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Archive for the 'Crime & Criminology' Category

Friday, December 11th, 2015

The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates — Best American Magazine Writing 2015

The Best American Magazine Writing 2015

“If a number makes people feel safe, then why not give it to them?”—A Chicago police officer

Recent events have shone a light on the Chicago police department and the ways in which they fail to share information with the public. However, as David Bernstein and Noah Isackson powerfully demonstrate in their article “The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates,” included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2015, the Chicago Police Department has been underreporting murders and crimes in an effort to mislead the public. The following is an excerpt from that article:

I. Dead Wrong

It was a balmy afternoon last July when the call came in: Dead body found inside empty warehouse on the West Side.

Chicago police officers drove through an industrial stretch of the hardscrabble Austin neighborhood and pulled up to the 4600 block of West Arthington Street. The warehouse in question was an unremarkable-looking red-brick single-story building with a tall barbed-wire fence. Vacant for six years, it had been visited that day by its owner and a real-estate agent—the person who had called 911.

The place lacked electricity, so crime scene technicians set up generators and portable lights. The power flickered on to reveal a grisly sight. In a small office, on soggy carpeting covered in broken ceiling tiles, lay a naked, lifeless woman. She had long red-streaked black hair and purple glitter nail polish on her left toenails (her right ones were gone), but beyond that it was hard to discern much. Her face and body were bloated and badly de­composed, her hands ash colored. Maggots feasted on her flesh.

At the woman’s feet, detectives found a curled strand of tele­phone wire. Draped over her right hand was a different kind of wire: thin and brown. The same brown wire was wrapped around each armrest of a wooden chair next to her.

The following day, July 24, a pathologist in the Cook County medical examiner’s offi ce noticed something else that had been obscured by rotting skin: a thin gag tied around the corpse’s mouth.

Thanks to some still-visible tattoos, detectives soon identified this unfortunate woman: Tiara Groves, a twenty-year-old from Austin. She was last seen walking alone in the wee hours of Sun­day, July 14, near a liquor store two miles from the warehouse. At least eight witnesses who saw her that night told police a similar story: She appeared drunk and was upset—one man said that she was crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath—but refused offers of help. A man who talked to her outside the liquor store said that Groves warned him, excitedly and incoherently, that he should stay away from her or else somebody (she didn’t say who) would kill him too.

Toxicology tests showed she had heroin and alcohol in her system, but not enough to kill her. All signs pointed to foul play. According to the young woman’s mother, who had filed a missing-person report, the police had no doubt. “When this de­tective came to my house, he said, ‘We found your daughter. . . . Your daughter has been murdered,’ ” Alice Groves recalls. “He told me they’re going to get the one that did it.”

On October 28, a pathologist ruled the death of Tiara Groves a homicide by “unspecified means.” This rare ruling means yes, somebody had killed Groves, but the pathologist couldn’t pin­point the exact cause of death.

Given the finding of homicide—and the corroborating evi­dence at the crime scene—the Chicago Police Department should have counted Groves’s death as a murder. And it did. Until Decem­ber 18. On that day, the police report indicates, a lieutenant overseeing the Groves case reclassified the homicide investiga­tion as a noncriminal death investigation. In his write-up, he cited the medical examiner’s “inability to determine a cause of death.”

That lieutenant was Denis Walsh—the same cop who had played a crucial role in the alleged cover-up in the 2004 killing of David Koschman, the twenty-one-year-old who died after be­ing punched by a nephew of former mayor Richard M. Daley. Walsh allegedly took the Koschman file home. For years, police officials said that it was lost. After the Sun-Times reported it miss­ing, the file mysteriously reappeared.

But back to Tiara Groves. With the stroke of a computer key, she was airbrushed out of Chicago’s homicide statistics.

The change stunned officers. Current and former veteran de­tectives who reviewed the Groves case at Chicago’s request were just as incredulous. Says a retired high-level detective, “How can you be tied to a chair and gagged, with no clothes on, and that’s a [noncriminal] death investigation?” (He, like most of the nearly forty police sources interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name, citing fears of disciplinary action or other retribution.)

Was it just a coincidence, some wondered, that the reclassifi­cation occurred less than two weeks before the end of the year, when the city of Chicago’s final homicide numbers for 2013 would be tallied? “They essentially wiped away one of the murders in the city, which is crazy,” says a police insider. “But that’s the kind of shit that’s going on.”

