News & Features » Feature

Criminal Justice

Operation Flournoy snared 19 small-time drug dealers. It also took four years, will cost millions of dollars, and taught a vulnerable west-side neighborhood that their police can't be trusted.

by

1 comment

This is the first part of a two-part article.

Andre Williams was tired this April evening in 1995, but he was also hungry. On his way home from a party at a dance club, the 25-year-old decided to stop at a sandwich shop on Roosevelt Road. He was leaving the counter with his Italian beef when in walked two plainclothes cops. Andre knew both officers, and one of them--short, paunchy, fair-skinned, bucktoothed, 50-ish Bob Drozd--he knew too well. Andre remembers that the officers searched the three other customers in the joint, then dismissed them. Drozd patted down Andre, found a set of keys and a beeper, and flung them to the floor. He invited Andre to have a seat next to the keys and beeper.

"Where you going, Moosehead?" Drozd wanted to know. Andre has broad shoulders and wide, droopy eyelids, but his most distinctive feature is an oversized noggin. He got the nickname Moosehead as a kid.

"I'm fittin' to go home."

"I'm gonna follow you home," said Drozd. "Make sure you get there safe."

"I don't need you to follow me home, man. I'm gonna get there safe."

It was a relief when Drozd said he could go. But Andre told me that as he drove away he peeked apprehensively into his rearview mirror--and sure enough there was Drozd in his unmarked car, hanging a Uie on Roosevelt and coming up behind him. Andre tapped the gas, turned right, left, and sighed when Drozd was no longer in his mirror.

In 15 minutes Andre pulled into the dirt yard behind an aging three-flat on the corner of 50th and Justine. His aunt owned the building; she let Andre stay in the basement rent free, along with his brother and two friends. As Andre closed the gate to the yard, a familiar voice sang out sarcastically, "You want me to shut that for you?" There was Drozd, sitting in his car at the curb.

Andre hurried down the steps into the basement. He sat on the bed in his room, chewed his Italian beef, and wondered what Drozd was up to now. Any other cop and Andre would have been a lot more alarmed--but Drozd was always messing with him. Andre finished half of the sandwich, lay back on the bed, and fell asleep.

He was awakened early the next morning by banging on doors, a rush of footsteps, and fierce shouts: "Police! Don't move!" His eyes blinked open to gun muzzles aimed at his nose.

At least a dozen men had stormed the apartment. Andre groggily signed a permission-to-search form. He was allowed to pull on his pants before handcuffs were clicked on. The men emptied his dresser drawers on the floor, upended his bed, kneaded through his spare clothes.

"Where's the guns and drugs at?" they kept demanding.

"Ain't no guns or drugs," Andre told them.

"We got a gun!" a gleeful voice cried from the back of the basement. The glee faded when the officers realized it fired BBs.

"What's this all for?" Andre asked one of the men.

"It's a big case. You're looking at a lotta time," he was told. "You wanna help yourself? You wanna talk to somebody?"

"I ain't got nothing to talk about," Andre said.

The agents and officers finished their search in disappointment--no guns, no drugs. Nothing to confiscate but a small red address book ("Kim's Red-Hot Numbers") and $1.47 in change.

Andre was led to the backseat of an unmarked car. "We got your brother and all the rest of the guys," he was told during the ride to the station.

"My brother? What's this for?"

"You wanna help yourself? You wanna talk to somebody?"

"I ain't got nothing to talk about."

He was escorted into the 11th District station at Harrison and Kedzie. And then Andre saw him again: Bob Drozd, grinning a big bucktoothed smile. It began dawning on Andre what this was probably about. A partner of Drozd's approached Andre, leaned close, and whispered tauntingly in his ear, "You know, you fucked up."

The headlines the following day trumpeted the busting of a lucrative west-side dope ring. Twenty-one men had been indicted on federal charges, the front-page stories said, another seven on state charges. "We have taken down one of the major street-gang drug-dealing factions in the city," U.S. attorney James Burns proclaimed.

All of those indicted on federal charges were members of the Traveling Vice Lords, Burns said. The 82-page indictment alleged that they had sold $10 bags of crack cocaine and $10 tinfoil packets of heroin on the 2700 block of West Flournoy (700 south), taking in a total of $5,000 to $30,000 a day. The government also maintained that the men gave bribes of guns and drugs to Chicago police officers and federal agents posing as crooked cops and that Andrew "Bay-Bay" Patterson had directed the conspiracy. Five of his brothers and two of his nephews were also charged.

Burns credited the triumph of "Operation Flournoy" to the joint work of his office, the Chicago Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. But the Tribune reported that the bust of the drug ring was mainly the work of one veteran Chicago cop--53-year-old gang-crimes specialist Bob Drozd.

On a summer evening in 1991, according to the Tribune, one of the dealers on Flournoy had offered to give Drozd a shotgun if he'd leave the area and not interfere with sales. Drozd accepted the gun but turned it in to supervisors. He frequently accepted guns and drugs from the dealers over the next four years, while secretly tape-recording his conversations with them.

Drozd pretended to be an addicted cop as well as a crooked one, the Trib said, rarely showering or shaving, wearing old clothing stained with food and coffee, and littering his unmarked car with beer cans and the tiny Ziploc bags typically used to package crack cocaine. Some cops who didn't know about his undercover role told their bosses they thought Drozd was corrupt.

His undercover role had personal costs, Drozd told the Trib. "I had my own room in the basement, because my wife said: 'What the hell. You stink.' How could I go out with my wife and kids when I looked like a junkie?"

The tale of Drozd's heroics spread far beyond Chicago. "'Dirty' Cop Risks Life, Image to Unmask Gangs," declared an Associated Press report in the Los Angeles Times. "For three and a half years, police detective Bobby Drozd roamed the city's wretched back alleys, accepting firearms, money and favors from the drug lords who laid claim to a forlorn pocket of urban America...risking his life and reputation to bring a gang of thugs to its knees."

In September '95 Chicago police brass awarded Drozd a commendation for his work, citing his "relentless pursuit" of the defendants, who would no longer "prey upon the wayward citizens of the Chicago area." By November '95 the number of men indicted as a result of Drozd's efforts had reached 34. One evening that month, in the Palmer House Hilton Grand Ballroom, Drozd received a plaque and an ovation from the Chicago Crime Commission, which honored him at its 75th-anniversary awards banquet. Drozd's work should reassure everyone, said the master of ceremonies, that there were "dedicated and talented law enforcement people willing to do whatever is necessary to confront the gangs and hold them accountable in court."

The agents and officers who'd raided Andre's apartment hadn't lied to him: his brother Tyrone was indeed in the Harrison-Kedzie lockup. So were a handful of other men Andre had known most of his life, including Bay-Bay Patterson. Bay-Bay had been picked up at his aging bungalow on the northwest side, the others at tenement flats on the west side. According to ATF inventory reports, the raiders found four and a half ounces of powder cocaine at Bay-Bay's apartment, but elsewhere they'd scored only modest victories: one defendant had $1,097 on him, another had $776; others were penniless or had only change. The raiders confiscated the money, three gold chains, a few beepers, a Neiman-Marcus quartz watch, several packs of Newports, and a package of Skittles.

When Andre and the others were escorted out of the station later that morning a TV cameraman aimed his camera at them. Andre buried his face in his jacket.

Andre had two felony convictions, both for possession with intent to deliver powder cocaine (19 grams in one case, less than 2 in the other). He'd pleaded guilty to both charges on the same date in 1989 in exchange for a sentence of probation. So he was acquainted with the Cook County courthouse at 26th and California and the jail behind it. But the paddy wagon carrying Andre, his brother, and three of their friends wasn't going to 26th Street. Through the rear window the men could see they were on the Eisenhower Expressway, apparently headed downtown. At first they thought they were being taken to Chicago police headquarters, at 11th and State. When they instead pulled into the basement of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Tyrone groaned, "Man, this is the feds' building."

Ten of the men facing federal charges were in the MCC by late morning. They exchanged their street clothes for neon orange jumpsuits. Early in the afternoon they were shackled in handcuffs and leg irons, loaded on a bus, and driven a block north to a basement entrance of the Dirksen Federal Building. Then they were whisked by elevators up to the 18th-floor courtroom of Magistrate Judge Edward Bobrick.

The courtroom was trimmed in mahogany, carpeted wall-to-wall, and awash in fluorescent light. The defendants stood before Bobrick and, following his directions, dutifully stated their names one after another and spelled them for the record. They ranged in age from the 39-year-old Bay-Bay to his 18-year-old nephew.

Assistant U.S. attorney Frank Lipuma began informing the defendants of the charges and sentences they were facing, beginning with Bay-Bay, who was charged with distributing drugs, conspiracy, operating a "continuing criminal enterprise," and firearms violations. His assets were subject to forfeiture, and he was facing mandatory life imprisonment.

"OK, Mr. Andrew Patterson," Bobrick said. "Do you understand the substance of the charge against you?"

Patterson stared blankly at Bobrick and said, "No."

