Miami Beach Wages War on Black Week



Fewer Arrests, Two Dead

May 31, 2017

By David Arthur Walters

The City of Miami Beach has been waging war on the annual descent of hip hopping, pants-down gangsta rappers and their followers onto the beach every Memorial Day weekend for more than a decade.

The event is a derivative of the outrageous “Freaknik” celebration Atlanta managed to eradicate some years ago simply by towing cars moving at less than five mph. The anecdotal horrors there are legendary, including narratives of how young girls were raped on the hoods of cars to the cheers of the crowds. Freaknik wound up on South Beach, and was renamed Black Week. Then, to avoid racist overtones, it was dubbed Urban Beach Week.  Despite the fact that the majority of the attendees have been law-abiding, the bad apples turned it into a massive, disrespectful, and frightening racist event.

The high hopes of the city’s generals for peace, especially Mayor Philip Levine and Commissioner Michael Grieco, were punctuated this year by a murder over a parking space, a related police shooting leaving one man dead, shots fired into a taxi van, and a seaside melee where one celebrant stabbed another with a broken bottle.


Michael Grieco was especially crestfallen. His strategy to diminish the pernicious influence of Urban Beach Week by calling in the Air Force and Navy in the form of the glorious ‘Air and Sea Show,’ which he sponsored and got passed by the City Commission, seemed to have failed albeit the roaring fighter jets flying upside down and doing loop de loops over the beach were indeed impressive and reminded everyone of the real meaning of Memorial Day. Outraged by the crime reports, the criminal defense lawyer and former prosecutor said there would be no more Urban Week on the beach, and threatened to have bars and restaurants shut down at 5 pm for the last two weeks of May in coming years.

Philip Levine, who happens to be a self-made man who rose from hawking tours on ships to an untold fortune, called a press conference, where he proposed a more moderate solution to Urban Week, banning liquor sales after 2 am on and near Ocean Drive. He indicated he had little respect for inherited fortune when he responded to the shouts of the owner of a belly dancing night club on Ocean Drive that the mayor should have respect for the industry that created the South Beach cache. The mayor shouted back to the effect that the club owner was the only business bellyaching, only because he would lose revenue if he did not stay open until 5 am as usual, and that he should try building a business from scratch instead of inheriting one and being stupid about the meaning of branding.

Now the de facto strong mayor and his commission majority have already managed to roll back drinking on sidewalk cafes to 2 am. A ban on sales both inside and outside Ocean Drive facilities might drive problem drinkers to other areas of the city, so the ban should be citywide. And if alcohol is the cause of trouble in general, why not make it midnight? Why not ten? Why not just have a dry city?

The mayor’s critics may cut him a break since he has decided not to run for reelection and they will soon not have him to kick around anymore. He has a legitimate concern with branding, and branding has been part of his successful business. ‘South Beach’ is in fact a brand name created just a few years ago although the daughter of one of the founders of Miami Beach used the name to denote the south end of the beach. The culture has changed over the years as the Anglo-Saxon population became mixed with Jews and Hispanics, and the brand has followed suit.

Blacks were not supposed to be on the beach after dark in the late 60s and early 70s; some were clubbed by cops for overstaying their welcome. There was a time when Jews were limited to the ghetto now called ‘South Pointe.’ When Cubans arrived in droves, signs could be seen that read, ‘For Rent – No Spics.’ The beach was blighted or suffered the doldrums at times for one reason or another, but it is crowded now, traffic is horrendous, real estate prices are sky high; the mayor’s inferiors, who have utterly failed to build their own businesses and get rich, are being squeezed out. And the mayor, who was supposed to get lots of credit for saving the city from the Great Flood with new pumps and road-raising as every cubic foot of remaining space was being over-developed by his fellow devleopers, is naturally blamed for the city’s ills.

Police Chief Daniel Oates made the only scientific remark at the press conference. He noted that the number of arrests were only half of those last year. That may well be because the crowd was smaller, but a smaller crowd does not necessarily mean well behaved. According to an employee of a Washington Avenue liquor store in the shooting zone this year, “the people were fewer but there were more bad apples.”

What Chief Oates knows is that, even with the best policing, a bomber may blow up your plans. You may make a good statistical guess at the number of minor crimes that will occur during an event, for those are many, but it is impossible to predict in any given year how many murders there will be, especially over parking spaces, for they are few in number if any at all in any given year and are not necessarily related to an event. That is, an argument over a parking space resulting in a shooting is a random or chance event that may occur despite the occasion for a particular event, and may happen on a normal day when some otherwise respectable person gets angry and loses his mind.

That the shooter who caused this body count was a 19-year-old rapper from Brooklyn with friends in a white Mercedes with New York tags down here to perform north of South Beach may be coincidental. Finding parking on Ocean Drive is not easy on normal weekends, and lots of nice people in Florida have guns because Florida is a dangerous place what with so many guns around. Gang bangers abound in South Florida urban areas, and they like to bring their guns and knives wherever they go, including South Beach. A shooting or knifing or two on South Beach ever so often is the norm. Should we blame whatever event that brings people to town for a random shooting?

True, disinhibiting alcohol is the cause of a great deal of trouble whenever it is served, and having a few drinks on Memorial Day Weekend is all the rage. There is a reason armies used to provide prodigious daily alcohol rations to troops; it helped them deal with the horrors of war. Jets roaring overhead inspired persons remembering brave warriors this Memorial Day. It made them feel powerful. Alcohol augments that feeling.

Certain “urban” areas of Chicago have become a war zone; violent crime spikes in those areas on Memorial Day Weekend, reaching a new high this weekend with a body count far higher than South Beach. The key to understanding Urban Beach Week is the socio-cultural meaning of “urban” and the anti-authoritarian celebration of violence of its music.

Philip Levine is right about having the right brand, but no matter how righteous it might be, he is waging a losing war against the very urbanism he has been promoting with advocacy of mass transportation from mainland Miami to the beach. Miami happens to be almost as urban as you can get, and it might not be long until his wealthy peers go elsewhere as the beach is urbanized.

Curbing liquor sales by two or three hours will have negligible effect. That assessment may be wrong, but where are the statistics during this prolonged battle for truncated hours, that the murderers were drinking at a particular place on Ocean Drive after 2 am before shooting someone, and that they had come to South Beach because the bars were open until 5 am? Where are the statistics that strongly indicate that more murderers come to South Beach for Urban Beach Week?

Never mind, killers or not, residents do not like Urban Beach Week because they are disrespected at that time, and many cheered when police officers fired 116 bullets into Raymond Herisse’s car in 2011, with 16 of those bullets striking him dead. That was the Tipping Point. Barriers to a replay were set up, crowds diminished, this year the beach had a more salt-and-pepper crowd as real Memorial Day events were promoted; and now this: two dead, one stabbed—not bad actually.

What we have here in the blaming of restaurant hours is the attribution of effects to a wrong cause. It’s not the restaurants, it’s not the hours during which alcohol is sold, it’s the culture, “stupid.” Well, people are not as stupid as it might seem. They just do not know how to stop the violence because it is rooted in the fabric of our society and human nature.

Protecting the residential areas with barriers, checkpoints with license plate readers, running cars in a circle, crawling the area with cops, calling in the Army and Navy—all that helps in one way or another, but there are still going to be shootings from time to time.

Thanks for all that security, dear city officials and police officers. It was not so bad this year. Cry not in your beer, Commissioner Grieco, we loved the Air and Sea Show. Relax, Mayor Levine, you have our sympathies. Maybe Urban  Beach Week will go to another area, or we can all get together and sing America the Beautiful next year.

Somehow we must stop the violence within ourselves, wager the Inner Jihad, before all hell breaks loose. Let us not kid ourselves about the truth of the matter, and what we must teach at home and in schools lest our decadent nation disintegrates and winds up in the proverbial dustbin of history sooner than expected.



On Common Informers Good and Evil


“I confess, it is my nature’s plague, To spy into abuses; and oft my jealousy Shapes faults that are not.” – Othello




A wise man may live well, and a government that knows all may govern for the common good. The good citizen not only obeys the laws, he bears witness against law breakers. He is a common informer. If everyone, although not personally aggrieved, had the duty and material incentives and standing in court to personally or by his private attorney denounce and prosecute, as a representative and common informer of the people, without resort to public prosecutors, anyone for any civil or penal violation of law that he has espied or become aware of, the proverbial war against incivilities and crimes including the malfeasances of government would be won. Or so it seems.

The good man has introjected the mores of his culture, concealing his resentment the best he can, hence he is self-governed even to the extent of punishing himself for real and imaginary infractions. Alas then that man by nature is inclined to break every law made by others and himself at one time or another, and sometimes almost all the time. So the individual is a natural born criminal. He is divided within, fundamentally set against the impositions of the forces that he must love and obey or else perish. There exists a struggle for survival where some live at the expense of others when individual life is god.

So the other side of the story is that man “is born in sin,” that is, with a will of his own, opposed as it is from time to time not only to the will of a few others around him, but to the common good. And the trouble with the common good on this planet is that Good wants definition by people who are inherently selfish and thus differ in their definitions; even majority rule falls short of the common good. If the will of a faction small or large is uniformly imposed on all, their version of the common good could constitute the worst state of affairs, either chaos at one extreme, or a totalitarian police state at the other.

Indeed, the notion that the ability of a “common informer” to prosecute others for violations of law in the stead of a public prosecutor guarantees the freedom of the people and ensures integrity in government has proven to be a very bad idea when there are few civil rights including due process of law, and the motive for complaining is revenge or greed for property and other forms of power. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the motivation of a common informer is altruistic, or that he acts for the sake of duty. We may concur with Kant that it is “absolutely impossible by experience to discern with complete certainty a single case” of anyone acting solely for the sake of duty, and that a “cool observer is bound to be doubtful sometimes whether true virtue can really be found anywhere in the world.”

Today we have whistleblowers in the United States who are rewarded for prosecuting persons for making false claims on the government or who otherwise cheat the treasury. The public prosecutor may or may not step in after the informer complains; if he does, the prize will more likely be won. The whistleblower may recover his costs if he must prosecute a case himself, and the reward may be substantial, running into millions of dollars in some cases. Whistleblowers are naturally despised by the persons exposed. Everyone has something to hide, so he tends to hate “rats,” but he also cannot help admiring one who brings down the rich and powerful, and he envies one whose reward is substantial.

The federal and local whistleblower acts are a vestige of English law derived from Roman law. There was no official public prosecutor such as an attorney-general available in ancient Rome. Citizens, foreigners, and even slaves could originate libels or suits against prominent persons, currying favor with emperors and nobles, taking advantage of their resentments, jealousies, and rivalries, and in the process slaves won their freedom and other persons of low birth sometimes won great fortunes and high office for themselves. The most successful of these “common informers” were advocates i.e. lawyers. The whole lot of them, the paid informers, accusers, denunciators, witnesses and calumniators as well as those who served their mandating clients as advocates in the court of justice and the senate, were impugned as “delators,” meaning tattlers.

