The Blotter Presents: Closing Statements

Plus vintage Congressional crime, a former Ikette in peril, and more

…Hi! Welcome/back to Best Evidence; in the event that you don’t listen to The Blotter Presents, earlier today I announced on that feed that the podcast is shutting down production. I would tell you it’s a long story, but it isn’t, really: I’ve got some other things going on professionally and personally, I reached a crossroads with the ad network, and…I decided to go a different way with my true-crime crit.

Not totally different, though! This newsletter is forging ahead; the social media accounts will have the Best Evidence name going forward; you’ll still see some of TBP’s guests around here (and B.E. does have a podcast/audio feed, so when you get a sec, make sure that’s on your pod app).

And my dad is still not the Zodiac. So, if you’re a regular, no worries: Eve and I are keeping on keeping on. If you’re new, welcome! Jump on into the convo; we’re glad you’re here with us. — SDB

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If you’re still not sure “testi-lying” is a big problem, Gothamist would like a word. Mike Hayes’s longread about the case of Jawaun Fraser, the non-credible cops who busted him, and Fraser’s lawsuit against the city is one of the more sugar-free titles I’ve seen in a while: “A Black Teenager Was Imprisoned For Two Years After A Botched Drug Bust. His Arresting Officers Had Been Sued 35 Times[.]” Here’s a snip about “inconsistencies in the cops’ testimony”:

For instance, the undercover had initially testified that he had retrieved the $50 he had given the crack user to set up the failed drug deal, but later denied that she returned the money. Detective Regina also couldn’t get his story straight on whether the undercover told him that Fraser also took money from him.

The trial prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Gregory Sangermano, from Manhattan DA Cy Vance Jr.’s office [Vance is pictured above], argued that the reason the cops’ stories had changed was because leading up to trial they had a chance to better review case material and give a more accurate version of events.

And this is before Hayes gets to the Brady violations, or the quotes from one detective’s attorney about how the number of lawsuits against his client and/or the decision by the city to settle those suits “says nothing,” ugh.

One of these days, Ava DuVernay is going to gather the stories of these arresting officers into something like 35 Short Films About “More Accurate Versions Of Events,” or maybe I just hope that happens. — SDB


And if you’re in the mood for other grabbily-headlined longreads, have I got a grab bag for you! Better yet, they’re all in one spot; thanks, Narratively!

  • “America’s Most Flamboyant Private Eye and the 8,000-Mile Manhunt.” That the PI in question, Jay J. Armes, has a name so close to that of Punta-Brava-caper wingman J. Jay Jones is not lost on me…and probably not a coincidence.

  • “The ‘Gay for Pay’ Porn Star Who Hatched a Million-Dollar Blackmail Scheme” is from 2018, but some of the details of Teofil Brank’s “whirlwind of debauchery” read more like 1998 (when I tell you the writing has the whiff of Cuban cigars and an Ed Hardy shirt with the tag still on, that’s a compliment). Brank isn’t the savoriest character, but the description of his victim, who “had donated between $1,000 and $2,000 to Rudy Giuliani and to the group that attacked John Kerry’s war record,” makes it hard to root for anyone in this story.

  • And finally, 2017’s “In 1859, a Murderous Congressman Pioneered the Insanity Defense,” in which New York congressman Daniel Sickles and his defense team invented the crime-of-passion concept. I’d pair Betsy Golden Kellem’s Narratively piece with either Ken Burns’s Civil War segment on Gettysburg, or this uncut interview for that series with historian Ed Bearss, who gives you a sense of how Sickles comported himself in that legendary battle. Sickles’s obits probably positioned him as a war hero — hit by a cannonball at Gettysburg, he had to have a leg amputated, ending his military career, but he lived to the age of 95 — but on top of being an unfaithful social-climber, Sickles also fucked the position at Little Round Top into a cocked hat and had to be bailed out by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. He sort of parallels the strenuously unbalanced mediocrity of Booth in that way, now that I think about it. — SDB


Now let’s check in on some reality-show-adjacent crime. Ink Master’s Daniel Silva “was sentenced to 364 days in jail, five years of formal probation, 250 hours of community service and a suspended prison sentence of four years” on Tuesday, according to People, after a May 10 crash that initially saw Silva charged with murder. Silva’s reps said all the right things about the relatively mild sentence — Silva was drunk, and “had to be stopped from leaving the crash site, authorities alleged. ‘The driver of the McLaren exited the vehicle and attempted to leave the scene but was stopped by citizens who came to render aid,’ the LAPD previously told People” — but the parents of Corey La Barrie (pictured below), the YouTube star who perished in the accident, are suing Silva for wrongful death.

This story is, in the main, tragic for La Barrie’s family and a bit sordid to boot, and this isn’t really a celebrity-crime-beat kind of a newsletter, so here’s why I mention it: I’m wondering if there exists/any of you can recommend a solid documentary on drunk driving, vehicular manslaughter, the evolution of our societal thinking about DUIs and of sentencing for it, etc. — the calculus of punishment for this kind of carelessness, because not for nothing, but this sentence does not significantly exceed that handed down for a repeat DUI offender 25 years ago who had harmed neither persons nor property. (No, it was not me.) A longread on the topic would do the trick too; it seems like something The New Yorker might have dug into? I’ll do some Googling around, but if anything pops into your heads in the meantime, hit me in the comments.

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But it’s the Sweetie Pie’s headline that I hope becomes an HBO docuseries. I’m only vaguely acquainted with the show, and certainly had not heard anything about star Tim Norman’s “Murder-For Hire Plot Of Nephew With Hip Hop Producer & Stripper, And Possible Plot Against Miss Robbie [all sic]!” Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s ran on OWN for five seasons; at the center of the show is Miss Robbie Montgomery, a former Ikette who had to retire from singing after suffering a collapsed lung, and decided to devote herself to a soul-food restaurant.

The docuseries centered on her and her “loud, loving and often singing” family, including her son, James Timothy Norman, who had already done 10 years for armed robbery starting when he was a teenager and is now charged with murder for hire and conspiracy. Norman’s alleged accomplice, a 36-year-old exotic dancer named Terica Ellis, is also facing murder and conspiracy charges — AND Norman and a former Nelly producer are facing SEPARATE charges conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

And it’s another case that’s going to come down to cell towers, one suspects. Per the indictment:

On March 14, 2016, at approximately 8:02 p.m., Montgomery was killed by gunfire at 3964 Natural Bridge Avenue in the City of St. Louis. Ellis’s phone location information places her in the vicinity of the murder at time of the homicide. Immediately following Montgomery’s murder, Ellis placed a call to Norman, and then began travelling to Memphis, Tennessee. In the days after the murder, Ellis deposited over $9,000 in cash into various bank accounts. On March 18, 2016, Norman contacted the life insurance company in an attempt to collect on the life insurance policy he had obtained on his nephew.

Brrrr. The YBF piece that details all of this goes on to hammer Norman for pretending to mourn his nephew’s death when he’s now accused of orchestrating it: “During one of the show’s season reunion’s, Andre’s death was addressed, and Tim sat there looking super uncomfortable as his family got emotional mourning the death of their family member. It’s very creepy to watch.” The YBF includes relevant clips from the show, and theorizes that Norman was trying to reroute his nephew’s inheritance to himself, come the day…and was maaaaybe in recent days looking to speed up said inheritance via the million-dollar life insurance policy he has on his mother. This is the kind of shit I would accuse Dateline et al. of sweetening (if you’ll excuse the expression) to get eyeballs, but someone absolutely needs to make a three-parter about Miss Robbie. The Ikette part alone! — SDB


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