"Read it to him again," Bobrick said.

The prosecutor repeated the litany, after which Bobrick said, "OK, Mr. Andrew Patterson, now do you understand the charges against you?"

"I understand what he said," Patterson replied. His attorney entered Patterson's plea of not guilty.

Andre's big head was spinning. Things were happening too fast, he later told me. He'd been dancing at a club on Chicago Avenue, and then he'd been chomping on an Italian beef, and now he was standing in a sleek downtown courtroom, trying to untangle the words of this dark-suited lawyer.

"Andre Williams, likewise, your honor, is charged with multiple offenses, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute narcotics," the prosecutor said. "Andre Williams is facing mandatory life in prison."

"OK, Mr. Williams," Bobrick said. "Do you understand the substance of the charge against you?"

Andre didn't really. He didn't know what a conspiracy was or that he might have belonged to one. But he knew the answer that was expected of him, and he mumbled it.

"You'll have to speak up," Bobrick said.

"Yeah."

"And do you understand the nature of the penalty provided?"

Andre understood "mandatory life in prison"; the words had set his stomach jumping. "Yeah," he said softly.

The attorney who'd been appointed to represent him, Ron Clark, a tall, heavy, curly-haired man, entered Andre's not-guilty plea.

At a detention hearing three days later, according to court records, prosecutors asked Bobrick to keep the defendants locked up until trial. Most of the defendants, like Andre, had two-bit-dope-dealer rap sheets, with no convictions for violent offenses. Some had no felony convictions at all. Andre would tell me later that many of the defendants were drug addicts or alcoholics who'd been slinging drugs to support their habits. Bobrick considered their modest criminal backgrounds, but also the weight of the evidence against them and the length of the sentences they faced. He found that the defendants posed a "danger to the community" and a "flight risk" and ordered them held in the MCC until trial.

Long before Bob Drozd began Operation Flournoy--before Andre was even born--another west-side cop had influenced Andre's life as much as any person ever would. Policeman "Joe" was a softhearted officer. Andre's oldest sister, Denise, told me a year before Andre was busted that when Policeman Joe caught people with dope he'd often let them slide with just a lecture. He'd seize their dope of course, but rather than waste it by turning it in, he'd use it himself, share it with friends.

One of the friends with whom he shared was Gloria Williams, or Glo, as people knew her. Policeman Joe's free samples helped Glo get hooked on heroin in the late 60s. In 1970 she gave birth to Andre, her ninth and final child.

One morning when Andre was six, he was standing near the kitchen stove while a sister was frying bacon. The pan clattered to the floor, grease splashing on Andre's arm and up his side. Andre raced through the apartment, leaped onto a couch, and bounced up and down screaming. His sleeve was stuck to his arm. Glo scooped him up and ran out the door, wailing, "My baby got burnt!" Andre spent two weeks in the hospital. Doctors grafted skin from his hip onto his wounds.

This image of his mother as a loving and protective parent may be etched more deeply in Andre's memory because of its rarity. By the time Andre came along Glo was pretty well mothered out, nurturing her habit more than her kids.

She tried to hide her addiction from the children, but she'd get careless. Andre remembered that her bedroom door would be slightly ajar, and he would wander in. There she'd be, sitting on the edge of the bed, pressing a needle into her arm. "Boy!" she'd bark, and Andre knew enough to pivot and hustle out of the room. In the kitchen, in the living room, at almost any time of day, his mother was apt to doze off, sometimes while still standing.

A revolving cast of shady characters often accompanied Glo home and nodded off with her in the living room. When they left, the radio or the TV sometimes left with them.

But Glo couldn't blame all of the losses on her companions. Earnest Miller had had three kids with Glo--twin daughters and then Andre. She declined his frequent proposals and requests to move in, but not the many things Miller bought for the children. "My dad would buy it--she would take it and sell it and get high," Andre recalled. "And then she done took so much, she done run out of stuff to take. Wasn't nothing left but the bank. Big ol' piggy bank that my dad was saving for me and the twins. She bust the bank open and took all the money."

Andre remembered being angry with his mother about her habit. "But I couldn't do nothing about it, 'cause it was my mother and I was a baby then. I couldn't tell her, 'Mama, what you doing that for? Could you please stop?'"

When he got older his mother made it clear she didn't want anyone nagging her about her dope use. Andre sometimes tried anyway.

"Mama, when you gonna stop?"

"When I get ready."

"Don't you think you too old to be doing that stuff?"

"I'm your mama. You ain't my mama."

As a child, he'd also watched with dismay as his oldest brother, Tyrone, who was ten years older, began drinking cough syrup and nodding off too. Tyrone soon had worked his way up to heroin. It sickened Andre to see him acting like his mother. "Look at you, man--when you gonna leave that stuff alone?" Andre would ask him.

"When there ain't no more," was Tyrone's standard response.

Then another brother got hooked. Then another. Then a sister. Then another sister.

Andre said his mother's and his siblings' behavior would have been even more disturbing had it been unusual in the neighborhood. But where he grew up--the poor, solidly black area around Flournoy and California--the hobbies of grown-ups included shooting heroin, snorting coke, gulping cough syrup, downing pills, and smoking weed and "happy sticks," marijuana joints laced with PCP. Many of the adults in the neighborhood who grumbled about "dopeheads" did so while tossing back half pints and 12-packs. "That's all I was around was drugs, drugs, drugs," Andre said.

Andre didn't smoke or drink or shoot or snort anything. "I saw what it do to everybody else, so I didn't wanna be in that position." He saw family members who gave up caring about themselves--about the weight they were losing, their nappy hair, their wrinkled and dirty clothes. He saw their willingness to do anything, even steal from kin, to fund their habits. He saw those who drank staggering around, acting foolish, passing out. "I couldn't do that neither."

Glo wasn't around home enough to encourage Andre to read when he was little, and there were rarely any children's books in the flat anyway. Schoolwork mystified him from the start. He flunked sixth grade, and when he continued to do poorly the following year someone at his school finally decided to have him evaluated. Reading and math tests showed him to be at the level of an average second-grader. He was 13.

A social worker interviewed Glo. Glo said Andre was smart--he could memorize the grocery list when she sent him to the store. It bothered her how he dallied on the way home from the store though. She told the social worker Andre was just too playful and didn't apply himself. Glo of course neglected to mention her habit.

At the time of the evaluation Andre was living with his mother, four of his older siblings, a one-year-old niece, and a one-year-old nephew. "He preferred playing with the infants and gave a much warmer smile when talking about them" than when discussing other members of the family, the social worker noted in her report--perhaps a sign of his "regressive tendencies."

Andre told the social worker that many of the boys he played with regularly made fun of him. This angered him, but he didn't know how to stop it. Andre and his companions played in the neighborhood's vacant lots, where one time they found a shotgun and a .357. One of the boys took the guns home with him. Andre spoke with much more enthusiasm about the guns than he did about his family, the social worker noted, adding that she thought Andre "could be quite easily influenced by more aggressive types, and this could be a life-threatening danger." The social worker and a psychologist recommended that Andre be placed in a program for the educable mentally handicapped.

During periods when Glo was clearly too strung out to care for her kids they'd stay with their grandmother, Mary Doyle. Doyle's apartment on the 2700 block of West Lexington, a block south of Flournoy, was the neighborhood's unofficial social center throughout the 60s, 70s, and early 80s. There were endless card games in the living room--adults playing for dollars on a table, kids for nickels and dimes on the floor--legendary Sunday meals at which neighbors and even strangers were welcome, kids constantly running and shouting through the halls, nightly sleep-overs for cousins and friends. Andre loved staying there.

Doyle mixed a fierce discipline in with her permissiveness. Someone from school would call her about mischief Andre had got into, and she'd be waiting for him at the door with an extension cord when he came home. "She whup you with that extension cord, wasn't no tapping." Andre recalled walking around the house one time with a potato pressed against his eye after she lashed him there with the cord. Unacceptable report cards always merited a whupping, and Andre had no end of those. Yet his grandmother at least gave Andre a sense that someone was concerned about his future, a sense he got from no one else.

Andre began taking special-ed classes in September '84. They might have helped him, but that November he came home from school to find teary-eyed siblings and other relatives huddled in front of his grandmother's building. She'd died in her sleep, they told him.

After her death, Andre figured, "I'm on my own now, can't nobody tell me what to do. I figured I ain't gotta go to school no more--who gonna do something about it?" When Glo bothered to nag him about school, Andre wasn't inclined to pay attention. "No one gonna listen to no dopehead."

Soon he was living with his brother Tyrone and Tyrone's girlfriend in an abandoned building on Lexington. There was no heat, the bathroom sink had been ripped out of the wall, the toilet froze in the winter. Tyrone was selling $10 bags of powder cocaine out front to support his habits.