The most infamous form of delation endured nearly a century during the Roman Empire, reaching its height during the imperium of Tiberius Caesar. The practice had begun with laying the name (nomen deferre) of someone who owed property or taxes to the treasury before a magistrate. These fiscal delators, who received a portion of the value collected, as do whistleblowers today, were part of the state machinery. The category of offenses was extended to include celibacy, adultery, defamation, collusion (prevarication), perjury, tergiversation (bribery or intimidation to drop cases instead of resorting to a formal abolition), perjury, and treason.

The delator received roughly a fourth of the penalty, which could included the entire estate of a wealthy person exiled or executed, and the treasury got the rest. The reward could include high office. The denounced person, to salvage whatever he could, might denounce himself for the delator’s portion of the reward. If his life was at risk, suicide would save his estate against the judgment; the delator would still get his reward but it would come from the treasury. Political cases were tried before the senate.

Eventually a charge of treason was added to every offense charged against prominent persons since every crime is in a sense against the state or the emperor, the incarnation of the people. Nowadays we distinguish political crimes from civil crimes. But all crimes are political inasmuch as they are crimes against the state to be prosecuted by someone on behalf of the state and not by particular victims. Happily, that advance in procedure, based on the notion that a realm belongs to its sovereign and all crimes committed therein are therefore offenses against him, supplanted feuding, where everyone was a law unto himself except when on royal grounds and highways. In any case, it served delators, the emperor, and the treasury well to make the emperor an offended party to every kind of complaint no matter how remote the offense was from political business.

Delators always found plenty of muck to rake given the corruption of their day. Of course some sort of documentation was required to support a charge, yet clever sophists could create muck out of thin air if none were found. If their case failed, however, the delator and his mandator or sponsor would have to suffer the penalty they wanted for the accused.

Commoners were not the only informers. Even senators stooped to betray their colleagues and best friends and family members for the rewards. So it is no wonder that delation fell into disrepute. The muckraking delator had a status lower than the garbage collector.

The infamous practice waned by the time of Tacitus, the historian credited with rendering Tiberius so infamous by emphasizing the evils in his contradictory anecdotal gossip in his Annals. Tacitus was himself a muckraker or sort of common informer, laying the evils of the times on Tiberius, who reportedly attempted to follow in the steps of Augustus, his august predecessor, who had made use of common informers. Tiberius lacked the charisma and passion of Augustus. He took occasional steps to curb delation, perhaps with ulterior motives, and instituted other reforms. At least one academic, the Reverend John Rendle, MA, has pointed out the contradictions in Tacitus’ account, painting Tiberius as a great emperor, with a few qualifications of course, at book length in The History of That Inimitable Monarch Tiberius (1811). In sum, the Reverend agreed with “seven contemporary and other writers” that:

Tiberius was very studious of every liberal and useful science; the friend of none but virtuous and learned men as long as he lived; most cordially beloved by all his officers and men when commander and chief; the sole supporter of the Roman super-eminence during the Pannonian and German wars; by the senate made equal in power to Augustus five years before he became a Monarch; a detester of flattery and all pompous titles long after he was a monarch; the abhorrent opposer of his own deification in the tenth year of his monarchy; most eminent, exemplary, great, just and humane long after the disaster at Fidenae (collapse of the amphitheatre that killed or injured 20,000); an eater of human flesh and drinker of human blood after he was so very exemplary; the universal dispenser of the blessings of peace during most of his reign; permitted the worst of all civil wars to rage at Rome from the fourteenth to the nineteenth of his reign; overcome by the pressure of family affections during the first years of the same period; negligent of the gods, but attentive to some one god in the decline of life; a friend of Jews and the maintainer of Jewish rights always; a hearer of the law and a partial doer of it from the time he went to Rhodes; remarkably inquisitive about futurity sometime before he died; a believer in the divinity of Jesus Christ in the fourteenth year of his reign; the abolisher of al sanctuary protections after the Jews and preferred Barabbas to Jesus; the first prohibitor of immediate executions before the death of Sejanus; the nursing father of the infant Catholic Church during the last eight years of his reign; the protection of Jewish Christians as not blasphemers in the sixteenth year of his reign; of all kings or autocrats the most venerable when old; as some affirmed, prefigured by that of a phoenix; solemnized with due pomp and at the public expense as his funeral; and, lastly, who, at his death, followed Augustus to the residence of the gods.

Tacitus’ descriptions of the pestilent effects of delation rings true, however, reminding us of East Berlin under surveillance by the Stasi, the U.S.S.R secured by the KGB, and other totalitarian states that have been established throughout the world.

This was the most pestilent calamity of those times, that the first men of the senate performed the office of the meanest informers: some openly, many in secrecy; nor could you observe any distinction between kinsmen and aliens, friends and strangers,—whether the acts imputed were recent, or fetched from the obscurity of past times: equally for words spoken in the forum,—at entertainments,—upon whatsoever subject,—the speakers were accused, according as everyone hastened to get the start and point out the culprit : some did it for their own protection, but the generality infected, as it were, with the malady and contagion of the times….. At no time was the city in a state of deeper anxiety and alarm, never was there greater need of caution against a man’s nearest relatives; men were afraid to meet, afraid to discourse: silence and distrust extended alike to strangers and acquaintance, and both were equally avoided: even things dumb and inanimate, roofs and walls, were regarded with apprehension. Annals

An example related by Tacitus was the case of four informers who had all been praetors (elected magistrates) set up a trap to gather evidence against a Roman knight by the name of Titus Sabinus. They endeavored to get rid of him because he stood in the way of their aspirations to consulship, which could be obtained through the auspices of Lucius Aelieus Sejanus, the praetor prefect who practically ruled Rome during the moody absences of his best friend Tiberius, who would eventually become wary of a coup and have him imprisoned, strangled and tossed down the Gemonian stairs to rot. Sabinus’ offense was his friendship for Tiberius’s nephew, “Germanicus,” the agnomen given him after to his victories in Germany. Germanicus died of a mysterious disease, rumored to have been poisoned at the behest of Tiberius. The praetors Latinius Latiaris was enlisted to curry favor with Sabinus, attracting him into his home, where senators were hidden in the attic with their ears glued to “nooks and crannies.” Latiaris induced Sabinus to denounce Sejanus for his cruelty, pride, and terrible plots, and, in the process of doing so, Tiberius was uttered against as well. This information was dispatched in the form of a written memorial to Tiberius, who sent a letter a letter to the senate on the matter, then indicted Sabinus before the senate for treason in terms that required vengeance. The historical accounts of his death are contradictory; Tacitus claims that Sabinus was dragged out and immediately put to death.

Naturally paranoid megalomaniacal emperors representing themselves as the divine incarnation of the people could take offense at almost any offense reported by a common informer as treason, striking fear into the hearts of the people they supposedly represented that the slightest hint of disagreement or even a tear shed over the death of a relative who happened to be the emperor’s enemy might result in their own prosecution and demise. A modern historian sums up the ancient annals as follows:

“The law decreed that the informer should receive a quarter of the goods belonging to the condemned, but this sum was often exceeded when the victim was a person of importance. After the condemnation of Thrasea and Soranus the chief informers each received five million terces (one million francs), and by these means scandalously large fortunes were quickly acquired. Epriuss Marcellus and Vibius Crispus earned at this trade three hundred million sesterces (sixty million francs). The Emperor was not satisfied with repaying their services by money, he also lavished upon them all the State dignities. After each important case there was a distribution of praetorships and edileships. These ancient republican dignities served as a price for shameful compliance. Nothing, according to Tacitus, was a greater offence to honest people than to see the informers “displaying the sacerdotal offices and the consulate, as though they were spoils taken from the enemy.” At the end of Tiberius’ reign men only became consul when they had ruined one of Caesar’s enemies. And under Domitian it was the shortest road by which public dignities could be attained. In this way, towards the time of Tiberius, informers issued from all ranks of this corrupt society. Seneca tells us, “That on every side there was a mania for informing which emptied Rome more quickly than a civil war.”Nothing is richer in contrasts than the group of informers that Tacitus describes to us; every social rank and position are represented in it. By the side of this crowd of smaller people-slaves, freedmen, soldiers, schoolmasters–we also find the names of a few of the old nobility, a Dulabella, a Scaurus, and even a Cato. There were bold cynical informers, who prided themselves on defying public opinion, who made honest men blush and were proud of doing so, who boasted of their great deeds and claimed glory for them. There were informers belonging to the lower classes, who commenced by the vilest functions, and who having reached wealth and power always retained something of their origin, like Vatinius, whom Tacitus calls one of the monstrosities of Nero’s court. He was formerly a cobbler, and owed his fortune to the buffoonery of his mind and the deformities of his body. And lastly, there were elegant informers, who piqued themselves on their distinction and fine manners, and who gracefully asked for a man’s death. One day an informer of this class appeared before the Senate, dressed in the latest fashion, a smile upon his lips, he came to accuse his father. [Gaston Boissier “Etudes des Moeurs Romaines sous I’Empire,” in The History of Ancient Civilization, A Handbook Based Upon m. Gustave Ducoudray’s Histoire Sommaire de la Civilization, Ed. Rev. J, Verschoyle, New York, Appleton & Company 1889]

Common informers albeit always despised continued to pester the Empire after Tiberius from time to time. His successor Caligula (37-41), who would eventually be assassinated, declared an amnesty and halted the treason trials, thus getting rid of the informers except himself. Much maligned Nero (54-68), who famously committed suicide following a false report that he was about to be executed as a public enemy number one, reduced the rewards to common informers. Titus (79-81), an anti-Semite whom the Talmud reports died pleading with YHWH for mercy because a gnat flew up his nose and turned into a bird, persecuted the informers. His younger brother, totalitarian-minded Domition (81-96), who would be assassinated, encouraged them.

Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire recounts that Commodus (177-192), the son of Marcus Aurelius, the last of the Five Good Emperors, became suspicious that senators were conspiring to assassinate him. The senators hated the megalomaniacal Commodus, who considered himself to be a demigod, and celebrated himself as the new Hercules and Romulus, but the conspiracy that had him strangled in his bath by his wrestling partner, Narcissus, was actually formed by a prefect named Laetus; the Senate thereafter declared Commodus to be a public enemy. Common informers enjoyed a resurgence of delation due to his delusions of grandeur and persecution (paranoia).