(more…)

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Themes from The Con Men

The Con Men

“This book came about because both Terry and I are New Yorkers who came here from other places. There are the known mechanics of this city, and then its underground economy. We came to The Con Men as a way of making sense of this untaxed and unauthorized world.” — Trevor B. Milton

This week, our featured book is The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, by Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton. In today’s post, Trevor B. Milton looks back at the genesis of the book, and explains some of the key threads that tie the book’s many stories together.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Con Men!

Themes from The Con Men
By Trevor B. Milton

This book came about because both Terry and I are New Yorkers who came here from other places. There are the known mechanics of this city, and then its underground economy. We came to The Con Men as a way of making sense of this untaxed and unauthorized world. There is something in this book for everyone who has ever resided in this city, something familiar to all who walk its streets. New York City is the unit of analysis; con artists and hustlers are the bi-product.

New York City is rugged, aggressive, and competitive, yet it is also one of the most desirable cities in the world, with broad boulevards, tree-lined avenues, yellow and lime-green cabs darting hither and yon, and frantic crowds moving along busy streets. And though New Yorkers constantly complain about trash, traffic, trains, and any number of other hassles, most of them readily acknowledge that they live in one of the greatest cities in the world. Among its many finer points, New York offers access to the best museums and cultural institutions and an intelligentsia unmatched anywhere. New York, New York: a city so nice they named it twice… (more…)

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Cop Cons

The Con Men

“I asked Frank if he would volunteer any stories of police corruption. ‘So is there such a thing as a police con? Or a police hustle?’ Frank smiled so big that I couldn’t see his eyes. ‘Of course.’ He slouched in the bench and folded his arms, allowing some of the memories to come to him. ‘Well, the con is like, the con is the classic good guy/bad guy. That’s the con. That’s the biggest one.’” — Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton

This week, our featured book is The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, by Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton. When most people think of con games, they tend to think of the kind of three-card monte that they’ve seen in movies. However, as this excerpt from The Con Men reveals, con games can happen in a wide variety of circumstances, and con artists can be people from all walks of life.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Con Men!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

The Con Game

The Con Men

“To be honest, I wanted to get some of the cash the man flashed. I had greed in my heart, and that’s what got me into trouble.” — Terry Williams

This week, our featured book is The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, by Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton. In today’s post, Terry Williams describes his first encounter with a con game in New York, how he was duped, and how this experience led him to study con games in his scholarly work.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Con Men!

The Con Game
By Terry Williams

I first got involved in a con game by chance: I happened to be strolling down the wrong street at the wrong time. However, stumbling into a con made it possible for me to better understand how the con game might be studied in an urban setting.

I was a young student at the time, with only five dollars in my pocket, trying to find my way around the city. On this particular day I became a modern version of Voltaire’s Candide, only instead of finding my fortune I found myself standing on an isolated city street explaining to two strangers why I could be trusted.

Let me go back to the beginning

I saw a man standing near 125th Street. He stopped me to say that he was not from New York (he had an accent), was lost, and needed my help. He showed me a piece of paper, which upon a brief inspection listed an address close to where we were standing, but as I tried to look more closely at the paper, he took it from me and handed it to another passerby with the same question. This time, however, he took out a wad of money and made a generous offer for help finding the address on the paper. He said he had been given $10,000 of insurance money after his brother lost his leg in an accident. He just wanted to “get some pussy before I leave the city.” I didn’t see exactly how much money he had, but it was a big bundle of bills and he said he would give some to both of us if we helped him. (more…)

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Con Artists and Hustlers

The Con Men

“The con artists and hustlers in this text possess a rare set of utilitarian values and have an unmatched knowledge of the city’s landscape and a sophisticated skill set that has taken years (or a lifetime) to acquire. We think of them as sage opportunists because they are able to match their abilities exactly to the opportunities presented by the city’s shifting economy.” — Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton

This week, our featured book is The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, by Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton. To get the feature kicked off, we have an excerpt from the book’s introduction, in which Williams and Milton explain who con artists and hustlers are and begin to describe exactly what it is they do.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Con Men!

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Book Giveaway! The Con Men: Hustling in New York City

The Con Men

“This terrific ethnography explains that cons and hustles are no longer the preserve of roguish proletarians in loud suits and painted ties. Everybody wants a bargain, and creative capitalism makes mugs of us all.” — Dick Hobbs, Times Higher Education

This week, our featured book is The Con Men: Hustling in New York City, by Terry Williams and Trevor B. Milton. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Con Men. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, November 6th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, April 20th, 2015

A Post for 4/20: Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter Discuss Pot Smuggling

In recognition of 4/20, we are re-posting Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter’s appearance on HuffPost Live to discuss their book Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade In the interview, Maguire and Ritter discuss drug smuggling in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s. Also joining them was Jim Conklin, the DEA agent who busted Mike Ritter for smuggling.