Andre's outlook at this point in his life wasn't particularly rosy. He could barely read or write. When people asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he said a janitor; picking up trash and mopping floors was something he at least felt capable of. At 14 he could look out front on Lexington and see how quickly, almost effortlessly, Tyrone was dealing his bags. Tyrone had made it clear to Andre he could join him anytime he wanted. Andre pictured himself in a Levi's vest, Guess jeans, a pair of Reeboks. The choice wasn't hard.

Bob Drozd also grew up in a big family and in hard times. He was born on Christmas Eve in 1941, the seventh of ten children. He and his brothers and sisters and their parents and grandmother shared a three-bedroom apartment in the south-side Back of the Yards neighborhood, then a white, working-class area. The kids took turns sleeping on the bed and the floor in the crowded flat. The other boys and girls in the neighborhood had leather shoes; he and his brothers and sisters had gym shoes. "Lot of these blacks that talk about welfare--we were on welfare," he told me. "But we never got money. We just got food. They never issued us no check for six, eight hundred dollars a month. We just got a basket, with the powdered eggs and stuff like that. I can't understand a country like this--all the people on welfare now and everybody's so fat. Back then poor people were lean, stringy people. Now the people on welfare--you're looking at people who have doubled and tripled their weights."

His mother was a housewife, his father a printer. "All he did was work. We never hardly even seen him--maybe Christmas or something like that. But we never disrespected him or anything, because back then if you said something to your father, oh my God, I mean--that's it, the party's over. He'd deck you, he'd crack you--because he had no time for the bullshit." His father "had his beers and there were arguments," Drozd said. "But I can't see a family without arguments."

As far back as he can remember Drozd wanted to be a police officer. He looked up to the officers he encountered in the neighborhood, and they usually treated him well, although they sometimes gave him "a little kick in the ass" when he got caught sneaking into the swimming pool at the neighborhood park after hours.

Drozd said he was "superhyper" as a kid and still is. "I'm always moving. Sometimes I'll have people tell me, 'Calm down, you're going too fast.' But I get so excited. I could work 14, 15 hours a day and I'm not tired." He talks a mile a minute, sometimes lurching in midsentence from one subject to another. He struggled in school--not because of his hyperactivity, he said, but for lack of interest. He graduated from Gage Park High School near the bottom of his class and might not have finished at all except for a teacher who pushed him to go to summer school and apply himself. "She said, 'Bob, every time I talk to you it goes in one ear and out the other--you're not paying attention.' I said, 'Yeah, 'cause I have no interest in world history and Columbus and them guys--what is Columbus gonna do for us now?'"

He said he got in his share of fistfights growing up. At Gage Park High boys united along ethnic lines--the Italians, the Irish, and his group, the Poles. "It wasn't no gang shit where you're beating people with chains and sticks and knives. Fistfights, that was it--if you got beat, you were beat."

He managed a paper route while in high school and worked in a factory for a few years afterward. Early in 1970--about the time Andre was born--he entered the police academy. He graduated in December of that year, was assigned to the west side, and has worked there since. After a year on patrol he became a tactical, or plainclothes, officer, and nine years ago he became a gang-crimes specialist.

"The first thing I learned on the west side was how to lie to somebody--how to bullshit the way they bullshit," he told me. "I'm not saying go out of your way to lie to put a person in jail--no, I disagree there. But the people out there are streetwise and sharp as minks, and you have to be on the same level as them to catch 'em. Meaning cunning. Like, I would come up to you and be real nice and apologetic and everything, but meanwhile I'm cunning. I'm using the cunningness to get what I want from you." As a police officer, he said, he's required to follow his department's rules and abide by the Constitution. But the people he's pursuing have a different rule book and "when you're working the west side, you gotta play their game."

Since gangs are frequently involved in drug dealing, Drozd has spent most of his time as a gang specialist making drug-crime pinches. Often he'll pose as a customer in "buy-busts." He'll buy a bag or two of cocaine at a drug spot with bills whose serial numbers have been recorded, then other officers will swoop in with the handcuffs. "All you do is sit in front of a dope stroll, see the people come, get in line with 'em, and just do what they do. And just act normal." He said his jitteriness has helped him pass as a crackhead.

Drozd said he's also learned "that there's a lot of good black people on the west side. Lot of good black people." But drugs have ruined families there, have made kids respect dealers more than their parents. "See, that whole family structure is broken--and this is why we're so fucked up in society."

So did he feel sorry for the kids growing up on the west side? "Well now, that's a trick question," he said. He felt sorry for "the good black kids" who every day face the temptation to deal or who are intimidated into joining gangs. "I don't think they got a chance growing up to be good." But when they start selling drugs or they join a gang, "then I can't feel sorry for 'em. Like they say, 'You do the crime, you gotta do the time.'"

When he was small and dreaming of being a cop, he pictured himself walking a beat, joking with the kids in the neighborhood, getting to know their parents by name. He didn't imagine himself posing as a crackhead, buying little white rocks with marked money. Often during his career he wondered if the buy-busts and the other arrests he made from day to day were worth the effort. He'd watch with disillusionment as those he'd collared had their cases thrown out by a judge or got off with probation or a brief prison stint and went right back to dealing. Sometimes the arrests even seemed to stimulate the dealing: those busted would get out on bond and peddle drugs harder to pay for a lawyer to defend them in court. "Are we getting anywhere with this?" he'd ask himself. "Are we accomplishing anything?"

That's why he was eager to work on a long-term investigation, he said--to do something that would really make a difference. Operation Flournoy "was a way to get to the top, to Bay-Bay, because nobody was making a dent in this Flournoy thing. It was all frustration."

"Short Bag" is what they used to call Bay-Bay in the neighborhood around Flournoy and California. That was back in the 70s, when he was selling weed on California in stingy quantities. In the early 80s, according to testimony in the Flournoy trial, he moved on to powder cocaine--he and some of his brothers sold it on the 2500 block of West Flournoy, near a building where some of his siblings lived. When some of the Pattersons moved to a building on the 2700 block of Flournoy around 1990, the drug operation moved with them. The product then was the concentrated, smokable form of cocaine known in most places as crack but in Chicago as "rock." A few years later heroin, or "blow," was added to the drug spot's menu.

About every other day a few of Bay-Bay's top workers would meet him in a south-side apartment, where they would watch their leader deftly turn powder into rock. Bay-Bay would stir some baking soda into a heap of powder cocaine, then scoop the mixture into a big jar, adding water to make a paste. The jar went into a pot of boiling water on the stove for a few minutes. Bay-Bay then strained off the excess water and turned the lump--the size of a 12-inch softball--onto a mirror. If it wasn't already hard it would set in a few minutes. Then Bay-Bay would attack it with a razor blade, chipping off pieces the size of a pencil eraser--generous rocks compared with those of competitors, "boulders," as his street servers would brag; Bay-Bay was Short Bag no longer. His workers would slip each rock into a tiny Ziploc bag: a $10 product ready for market.

Andre's new home was on the 19th floor of the MCC, the odd 25-story triangular building in the South Loop. He soon fell into the rhythm of the place. He had to rise by 7:30 each morning to don his orange jumpsuit for the morning count. He might get something to eat after that or just go back to bed and sleep until noon. After lunch he'd play dominoes, a game he learned from fellow inmates. At three o'clock he'd watch Jenny Jones. Then he'd have to return to his cell for the afternoon count. After dinner, more dominoes. Three days a week he was able to shoot baskets and work out in the gym; twice a week he was allowed to visit the facility's law library, where he and his codefendants researched and discussed their case. Andre had worked a few licit jobs in his life, but mostly he'd subsisted on his dealing. Now the government was providing for him--food, shelter, and security, at a yearly cost of $19,000--while he slept and played dominoes.

He missed intensely his girlfriend, Paulette, and their two daughters, who were seven and five. They visited him, but not as often as Andre wished. The scariest thing about the potential life sentence, Andre told me in the autumn of '95, was the prospect of not being able to see his girls grow up. This was more than jail-house jive, according to those who knew Andre well. Paulette told me he'd been the principal source of support for her and the kids before his arrest, though he hadn't been living with them--the one time he and Paulette had tried staying together it hadn't worked out. But he visited them practically every day, she said, and "if he couldn't make a day he'd call three or four times at least." When the girls were sick he'd stay with them until they fell asleep. Paulette's only complaint was that Andre could be a little too playful with the kids. "He'd have 'em screaming and laughing. Anything that got to do with running he'd have 'em doing."

"I like all kinda kids, not just my kids," Andre said. "I like playing with 'em. They just fun to have around."

Andre's roommate in the MCC, with whom he got along well, was also young, black, and facing crack-dealing-conspiracy charges, though in an unrelated case. Andre had noticed that without black crack-conspiracy defendants the MCC would need far fewer floors. (In 1970, 16 percent of all federal prisoners were drug offenders; now the proportion is close to 70 percent. Two-thirds of the nation's crack users are white, studies indicate, but in 1994, 96.5 percent of federal defendants in crack cases were minorities.)