The Delators, a race of men discouraged, and almost extinguished, under the former reigns, again became formidable as soon as they discovered that the emperor was desirous of finding disaffection and treason in the senate. That assembly, whom Marcus had ever considered as the great council of the nation, was composed of the most distinguished of the Romans; and distinction of every kind soon became criminal. The possession of wealth stimulated the diligence of the informers; rigid virtue implied a tacit censure of the irregularities of Commodus; important services implied a dangerous superiority of merit, and the friendship of the father always insured the aversion of the son. Suspicion was equivalent to proof; trial to condemnation. The execution of a considerable senator was attended with the death of all who might lament or revenge his fate; and when Commodus had once tasted human blood, he became incapable of pity of remorse.

Eventually offenses other than treason were prosecuted in the courts of justice by the aggrieved parties or their attorneys. Constantine (306-337), reputedly the first Christian emperor, punished them. Edward Gibbon’s research of ancient writers who freely exposed the faults of Constantine confessed that his predecessor Maxentius (306-312), who drowned in a river fleeing Constantine’s victorious army, was far worse than Constantine, that he was cruel, rapacious, and profligate, and that his suppression of a slight rebellion in Africa “was followed by the abuse of law and justice. A formidable army of sycophants and delators invaded Africa; the rich and the noble were easily convicted of a connection with the rebels; and those among them who experienced the emperor’s clemency were only punished by the confiscation of their estates.”

Theodosius (379-395), whose will divided a reunified empire between East and West at his death, made a nice distinction between common informers and persons willing to denounce pagans and heretics such as the Manicheans:

“In the mind of Theodosius Christianity and citizenship were coterminous and anyone who denied Christ automatically made himself an outlaw of the Christian Roman society. An even more sternly worded edict against the Manicheans was issued by Theodosius (31 March 382) in which the recipient, Florus, the praetorian prefect, was told to establish special courts for the trial of Manicheans and receive (anonymous) informers (indices) and denouncers (denunctiatores) without the odium of delation. It was a well-held principle of Roman Law that frivolous or baseless accusations put forward by anonymous indices should be discouraged and all accusation should be conducted by formal delation in which an unsuccessful delator was liable to an action for calumnia. Constantine laid down in a law of 313 a certain regulations concerning informers and threatened those who broke them with the death penalty and this was reaffirmed by a later law of 319.” (Samuel N.C. Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China (1992)]

Given human nature, vestiges of delation were destined to survive and bloom full after the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 when Romulus Augustulus was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 CE). Sidonius Apollinaris (430-489), prefect of Gaul, denounced them in a letter: “They are the wretches, as you yourself have heard me say upon the spot, whom Gaul endures with groans these many years, and who make the barbarians themselves seem merciful in comparison. They are the scoundrels whom even the formidable fear. They are the men whose peculiar province it seems to be to calumniate, to denounce, to intimidate and to plunder.”

Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565) had the ancient Roman laws compiled, using as primary source the Institutes of Roman Law (160 AD) composed by the celebrated Roman jurist Gaius. Delation was described therein as a popular action brought by an informer for a reward, where the informer enforces a public right, suing as a procurator for the people. Infamous or ignominious persons such as prostitutes, pimps, gladiators, dancers, alien homosexuals and others defamed by a censor or praetor were not allowed to serve in that capacity. Criminals, however, were naturally encouraged to inform on others.

Justinian’s Code, a unit within his Corpus Juris Civilis along with the Digest and Institutes, clearly prohibits delation unless the “detestable” or “execrable” delator is a fiscal informer who benefits the state treasury. Informers who protect the property interests of cities, however, shall not be considered odious. Slaves who inform on their masters shall be executed even if their accusations are true.

“Neither a servant nor freeman shall be permitted to be an informer and no one need fear death or loss of property from that source. And if anyone informs against another that he has found a treasure or for some other reason, he shall, if he be a slave, be at once delivered to a death by fire, especially if he should inform against his master; if he be free, his goods shall be confiscated, he shall lose his citizenship and shall be banished from the soil of the Roman Empire.”

If an informer is “proven to be a malicious accuser, or if he desists from the accusation and hides, he shall, if he disdains a pecuniary punishment on account of the smallness of his property, be subjected to lashes and to perpetual banishment; but if he belongs to the imperial service or has an honorable position of possesses ample property, he shall lose both his position and property, and will be forbidden to reside in the imperial city or in the province.”

The Turkish Ottomans brought the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in the East to an end with a 53-day siege culminating with the fall of its capital, Constantinople, to an army led by a 21-year old sultan in 1453, a grievous blow as well to Christendom in the East. By then common informers had by no means vanished from the face of the Earth. Delation persisted in Europe where Romans had established themselves, thriving, for example, for centuries in Britain. The English would put so-called common informers to use whether they could personally prosecute a case or not. For example, Catholicism was harassed by them by virtue or vice of the 1699 “Act for further preventing the growth of Popery (11 & 12 Gul. III, 4) offer a reward to common informers of a 100-pound reward for the apprehension of priests.

The libels or writs of common informers who could prosecute cases themselves in England were called as a qui tam (“who as well”) writs, from qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, “he who sues in this matter for the king as well as himself.” More specifically, a qui tam was an action under a statute which imposes a penalty for the doing or not doing an act, and gives that penalty in part to whosoever will sue for the same, and the other part to the commonwealth, or some charitable, literary, or other institution, and makes it recoverable by action. The plaintiff describes himself as suing as well for the commonwealth for example, as for himself.

In the thirteenth century, prior to the inclusion of qui tam in statutes, qui tam was a means of bringing a suit rather than a peculiar form of action, so a non-statutory qui tam plaintiff filed his suit in an ordinary general writ as if he were suing to recover for an ordinary wrong. There were two types of non-statutory qui tam, then, that allowed private plaintiffs to file complaints in the emerging royal courts: one served the interests of parties who had actually suffered a wrong; the other included the interests of the common informer in their bounties. Eventually, in the fourteenth century, the jurisdiction of the royal courts was extended to the hearing of complaints from the aggrieved parties themselves without the qui tam means, leaving qui tam as the tool of common informers.

A qui tam action has rarely if ever been used in England since the Common Informers Act of 1951 abolished the provision of rewards to private citizens for bring suits on behalf of the state. Qui tam is, however, alive and well in the United States in so-called whistleblower acts; e.g. the federal False Claims Act where a “relator,” someone who relates information to obtain a specific reward, can step in and file a writ against someone defrauding or cheating the government.

Edward Coke (1552-1634), who served Britain variously as Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, Attorney General and Solicitor General for England and Wales, took common informers to task in his Institutes of English Law: Third Part Concerning High Treason, And Other Pleas of the Crown, and Criminal Causes (1798) Capitulo 88, “Against Vexatious Relators, Informers, Promoters upon Penal Statutes.” The foregoing persons he labeled in Latin “turbidum hominem genus” i.e., men who stir up trouble i.e. muckrakers. He attributed a “multiplication of suits in law” in part to “the swarm of informers” and a “multitude of attorneys.”

“Informers and relators,” he wrote, “raised many suits, by informations, writs, &c. in the King’s Courts as Westminster upon penal statutes, many whereof were obsolete, inconvenient, and not fit for those days, and yet remain snares upon the subject…. Lastly, the multitude of attorneys, more than is limited by law, is a great cause of increase in suits.”

Informers, he claimed, are “viperous vermin, which endeavored to have eaten out the sides of the church and the commonwealth.” So laws were made in the 18th and 28th and 31st year of Queen Elizabeth’s reign including corporal punishment to rein in common informers, but another law to the same end is required because there people are still causing a great deal of grief to the Queen’s subjects. He explained that many obsolete penal laws remain on the books as snares which relators, informers and promoters used to vex and entangle subjects. For example: statutes regulating the price of poultry, the transportation of corn, the price of hats, caps, candles. broadcloth, concerning vagabonds, unlawful games, and alehouses, the sale of wine, decay of houses, buying of wool, keeping of great horses, manufacture of locks, rings and crosses, the sale of colored cloth, and so on. The king’s courts in Westminster are being clogged with suits brought by common informers from counties everywhere so that Westminster is likely to suffer from apoplexy. To make matters worse, an informer in one county can at his pleasure bring suit against an alleged infraction in other counties where parties and witnesses are unknown.

Therefore the “Act for the Ease of the Subject concerning the Informations upon Penal Statutes,” in short, “the Common Informers Act of 1623,” (21 Jac. 1, c. 4), specifies “That all offences hereafter to be committed against any penal statute, for which any common informer or promoter may lawfully ground any popular action, bill, plaint, suit or information, &c. shall be commenced, sued, prosecuted, &c. in the counties where the offenses were committed, and not elsewhere.”

The foregoing was apparently insufficient, as we can see from “The Common Informer,” an article by dramatist (“the little Shakespeare”) and journalist Douglas William Jerrold (1803-1857), published in London in 1840 by Vizetelly & Co. in the book entitled, Heads of the People, Portraits of the English.

We all know that many people love to complain about trivial breaches of conduct. They will complain all the more given a reward for complaining, no matter how small. “It is but a few days since,” indited Jerrold, “that a celebrated Informer laid an information against the servants of our maiden queen for having failed to emblazon her initials on the vehicle, and thereby having exposed their gracious mistress to the fatal visitation of a fine. But queens are seldom caught tripping; and, by some means, we are happy to state that Her Majesty escaped the stern sense of justice animating the bosom of the Informer, though we have felt it due to him to chronicle the circumstance, as displaying the virtuous boldness of his character.”

He observed that “The Common Informer so generally confines himself to the healthful castigation of the poor, that he is assuredly an Informer very far from the common who has the moral courage to make known the peccadillo of a queen.” That was certainly not the case in Rome of yore, where vast fortunes were made by delators.

What does a common informer look like? According to Jerrold:

“The Common Informer combines in his visage the offensive acuteness of a sharp-practicing attorney, with the restlessness of an illegal pickpocket: we have seen a Common Informer with a face that reminded us of a shaven ferret. We have read what we think may be adduced as good reason for this. Babies feeding at the breast, and gazing up at the face of the parent, are said to become endowed with a resemblance of the mother: the Common Informer, with his eyes constantly fixed on the flaws and crookednesses of the statutes, and feeding upon them, contracts in his features an habitual sharpness and wary meanness of expression, a sort of hungry half-sagacity, illustrative of his beloved studies. The Common Informer is, in fact, the child, the lawful offspring of the silly, the bungling, and the bigoted legislator: hence, the Most Noble the Marquis of —– may, and know it not, be the legislative father of a Johnson and a Byers. If Common Informers have a patron saint, sure we are it must be Saint Stephen.”

“But, it shall be opposed, the Common Informer may be an injured goodness, a real benevolence under a cloud of odium; inasmuch as his labors, suspected and despised as they always are, may, in many instances, enforce the working out of legislative wisdom, and thus ensure to society the blessings of parliamentary philanthropy. All praise to the Common Informer when such is his design! He is then, indeed, a moral presence,–a philosophic goodness toiling under a bad name. Great, indeed, is his character; noble his purpose, contemplated by this light: and yet, unhappily, we cannot call to our recollection the names of any illustrious Informers who, with valuable eccentricity, have worked for the public good in the abstract, where half the imposed fine did not revert to themselves in the concrete….. Bentham has declared the functions of the Common Informer to be most honorable: in truth, Cato, with his sour face and bare feet, might have plied the trade, gaining a civic wreath for the energy and utility of his practice….”

