|The Judge's Downfall
Author: Nora Lou PM
When Danny and Jackie make a routine bust, they find that the arrest has wide implications.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 2,865 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 4 - Published: 05-23-12 - id: 8143712
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The Judge's Downfall
Nora Lou Wilson
Rebecca S. Smithey
Although they did not know it at the time, Danny Reagan and his partner, Jackie Curatola, were about to make the biggest bust of their careers so far. They were working another transit assignment a month or so after the riot at Reverend Potter's church, but this time they were working the other end of Manhattan. Sensitive to the tensions of the black community, the P.C. had ordered another sweep, this time from SoHo to mid-town.
As it had turned out, the assignment was becoming just as successful as the Harlem sweeps, and was about to get even bigger. Looking back on it later, Danny would wonder if the city would ever stop feeling the repercussions from the arrest of a twenty-one year old drug addict.
She was arrested by Jackie as she attempted to jump the stiles at a subway stop a few blocks away from the federal courthouse. When Jackie frisked her, she discovered three unmarked bottles of what looked like prescription pain killers, an ounce of coke and a couple of joints. Reagan and Curatola handed her off to the team manning the transport vans to central booking, returned to the subway and forgot all about her.
At least they had until their sergeant, Gormley, called them back to the station house a couple of hours later. When they walked into his office, he got to his feet and uncharacteristically closed the door behind them.
"The girl you arrested earlier, one Jeannette Oaks, wants to cut a deal."
"Which girl was that?" Danny asked. "I've hauled in quite a few young ladies today."
"Don't be a wise-ass," Jackie replied. "She was wearing the tight brown jeans and carrying the Gucci knock-off bag."
"Oh yeah…her…what's she offering us in exchange for forgettin' what we found on her?"
Gormley looked extremely uncomfortable. "She says she has spent the last two years buying drugs for Judge Gordon…She says if we make her charges go away, she'll hand us Judge Gordon on a silver platter."
Danny whistled – a low, long note of stunned disbelief. Judge Ira Gordon was probably the most well-respected criminal court judges in the city – maybe even the state. Rumors had it that he was considering running for Congress, and he had presided over several high profile cases in the last few years. A lot of people were behind bars at Sing-Sing because of his trial proceedings.
"Can we believe what this junkie is saying?" Jackie asked.
"Central Booking is backed up, so they brought a bunch of those subway collars here to be held until they were processed. She asked to speak to the guy in charge." Gormley looked out his office windows to be sure no one was listening in. "I talked to her, and she says she can give us a trail leading right back to the judge."
Two hours later, Danny and Curatola pulled up to a small house in Bay Ridge, not very far in fact from the house Danny shared with Linda and their boys. (The fact that a junkie lived not far at all from his children made Danny sick to his stomach.) In the back seat, Jeanette Oaks sat very quiet.
She had not been as silent in the interrogation room. "I got busted on a criminal possessions charge about two and a half years ago," she started to explain. "Judge Gordon's court…it was my very first bust, so he ordered me to go through a drug re-hab program in exchange for leniency." She took a sip from the Pepsi Jackie had gotten for her. "One day, the Judge comes to see me at re-hab…says he's taken a 'special interest' in my case…says I remind him of his daughter…"
"How many times did the Judge come to see you?" Danny asked.
"Just that once – but he gave me his card and said to call him when I graduated the program and he'd help me find a job."
"So you called him?" Jackie prodded.
"Yeah – the day after I got out." She sat back and seemed lost in thought for a while.
"What did he say when you called him?" Danny prodded.
"He said that he was proud of me – for makin' it through the program, ya know…when I asked him about finding me a job, he said he knew just where someone like me – with my 'special skills and contacts' could make a lot of cash. I shoulda known that somethin' wasn't right." She shook her head. "I went to see him a few days later. He told me that he was running an undercover sting with the cops, settin' up drug dealers. He gave me a lotta cash and said he wanted me to buy drugs, then he'd turn the info – and the drugs – over to you guys. Promised he'd pay real well…"
"Did he – pay you real well?" Danny asked. He knew Judge Gordon came from money – real old money from upstate.
"Sure – I've got my rent paid for the next couple of months, and I'm helpin' my little sister through school" She smiled then. "She's a freshman at City College."
"So why did you try to jump the stile?" Jackie cut in.