"A lot of guys in here tell us these people [the feds] can't be beat," Andre said, "'cause they don't play no fair ball. And then they be giving you a boatload of time, like you a serial killer or something. All that time they giving people ain't even called for. I toss and turn every night thinking about if I get found guilty and all that. But I always have it in my mind that I'm going home. All I can do is hope for the best."

Federal law mandates a minimum ten-year sentence for drug-conspiracy offenders in cases involving at least 50 grams of crack. But for offenders with a previous drug conviction the mandatory minimum is 20 years, and for people such as Andre, with two drug convictions, it's a lifetime of dominoes. No parole.

"We ain't even saying that we ain't sell no dope--we admit to that," Andre said. "Yeah, we should be punished for that--but not like what they trying to give us."

Andre was also troubled that he might be punished so harshly when he'd regularly seen cops doing things he was sure weren't right, and they weren't going to prison. He claimed it was common in his neighborhood for cops to squeeze dealers for guns. The cop might offer not to bust a person he'd caught with a few bags if the person came up with a gun for him. Or the cop might demand a gun from a person he hadn't even caught dirty, threatening a bogus arrest. Andre wasn't sure what the cops did with the guns they got; he'd heard that some cops sold them, while others turned them in for days off. "Justice should be served the right way, not the wrong way," he said.

Squeezing dealers for guns is a Chicago police tradition. In the Marquette Ten police-corruption case of 1982, in which west-side cops were convicted of taking cash payoffs from dealers, witness after witness told of cops leaning on them for guns in the manner Andre described.

Department policy prohibits this practice, but the department's method of evaluating officers encourages it. Tactical cops, gang-crimes cops like Drozd, and other cops in specialized units are appraised in part by the number of guns they recover. In some units officers are given points for the guns they turn in, and officers with low point totals risk transfer to undesirable units.

One veteran gang-crimes officer who told me he "wasn't above" squeezing dealers for guns said he does so not to rack up points but to make the streets safer. "I would rather get a gun off the street than lock up someone for one bag," he said. "That gun could be aimed at me." And anyway, he added, arrests for possession of small amounts of drugs are often thrown out of court.

But officers shouldn't be deciding which laws to enforce and which to overlook, department spokesperson Pat Camden told me. And they definitely shouldn't be making deals with dope peddlers, he added, even if the goal seems admirable. "Integrity is integrity--you either have it or you don't. And the ends don't justify the means."

Officers who do squeeze people for guns might not all be motivated by a noble purpose. Guns that had apparently been confiscated from suspects were found in the homes of several of the officers recently indicted for shaking down dealers in the Austin District. Some defense attorneys in the Flournoy case speculated that officers in such cases could sell the guns or have them available to plant on suspects.

In March three tactical officers from the Harrison District--which includes the Flournoy-California neighborhood--were taken into custody for allegedly squeezing guns from a parolee. According to the Tribune, the parolee said the officers had threatened to arrest him, which could have led to his parole being revoked and imprisonment, if he didn't get them guns. The man reported the threat to police officials; later, in cooperation with authorities, he gave the officers three guns, which were subsequently recovered from the locker of one of the officers. The state's attorney declined to file criminal charges, but a police spokesperson said the department was still considering disciplining or firing the officers for official misconduct.

In 1991--the year Drozd began Operation Flournoy--pressure on gang specialists to recover guns was particularly intense, with the police chief at the time, LeRoy Martin, and the head of gang crimes, Robert Dart, declaring gun seizures to be among their top priorities. But Drozd told me after the trial he'd never squeezed a dealer or anyone else for a gun and never would. "You got no right to do this. This man has got a bag of dope, you lock him up for the bag of dope. If a policeman should do this he belongs in jail. He definitely belongs in jail." Drozd professed to have never even heard of the practice. "I'll be honest with you--I don't get myself involved in situations where policemen are talking about other policemen. The guys I've worked with, all of 'em are honest. We go out, we do our job. We ain't got time to listen to what other policemen are doing."

Andre was playing dominoes on New Year's Day 1996, nine months after he'd been locked up, when he got a call from his brother Tyrone, who was on another floor in the MCC. Tyrone gently told Andre what he'd just learned from kinfolk: Andre's father, Earnest Miller, had died.

Heart problems had apparently felled Miller, 60, who was found in the small tire-repair shop on West Chicago Avenue where he'd worked and lived.

Andre hoped MCC officials would let him attend the funeral. Fellow inmates told him other prisoners had been allowed to do so after the death of an immediate family member, though they were usually required to pay the cost of the security detail that escorted them. Andre could expect to be charged about $500 if he got to go, the inmates said. Andre figured he could raise only a few dollars from relatives, but a couple of inmates on his floor promised to cover the cost for him.

Andre informed a guard of his wish. The guard told him to talk to his case manager. The case manager told Andre to have his lawyer make the request to the judge overseeing his case. Andre called the office of his lawyer, Ron Clark. Clark was out of town, the woman who answered said, and wouldn't return for several days. A familiar feeling of helplessness descended on Andre.

The service was held the following Saturday morning, in a chapel on West Madison. Friends and relatives drifted into the parlor and approached the pale blue casket for a final glance at the broad-shouldered, gray-haired Miller, who wore a black suit, a navy tie, and a frozen smile.

A friend of Miller's opened the service by telling those assembled on the chapel's red-cushioned benches: "I don't know if Earnest is going to heaven or hell, but I do know one thing--if you went to Earnest and you would say, 'Earnest, I need the shirt off your back,' he'd pull it off and give it to you."

Pastor Columbus Bland of the Glory to Glory Family Christian Center delivered a spirited, upbeat eulogy. "Ain't nothing like the word of the Lord. You done tried crack and don't know how to get back, you done tried dope and don't know what the hope is all about. But I'll bring you hope today, 'cause Jesus is the hope and glory."

The parlor was stuffy. The people on the benches fanned themselves with their programs. Pastor Bland's forehead soon glistened. He pulled off his glasses, folding them into their case, and slipped out of his suitcoat without missing a beat. "Give yourself to Jesus. You don't have much time. I know some o' y'all think you're young and you got plenty o' time. But God told me a soul don't have no age....You can bribe the po-leece, you can bribe the politician, but you can't bribe death."

As Miller's relatives and friends filed out of the parlor, a stepson spoke softly about a garden Miller had tended on weekends in Momence. "He had a strawberry patch, raised cukes. Whatever he raised, he'd bring it to the city and give it away."

By the time Andre's lawyer was able to get in touch with him, Andre's father had been in the ground several days.

Andre moped around in the MCC for a couple of days after his father's funeral. While they were growing up, Andre and his twin sisters had visited Miller frequently at his apartment on Pulaski near Monroe. "He used to let us do whatever we wanted to do--ain't never whupped us," Andre told me. "I guess I take after him. He hated to tell a person no, I hate to tell a person no. He liked to give just like I like to give. My mama told me I always had a sweet heart, just like him."

Andre said that most of his drug-dealing profits had gone to support his girlfriend and children. He bought name-brand clothes for himself, and he blew a few dollars playing craps, but most of the rest of his earnings he shared with kinfolk. When people in the family were short--and they always were--they just had to hit up Moosehead. "I need to get me a sandwich and some smokes," his mother would say, and Andre would reach into his pocket. He knew his mother would never make it to the store with the money, but he also knew how sick she was without her dope. A niece wanted contact lenses, a nephew sneakers; Andre obliged.

A little cash goes a long way in the MCC; the inmate who can buy a tube of shampoo or a stick of deodorant or a can of soup or bag of chips from the commissary retains at least a semblance of control over his life. The next dollar Andre got from a relative would be the first, he told me. He understood why his relatives weren't returning the generosity he'd shown them. "They need their money 'cause they still getting high." He shrugged. "But I ain't mad at 'em. I still love 'em. My grandmama always told me, 'Don't hold no grudges.'"

"Class clown" is what his mother used to call Andre. And "clown" is often still the first word friends use to describe him. "People used to always tell me I should be a comedian," he said. "Even in here guys say that. I don't like seeing people sad. When I see a person down and out, I crack a few jokes, make a silly face, do a little dance--try to put a smile on their face."

His aunt, Rose Doyle, with whom Andre stayed from time to time after his grandmother died, said she thought Andre always played the clown to distract people from his learning problems. "Moose's biggest problem is he would do anything for anybody just so they would say they liked him." She said it was a trait people exploited, particularly Andre's brothers. "He was always everybody's gofer. They'd say things like 'I'm your own brother' or 'You got to help your own blood.' They'd play on him until they broke him down. Yet if he's their brother, why would they send him somewhere to pick up a lot of dope, but they wouldn't go themselves? When you're a kindhearted person you can get used up real rough out there."

Doyle warned Andre against getting involved in his brothers' and his friends' line of work, but he wouldn't listen. "You can get caught up in the middle of a lot of stuff just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not thinking," Doyle would tell him. "And Moose, you don't think."

"Oh auntie, you don't understand," Andre would reply. "These are my homeys."

In the MCC Andre recalled, "My auntie used to sit me down and tell me the dope game is a two-way road--you end up six feet deep or in here. I wish I would have took her advice back then."