Indeed, the benevolent side of the story had been well elucidated by the inestimable jurist and reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and is well worth quoting at length. He rationalized, under the title, “Rationale of Reward,” the provision of bounties to informers:

In this country where, properly speaking, there is no public prosecutor, many offences, which no individual has any peculiar interest in prosecuting, are liable to remain unpunished. In the way of remedy, the law offers from £10 to £20, to be levied upon the goods of the offender, to whoever will successfully undertake this function: sometimes it is added, that the expenses will be repaid in case of conviction: sometimes this is not promised. These expenses may amount to thirty, fifty, and even one hundred pounds; it is seldom as little as twenty pounds. After this, can we be surprised that the laws are imperfectly obeyed?

It may be added, that it is considered dishonorable to attend to this summons of the laws. An individual, who in this manner endeavors to serve his country, is called an informer; and lest public opinion should not be sufficient to brand him with infamy, the servants of the law, and even the laws themselves, have on some occasions endeavoured to fix the stain. The number of private prosecutors would be much more numerous, if, instead of the insidious offer of a reward, an indemnification were substituted. The dishonorable offer being suppressed, the dishonor itself would cease.

And who can say, when by such an arrangement the circumstance which offends it is removed, whether honor itself may not be pressed into the service of the laws? …. In vain did the Roman emperors bestow honors upon the most odious informers; they degraded the honors, but the informers were not the less infamous. But it is not enough that it does not oppose the prejudices: it is desirable that every reward should obtain the approbation of the public. The execution of a law cannot be enforced unless the violation of it be denounced; the assistance of the informer is therefore altogether as necessary and as meritorious as that of the judge.

It is odious (it is said) to profit by the evil we have caused to others. This objection is found on a feeling of improper commiseration for the offender; since pity towards the guilty is cruelty towards the innocent. The reward paid to the informer has for its object, the service he has performed; in this respect, he is upon a level with the judge who is paid passing sentence. The informer is a servant of the government, employed in opposing the internal enemies of the state, as the soldier is a servant employed in opposing its external foes. It introduces into society a system of espionage. To the word espionage, a stigma is attached let us substitute the word inspection, which is unconnected with the same prejudices. Pecuniary may induce false to conspire against the government. If we suppose a public and well-organized system of procedure in which the innocent are not deprived of any means of defense, the danger resulting from conspiracy will appear but small.

These objections are urged in justification of the prejudice which exists; but the prejudice itself has been produced by other causes; and those causes are specious. The first, with respect to the educated classes of society, is a prejudice drawn from history, especially from that of the Roman emperors. The word informer at once recalls to the mind those detestable miscreants, the horror of all ages, whom even the pencil of Tacitus has failed to cover with all the ignominy they deserve: but these informers were not the executors of the law; they were the executors of the personal and lawless vengeance of the sovereign.

These cases of tyranny excepted, the prejudice which condemns mercenary informers is an evil. It is a consequence of the inattention of the public to their true interests, and of the general ignorance in matters of legislation. Instead of acting in consonance with the dictates of the principle of utility, people in general have blindly abandoned themselves to the guidance of sympathy and antipathy — of sympathy in favour of those who injure — of antipathy to those who render them essential service. If an informer deserves to be hated, a judge deserves to be abhorred.

The prejudice also springs from a confusion of ideas. No distinction is made between the judicial and the private informer; between the man who denounces a crime in a court of justice, and he who secretly insinuates accusations against his enemies; between the man who affords to the accused an opportunity of defending himself, and he who imposes the condition of silence with respect to his perfidious reports. Clandestine accusations are justly considered as the bane of society: they destroy confidence, and produce irremediable evils; but they have nothing in common with judicial accusations.

Besides the prodigious difficulty of inventing a coherent tale capable of enduring a rigorous examination, there is no comparison between the reward offered by the law, and the risk to which false witnesses are exposed. Mercenary witnesses also are exactly those who excite the greatest distrust in the mind of a judge, and if they are the only witnesses, a suspicion of conspiracy instantly presents itself, and becomes a protection to the accused.

Three years prior to the publication of Jerrold’s article in the mother country, we find this report, entitled “Report On The Abolition of Capital Punishment” (Paper No. 4, 1837, issued by the Massachusetts House of Representatives Committee on Capital Punishment:

Whereas Revenge is an Unholy Passion and the Law must be Wholly Passionless: There may have been many cases where government found it expedient to employ revenge, as well as other bad passions, to execute its decrees: such a necessity is to be regretted, and the practice abandoned as soon as the necessity ceases. Encouraging common informers was an expedient of this sort, very common in our own laws, but it has been wisely stricken out in almost every instance from the Revised Statutes.” Fixing a price upon the head of a refugee was once thought just and useful, but is now condemned. Promising pardon to an accomplice, to induce him to testify against his fellow criminal, is a use now made of the treachery which is despised while it is used. In a state of nature, every man revenges to the utmost of his power the injury that he has received: retaliation is the only rule of punishment. In a rude state of society these practices are suffered to continue, because they cannot be prevented. The law only undertakes to restrict them within certain limits, and to forbid their most cruel excesses. The legislator, who should enact laws which presuppose a more elevated standard of morality, would find that public opinion did not sustain him, and that his statutes would remain inoperative and useless. It has been observed, that among a people hardly yet emerged from barbarity, punishments should be most severe, as strong impressions are required; but in proportion as the minds of men become softened by their intercourse in society, the severity should be diminished, if it be intended that the necessary relation between the infliction and its object should be maintained. For this reason, the indulgence of individual revenge is much less an evil, while society is obliged to tolerate it, than it would be in a later stage, when it might be, and ought to be suppressed.

Bentham’s suasions held for a century and a half in Britain, but in 1951 fell to an ‘Act to abolish the common informer procedure’ (14 & 15 Geo. 6, c. 39):

“No proceedings for a penalty or forfeiture under any Act in the Schedule to this Act or under any local and private Act shall be instituted in Great Britain against any person after the commencement of this Act. Provided that no part of the penalty or forfeiture is payable to a common informer….”

British lawmakers have since regretted the abolition of rewards to common informers. The practice is alive and well in the United States. On the federal level, the False Claims Act, called the Lincoln Law, was legislated in 1863, subsequently amended, to curb frauds on the government by punishing crooked contractors. To wit, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., provides for liability for triple damages and a penalty from $5,500 to $11,000 per claim for anyone who knowingly submits or causes the submission of a false or fraudulent claim to the United States. A qui tam provision allows common informers i.e. whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the government and collect from 10 to 30% of the amount recovered. The federal government recovered an estimated $60 billion under the Act since 1987, of which over two-thirds was derived from qui tam actions brought by relators. States and other jurisdictions have similar statutes on the books that allow informants to collect finders’ fees. The rewards may be large. Whistleblowers, who are likely to be fired if they work for the organizations that makes the false claim, may retain law firms to have them reinstated with double back pay and to pursue the case if the government declines to intervene. The chances of recovery are much higher if the government does intervene, accounting for over 95% of recoveries as of 2015.

False claim acts do not include tax fraud. The federal and state governments otherwise pay bounties on amounts recovered from tax fraud to informants who make formal claims with governments when submitting information. Those non-qui-tam informants may not bring the suit for recovery themselves.

As we have seen, the evils of delation are believed to due to pecuniary and other material rewards made available to greedy common informers. On the other hand, greed, if that is what we must call the passion, and protection from retaliation, has results superior to other base motives such as pride, envy, wrath, malice and such. So-called qui tam actions where delators, now called relators, have a right to prosecute as private persons on behalf of government may indeed provide a better incentive for insiders to out wrongdoers than a conscious will to do their ethical duty for the public. Most whistleblowers are insiders simply because they have access inside information. Employers who treat their employees very well are unlikely to be outed by them. And the very high rate of recovery obtained when government intervenes in qui tam filings indicates that the imagination or malicious motives of common informants lead them to file frivolous or false informations.

The good citizen is expected to altruistic or to be good from a sense of duty to the common good and not from selfish reasons. But we cannot be absolutely certain in any case that an actor is self-interested. Why should he be, when the egoistic or “Dear Self” (Kant) is essential to the survival and progress of the human race?

We all have some complaints in common and are all informers to the degree we voice them. The question is, what sort of informers are we, and to what extent? We may reflect on history as if in a mirror and beg askance of our motives for answers.

No doubt the common informer is as good and evil as any other man or single god for that matter. Therefore it behooves government to make the best of him.


I Don’t Want No Gun




I don’t want no gun because I am afraid of myself, that I might kill somebody.

I have what is known as an Irish temper. I was born in the year of the rooster, however, and I tend to back down after I shoot my mouth off. That is, my bark is worse than my bite. If that bark were the sound of a gun because I pulled the trigger, I would regret the consequences even more than my long history of other mistakes. History for me is by definition a mistake, and I don’t want to make it worse.

I am a liberal thinker, but I am a conservative actor and a friend of the police. That is not to say that I appreciate them all.

Civilization is a veneer, and my personal mask is rather thin. One never knows what he might do in certain situations that he has not experienced before. I could jump the gun.

I have had opportunities to defend myself by killing someone who threatened my life, and I refrained. Fortunately, such a defense was unnecessary, and I survived by overpowering my assailants.

I believe I would, but I do not know if I would kill someone in self-defense or kill someone for hurting or threatening to harm my loved ones, including my countrymen whom I love at a distance, or human beings in general since I am one of them. My dad used to say that he who loves everybody loves nobody.

As far as theory goes I am a limited pacifist. I believe there are extreme cases where war is justified. I disagree with Martyrs for Love, that it is better to die from injustice than to violently defend oneself.

History teaches me that violence may be necessary for the moral improvement of the race.

I believe the motive for the Second Amendment guaranteed people the right to bear arms against the existing police power, at that time the British police power, and to establish armories where arms could be kept in the event they were needed for the defense of communities. Very few individuals carried guns in settled communities.

So yes I believe that arms should be available including heavy arms in the event the police power is being abused and needs to be overthrown to protect the people from tyranny.

The recent shootings of police officers in retaliation for shooting of civilians by other officers does not suit my theory. The misdeeds or mistakes of a few should not condemn the entirety.

And we should be careful in the very beginning to distinguish between an intentional misdeed an a stupid mistake or involuntary harm. It behooves us to gather together to examine the evidence and reason upon it instead of seeking immediate revenge.

I do confess that if my loved ones were killed I would naturally want revenge right away.