She looked sheepish then. "I forgot my Metro Card. How was I supposed to know you guys were stalking the trains?" She made it sound like they were at fault. Jeannette Oaks shook her head. "I'm a real dope, sometimes, you know? It took me a little while to figure out that the Judge was playin' me."
Danny and Jackie exchanged glances. If any of this turned out to be true, they knew they were sitting on a powder keg. Somebody just had to light the fuse.
Jeannette was wound up now, and seemed eager to finish her story. "He was just throwin' me back out there. I never heard anything about a sting, no matter how many dealers you guys hauled in. Then, I started askin' around. Turns out the good judge has a little drug problem of his own. I also found out that I wasn't the only person Gordon touched. When I found that out, I knew I'd get jammed up someday, and I wanted some protection. The next time I scored for him, I went prepared."
"What kind of protection we talkin' about here?" Jackie asked.
"I got a friend who is a real techno geek to wire me up. I got over a year's worth of deals on audio tape."
"That's a big risk you took," Danny said. "Why didn't you just call us?"
"Judge Gordon's got a long reach. The last person who scored for him has been missing for a year!"
Late that night, Danny, Jackie and Gormley sat huddled over audio equipment, earphones over their ears. True to her word, Jeannette Oaks had a shoebox of audio tapes hidden under a loose floorboard in her apartment. As soon as he and Jackie had returned to the station, Danny had called Erin, asked her to come down to the station and he filled her in.
"This girl may be tellin' the truth here, sis," Danny said. "But we gotta play this real close. You make one call to your boss about this, and Rossellini picks up the phone to his golf buddy, Judge Gordon.'
"Can you get the voice authenticated as the Judge's?"
"I got Cliff working on it now." Erin shot a look at him, a question on her face. Cliff was the independent tech who aided them when they took on the Blue Templar a few months ago. "If we give the techies here the tape, it'll get out faster than if we put it on YouTube." Danny said. "Cliff is comparing the tapes to an interview the Judge did about the Newton case on Channel 10 last year."
Erin felt her stomach tighten. The Newton case was one of the most disturbing cases in the city's already infamous criminal history. Four members of a gang – the Diablos – had carjacked Kevin Newton and his girlfriend Jennifer Daugherty outside the girl's home in Riverside. There were no witnesses to the attack, and her parents had filed a missing persons report, but four days had gone by before the case broke wide open. Kevin's body was found, partially burned, stuffed into garbage bags along the West Side Highway. The next day, the car belonging to Kevin was found outside a house in Queens. The investigating officers had found Jennifer's body inside the house, also stuffed into a large garbage bag. The ME's report had concluded that both teenagers had been systematically tortured and sexually assaulted before being killed.
By the time DNA from inside the car had linked four suspects – all of them in Diablos – to the crime, the city was in an uproar. The outcry had reminded Erin a lot of the anger in the air following 9/11. Two middle-class college students, both white, had been brutally murdered by four Hispanic men. A girlfriend of one of the suspects had turned on her lover for a reduced sentence, and she had given the police gruesome details from inside the house at the time of the murders.
Meanwhile, racial tensions had grown to a boiling point across the city. Anyone who even looked vaguely Hispanic was accosted, sometimes even to the point of violence. There had been marches through downtown, calling on officials to deport all Hispanics from the country, citizens or not. A group of young neo-Nazis had run rampant through a mainly Latino business district after midnight, breaking windows and setting fires. During the riot, a decorated NYFD Captain named Mario Lupino, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was dragged from his station wagon and beaten. All of it had been captured on news footage, and there were implied references to the L.A. riots after the Rodney King verdict.
To make matters even worse, Jennifer Daugherty's father had gone on television and told the world that he wanted five minutes along with the perps, and a lot of sympathetic fathers were behind him. Erin had feared the man might do something during the trial. She remembered how he sat in the gallery, a scowl permanently etched on his face. He could not sit still; he would rock back and forth in his seat, never once taking his eyes off of the defendants.
Judge Gordon had presided over the trial that had convicted the four suspects last year. Now, if it turned out that the Judge was addicted and high during the trial…well, Erin got sick at the thought of what might happen.
Erin and Danny broke the news to their father in his office early the next morning. "Cliff analyzed the tapes last night and authenticated the voice as Judge Gordon's." Danny said as Erin handed Frank a quickly typed memo. "This is just the start. The rest of the transcripts will be on your desk in a few hours. We didn't want to take a chance on any of this getting out, so Cliff is handling the transcripts himself, off-site."