Late in '95 Andre and his codefendants had been given a chance to listen to the tapes Drozd made during his investigation. The luckier defendants heard their voices on only a few tapes and only briefly on those. To Andre's dismay, he discovered he had a starring role in Operation Flournoy. On tape after tape he heard himself directing Drozd or one of his partners to a gun or explaining something about the workings of Bay-Bay's spot. Many of Andre's buddies had suspected Drozd was wired, what with all the questions he asked and the way he loudly announced their names in his talks with them. So when Drozd pulled up on Flournoy they'd send Andre to talk to him rather than do it themselves. Andre was quick to oblige. "They asked me, so I went," he told me. Drozd had learned to seek out the neighborhood's looser-lipped inhabitants. And when he called Andre over to his car and started questioning him, "I'd get to yabbin' and yabbin' and yabbin'," Andre said regretfully.

Andre "liked to prove himself all the time--that's why he talked a lot," Drozd told me. He said Andre wanted to flaunt his authority at the drug spot on the days he had it.

Drozd, who described himself to me as a joker, found in Andre a kindred spirit. "He was a joker all the time. When you get people like that, lotta times you gotta wonder where they're coming from. 'Cause lotta times with a joker you don't know if they're telling the truth or not telling the truth." But, Drozd added, "I never saw too much evil in him. He just had his priorities mixed up a little bit."

After the Flournoy defendants were arrested, the newspapers had said Drozd gallantly impersonated an addicted cop for the sake of the case. But in a motion in January '96 prosecutors informed the judge who'd been assigned to the case, Robert Gettleman, and defense lawyers of what Drozd had recently mentioned to them: he'd been treated for alcoholism during Operation Flournoy.

Drozd had been planning to have hand surgery in 1994, but a lab workup showed elevated liver enzymes--a sign of alcoholism. He was instructed to get detoxed if he wanted the surgery. He entered a program on April 21, 1994--a year to the day before Andre and the others were arrested. He'd been drinking a 12-pack or more daily for years, he said, according to court records. He needed a six-pack before he went to sleep to sedate himself, and he drank in the morning to control shakiness. He completed the program on May 6, 1994.

Gettleman ruled that Drozd's drinking would be fair game at trial for defense attorneys, since it could have affected his perceptions and memory during the investigation.

Drozd finds annoying the excuses that cocaine and heroin addicts make for their habits. Yet he told me after the trial, "I'll be honest with you about the drinking. The only reason I drank when I first started drinking was my wife told me to have a beer just to be like one of the guys." He said he'd got in the routine of stopping at a tavern on the way home from work at least 25 years ago. He'd have "six, eight beers, or something like that," buy a six-pack for later, get in his car, and drive home. There were mornings when he awoke unable to remember how he got home.

Alcohol seemed to calm his jumpiness, "slowed everything down," though it sometimes got him dwelling on things he ordinarily didn't give a second thought to. How can I take people to jail for having a rock--and then go to a bar and load up on beers? he'd ask himself. But another voice would reassure him: narcotics were illegal, booze wasn't.

Driving drunk was illegal too, of course--but he said he kept that thought out of his mind. When the drug addicts he caught protested that "at least we don't kill people like all these drunk drivers," he dismissed it as just another dope-fiend cop-out.

After he quit drinking in '95, he realized how dangerous drunk drivers were, he told me after the trial; now when he saw a car on the street waver even slightly he would pull well out of its way. Nonetheless he still considered cocaine and heroin greater menaces than alcohol. They were more potent and more addictive, he said. Alcohol was dangerous too, "but you're always aware of what you're doing with alcohol." What about those mornings he woke up not knowing how he got home? "I knew mentally how I got there. It's just that it didn't--click. Anybody that drinks has one or two of them situations, but I didn't lose my full control."

February 5, 1996: The trial's opening day had finally arrived, to Andre's relief. Ten months in the MCC had made him more than restless.

One of the original 21 defendants was too ill for trial; an IV drug user, he'd contracted HIV and was dying in custody. Another defendant had only recently been located by authorities and so could not be tried yet. That left 19 defendants to be prosecuted jointly--the second largest group ever to be tried at one time in the Northern District of Illinois.

Only one courtroom in the Dirksen building was large enough to accommodate such a throng--the ceremonial courtroom on the 25th floor. Three standard Dirksen courtrooms could fit in this imposing chamber. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sometimes meets here, its justices listening to arguments and issuing opinions from behind the curved bench that stretches across the front of the room. Naturalizations are conducted in the courtroom one or two mornings a week.

The defendants and their lawyers sat at three long tables in the well of the courtroom. The neon jumpsuits remained on the 24th floor; guests of the MCC are allowed to impersonate free citizens for a jury, so the defendants had on dress shirts and ties, sweaters and sport coats. Andre's white shirt and tie had been supplied by Tyrone's girlfriend. Andre's own dress clothes had vanished after his arrest, appropriated, he said, by kinfolk with habits.

There was a striking checkerboard pattern at the defense tables, the black defendants alternating with their wing-tipped, pin-striped, and, with only five exceptions, fair-skinned lawyers. (The defendants had been making millions, according to the government, but only Bay-Bay and one other defendant could afford to hire private lawyers; the rest had court-appointed counsel.) The hues were more consistent elsewhere in the courtroom. The prosecution table, situated between the jury and the defendants, was occupied by three assistant U.S. attorneys and two ATF agents--all white. Twenty of the 22 marshals who sat in the gallery and in a spare jury box on the far side of the courtroom were white. Their guns were concealed beneath dress clothes, only a small lapel pin and their wary eyes identifying their office. The rear benches of the gallery held mostly blacks--friends and family of the defendants, 25 of them, dressed plainly and neatly. Two were men, the rest women and children, among them two of Andre's sisters and a teenage niece. Sitting above everyone else behind the long judicial bench, at the end nearer the jury, was Judge Gettleman, a serene, middle-aged white jurist. High on the courtroom's paneled walls, 50 past and present judges of the Northern District of Illinois, only four of them black, smiled benevolently down upon the courtroom from large photos in gilded frames.

Defense attorneys had been pleased to land five blacks on the jury. But Andre was disappointed that the panel included not a single west-sider. "All of 'em from way out," he told me later. "Hoffman Estates. Aurora. And some places I never even heard of. Ain't none of 'em gonna know what it's like in our neck of the woods."

Assistant U.S. attorney Diane Saltoun delivered the opening statement for the prosecutors. "The 2700 block of West Flournoy at first glance looks like every other residential street in Chicago," she began. "There are houses. There are families living there. There are children. There is a basketball court and so on. There is a park around the corner." But in recent years the block had also been "the distribution center of a tremendously successful business, a business that made thousands of dollars each day, even tens of thousands of dollars each day....The business was the Patterson family enterprise."

Saltoun told the jury how customers flocked to Flournoy from far and wide, attracted by the ample rocks offered and the easy access from the nearby Eisenhower Expressway; how police officers made arrests and chased away customers as much as they could, but how the customers always returned; how one of those officers was Bob Drozd. On a July evening in '91 "Drozd was doing what he had been doing routinely for the last 15 years at least," she told the courtroom. "He was trying to stop the drug sales that were going on right in front of him." Customers were scattering as Drozd stood in front of the drug spot, she said, until a supervisor of the drug operation "said to Officer Drozd, 'If I give you something, will you leave the area so we can continue our crack cocaine sales?'"

After an underling gave Drozd the shotgun later that evening, Drozd "did what a good police officer should do," Saltoun said. "He went that night to his supervisors and reported this bribe....And that is when the undercover investigation of the Patterson family enterprise began."

Saltoun went on, "The evidence will show that the Patterson family enterprise thought that they had bought the best insurance their business could have. They thought that by bribing the police officers they were safe to continue in their crimes. Little did these defendants know that Officer Drozd and the other law enforcement officers working with him were not corrupt police officers." Two months before the trial the government had added a new charge against the defendants--racketeering--based in part on this alleged bribery scheme.

Prosecutors knew that defense attorneys would harp on Drozd's drinking, and so thought it prudent to acknowledge it from the start. Saltoun emphasized the pressures of Drozd's undercover role. Drozd "had to go into back alleys in the middle of the night, recovering loaded guns from people who didn't really want him around," she told the court. "He had to confront police officers who didn't know about this investigation and believed he was corrupt." His drinking problems, she said, were "an unfortunate by-product of his undercover work."

Saltoun and her two coprosecutors were facing a formidable challenge. There were so many defendants and so many tapes--it wasn't going to be easy to get the jurors to keep it all straight.

Yet this task paled next to the one that confronted defense attorneys, most of whose clients had been caught red-handed by Drozd's recorder. Privately many of the defense attorneys conceded that this wasn't a case of men who'd done nothing being railroaded. The tapes made it clear that drugs had been sold on Flournoy and that most if not all of the men on trial had been involved.