And I must add that I would want revenge against the particular person who did the harm and not against innocent people of that person’s status or class, or his family or tribe as if feuding were the law of the land.

A classic sense of justice would deem it wrong to go into a school and shoot anyone other than the bully who offended me. Likewise it would be unjust for me to shoot any police officers other than the ones that committed the offense.

Yes, I can imagine myself lying in wait for a police officer who killed a loved one so that I could torture and execute him. However my imagination would also include the grief of his family upon his pain and death. I pray that that would deter me. Only barbarians would harm a man’s entire family for a personal offense.

Again, civilization is a veneer; we have vestiges of barbarism throughout the world today that could plunge it into chaos.

Now turning to the recent to police shootings that have spawned outrage throughout the nation, and retaliation against police officers who were not even involved in the shootings, I pray that everyone should stand back and consider all of the evidence as well as the psychology of the officers in their situations and reason upon it at length.

I assume first of all the best; therefore, for the sake of argument I propose that the shooting of the man in the car stopped for a broken light was a mistake due to CONFUSION. That is, due to the officer’s perception of the weapon referred to by the deceased after he was asked to present his drivers license. When he reached for it, the officer did not stop to consider the matter because he perceived the gentleman was going for a gun.

To say that it was just a traffic stop does not take into account the fact that police officers are regularly maimed and murdered after stopping people for traffic violations.

In other words I presume the officer is innocent of murder and racism until there is proof otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course we expected the officer not to shoot until he actually saw a gun, but we should remember that the time from the sight of the gun to a bullet entering our heart can be a matter of one second.

As for the man shot point-blank when he was being restrained on the ground, that seems to me to be an unnecessary use of deadly force even though a witness testifying against the police officer said the victim had a gun in his back pocket.

Even so I would withhold judgment until all of the evidence is collected and reasoned on. If the man were my brother, I do not believe that I would stalk the officer who shot him in order to kill him, if my barbarous instinct motivated me to do so, because the fact that my brother was carrying a gun and that he was on parole gives me cause to think that he who carries a gun is more likely to be shot.

Now the man who assaulted officers in Dallas, killing five of them and wounding others, said he did that in retaliation for the two police shootings.

He had armed himself, however, long before those shootings occurred, and it occurs to me that he was of a disposition that we call “looking for an excuse to immediately kill somebody.”

His hatred of himself and resentment of society was displaced on white people and police officers. It might have been displaced on other convenient scapegoats, to the purpose of acting out his rage.

No, this is not the time for a race war or any kind of war. As always, if we would maintain civilization and progress we must listen to reason, which is the name of a social process that no particular person owns alone.

If it be fundamentally true that we live by illusions and fictions let them be the best ones grounded on our finer instincts.

One voice of reason I believe should be heeded Is that of our reasonable professor of constitutional law, Barack Obama, the President of the United States, who is by nature between black and white thinking.

Yes, what he says is propaganda, but remember that his propaganda on this occasion is true to our ideals and well being

I might change my mind if things get really bad. Right now, no thank you, I don’t want no gun.

David Arthur Walters

Miami Beach

Christmas Eve Homicide



From the Dairies of Detective White Lace

Reconstructed by David Arthur Walters


“Toni, did you take my snowflake sweater?” Heather shouted down the stairs. I had blearily awakened to the sound of her rummaging through her drawers and slamming them shut. I winced and pulled the pillow back over my head, only to throw it across the room at the door when ‘Jingle Bells’ started blasting throughout the duplex.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.”

“Turn that down!” I hollered, checked the alarm clock, got up, showered and put on my only red dress. It’s Christmas Eve, and I might as well dress for the season, I thought. I had to work a short shift and get my shopping done. The girls, home for Christmas break, were already eating their cereal when I got downstairs. I turned down the stereo and toasted two banana waffles for myself.

“Oh! You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!”

“Mom, would you get Toni her own snowflake sweater. I’m tired of her wearing mine so I don’t have it when I want it.”

“You said I could borrow it, Heather,” Toni retorted. “I don’t want a red one, I want a blue one.”

“We’ll see,” I replied to Toni. “If you want to borrow Heather’s, ask her to give it to you, just don’t take it. Okay?”


I gobbled a waffle and washed it down with swig of my morning fix of Coke – stock up on Coke, I mentally noted. I checked my watch – I’m late! I winced and hurried to get myself to the office on time. “I’ve got to get to work, young ladies. You have a good day,” I said.

“O Frosty the snowman was alive as he could be, and the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me…”

“We’re going to make a snowman! We’re going to make a snowman!” Bobbi shouted gleefully, and chanted, “Jingle bells! Jingle bells! Jingle Bells!”

“Okay sweetie. Dress warmly, be a good girl and do what Heather tells you,” I commanded. And to Heather: “Heather, I’ll call you, and you call me right away if there’s a problem. Sarah will come over…. ” – Sarah and her husband Tom are our next door neighbors.

“Mom, I’m not a baby. I’m sixteen, and everything will be all right,” Heather reminded me.

“I know, honey, I know, but I worry, that’s my job. Keep an eye on your sisters, and don’t leave them alone when playing in the yard, and don’t let them leave the yard.”

“All right, all ready, Mom. Please, trust me. I baby sit for people all the time, and they trust me.”

“Yes, they do, honey. I’ll try to get home early today, but must stop by the mall first. I won’t be long. I’ll call you. I love you.”

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you, Be of good cheer….”

Bobbi ran over to me. I leaned down for my kiss and breathed in her fresh, little-girl scent. She wrinkled her nose, giggled, and squeezed my neck. I gave Toni a hug, and I was out the door. Bobbi opened the door and hollered after me as I tramped through the fresh snowfall to my SUV: “I want a snowflake sweater too!” Toni chimed in: “Remember I want a blue one, Mom!” Then Heather: “See if you can get the Twilight movie!”

“Bye-bye!” I yelled and waved. “Heather, lock the door!”

The three sisters were framed by the door, prettier than any classic American painting: Toni, with her blond locks, blue eyes and ruddy checks; and little auburn-haired Bobbi, with her big brown eyes; and there was Heather, with braided black hair crowning her rich, caramel skin, standing tall with charcoal eyes glowing. Bobbi and Toni waved, and Heather shut the door.

#There was really not much to do at the office that morning. I horsed around some with the guys, who were talking story and practicing practical jokes. I examined and entered a current homicide investigation field note into the database:

“Case: 2000-H365. Victim: John Harley. Place: 2645 Willow Road. Reporting Officer: Robert Skinner. Badge: H-009. Date: 12-23-00. Note: Patrol officers Sparrow, Phillips, Dickerson had searched and secured the premises by the time I arrived at 1430 hours. The victim’s wife, Sarah Harley, told me her husband had been shot dead in his study. The victim was on the floor behind the desk, slumped on his right side. I observed a gunshot wound approximately ¼ inch in diameter to the back and center of the victim’s bald head, approximately ½ inches left of center, and a similar gunshot wound to the center of the forehead. Dark gray circles about ¼ inches wide surrounded the wounds. No exit wounds were apparent. No casings were on the floor. Mrs. Harley told me she had come home from Christmas shopping at the Target on Mulberry Street, at approximately 1300 hours. She said went upstairs fifteen minutes later, found victim on floor of study behind his desk, found no pulse, called 911, and contacted a neighbor across the street. She had blood on the knees of her white slacks, her white blouse, and on both hands. She said she noticed nothing peculiar when she came home, nor was there to the best of her knowledge anything missing or out of place in the study. There were some papers on the desk. She indicated that her husband was working on their finances that morning. She collapsed as I interviewed her, and was attended to by fireman J. M. Kearney – emergency services had arrived on the scene 1440 hours.”

Here we go again, I thought as I typed in the note. Bob’s been on the force fifteen years! How many times do we have to be told not to use vague words like “indicated” and “contacted”? How did she “indicate” that her husband was working on finances? Did he explicitly say that? Or did she point at a bank statement? And did she call her neighbor, or did she go to her neighbor’s house when she “contacted” her? And what neighbor was that? Name? Address? “Who interviewed the neighbor?” I jotted on my yellow pad. And, “Where is the record of the interview with the neighbor?” Also, “Get and read the CSI reports.” Looks like a professional hit, I thought, maybe with .22 slugs tearing around inside his skull.

Done with that task, I rummaged through a cold-case file box Randy brought up from the basement for me. A John Doe, presumably homeless, had been found frozen to a sidewalk behind the Lincoln Mall via his body fluids on Christmas Eve 1994. He had been beaten mercilessly. Shoppers stepped over or walked around him for at least an hour before someone alerted a security guard. A man came forward yesterday, a Baptist minister, and confessed to participating with two other youths in beating the man to death with baseball bats, but he refused to identify his accomplices.

The work was absorbing so the morning went quickly enough. “God rest you merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay….” was wafting over the intercom system at noon. I was invited to Mel’s for Christmas cheer. They know very well that I am a teetotaler.

“No thanks, guys, Christmas Eve in bars is for Sad Sacks crying in their beers – my girls are waiting for me,” I begged off.

“You know why I drink?” asked Randy.

“Why?” I humored him.

“To keep from killing teetotalers!”

“Very funny, Randy,” I laughed along with the guys, bid them all Merry Christmas and took off for the mall.

“Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus! Right down Santa Claus Lane!

#Christmas shopping was a bit daunting what with the crowd and my long list of things to buy, but I soon lost myself in the festive shopping atmosphere augmented by piped-in Christmas carols, and found myself humming along as I browsed through the girls sweaters rack.

“O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem. Come and behold Him, born the King of angels….”

Toni and Bobbi admired and envied their big sister; they just had to look like her whenever she prized some article of clothing, therefore the desire for snowflake sweaters this year. At the same time, they wanted to be as different as they were; therefore they wanted different colors. I was in luck, for this old-fashioned style of sweater, well made in Vietnam, was not in demand; I came up with the two sweaters my girls wanted, and at a 30% discount!

My job as a homicide investigator requires that I be on call over the holidays. We have the most murders down South, and we get a lot of them during the hot months, but the year-end holidays can also be quite busy for us. Drinking is always a problem that invariably gets out of hand, and even the more so when expectations are great and people get let down, becoming depressed and angry. I’d investigated four homicides last Christmas Eve, including the shooting of a prostitute by a narcotics officer at Mel’s Tavern downtown, right across the street from the police station – he then turned the gun on himself, splattering the wall with his brains – I was upset by the sight, and made a stupid field note: “I’ve never seen Steve this way.”

I was disappointed but not surprised when I heard the special ring tone – a police siren – and fielded the call on my Blackberry this Christmas Eve, just as I was pulling out of the parking lot with my trunk full of gifts and Coke. I sped over to the scene of a double homicide, at 1640 Oak Lane, situated in a modest neighborhood. Curious neighbors and passersby, and media people had gathered in front of the house. Officers were busy collecting statements. A suitable carol came over my car radio as I parked.

