than this
week on the understanding that, immediately after the hearing, orders will be issued for
the release of innocent inmates, including myself, signed by Judge Salera.
“Second, a promise in writing, signed by District Attorney Conroy, that no inmate will be
prosecuted for anything done by inmates in self defense and in seeking justice. You know,
we could have trashed the place; instead, we go out and save Vera and Joy Stojak from
God knows what and uncover information leading to the arrest of two police officers.”
“I'll ... I'll” -- he looked at Vera, who was in silent, full-communication mode -- “try.”
“Thank you, Captain. May I suggest that you call District Attorney Conroy? Now would
be a good time to do so, I would think. Could the Captain use your office, Mr. Carson?”
“Yes, of course,” said Carson who had just arrived.
“I'll be back shortly,” Captain O'Toole said, but in fact he did not return for more than 45
minutes. When he did, he said, “He said it is doable, but not until after you lay down your
weapons and return to your cells.”
“The answer is no,” Billy said.
“No? Nothing else? Just no?”
“That's right. If you would kindly pass that reply on to Mr. Conroy, I would appreciate it.
Could you also remind him also that notice of the hearing must be announced in public
and the non-prosecution agreement must be in writing and delivered here.”
Captain O'Toole shrugged and left. In a few minutes, he was back. “He said it will take
time.”
“Tell him he has twenty-four hours from now. At that time I will begin releasing
information to the U.S. Attorney in Boston about misuse of federal funds by the city and
certain related-party contracts. At the same time, I will release certain other information
to the press which is, regrettably, of a more personal nature.”
“You're blackmailing the District Attorney.”
“We're negotiating, Captain.”
Captain O'Toole left and was back within a minute. “He called you a bunch of names and
hung up.”
“Ah, we're close.”