Still, the defense lawyers complained that the government was harpooning goldfish--that it had spent time and money lavishly to nail a group of mostly penny-ante dealers. Elsewhere in the Dirksen building a half dozen Gangster Disciple leaders and two accomplices were on trial. Prosecutors in that trial were alleging that the Disciple leaders controlled hundreds of street-corner dealers in Chicago and the suburbs and were squeezing a "tax" from their profits, that they'd set up sham corporations through which they laundered drug money, and that they'd tried to influence local elections. The government was making no such extravagant claims about Andre and his codefendants. Prosecutors were even backing away from the assertion, made at the time Andre and the others were arrested, that all of the defendants were Traveling Vice Lords; the government now maintained only that TVL approval was needed for a drug spot to operate in the Flournoy-California neighborhood. "When I look at the El Rukns and the Disciples and then these guys--this looks like a joke to me," attorney Stanley Hill, who was defending one of Bay-Bay's brothers, told me. "I don't know why they indicted them to tell you the truth, at least as a federal case."

Members of the grand jury that indicted the defendants had worried early on about how much the investigation would accomplish if Bay-Bay's suppliers weren't also nabbed. An assistant U.S. attorney and an ATF agent had assured the grand jurors that attempts would be made to discover and catch the suppliers as well. But such attempts failed, authorities acknowledged to the jurors in March '95, shortly before the indictments were issued--leaving the feds with primarily a host of street dealers.

ATF memos indicate that the bureau got into Operation Flournoy with the expectation of reaping a bonanza in firearms--not 34 guns over four years, fewer than it takes off the street in a single decent raid. ATF had received information early in '91 that a Chicago Traveling Vice Lord was buying guns in quantity from a firearms dealer in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which the bureau suspected were being used to protect the gang's drug operations on the west side. In a '91 report the ATF agent assigned to the case, Kevin Cronin, pledged to work with the Chicago police to find where these firearms were being stored.

But no arsenal was ever discovered during Operation Flournoy. The ATF hoped that the guns the Flournoy dealers did give Drozd would be from the Mississippi source, but only two of them were. Instead the defendants, who told Drozd they couldn't come up with guns as easily as he thought they could, often gave him battered guns they got from drug buyers who'd traded them for rocks. On the tapes Drozd griped regularly to the defendants about the "raggedy motherfucking guns" he was getting from them. "I need some guns in boxes, or give me a motherfucking Uzi," he told one defendant. Instead he got a revolver manufactured around the turn of the century, a shotgun made in 1920, and three guns that didn't work. Most of the other guns were small-caliber pistols and revolvers--dangerous, but not the sophisticated weaponry ordinarily associated with a major drug operation.

The jury would be instructed to decide the case on the evidence presented, not on the appropriateness of the charges. Nonetheless many of the defense attorneys were going to use the strategy that was customary when facing overwhelming evidence: they wouldn't be defending their clients so much as prosecuting the government's chief witness.

In their opening statements the lawyers outlined various defenses they would attempt to mount during the trial: the tapes really showed Drozd extorting guns and drugs from the defendants, not the defendants bribing Drozd; the defendants simply told Drozd what he wanted to hear; Drozd was annoyed by Bay-Bay's wealth--wealth built not through drug dealing but through racetrack betting--and so he framed Bay-Bay, his brothers, and his nephews; Drozd, aiming for glory and overtime pay, slanted his investigation so as to catch as many young men in the neighborhood as possible, and in the process netted the innocent as well as the guilty.

Sara Ellis, one of two federal defenders representing Edgar Williams, wondered why the defendants would have offered to bribe Drozd if he were someone "they know can't be bribed....Keep that in mind while you are listening to the testimony of Officer Drozd."

Gary Ravitz, representing Lennell Patterson: "If Officer Drozd said, 'Lennell, jump,' Lennell would have said, 'How high, sir?'...Does the fact that Officer Drozd wears a tattoo and has made remarks that he is a white supremacist mean that he is a racist?...That's for you to decide."

No one pounded Drozd harder than Andre's lawyer, Ron Clark, who told the jury that Drozd was "a substance-abusing, racist, white supremacist, extortionist police officer." He maintained that the defendants had given Drozd guns not so he would allow them to sell dope but because they were afraid of Drozd arresting them unjustifiably. "Guns were produced to satisfy Drozd, a collection of ragtag guns like you have never seen--some of them dangerous weapons, some of them old collectors' pieces, some of them junk....Andre Williams never owned a gun, doesn't have a gun, never even used a gun. But Bob Drozd made them get them." Jurors who glanced over at Andre saw him sitting angelically at his table, hands folded in his lap.

His undercover role suited Drozd perfectly, Clark said: he just had to be himself. "Bob Drozd is playing Bob Drozd--like Fuhrman playing Fuhrman....And that's what the government's case is about--about Bob Drozd sending these 19 boys away. And in the end, the government is going to ask you to do just that, but it's not the right thing to do."

In an adversarial system of justice both sides are allowed to exaggerate and distort--the theory being that the clash of warped, polar versions of reality will enable a judge or jury to see the truth.

When Clark said Andre had "never owned a gun...never even used a gun" maybe he was talking about some other Andre.

For a heady period in his mid-teens, Andre and a friend, both aspiring to be more than just another couple of neighborhood Traveling Vice Lord shorties, formed their own gang--the Major Pimp Dogs. ("A pimp dog is someone who's popular with the girls," according to Andre.) They ordered T-shirts in official MPD blue and white. They flashed MPD hand signs on street corners. They wrestled and fistfought with non-MPDs. MPD graffiti blossomed around the neighborhood. Andre was no longer simply "Moosehead," he was "King Moose," as the back of his T-shirt proclaimed.

With authority comes responsibility. One time a kid at Andre's high school was harassing an MPD, and Andre heard the whispered speculation about whether King Moose would respond. He borrowed a sawed-off shotgun from another MPD and toted it to the school grounds in search of the bully. Andre told me he hadn't been dumb enough to load the gun; he just wanted to scare the guy. His mark wasn't at the school grounds, but the police were--and they were curious about what Andre was hiding under his coat.

"Raise your hand," an officer directed. Andre stuck his free hand in the air.

"The other one!"

Andre brought his hand down, shoved it inside the coat to grip the sawed-off, and raised the other one.

"Both hands!"

Andre obeyed; the gun clattered to the concrete. He was escorted to the Audy Home. A juvenile court judge gave him 30 days in Audy and a year's probation.

Soon after, several TVLs visited him at his house. They'd noticed the MPD ads sprouting on the neighborhood walls. "Ain't but one king, and that's King Neal," they reminded Andre, referring to Neal Wallace, then the leader of the TVLs.

"I didn't want no trouble," Andre recalled. "That was the end of the MPDs."

Like many neighborhood kids, Andre often did carry a gun. "It was a lot of shooting going on around there. I didn't want nobody catch me, you understand, with my drawers down." But he believed guns were properly used only in self-defense. "A lot of young guys get trigger-happy. Guess they think a gun make 'em more of a man, but it don't. If you can't do nothing with your fists, ain't no need to do nothing. I ain't wanna shoot nobody. I wasn't never no violent type."

He did shoot someone once, he said, but not on purpose. He and a friend were sitting in the living room of an apartment on California one afternoon, and Andre was fiddling with his gun. "I was cocking it back, and my hand slipped off the firing thing." A single bullet passed through both of his friend's legs. He rushed the friend to the hospital, visited him daily, brought him whatever he asked for. To his relief, the friend recovered fully.

In her opening Saltoun had painted a picture of an ordinary block devastated by drug dealing. Families with children. A basketball court. A park around the corner. The 2700 block of West Flournoy, she'd said, looked at first glance "like every other residential street in Chicago."

Maybe after a bombing. A street once crammed with two-story brownstones now features mainly littered vacant lots. On the day Saltoun gave her opening statement only 12 homes remained on the long block, and 5 of them were abandoned--some boarded up, others with yawning glassless windows. Saltoun neglected to mention the junkyard a block down, the abandoned factories around the corner, the homeless shelter nearby, the mounds of tires dumped by truckers, the burnt-out cars resting in the rat-baited alleys. (The basketball court Saltoun did mention was built using funds provided by Bay-Bay, according to neighbors.)

Drug dealing can undoubtedly hasten an area's decay. But fingering it as the primary villain, as Saltoun seemed to be doing, is confusing cause and effect--like saying tumors lead to cancer.

East Garfield Park, the community that includes the 2700 block of West Flournoy, was flourishing at the end of World War II, with abundant jobs in factories and warehouses that were within walking distance. Irish, Germans, Russian Jews, Italians lived here. The number of blacks was small but rising, southern blacks being drawn here by Chicago's surplus of jobs--jobs paying four times or more what they could earn at home. In 1956, at age 13, Andre's mother rode the Illinois Central up from Mississippi to join her mother and siblings, who'd settled in East Garfield Park a few years earlier; Andre's father, also from Mississippi, arrived here on the IC in 1958. As blacks flowed in, whites flowed out: East Garfield Park, 83 percent white in 1950, was 38 percent white ten years later. Cars became affordable, expressways were built, the factories and warehouses fled to the suburbs, the whites followed. By the time Andre was born, in 1970, East Garfield Park was 2 percent white. Jobs were scarce, and the tumors were spreading--early-teen pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, spiraling school dropout rates, rampant alcoholism and drug addiction, dilapidated housing, fires, violence.