“Rudolf with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

The low-slung, ranch-style home had a Santa Clause in a sled pulled by reindeer on its roof, and an artificial angel stood by the front door, as if to guard the home. The location had already been taped off. Lt. Jack Dale greeted me as I approached. He’s not that handsome, yet I’ve got a crush him. He’s a married man, so I told myself to forget it, again.

“There are lots of uniforms out there,” my dad, a Marine colonel, once told me when I was lovesick over a certain private, “so don’t chase after this one.” I’m a military brat, a frustrated wildcat who can’t help loving authority in or out of uniform, so I’m wild about the cops I work with. I’d like to have the most of them, including the two female officers who are bikers, but that won’t do, not for a mother with three adopted daughters! An arousing vision of a fling I might have with Jack flashed through my mind, but I composed myself to focus on the job.

“Merry Christmas, Lt. Dale,” I addressed him formally. “What have we got?”

“Merry Christmas to you, Lace. We’ve got two bodies inside, a 23-year-old Caucasian female and her 6-year-old nephew. We’ve pretty much got things covered, but I’d like you to take a look see.”

“Where’s the rest of the family?”

“The only remaining member of the immediate family is the mother – she’s all alone now, she said. She has a good friend, someone I know, Betty Jane Calamari, her neighbor, who works at the abused women’s shelter. She came over and is inside consoling her now.”

I listened carefully as Lt. Dale described the details of the case as we went inside. The home was elegant yet homey. The living room was festive with Christmas decorations. Typical boy toys – an assortment of cyborg warriors, miniature war machines, and a large plastic ray-gun – were strewn about the floor. It was warm and inviting. I had not seen anything unusual so far, like signs of forced entry, robbery, or of a struggle. I hated these calls, I thought as I saw the gifts stacked under the Christmas tree, especially the calls where children were involved.

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, much pleasure doth thou bring me!”

I could not get away from the carols, this one coming from the home’s stereo system. I was about to ask an officer to turn it off, but decided against it. After all, it was Christmas Eve, and maybe I was the only one who minded the irony.

“This is going to be bad, I’m going to have to look at a young woman and a child killed on Christmas Eve,” I said to myself as we proceeded to the private rooms off to the right of the L-shaped home. “But homicides are always bad, and experience has braced me against tragedy.” Still, as case-hardened as I was, I was not adequately steeled against what I was about see.

“The child’s mother arrived home from an overnight business trip to Riverdale and found her younger sister dead on the bed in the master bedroom,” said Lt. Dale. “Then she found her child face down in the master bath, apparently drowned in the bathtub. The back door was unlocked. There is no sign of forced entry throughout the house – maybe the sister knew the perpetrator. We’ve got a trail of footprints out back leading into the woods. We’re following up on that now.”

“Where is the husband?” I asked.

“Her husband was killed in a car accident last month.”

“Oh no,” I said softly. I listened to the rest of his account, my eyes focusing apprehensively on the semi-closed door of the master bedroom as we approached it. We entered the large bedroom. Two crime scene technicians were in the room busily collecting evidence, taking pictures, chit-chatting. I concentrated on the four-poster bed, and fell into my observational mode – the surroundings disappeared: all that existed was the still form on the four-poster bed.

A particularly bright flash from a camera lit up the tableau like a movie set. The woman’s nudity, sprawled wantonly across the bed, was garish in the harsh light. Her skin, pale and flaccid, was cold to the touch. Her lips were colorless, her eyes clouded, her limbs stiff, and purplish lividity had settled to the bottom of the body.

“She’s been gone some time,” I murmured, as if in a trance. “Has the rectal been taken? What’s the TOD?”

“She’s room temperature. More than ten hours ago, probably less than twenty-four, we’ll know more later,” said one of the technicians.

Death had been an unforgiving lover, leaving her wanting, her face frozen in a silent scream of agony, eyes widened in horror. And her face had taken a beating on her right side, most likely with a fist, judging from the markings. Her nose was broken. She had obviously been strangled, probably with bare hands. Blood was caked on her inner thighs, and a small pool of blood had collected on the bedspread between her legs. She had been raped. Profile: anger-retaliatory rapist.

“Any semen on her legs, on the bedding?” I asked the technician.

“Lots of it, hair too, and skin under the nails, plenty of evidence, very sloppy business.”

“Excellent. Maybe we’ll get a match on him right away.”

“Yet with the woes of sin and strife, the world has suffered long. Beneath the heavenly strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong; and man, at war with man, hears not the tidings which they bring; O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing!”

I noted everything in my Blackberry, and took a few pictures myself. Capt. Dale directed me to master bathroom, and stood aside as I entered, alone. I fell back into my observational trance and felt like I moving, dreamlike, in slow motion, as I ventured into the bathroom. Details leaped out at me, such as the beautiful sea blues, greens, and sand colored geometric design of the tiled floor, the shell shaped nightlight that was plugged into the outlet near the marble sink and the plush blue towels that were folded neatly and hung on the towel bar. I took a breath and allowed my eyes to look at what I did not want to see. The boy floated face down in the tub.

“What child is this? What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping. Whom angels greet with anthems sweet….”

“Oh my God!” The mother in me started to cry out, but the cop in me took control. I took in the scene and registered the salient details in my Blackberry as the cop in me battled for control over the outraged and aggrieved mother. I noticed the red Spiderman pajamas, and the cowlick at the back of the little boy’s head. How many times had his mother lovingly combed down that errant lock? The cop in me wondered about the order of events. Had the child seen the murder of his aunt, and then was killed because of it? The mother in me was sick at the thought of the innocent one having to endure such horror.

I exited the bathroom and rudely brushed past Lt. Dale at the door. I wanted the one responsible. I wanted the man, the murdering rapist, to pay for the pain of a mother that returned to find her life destroyed. Then, I saw her, the mother, huddled in the arms of her friend, Betty Jane, sobbing heartbrokenly. That could just as easily be me, I thought. I winced as I remembered my irritation with the girls this morning at the noise, and how I had scolded them last night for making a beg mess in the kitchen with the cookie batter. Thank God I still had them, and their laughter, and the joy, and all the aggravations, headaches, and heartaches that went with being a mother. I had to call them.

“Heather, honey, I’ll be home soon. Is everything okay? What are your sisters doing?”

“Everything’s fine, Mom. Bobbi and Toni are watching TV with Sarah – she’s hanging out with us for awhile. Are you at the mall?”

“I’m at an investigation.”

“Please come home now. We want you to see our snowman.”

“Mommy, come home and see our snowman!” Toni exclaimed in the background. “Mommy, mommy, come home, we made a snowman!” chimed in Bobbi.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can, Heather. It shouldn’t be too long, maybe an hour and a half at the most.”

“Should I start dinner? We had the soup and turkey sandwiches for lunch.”

“We’ll heat up some frozen pizza tonight. We’ll cook something good tomorrow for Christmas dinner. ”

“All right!”

“I’ve got to go. I love you.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can count on me,” went the carol at the crime scene. How could this mother, her husband so recently lost, possibly cope with losing her only child and her sister? My heart went out to her, and I got angry again, at all men, I’m afraid, but I knew that was unfair, and I managed to cool off.

“Do we have any leads on the perp?” I coolly asked Lt. Dale.

“We were a few slight indentations left, foot tracks filled in by snow, leading to a little stream out back. Technicians are checking that out. They’ve already got clear footprints in the mud by the stream. We couldn’t see where he went from there, too much snow since then, maybe he walked out on the stones” he answered as he led me through the kitchen to the back door. “The neighbors we’ve questioned so far report that they saw nothing unusual lately. I’m going to interview the old lady three houses to the right behind this house, on the other side of the block. The officer who questioned her said she seemed shifty, and she wouldn’t allow him to talk long to her grandson. You want to come along?”

I nodded my assent and we walked down to the stream in back, turned right and walked over to the back of the neighbor’s home, looking for clues along the way. As we went up to the back door, a young man’s face appeared and disappeared in a window upstairs.

“That must be the grandson,” Lt. Dale observed.

“That’s our man. He did it.”

“What? How do you know?”

“I just know.”

“Woman’s intuition?”

“You can call it that. I just know it.”

“We’ll see.”

“Yes, we will.”

Lt. Dale knocked on the back door. An elderly black woman let us in. Bent over with age, slightly overweight, she was leaning on an aluminum cane. She wore a grandma’s gray, plaid dress that fell to below her knees. I noticed that her knee-highs had slipped down to her ankles and that she wore black orthopedic shoes.

“Ma’am, I’m Lieutenant Dale with homicide, and this is Special Investigator Lace. Would you mind if we talk to your grandson a little more,” the Lt. Dale asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do mind,” she responded crossly. “I want to help the best I can, but you police have questioned Maurice enough. He didn’t do nothing last night. He was home with me all night. He ain’t no murderin’ man, that’s for sure.”

“How did you know there was a murder last night?” Lt. Dale asked.

“Well,” she paused momentarily, put a handkerchief over her mouth, coughed, and mumbled, “There were two murders. The young police officer told me the boy and his aunt were found dead, and it probably happened last night.”

“Do you know the victims?” asked Lt. Dale, glancing at me to see if I too knew the old lady was lying. Of course I did. I was certain that she knew what happened and she knew her grandson did it.

“Oh yes, I knew them, and I often babysat Jason for his mama. That poor little angel,” she said, her voice had softened, and now cracked with emotion.

“Ma’am, maybe your grandson noticed some little thing that might help us with the investigation. It would really be helpful if we ask Maurice a few routine questions.”

“I’ll answer your questions.” A brawny, twenty-something man appeared behind his grandmother. He was a tall, handsome fellow with weight-lifters muscles. His head was clean-shaved and shining like a bowling ball. He had two teardrops tattooed under his left eye.

“Boy, you git on out of here,” she ordered fiercely, turning on the young man. “You ain’t goin’ to answer no more questions. Go on, now, go to your room.”


“Go on, git. You ain’t goin’ to be profiled in my house.”

“She’s a mean, domineering one,” I mentally noted.

“I’m tired of you putting me down and telling me what to do!” the angry young man exclaimed, “so you can just go on and ‘git’ yourself. I’m going to talk to the officers in the living room, and you leave us alone.”

“You’d better not, you’d better shut up like I said, and git yourself a lawyer you damn fool!” the old lady cried after us as we went into the living room.

My eyes scanned the young man, taking in his long black T-shirt, hanging down almost to his knees, and his baggy jeans and high top sneakers. I frowned when I noticed his swollen left hand and the red mud caked on the bottom edges of his sneakers. It was obviously the same mud from the stream out back. I glanced at Lt. Dale, and saw that he’d noticed it as well. I was right from the get go: we had our man.

