The Last Narc disappears · More Theranos charges · Art-crime docu recs
Plus "I Am A Killer" gets parole, and an enraging long-read
|The Blotter Presents||May 18|| 4||2|
Upcoming guest Jessica Liese and I ended the week with a mystery of our own. We’d planned to cover Amazon’s The Last Narc — in broad strokes, the documentary take on the Narcos: Mexico story — but I got a DM from Jess midday Friday wondering why the docuseries hadn’t hit its May 15 drop date. I also got a link to a story, which at that point was the only one I could find, reporting that a DEA agent claimed the CIA got The Last Narc pulled.
The four-part docuseries was supposed to drop on May 15, 2020, but it was suddenly postponed without a clear release date for the future. Shockingly, the trailer has also been deleted from YouTube. Directed by Tiller Russell, the documentary had been in the making for 14 long years and features exclusive snippets of conversation with DEA Agents Hector Berrellez and Phil Jordan.
Berrellez is the agent claiming TLN is “‘off because of national security. It's been canceled forever and it's a coverup and they don't want the truth to come out.’ Why did the producers say yes? ‘I don’t know what the truth is,’ he said. When asked if there was news that it’s being postponed, he said he had been told it's been canceled.”
This is both somewhat non-credibly baroque, and very clumsily handled; there has literally never been a better time in human history to shrug a vague “with everything going on” and let viewers infer that it was to do with deliverables — a legitimate challenge to all programming genres at the moment (Showtime delayed two true-crime properties earlier in the spring; it wouldn’t have occurred to me to question it). Since this first crossed my desk, Amazon has restored the show’s landing page, and is content to let us assume its unavailability is an international-rights issue, but only one other item is coming up on Google: a quick hit from last night by Andrea Ano on LatinPost.com. Every other result is anodyne press-release-rewrite entries from as recently as two days ago, with only Ano and Jyotsna Basotia at MEAWW.com even noting that TLN didn’t show up.
Does Ano’s piece hint at the reason the show got pulled?
Apart from the series captivating a large audience from all over the world, it ignited quite a bit of controversy when their location manager, Carlos Muñoz Portal, was found inside his car, dead of a gunshot wound.
…I’m not in I DEMAND ANSWERS mode over here; my watch list is eleventy feet long as it is. Shit gets rescheduled for all kinds of reasons, most of them boring, and nobody’s required to divulge critical safety concerns to my ass — but it’s striking, not that The Last Narc got kiboshed, but that almost nobody is talking about it. If you’ve got theories/intel/better Google-fu than I, let’s hear about it. — SDB
The latest archival New Yorker article is an infuriating one. From the October 7, 2019 issue, Rachel Aviv’s “Show Of Force” details the nasty, brutish, and short marriage of Jessica Lester and Matthew Boynton. Boynton, the grandson of the Spalding County, GA sheriff when he and Lester got together, was controlling from the jump, not letting Lester shop for groceries or use his car when he was at work — and, when it became clear she’d had enough of his fuckery, he pretty clearly tried to stage Lester’s suicide, but because he’s as bad a mastermind as he is a person, Lester survived.
So too, though, did Boynton’s career in law enforcement and status as a free man, thanks to the aforementioned nepotism, and to a beyond-toxic culture within the sheriff’s department, with numerous felonious incidents attributed to patrol captain David Gibson but never consequenced and seldom even followed up on. And if that’s not depressing enough, Aviv cites numerous studies pointing to what scripted TV and tabloid shows have been telling us for years: the problem of abusive law-enforcement personnel 1) is hardly confined to Georgia, and 2) is highly correlated with incidents of excessive force.
It’s an excellent read, but maddening, so don’t do what I did and read it before bed, or you too will stare at the ceiling, fuming, for twenty minutes afterwards. — SDB
The fraud-charge tally against Elizabeth Holmes reaches an even dozen. The San Jose Mercury News reported Friday that federal prosecutors have added a new charge, which “concerns a patient’s blood-test results,” although no further details were given. The Theranos founder’s attorneys didn’t comment to the Mercury News on the new charge, although when the prosecution said last month that it would be adding to the charge sheet, Holmes’s lawyers expressed annoyance that they were topping up now, after five years of investigation and two since Holmes was initially indicted.
COVID-19 got the trial’s start date pushed from summer of this year to late October, but even that is in doubt; the judge has set a status hearing for July 20 to reconnoiter on the schedule. — SDB
We too will have to reconsider our pledge to cover the Theranos trial in person — not least because social-distancing protocols may not permit us in the courtroom, come the time — but if we have two thousand paid subscribers by then, we will get you those live updates.
And a subscription to Best Evidence is no substitute for an in-person commencement, but it is virus-free…and it does occasionally contain tiresome speechifying, just like a real grad ceremony! Hee. — SDB
The folks behind Ultimate Tag have a true-crime series coming to Netflix. This isn’t as severe a case of lane-changing whiplash as that hed suggests, however; the production company, Znak & Co., also produces Netflix’s I Am A Killer, and will be branded I Am A Killer: Released when it hits the streamer later this year.
Before then, it’ll hit Comcast-owned Sky Crime as A Killer Uncaged, and follow paroled Texas murderer Dale Wayne Sigler “as he is released into the custody of Carole, the 70-year-old prison pen pal he barely knows. As Sigler begins to adjust on the outside, he addresses the life he took as well as the one he lost and reveals his true motive for committing the brutal crime, which is shockingly different to the reason the world always believed.”
You might have questions about the prestige/trash ratio of the project — and other questions, like “Why are killers’ middle names always either ‘Wayne’ or ‘Ray’?” — but despite the rando Ultimate Tag connection, I’d be cautiously optimistic about the Sigler series. This production outfit isn’t the greatest with project titles; I Am A Killer is too vague, and manages to give off a strong whiff of Wives With Knives-esque cheese. But I’ve taken up for IAAK before as “an effective look at the many ripples a killing creates, and the spaces it leaves in multiple lives,” and I expect this…well, “spinoff” is a bit flip, but I expect this to provide the same nuance.
(Got questions about Ultimate Tag? I’ll be talking about the show with the Extra Hot Great crew come Wednesday!) — SDB
Looking forward to Hulu’s The Painter And The Thief this Friday? The documentary is about an artist befriending the man who stole two of her works, and I’m generally a fan of Neon’s stuff in the documentary space, so I’ll be watching.
And I’ve put together a little watch list of art-world crime docs. Use it now, or save it for a time when you want some true-crime content, but can’t stomach another serial-killer hunt. — SDB
The Art Of The Steal, 2009 (almost more about probate violations than art crime, but well paced and beautiful to look at)
Beltracchi: The Art Of Forgery, 2014
Art And Craft, 2014
Exit Through The Gift Shop, 2010 (it really is as good as everyone says — and hey, now’s a great time to use that Sundance Now promo code from a few Blotter episodes ago)
My Kid Could Paint That, 2007
There Are No Fakes, 2019 (in which a fraud suit from the Barenaked Ladies’ keyboardist, Kevin Hearn, leads to even darker places)
Coming up on Best Evidence: The feds do an OJ pod, Casefile’s new arc, and True Crime A To Z enters the homestretch.
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