In 1969 an alarming one-third of the residents in the census tract that includes the 2700 block of West Flournoy lived in poverty. But rock bottom had yet to be reached: by 1989 the figure was almost two-thirds. Most residents of the tract in 1989 were not just poor but desperately so: 51 percent subsisted on incomes of less than half the poverty level. The median family income in 1989 was $7,054--$300 less than it had been two decades earlier. When drug dealers sprouted like dandelions in the neighborhood's vacant lots, alleys, and gangways in the 1980s, could anyone be surprised?

Flournoy had been crying out for public help for years--and in 1991 it got Operation Flournoy. It would not be an inexpensive procedure. The tab for the investigation alone was surely considerable--the salaries for Drozd and his partners, the ATF agents, the prosecutors who consulted with the cops, the paralegals who transcribed the tapes, the labs that analyzed the drugs, the experts who inspected and tried to trace the guns. The bill would spiral now that the trial was starting. The defense attorneys were getting $65 an hour for their courtroom time--a bargain rate by attorney standards. But multiply it by 17 court-appointed attorneys, multiply it again by the hours and hours they were going to spend in court, and add to that the out-of-court work done at $45 an hour--it would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in public expenditures for the defense attorneys alone. Add to this the salaries of the three assistant U.S. attorneys and the two ATF agents who would work on the trial from beginning to end, those of the judge, the court reporters, the clerks, the marshals, the jurors. And almost a year of room and board for the defendants in the MCC. People who complained that government didn't spend enough on its inner-city neighborhoods had only to look at Operation Flournoy to see that they were wrong.

The biggest cost of the prosecution by far was yet to come, for any defendants who were convicted: 19 grand a year for warehousing times the number convicted, times 40 or 50 years in most cases, or as long as it took for each convict to die.

February 7, 1996: The government's first "insider," 31-year-old Thane Martin, took the stand.

In multidefendant cases prosecutors usually try to persuade some of those charged to plead guilty and testify against their cohorts in exchange for an abbreviated sentence. Their codefendants say those who flip are snitching or ratting or tricking or stooling. The prosecutors call it cooperating.

The incentive to flip in this case was great. Acquittal seemed unlikely, given the government's mountain of evidence--including the 127 audiotapes Drozd had recorded and the 34 guns and 270 bags of drugs he'd collected. And most of the defendants were facing automatic life sentences if they lost. Yet prosecutors had been unable to flip any of the men originally indicted. Defense attorneys had marveled at their clients' loyalty, courage, and perhaps foolishness. It was true the defendants were presumed innocent. But it was also true that jurors often presume the government doesn't issue fat indictments if the defendants aren't guilty. Prosecutor Kathleen Murdock later told me that she attributed the defendants' steadfastness to the fact that a lot of them were related. But brothers have given up brothers many times in the Dirksen building courtrooms, and sons have ratted on fathers; blood tends to be thin when long terms loom. Yet these defendants, as one defense lawyer told me, seemed "like lemmings ready to go over the cliff together."

The prosecutors, however, had left themselves a reserve of potential flippers: they hadn't initially indicted everyone who'd incriminated himself on Drozd's tapes. And so late in '95 the feds came calling on three other men who'd grown up near Flournoy. Advised of their imminent indictments, of the life sentences they'd get if they were convicted, of the relatively trifling terms they could get instead (four years for one man, five to seven and a half for the other two), the three had decided to cooperate. Thane Martin was one of these.

Andre of course had been disappointed when he'd learned of the men who were flipping, but he'd responded charitably. He didn't see how anyone could fault the flippers for their decision, given their alternatives. But he told me he'd never even considered flipping. "I grew up with half these guys, and the other half watched me grow up. They just like family. I couldn't see myself getting on no stand and turning on people like that."

Martin, tall and broad shouldered, looked studious on the stand with his glasses and preppy olive dress shirt. He'd started smoking cocaine in 1986, he told the jury on direct examination by prosecutor Murdock. By 1990 he was spending several hundred dollars a day on crack and heroin--and went to work at the drug spot on Flournoy to support his habit. First he worked as a lookout, watching for police and directing customers to exactly where the drugs were being sold on a given day--usually in a gangway in the middle of the 2700 block or in the alley between Flournoy and Lexington. Martin worked his way up to dealing the dope himself, as a "pack man." A pack, he explained to the court, was 60 of the little $10 bags of rock in a larger Ziploc. A supervisor at the spot doled out a pack at a time to the pack men. The pack men turned in $500 to the supervisor for each pack sold and kept the other $100. A pack could be sold in 15 minutes during busy times, Martin said. The pack men took turns with others who were waiting to sell. During a 12-hour shift Martin would usually make $300 profit. This frequently went up in smoke before he got home.

The spot operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays, he testified, closing only "when we basically just ran totally out or the police was real hot out there." Customers would wait in lines in the gangway during busy periods. "White, black, Chinese, all kinds, Mexicans," aged anywhere from 18 to 60, came to buy drugs.

If a worker on Flournoy got caught tampering with the bags--shaving off some of the rock for personal use--or if he didn't turn in as much money as he was supposed to, Martin said, he risked getting "violated." He said one of the defendants, Bay-Bay's teenage nephew Andrew "Maine" Patterson, once smacked him in the face with a 40-ounce bottle. He'd heard of other workers getting shot in the legs for serious transgressions.

Martin also testified that sometimes a supervisor wouldn't let him work because he appeared too high. Then he would just go to one of the other drug spots in the neighborhood and work. But he preferred working on Flournoy because it paid better.

Murdock asked Martin about the 19 defendants one by one, and Martin dutifully categorized each as lookout, pack man, or supervisor. Andre, he said, was one of the supervisors.

Murdock directed Martin's attention to the evening of July 14, 1991. That evening, Martin told the jury, Henry "Bud" Patterson asked him to go over to Drozd's car, which was in the alley behind Flournoy, and tell Drozd that a gun was under a truck parked in a vacant lot adjacent to the alley. Martin said he did as he was told. He then watched Drozd pick the gun up, put it in his car, and drive away.

"Mr. Martin, after this bribe, were other bribes paid to Officer Drozd?" Murdock asked.

"Yes, it was," Martin said.

"What was the purpose of these bribes?"

"To keep the police out of the area."

"Why did you want the police out of the area?"

"So that we could continue to sell drugs."

Stanley Hill, Clinton Patterson's defense attorney, listened intently to Martin's testimony. Hill told me later he thought Martin could have easily beaten his case; the July 14 bribe was the only one Martin had been linked to in the entire investigation. (However, merely directing Drozd to the gun that night, combined with Martin's five previous drug convictions, had put him in jeopardy of a life sentence.) Most of his tape-recorded comments weren't incriminating; Drozd had seemed more intent on taunting him about his habit and what he did to support it than on gathering evidence against him. "If you had a chance to steal the gold out of a baby's teeth, you'd steal it," Drozd had told him one evening, according to the transcripts of one of the tapes Drozd had made. To the laughter of two other officers and at least one other man, Drozd went on: "You're a thief, man. You're a thief. You're definitely a thief....You smoke that glass dick, man....That motherfucker smoke a glass dick in a second, in a second."

Yet Hill wasn't surprised that Martin had pleaded guilty, even if the evidence against him was thin. It was standard operating procedure in the neighborhood. "You got these guys who start off as kids pleading guilty, because that's their view of how the system works," Hill told me later. "Whether you did it or not doesn't matter--you cop for the best deal you can get."

In Martin, Hill saw his own client and many of the other defendants, though Martin had perhaps aspired to more than the others. He'd graduated from high school. His preppy appearance on the stand wasn't just for the jury--it was how he'd always dressed. Drozd had sneered at this during the investigation, referring to him as "college boy." Whatever he'd aspired to, Martin had ended up just another of the neighborhood's strung-out junkies. In court Hill said his client had been one too. This wasn't a defense against charges of drug dealing of course. But Hill doubted that jurors would want to see street addicts subjected to the severe penalties of federal law if they did what they did to service their habits. When it was his turn to cross-examine, Hill set about making that case through Martin.

"They had you talking about being a worker in some elaborate organization," Hill said. "You were on every corner that you could be on getting drugs to smoke--isn't that right?"

"Correct," Martin said.

"That pipe that you smoke, you smoked it a lot, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"They call it a glass dick?"

"Yes, sir." Martin was slumping forward on his arms at this point, his voice weakening.

"You suck on it, don't you?"

"Yes."

"You do it because you are trying to forget about all the misery...in this west side community....Isn't that correct?"

"Correct." Martin's voice cracked, and his eyes appeared to be glistening.