The young man calmed down and was quite composed at the outset of the interview. First of all, he expressed deep regret over the pain that the mother next door was feeling. He consented to our recording the interview, which soon turned into an interrogation – he insisted on waiving his Miranda rights, because, he said, he was innocent. What a fool, I thought – his grandmother was right about that. This guy is guilty as sin.

“You can see the victims’ house from here. Did you hear or see anything unusual lately?” Lt. Dale asked.

“No, I heard or saw nothing strange, you know,” he said. “But I don’t have a habit of watching neighbors, you know. Like I was watching football video last night.”

“You’re a sports fan?”


“What sort of work do you do, Maurice?”

“Construction, when I can get it.”



“Do you drink a lot?”

“Not a lot. I like my beers.”

“We’ll want to take your tennis shoes to the lab. Would you please take them off so we can have a crime lab technician pick them up?”


“It’s routine. I see you have some reddish mud on them.”

He crossed his legs, and said, “Oh, yeah, that’s from the creek out back, you know. Like I go for walks there, to chill out, you know.”

“How did you scrape your knuckles?” Lt. Dale asked, as I quietly observed the proceedings.

“Oh, that,” he raised and looked at his left hand. “That’s from working on my car, you know. Like I was replacing the head gaskets and like I banged my hand when the torque wrench slipped.”

“Maurice,” I took over. “Have you ever done time?”

“What difference does it make?”

“I see you’ve got two teardrops under your eye, one for each prison term served.”

“You’re wrong, lady. Like I’ve done no time, you know, and you can check it out.”

“Then you killed two people and didn’t get caught – is that it? It’s a gang thing, right?”

“I killed nobody and I don’t belong to a gang,” he retorted nervously.

“So you’re just bragging that you did. You’re a loner? You don’t have a crew? You’re just a hip-hop coward?”

The young man’s brow narrowed and lowered – he was getting mad.

“Easy, now, easy,” Lt. Dale momentarily interceded.

“Shut up, Jack. This fool’s just a coward,” I said in a denigrating tone, referring to the young man in the third person.

“Please don’t tell me to shut up,” Lt. Dale played along. “You’re jumping to conclusions. How do you know?”

“Just look at him, pretending he’s done time or killed people, like he’s bad, just like the scum he looks up to. But he’s a really a coward.”

“I’m not a coward!”

“Shut up, boy!” I commanded. “You’re a coward, there’s no doubt about it, so just shut up.”


“What did you say, boy?”

“Screw you, you white bitch!”

“You don’t have the balls. You’re no man, so just shut up, boy.”

“I’ll f—k you up real good, you bitch!”

“Just like you did that woman, then you killed her boy.”

“Yeah, I f—ked her up and shut her up and I did that kid of hers too. I locked the bedroom door and made him watch, then shut up his mouth with water in the bathtub.”

“You did, did you? You’ve really gone and done it, killed two people, so you can really do the time now, but we’ll see to it you get the death penalty and die like a dog, because you’re no man at all.”

“Yeah, I did them, I killed that white trash, choked it to death in bed and she liked it, and I’ll do you too, you bitch!”

“You killed them!”

“Yes, I killed them, I wasted that trash, and I’ll waste you too, bitch!”

He started to move menacingly in my direction. Lt. Dale pulled his weapon. I pulled mine in a flash and was tempted to put some holes in the perpetrator but I did not do so because I am a professional and it was unnecessary. The muscle-bound bully immediately became a mouse and cowered. He laid himself down on the floor and put his arms behind his back to be cuffed as instructed. Two officers came over and transported him to the station. As they took him out the door, his grandmother cursed him for disobeying her and talking to the police.

“You keep your mouth shut, boy! Don’t talk to them! They’ve got to git you a lawyer.”

I made a note in my Blackberry to proceed with an investigation that might lead to an aiding and abetting charge against her. It’s the likes of her that raises these guys, I thought.

“Great job, Lace. You’re a real hellcat when you get going,” Lt. Dale remarked, walking me to my car.

“Thanks, Jack, but I am more of a wildcat than a hellcat. It’s the DNA that will nail him for good. He’s a stupid, violent, immature man, aggravated by the hellcat in his life.”

“You feel sorry for him?”

“No, no more sorry than I am sorry for swine at the slaughter house. He is what he is and it’s too late to change that, so I hope he gets the death penalty. I’d flip the switch myself.”

“But he’s a man, not an animal.”

“If he were a man, I’d have to hate the lot of them.”

“Speaking of hellcats, I saw you on your Harley the other day. You looked wild, all right, like a Valkyrie, with your blonde hair loose and trailing behind you – you really should wear a helmet. I remembered that your old man rode with the Hells Angels, working undercover.”

“Yes.” I suddenly felt very lonely, and he felt my pain.

“I’m sorry about what happened, sorry I brought it up, Lace.”

“It’s all right, Jack. I miss him so much, but I have the girls. Yes,” my mood brightened, “I have the girls, and I’m going home to them now!”

“Merry Christmas,” Jack said as he shut my car door after I got in. I wanted to kiss him, at least give him a peck on the cheek, but it was too late. On the way home I thought of the murdered boy, what he must have felt as he watched the rape and murder of his aunt, and then, later, the fear, and pain as the terror was turned on him, tore at my heart. And then I felt the horror and pain of the mother when she got home. I knew that I would always be haunted with this case at Christmas time in the future – hopefully I shall not have to handle something even worse.

My girls rushed to the door when I drove up. I literally ran to the door and held all three close, giving thanks for what’s mine, my own Christmas presents.

“No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found, far as curse is found, far as, far as the curse is found.”

Kansas City Manager’s Daughter Kidnapped





Mary McElroy’s smile was beautiful to behold. A contemporary described her as a tall, big-boned, and plain-looking woman with large eyes, wide mouth, and a radiant smile.

She was her father’s shadow and the apple of his eye. His name was Henry McElroy, City Manager of Kansas City, the most powerful man in the city other than Boss Tom Pendergast, the shrewd boss of the Democratic Machine and biggest political boss in the nation, bigger even than Boss Tweed:

The old city council of aldermen used to have two houses – an upper house and a lower house, with a total of thirty-two members – which the two Democratic factions, the Goats and Rabbits, managed to control under a split-the-spoils, fifty-fifty deal. In the winter of 1924-1925, reformers who wanted to rid the city of the boss system drafted and managed to get adopted a nonpartisan charter to reconstruct the city council into a single body with only nine council members, the Mayor being the presiding member. The council in turn hired an expert administrator to serve as City Manager. This so-called nonpartisan structure actually simplified Tom Pendergast’s job; it is easier to control a council of nine politicians than a council of thirty-two. The appointment or council’s “election” of the City Manager was always a foregone conclusion as he was not really the Council’s hired man; he belonged to Tom. Mary and the council members got quite a laugh when, in 1938, her dad was nominated for the last time: he jumped up to give his acceptance speech before it occurred to him that the nomination had not yet been seconded.

Mary called her father “Old Boy,” but most Kansas Citians called him “Judge” McElroy. He sat on the Jackson County Court (county commission) since 1922 as a judge (county commissioner) from time to time.

Another Pendergast man, Harry S. Truman, the future U.S. senator and president, served on the county court with Judge McElroy for awhile. Together they restored the authority of the Goat faction and ran the court like a business, adding to its prestige with their accomplishments. Judge McElroy was pleased to follow Truman’s good advice on many occasions when they sat together on the court. After a margin of 200 votes in November 1925 gave the Democrats control of Kansas City, which they would retain for thirteen years Judge McElroy was appointed City Manager, and the first thing he did was dispose of the nonpartisan tomfoolery and announced that the Democrats were in charge.

The city manager’s detractors were quick to point out that he was a vindictive despot; they did not mention his soup kitchen on the East Side or the poor folk who got handouts from him at City Hall. Mary shadowed her father at City Hall, at dedications, on business trips. As far as she was concerned, he could hardly do any wrong. Not that she was a yes-woman. She was a rebel. He encouraged her to run free, but she never strayed afar. She imitated her dad: she was proud, independent and somewhat self-reliant although socially awkward and unsure of herself in public as she tried to strike a sophisticated pose next to her great father. She knew that machine life had its seamy side, that power corrupts, that the human species can be vicious; wherefore bossism, in her estimation, was a necessary evil, and the despotism of her father was warranted: he was simply a hard-headed realist, a Pendergastian or Goat Democrat who, as they all said of The Boss, “got things done.”

Bossism was a modern version of the ancient patronage system hence based, first of all, on friendship. Friends are loyal. Friends exchange favors. Ingratitude is a mortal sin. Patrons provide bread and circus; that meant plenty of booze, narcotics, floozies and jazz rifts in downtown Kansas City. Napoleon had the right idea: Give people what they want as long as they are obedient, while taking them for all you can get.

Now party organizations were made necessary by the mass politics of universal suffrage, and arose from local roots up to presidential politics. We know the familiar story. Cities had the greatest voting power and city bosses bought votes, sometimes several votes from each citizen, alive or dead. Heads were cracked to keep the voters lined up in the right line. There was plenty of booze even if it was prohibited. Patrons vied for power; political patrons allied themselves with godfathers and such.

Boss Pendergast made his alliances in order to keep Al Capone out of town and to satisfy his gambling addiction. The Pendergast dynasty was established by Alderman Jim Pendergast from the proceeds of a horse race; Tom Pendergast wound up gambling on every horse race in the country in a single day, and what he did to cover his losses got him busted for income tax evasion.

Mary McElroy certainly knew about Kansas City’s wild side. She knew that her dad was the best man around. At least a few people can keep themselves clean while working with political machines. As far as we know, Harry S. Truman was independent, honest, and squeaky clean, although he could have cleaned up to the tune of millions of dollars while sitting on the county court alone. Pendergast let well enough alone because Truman’s honesty handed him a goodly portion of rural Jackson County on a platter. He backed Truman for U.S. Senator, and we know the rest. And President Truman was no ingrate: he was true to his friend Pendergast when The Boss was disgraced by backstabbers whom he had put into power – everybody “decent” was distancing themselves from him.

That is the way it was in those days, when Tom Pendergast “got things done” and people had plenty of fun, so much so that reformers thought law and order had completely broken down.

City Manager McElroy got things done too. His daughter had good reason to idolize him. Even the so-called nonpartisan but Republican Kansas City Star praised him, not realizing they would have to eat some crow when a huge deficit was uncovered along with the Water Leak among other things after the Depression boom. An engineering firm was paid $5,000 a month for looking for water leaks, but that job consisted of submitting bills for unperformed an service: $356,500 was paid out.