Frank shook his head. He'd known Ira Gordon for many years but they had never really been friends. They had mainly traveled in the same social circles. Gordon had lost his wife, Grace, several years ago after a long, debilitating disease. The sympathy he might have had for the Judge was tempered by the fact that when he had lost Mary, he had dealt with his grief by not sleeping well and drinking too much. He had not let it affect his work, and he had not drowned himself in illegal drugs.
The last time he had seen Judge Gordon, at a charity benefit dinner, he had seemed "out of it" and had told Frank his bad back was acting up. He had had no reason – then – to doubt him. Until now.
Frank looked at the memo. "This will have to go up the chain to the state police and the FBI," he told Erin.
"Those…and the judicial oversight office…the state and federal bar associations…" Erin shook her head. "I have a very bad feeling about this, Dad," she said. "We may be looking at hundreds of cases being overturned, or at least re-opened."
From the Police Commissioner on down, everyone involved had hoped to handle this situation with as much discretion and dignity as was possible. Erin had informed her boss at precisely the same moment that Frank was calling in the state police, the FBI and the Bar Association. But, no one had counted on someone from the Bar Association picking up the phone and calling Kelly Davidson at Channel 10. She broke the story at the top of the five o'clock newscast.
By eight o'clock, pressured by the blowback from the news media, the FBI had moved ahead and arrested the judge on charges of facilitating the buying and selling of illicit drugs, official misconduct and several other charges. He had been picked up at JFK, about to board an over-seas flight, and the FBI feared he was trying to run. He had been transferred to Central Booking, where the officers who processed him were more than a little courteous, and he had made bail before the ink was dry on the paperwork.
Meanwhile, the legal system of New York was in an absolute uproar. Frank was fielding calls from the Governor, the Mayor and anyone else who had a way to call into One Police Plaza. But he was gladly taking the calls, as opposed to the duty that Erin was handling. After she had talked to Charles Rossellini, she had driven to Riverdale to speak to the parents of Jennifer Daugherty and Kevin Newton, the teenagers who had been carjacked and murdered. If the worst case scenario played out, then the four Diablos who had been tried and convicted for the murder might be granted a new trial – if not an outright acquittal.
The meeting did not go well. Mike Daugherty had been a coiled spring throughout the trial of his daughter's killers, rocking back and forth in his chair and glaring at the defendants. The court officers had stayed rather close to him whenever he was in the courtroom, and there had been no incidents.
Now, Erin was beginning to wish she had brought someone to back her up. Mike's wife, Sharon, was pleasant enough, and the Newtons seemed too stunned to speak, but as Erin laid out the situation for them, Joe got more and more upset. He said very little, but the signs were all there of a man about to have a major melt down. He began his rocking routine, pounding his left fist into the palm of his right.
"Let me get this straight," he hissed. "You're sitting there telling me that the Judge in my daughter's case was high when he heard the case, and because of that, they're going to walk?"
"Mr. Daugherty, as I said, that's the worst case scenario, and we're doing everything we can to see that the Diablos stay behind bars."
"But you can't guarantee that, can you?"
She shook her head. "I have to be honest with you, Mr. Daugherty…No, I cannot give you a guarantee, but I cangive you my word that I will do my best to keep them in prison."
"Your word may not be good enough this time, Ms. Reagan."
Driving back into town, Erin mulled over the conversation with the two sets of parents. The Newtons were so sad, but frankly, Mike Daugherty scared her. A career firefighter, he had been cited for bravery on several occasions, including 9/11. But he had retired just a few weeks before his daughter's death, and now – at loose ends – it was apparent that he was still fixated on the case. This latest turn of events might very well send him over the edge.
Not that she could really blame him…If something horrific like that ever happened to Nikki, she wasn't sure how she would react. That's mainly why she was so ultra-protective of her daughter, despite Nikki's protests.
Back in her father's office, she recounted the meeting with the parents. "I just wish we could make sure that Mike Daugherty doesn't go out and do something stupid," she told her father.
Frank nodded. "But, you know as well as I do that we can't arrest someone for what they might do," he said.
Erin nodded, but her feeling that Mike Daugherty might do something rash did not let up and she did not rest well over the next few nights.