As the three explained, surfers began smuggling marijuana from Thailand but in relatively small quantities, driven by a spirit of adventure as much as a thirst for profit. Initially, neither Thai or U.S. officials paid much attention to the smugglers, who were generally nonviolent and “laid-back”. It was only later in the 1970s when professional criminals became involved and the amounts began to grow that the drug crackdown began.

After discussing this fascinating history, the three consider current drug policy and the dangers of synthetic opiates:

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad

Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s guest post, Aggarwal discusses a recent New York Times article on efforts to keep Western citizens from “traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries,” and how the War on Terror has been and is being shaped by sometimes troubling stereotypes.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

Discouraging North American and European Citizens from Foreign Jihad
By Neil Krishan Aggarwal

A New York Times article dated January 13, 2015 and titled “West Struggles against Flow to War Zones” describes North American and European officials struggling to “stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” The article comes after last week’s tragic attacks in France and reflects major themes from my book Mental Health in the War on Terror: Culture, Science, and Statecraft. In my book, I analyze questionable claims of Orientalist stereotypical scholarship and de-radicalization programs, some of which appear in this article. By scrutinizing this article, I hope to show how such claims recur in an influential newspaper and shape public discussions of the War on Terror. Only by inspecting such claims one at a time can we discern how the War on Terror has permeated popular culture.

1. The “West/Rest” fallacy. The authors begin: “For more than a decade, Western governments have struggled to stem the flow of their citizens traveling to fight in war zones in Muslim countries.” This assertion implies a rigid division among Muslims and non-Muslims. Where does the West begin and end? What is the standard for “Muslim countries”? Is a Muslim country defined on the basis of political system (Saudi Arabia), population (Indonesia), or Orientalist notions of the Middle East? Are we not comparing apples and oranges by contrasting entities based on geography (“Western”) and religion (“Muslim”)? (more…)

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Mental Health, Culture, and Power in the War on Terror

Mental Health in the War on Terror

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be posting content from and about the book and it’s author. In today’s post, we have an excerpt from the first chapter of Mental Health in the War on Terror, in which Aggarwal introduces his project, takes a close look at the causes and symptoms of PTSD, and examines the effects that the War on Terror had on an American veteran and a detainee at Guantánamo Bay.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for Mental Health in the War on Terror!

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal

Mental Health in the War on Terror

“Very few people are able to synthesize the disciplines of anthropology, mental health, cultural studies, political theory, religious studies, bioethics and forensics as Aggarwal does in this book. He offers a balanced and insightful account of the challenges of forensic psychiatry in assessing and managing terrorism suspects.” — Hamada Hamid, Yale University

This week our featured book is Mental Health in the War on Terror, by Neil Krishan Aggarwal. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Mental Health in the War on Terror. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, January 16th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Interview with James Liebman, Author of “The Wrong Carlos”

The Wrong Carlos

“If you want money, you rob banks. If you want to study executions, you go to Texas.”—James Liebman

A few weeks ago we featured The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution by James Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project and interest in the book and the case continues to grow. Most recently James Liebman was interviewed by The Christian Science Monitor about the book and the case. The following is an excerpt from the interview:

Q: What convinced you to investigate a specific death penalty case?

In 2000 and 2002, we published a big study which showed there was a huge amount of adjudicated errors found in capital cases in the United States by state and federal courts. Essentially, two-thirds of all death verdicts reviewed over a quarter century had been overturned based on serious error.

Proponents say the system is working, and we don’t have to worry about the ultimate error of someone being innocent. There’s another interpretation. If an airline company or a car company had this level of error, nobody would want to go near them. If there’s this much smoke, there’s got to be fire.

So we wanted to examine a particular case to see if we could determine the risk of executing the innocent. We went from a statistical study where we were just counting outcomes to making a judgement call about which cases would be interesting to look at.

Q: How did you find this case in particular?

We started by looking at Texas cases. If you want money, you rob banks. If you want to study executions, you go to Texas.

We started looking at eyewitness identification cases because of the long-standing evidence that these cases can be faulty. The witness in this case was one person who happened to be pumping gas outside a store where a clerk was attacked and killed.

He saw the assailant come out of the store and run away. After a 45-minute manhunt, he identified Carlos de Luna.

This case fit what we were looking for.