Depression boom? Yes, Kansas City was doing relatively great during the Depression. McElroy had proceeds from the 1931, $32 million (Kansas City’s share) Ten-Year-Bond at his disposal, as well as his magic “Country Bookkeeping System” involving an “Emergency Fund” on the side, not taken from the bond fund, which made old debts disappear and rabbits willingly appear among other things. Civic-minded Boss Pendergast, coincidentally, had as much ready-mixed concrete as the city could buy, and his Machine had ample labor to provide to civic causes.

As Kansas Citians can well imagine from the current traffic, roads were a fundamental consideration back then too, hence men were put to work on them; they were advised to leave the paving and other machines behind to increase the demand for labor. There were other products of the Great Depression building boom, the results of which we can still tour as we tick them off. City Hall, Jackson County Court House, Police Headquarters, Power & Light Building, Nelson Art Gallery, and many more.

Mary was especially proud of her dad’s Municipal Auditorium and his fostering of the new air-age at Wheeler Airport. Indeed, legend has it that Henry McElroy fell in love with Kansas City as he looked out over the Bottoms from Quality Hill: wherefore some time later he had cleared an observation area there. A woman held out: she wanted $5,000 for her house; the city offered $1,000; she refused; she came home one day to discover her home was not at home! the house had mysteriously disappeared and was never seen since.

We can hardly blame the City Manager’s daughter for basking in the glory of her father’s deeds. He was really something. He thought a lot of himself too. He claimed that his work was the model for the make-work approach to economic depression, the acclaimed WPA program of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration. McElroy might have been right to take credit for its origination in the boosting Heart of America.

Roosevelt certainly knew what was going on in Kansas City. Pendergast was a national power broker. He knew Roosevelt and had thrown Missouri’s delegates his way at the convention. Roosevelt, however, and his federal money trough eventually spelled the end of the machine system. Among other things, he had Tom busted and hustled off to prison. The machine was flying apart with the continuing investigations. City Manager McElroy put up a hell of a fight, but he eventually stepped down. He died before he could be indicted. Of course Mary was by his side.

Mary never married. She flowered with her dad and approached spinsterhood. She was seen at functions. She stood apart and was rather inept socially speaking. She was somewhat of a rebel – her dad let her have her run, but she did not stray afar. She was seen in the company of men, but none stuck. She was given to dark moods after she was kidnapped in, May of 1933. She had hit it off with her kidnappers, and could not stand the thought of their imprisonment and the death penalty one of them drew.


The kidnappers numbered four. Walter McGee and Clarence Stevens entered the McElroy house, waiting for Mary’s brother to show up – he was the intended victim – while Clarence Click and George McGee stayed at the hideout. When Mary’s brother did not arrive, the kidnappers went upstairs to kidnap her instead, assuming that she must be a little girl. But she was 25 and was taking a bubble bath. Naturally she was frightened, but she soon recovered her composure and asked for some privacy to get dressed. They complied, so she donned a pink frock, tan hose, and a white summer shoes, accompanied them to the car, and sat on the floorboard as they drove away to the hideout on Clarence Click’s farm near Shawnee The young men conversed pleasantly with her along the way, probably glad to have her for company.

Mary was handcuffed by the left wrist to a wall in a garage under a small frame house. The kidnappers were polite and friendly. They brought some clean sheets, an electric light, a radio, food. She was held for less than two days. George McGee, a former medical student who had fallen on hard times, was her guard and her favorite kidnapper. In fact the kidnappers and their victim were so mutually pleased that Mary said she would recommend them as kidnappers, and they said they would recommend her as a kidnap victim. A ransom note asking for $60,000 had been left behind at the McElroy home – they settled for $30,000, and released her.

“It would be foolish to say that I felt no fear at all. At the same time I felt sure that any one of the four men I saw would have been ready to protect me against any other person or danger,” Mary said in an interview. “It is because I knew that and felt that they were not bad at heart that I would hate to see them sent to the penitentiary. I would fight to keep them in such a fate.”

They grabbed the wrong girl, the devoted daughter of the most powerful man around except The Boss himself, and they were not about to get away with it. Clarence Stevens escaped but the others were nabbed forthwith. She visited them in jail, and rumors were bandied about as usual. She did not want to testify against them, but her father convinced her that it was the right thing to do, so she complied. Clarence Click got 8 years; George McGee got life; Walter McGee the death penalty.

It was questionable at the time whether the death penalty could be applied to kidnappers as well as murderers. The case was appealed; the jury’s sentence was upheld. Mary was devastated and fell into a deep depression. Her father complained that the strain had ruined her health. They vacationed in Europe, gave the fascist salute to Mussolini, and so on, but she despaired again upon their return to the Heart of America. In February of 1935 she hopped on a bus with twenty cents and a pack of cigarettes, and disappeared until she was spotted in Illinois and brought home.

Kansas City Star reporter Conwell Carlson interviewed her. She said she just had to get away from the city, where she was seen as the City Manager’s kidnapped daughter. She suffered from nightmares about the kidnappers’ fate.

“I cannot forget them,” she said. “I cannot get away from the feeling for the underdog.” Mary set to work on her powerful father to get the death sentence commuted by the governor. She was not a political activist but she was on the side of the sick and oppressed; she felt that help should come from individuals, by means of personal kindness. She had no political reservations about the legal system. She figured the sentences were just as they stood, that the death penalty should be applied to kidnappers as well as murderers, but she wanted mercy in this case. Her father was opposed at first, but he eventually caved in and they went to see Governor Park in Jefferson City.

“In pleading for Walter McGee’s life,” reads her plea for clemency, “I am pleading for my own peace of mind. Through punishing a guilty man, his victim will be made much to suffer equally. He would not even have this advantage: he would not have to think about his execution afterwards. I do not forget the suffering this has brought in many ways to many people. Walter McGee’s death will not erase nor ease the suffering. Rather, I believe the mercy shown him, and the feeling of warmth and hope any act of mercy brings, will serve as balm to all.”

Governor Park, after pressure was applied by Henry McElroy, and being assured that mercy would not detract from the death penalty precedent for kidnappers, commuted the sentence. Mary’s spirits revived, and she continued her work for the welfare of her imprisoned friends and their families.

Mary’s life had a tragic end. As the Pendergast machine fell in 1939, she was hurt to the quick by the harsh criticism of her visionary father, who had, after all, gotten so much done for the people of Kansas City. At age 72, Judge McElroy had a heart condition and eye trouble. He went to St. Mary’s hospital for a cataract operation, came home, and was cared for by Mary until he died, leaving her alone, virtually a spinster.

On a wintry day in January of 1940, Mary wanted to shake off the doom and gloom, so she invited some friends over for a party. They demurred. She fixed herself something to eat and drink, then retired to the sun room to read. It was two degrees below zero outside early in the morning when she shot herself to death. She left a note.

“My four kidnappers are probably the only people on earth who don’t consider me an utter fool. You have your death penalty – so – please – give them a chance. Mary.”


Notes on Bossism:

“(Franklin Delano Roosevelt) destroyed the old-time boss. He destroyed him by taking away his source of power…. The old boss was strong simply because he held all the cards. If anybody wanted anything – jobs, favors, cash – he could only go to the boss, the local leader. What Roosevelt did was to take the handouts our of local hands. A few little things like Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the like – that’s what shifted the gears, sport. No need now to depend on the boss for everything. The Federal Government was getting in on the act, otherwise known as social revolution.”

(Edwin O’ Connor, The Last Hurrah)

“By 1936 relief scandals, evidence of manipulation of projects for vote-getting, exploitation of distress by a swollen bureaucracy to enhance its own power, were a matter of common knowledge. Charges of extravagance and corruption had become almost routine under federalized relief. Hoover often cited examples of the waste inherent in the new system:

“Recently I had the opportunity to observe comparative morals in the spoils system by a contrast between Tammany Hall and the New Deal. In a Tammany-dominated borough in New York in early 1933, before the New Deal, there were about 11,000 persons on relief. Tammany had appointed about 270 additional officials under their particular spoils system to manage relief at a cost of $30,000 a month for the officials. This job was taken away from wicked Tammany influence and directly administered by the New Deal.

“At a recently date there were in the same borough 2,000 federal officials appointed under the New Deal spoils system at a cost of $300,000 per month for salaries to manage 16,000 persons on relief. Tammany may learn something new in the spoils system. It was only 10 percent efficient. And the same thing is going on all over the country. “

(Herbert Hoover by Eugene Lyons, Garden City: Doubleday 1964)

The Wonderful Honor System for Parolees

Kansas City Parole office where parole officer fired gun
and threatened to commit suicide 2012


I have lately encountered many parolees chatting in the back of the city bus that goes up and down Kansas City’s Main Street. I was listening in on a lively discussion just yesterday, and heard a convict say that he did not like the “honor system” very much, that serving ones time out in prison was better than living in the half-way house.

Another con said that was nonsense, because if a man serves his whole time and has no place to go when he gets out, he is dumped on the street in the cold with nothing but a few bucks, and when that is gone, he has no choice but to steal, maybe mug some old man or woman walking out of the convenience store, or hold up the store itself. But if he is in the honor system, he has a place to stay, and some help with finding work.

“That’s right,” remarked another fellow, “and don’t run away, because that will get you a couple more years on your sentence.”

Although I have never served time, I could not help but join in the discussion. I said I was running into many parolees downtown, and wondered why there were so many.

A parolee declared that the prison business and the honor system business are very profitable businesses. He said lots of legitimate companies feed off crime. The state has twenty-some prisons, he figured, and in this state you can get thrown into prison for almost anything.

Lots of people are sent up for some minor first offense, he declared, and said he drew a four-year sentence after his estranged wife called him and told him to come get his property out of the house. After he did just that, he claimed he was arrested for violating the restraining order prohibiting him from coming within so many feet of her. Apparently a neighbor had called the police. She testified for him at the trial. It was his first offense, but he mouthed off to the judge, so he was sent up. What upset him the most was the loss of his $50,000 job as a computer programmer; the company will not take him back. At least that was his story.

“Well, what are some of the rules for parole?” I asked him.

“First of all, you can’t leave the state.”

“Even worse,” chimed in another man, “you can’t drink or do no drugs.”

“What? Not even a beer?” I asked.

“There’s a way to work it, a way to have a drink once in awhile, but better not do drugs,” a heavily tattooed man chimed in. “The tests vary to pick up different kinds of drugs. If you have been smoking or otherwise using nicotine, you have to take cessation classes.”

“You’re kidding!” I said.

“No, that’s the God’s truth, but smoking cigarettes can be worked into the schedule.”

“Is there any help getting jobs?”



“There are half-way houses at first, then housing assistance if you qualify.”

“Good grief!” I exclaimed. “I think I qualify for parole. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do any drugs except caffeine, can’t seem to get out of the state, and I could use some shelter and work. Where do I apply?”

“You have to commit a crime first, get busted, serve some time, and then you get the benefits.”

“Aw Shucks!”


David Arthur Walters

Kansas City 2004