(more…)

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and Wanda Lopez: the Story in Pictures

The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, see the story of Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and the murder of Wanda Lopez through images in our Pinterest board for The Wrong Carlos.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

View the story of the case of Wanda Lopez’s murder here:
Follow Columbia University Press’s board The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution on Pinterest.

(more…)

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Wrong Carlos: Video Testimony

The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. These compelling video interviews shed light on Carlos DeLuna’s childlike nature, as well as Carlos Hernandez’s consistently violent behavior. All four subjects, despite their disparate backgrounds, strongly attest to DeLuna’s innocence.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Rose Rhoton, Carlos DeLuna’s sister, speaks to his mild character and his innocence in this emotional interview.
(more…)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Do we execute innocent people?

The Wrong Carlos

“Our book challenges readers to consider the evidence we have carefully arrayed—and to test each phrase in the book against all of the relevant evidence on the point to which readers can quickly link on the web site—and decide for themselves whether our criminal and capital justice systems are reliable enough to keep innocent people from being executed.” — James S. Liebman

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. In today’s guest post, James S. Liebman gives an account of the origin of The Wrong Carlos as a research project and book, and explains how he hopes readers will read and react to the story of Carlos DeLuna’s execution.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Do we execute innocent people?
James S. Liebman

Do the three dozen American states that authorize death as a punishment for murder execute innocent people? That is the fundamental question at the heart of The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book coauthors and I published last week with Columbia University Press.

I began thinking about this question in 2000 and 2002, when colleagues and I issued two studies of rates of serious error found by courts in U.S. capital cases: Broken System I: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995 and Broken System II: Why Is There So Much Error in Capital Cases and What Can Be Done About It?. The studies and a follow-up article documented judicial findings of serious error in over two-thirds of all U.S. capital cases that courts reviewed between 1973 and 1995. Nearly all of those findings involved the kinds of legal errors known to undermine the accuracy of the determination that the defendant committed the crime and that he or she deserved to die for it. (more…)

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

The Death of Wanda Lopez

The Wrong Carlos

“Forty minutes after Wanda’s call, the police closed the case with an arrest. They caught Carlos DeLuna in a residential neighborhood a few blocks east of the Sigmor.” — James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, we are taking a look at the crime that started it all: the murder of Wanda Lopez. In this excerpt from The Wrong Carlos, Liebman et al. lay out the scene of the crime and give the information that the police had received from various witnesses.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Wrong Carlos, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project

The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

“A masterful deconstruction of the Lopez murder and police investigation followed by the prosecution and execution of the wrong man. Given the number of men already exonerated from death row and the unacceptable incidence of innocent men convicted of capital crimes, there can be no doubt that innocent men have been executed by the state. Liebman’s command of the facts and intellectual precision, ultimately infused with a moral urgency, makes a compelling claim that Carlos DeLuna is one of those innocent men.” — Peter J. Neufeld and Barry Scheck, directors, Innocence Project

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Wrong Carlos. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, July 18th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter Discuss Pot Smuggling on HuffPost Live

Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter, coauthors of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, were recently on HuffPost Live to discuss their book and drug smuggling in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s. Also joining them was Jim Conklin, the DEA agent who busted Mike Ritter for smuggling.

As the three explained, surfers began smuggling marijuana from Thailand but in relatively small quantities, driven by a spirit of adventure as much as a thirst for profit. Initially, neither Thai or U.S. officials paid much attention to the smugglers, who were generally nonviolent and “laid-back”. It was only later in the 1970s when professional criminals became involved and the amounts began to grow that the drug crackdown began.

After discussing this fascinating history, the three consider current drug policy and the dangers of synthetic opiates:

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

VIDEO: Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter on Thai Stick

Australia Network News recently broadcast a story about Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, by Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter.

The story focuses, in part, on Mike Ritter’s personal story as someone who dropped out of college in 1967 and traveled the world searching for enlightenment and “the perfect wave.” Ultimately, in order to pay for his lifestyle, Ritter turned to smuggling Thai marijuana or Thai stick. While drug smuggling from Thailand in the 1970s was very lucrative, it was not without its dark side.

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Interview with Peter Maguire, author of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade

Thai Stick, Peter Maguire

The following is an edited transcript of a podcast interview with Peter Maguire, coauthor of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade. The excerpt starts with midway with Maguire talking about the marijuana smugglers.

For another interview with Maguire, you can listen to Waking from the American Dream.

PM: Yeah, these were modern day pirates who basically needed to find a way to finance their endless summers and growing up in southern California they were sort of our heroes and I was a young lifeguard in Malibu and knew many people in this world and for many years I kind of tried to, to pretend I was you know, a straight history professor that didn’t have this other life that I had led before I moved on to academia, but I figured it was time for me to come out of the cannabis closet.

Q: These surfers that were part of this giant drug trade, just, they didn’t think it was immoral

PM: No, absolutely not.

Q: Certainly there were people executed, who were caught….. I don’t understand why this story hasn’t been , well, part of the vernacular of the war on drugs.

PM: Well, you know you figure that you had a generation of, of many of these guys were draft dodgers, and had basically been turned criminal as a result of, of dodging the draft and evading service in the Vietnam War, or you know minor criminal convictions for marijuana use and they just left the system.

And in case of my co-author Mike Ritter, he was a draft dodger, went to Afghanistan, began, they all began, very small and the thing just escalates, and so by 1974, the Thai stick, the finest marijuana, really, of the 1970′s, grown by the hill tribes in, in northeast Thailand, one pound of Thai sticks in the United States was $2000 in 1974.

So basically, if you could fill a boat with Thai sticks and get it back to the United States you could set yourself up for life.

One of our favorite narrators, Mike Charley Tuna Carter, one of the great captains of the Thai marijuana fleet, he brought back six tons in I think 1975 and netted something like twenty million dollars that he seal-a-mealed, put in igloo coolers in his yard and called it the bank of the igloo underground.

But that’s, that’s half the story.

The other half of the story is the Southeast Asia 1975 to 1979 was probably one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world given not only the pirates, the boat people, the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese Navy, so the DEA was the least of the worries that the Thai smugglers faced.

Q: Well, in going, in going through the Pirates and Perils chapter, I can’t believe that they were taking that kind of risk, but for $2000 you could buy a house in 1974 for that.

PM: Oh absolutely. And my co-author, Mike Ritter, he would contract Thai fishermen, and Thai fishermen will traffic in anything. Smuggling is not really frowned upon in Thailand as long as you make money. And marijuana to the Thais is grown in every garden in the Northeast. It’s a therapeutic plant, really not many people even smoke it, it’s used in chicken soup, it’s used to sooth menstrual cramps, and help pregnant women, and the idea that, that the US government was coming down on this, the Thais had a hard time taking it even seriously.

Q: So, when the DEA decided that they were going to go after this, the way that they did why do you think it was specific to that?

PM: Money. It was all about money. And there was one DEA agent in particular who we interviewed extensively, named James Conklin, and he was a Vietnam veteran who understood Southeast Asia. He very candidly told us that in his early years in the DEA, he started in the BNDD, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, that marijuana was called kiddy dope and they weren’t allowed to touch it and they had to focus on heroin. And he said the thing that turned the tables was the money and that he got a tip from an informant about a Thai marijuana smuggler’s house in Santa Barbara and then he began to see the assets that these guys had and it absolutely blew his mind and he was the first one to really begin to get his head around it. He single handedly pretty much took down the Thai industry. So by 1988 they arrest Brian Daniels who had two gigantic loads come across the Pacific. One was in a boat captained by two former Green Berets and it had been loaded by the Vietnamese military. And so you know, money transcends all things. And the actual smugglers, I really would compare them to the rum-runners or the moon-shiners of the North Georgia mountains where there was arbitrary law against it this, but they didn’t see it as immoral or anything else.

Q: Well it was Dave Catenburg who you cited was a former Vietnam veteran, who said that in the 70′s it was a Robin Hood sort of thing.

PM: Oh absolutely.

Q: And the links that you make between these people who were draft dodgers, who are Vietnamese vets, who are Vietnamese military, there were no obstacles for them anymore, it was like they had just one currency.

PM: Absolutely, and you know for many, and it was interesting, for many who served in Vietnam and for many who were draft dodgers, the defining event of their lives was the Vietnamese war and so you had these very disparate groups come together in the post ’75 period, because you had Vietnam vets who had trade craft language skills, knew the country, they could procure loads, and then you had the surfers who could sail boats, offload boats and all that and they formed an uneasy alliance which breaks down over time and many of the former military guys become confidential informants and are much more comfortable dealing with the government and turning on their former co-conspirators and pretty much everyone gets busted, everyone.

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade

Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, Peter Maguire

This week we will be featuring Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade the extraordinary tale of marijuana smuggling in the 1970s by Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter.

Throughout the week we will be featuring Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Thai Stick to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, November 22 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!