"You're feeling bad being here today, right?" Hill asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Because you are telling lies to keep yourself out of the penitentiary--isn't that right?"

"That's correct," Martin sobbed.

Gettleman called a recess to allow Martin to regain his composure. The prosecutors were trying not to cringe in front of the jury. Never had a witness of Murdock's done such an about-face on cross-examination, she told me later, "and I hope it never happens again."

Murdock tried to repair the damage on redirect examination the following day. She got Martin to obediently reaffirm point by point what he'd said on direct examination. But that seemed unlikely to do much good. His testimony had been far too elastic to be trusted; he'd flipped back and forth more compliantly than a Jesse White tumbler. Even worse for the prosecution, Martin had exemplified the submissiveness to authority that defense attorneys had talked about in their opening statements, when they'd said their clients had merely done what Drozd demanded they do and had told him what he wanted to hear.

According to the transcripts, after Martin finished testifying, Judge Gettleman told the lawyers in a sidebar that Martin was "a person who I think would say yes to almost anything anybody asked him." He said that Martin's testimony was "probably worse than useless," adding that toward the end of it, "I wished he would just shut up...because you couldn't believe a thing he said."

Andre's days took on a different tenor once the trial was under way. No more dominoes, no more Jenny Jones. He had to rise at 5:30 AM. After breakfast he and the other defendants were taken over to the Dirksen building, where they sat in a lockup and chatted or dozed until the marshals brought them into the courtroom at about ten.

After dinner back at the MCC the inmates were allowed to place calls to family or friends. Andre told me he would telephone his girlfriend, Paulette, and then his mother, who was staying with Andre's niece on California, a couple blocks south of Flournoy. Glo would tell Andre she missed him, that she thought about him and Tyrone every day. Andre would say he missed her too, that he loved her, that he'd be glad when he got home. A few minutes into the conversation, his mother's voice would often soften and drift. Then she wouldn't respond at all.

"Mama. Mama!"

"Huhh?"

"Mama, give the phone to somebody." Andre would resignedly say to his niece or whoever picked up the phone, "She blowed, ain't she?"

"Yeah, she blowed."

February 12, 1996: The next flipper, Johnny B. Robinson, 35, proved a more effective witness for the government. He'd been selling drugs on Flournoy since the mid-80s, he testified. His portrait of the drug operation was similar to the one Martin had painted, but on cross-examination he didn't say he'd been lying about everything he'd just attested to.

Still, he stumbled once, when prosecutor Ryan Stoll was trying to get him to clear up a comment he'd made to Drozd on a tape that had just been played in the courtroom.

"What did I lock you up for?" Drozd had asked.

"I had like I think 40-some bags, something like that," Robinson had replied. "You gave me a nice deal, you did all right....You gave me a city disorderly or something like that."

Asked by Stoll about his comment, Robinson said he'd been referring to a time in the 80s when Drozd had arrested him for drug possession.

"Did anything further happen to the case?" Stoll asked.

"No," Robinson said.

He'd missed his cue. Stoll tried again. "Are you sure that nothing else happened with the case?"

A defense attorney objected, saying the question had been asked and answered, but Gettleman allowed Robinson a second chance.

This time Robinson said he'd been indicted for drug possession and was sentenced to 18 months probation.

"OK. So did you, in fact, get a deal?" Stoll asked.

"No," Robinson said.

After the trial Drozd insisted to me that he'd never arrested Robinson, though I found two arrest reports that have Drozd's name on them. Neither arrest was for "40-some bags." Asked what Robinson had been referring to when he mentioned the "40-some bags" and the "nice deal," Drozd said, "He was just talking through his hat. He was bullshitting. We gotta go back to step one--this fucking facade that these people use. These fucking people--what they are, they're corrupt people and they're sick people."

During his cross-examination Stanley Hill asked Robinson about other drug spots in the area. Hill had propped a map of the neighborhood on an easel in front of the jury and was armed with a tablet of yellow stickers. He attached a sticker to the map for every spot Robinson identified. Stoll objected repeatedly to this line of questioning, saying the existence of other drug spots in the area had "nothing to do with this case." But Gettleman allowed Hill to proceed.

Robinson told the court of drug spots on the 2600 and 2800 blocks of Flournoy as well as up and down California--nine spots within two blocks of Bay-Bay's. These were all independent operations run by different people, with no one person or organization in charge of them, Robinson testified. By the time Hill finished, the map was littered with yellow stickers--and it had to be clear to jurors that whatever might be attained by this prosecution, it wasn't going to slow drug dealing much, even in this corner of the west side.

February 21, 1996: At 3:40 this afternoon the moment long anticipated in the courtroom arrived--a paunchy middle-aged man in a navy suit raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth, then took the witness chair.

Bob Drozd had on round wire-rim glasses, and his graying hair was slicked back. He glanced at the jury as he sat down, and the jurors studied him. He didn't look particularly nervous. But he later told me that coming into the courtroom "scared the shit out of me. I felt like, man--I was never in a courtroom this big." He had, in fact, never testified in any federal courtroom before. But once prosecutor Diane Saltoun began asking him questions he quickly relaxed, he said, "'cause the truth is so easy to tell."

"Directing your attention to July 1991, were you involved in an undercover role on the 2700 block of West Flournoy?" Saltoun asked him.

"Yes."

"What was your role?"

"To act as a rogue cop in that area."

"By 'rogue cop' do you mean a corrupt police officer?"

"Yes."

Asked by Saltoun about his drinking, Drozd testified that it had started 25 years before. He'd been a beer drinker, he said, partaking at weddings, parties, at home, with other officers after work--"sometimes 12, sometimes 15, 16 cans after work." On days off he might go fishing and drink a case. Sometimes he'd have "about two beers" in the morning if he wasn't scheduled to work until 5 PM. But he never drank on the job, never came to work intoxicated. He said that the stress of Operation Flournoy--especially the constant fear that the tape recorder would be discovered--caused his drinking to increase. He told of the lab workup in April '94 that had shown the elevated liver enzymes. He'd quit drinking then, he said, had been participating in Alcoholics Anonymous ever since, and was still dry.

The prosecutors also wanted to address Drozd's generous use of expletives during the investigation. He'd cursed so frequently, jurors might wonder if he'd been getting paid by the obscenity. "In these conversations [with the people on Flournoy], did you use offensive language more than usual?" Saltoun asked.

"Yes, I did."

"And what was the purpose of that?"

"Just to, well, participate in how they were talking," Drozd said, "so I would get along with them as like their friends, you know, and go along with their language and stuff like that."

Sometimes his clowning got him in trouble, Drozd told me after the trial. "There's things I joke about that I shouldn't joke about, because people get offended. I think if you're joking and you're telling the truth it shouldn't hurt anybody, but people misconstrue how you say it."

Consider this segment of a tape that was recorded on an October evening in '91. Drozd and ATF agent Kevin Cronin were sitting in their unmarked car near Altgeld Park, a couple of blocks from the drug spot on Flournoy. Some of the Pattersons were playing basketball in the park's field house, and Drozd and Cronin were waiting for them to emerge so they could solicit a gun from them. Drozd apparently didn't realize the tape recorder was on.

"Oh, OK--it's off now," he said.

"Yeah, you have to transcribe everything that's said," Cronin cautioned Drozd.

"Are you serious?"

Shortly thereafter Drozd hollered at a nearby man, "Hey, what the fuck you doing?"

"Taking a piss," the man replied.

"You wanna go to jail?"

"No, sir. I'm finished though."

"Naw, keep pissing--we'll watch how big your dick is."

Drozd grew impatient waiting for the Pattersons. "These cocksuckers would have to play basketball."

He called to a passing woman, "Say, baby. Where's California at, you dig?"

The woman chuckled. "You a po-leece--don't you know where it is?"

"I ain't no police!" Drozd insisted. "I'm a prostitute, man. I'm looking for somebody." After the woman moved on Drozd complained to Cronin about the unwillingness of this "bitch" to tell him where California was.

Drozd and Cronin were parked near one of the innumerable drug spots in the neighborhood. "This motherfucker waiting to get some dope here, lookit," Drozd said. He sighed. "Man oh man, I hate to do this."

Out his window he said, "Hi, sir, I'm a policeman. My name is Moby Dick. If you proceed to stand here and try to purchase narcotics we will lock you up and take your car, and you'll never see your car again, your children, or your wife."

"OK, sir, I'm not trying to purchase narcotics," the man responded.

"You understand what I'm saying, home?"

"Yes, sir."

"Have a nice day."

He addressed another man. "How you doing, sir? My name is Moby Dick. I'm a Chicago policeman. And you got a right to remain silent."

"Yes, sir."

"OK. Now if you purchase a bag of cocaine--"

"Nuh-uh," the man said. "I'm just--"

"No, listen what I'm saying, listen what I'm saying. If you do purchase a bag of cocaine, you will go to fucking jail. We will take your car, and the shithead behind you will go to jail too for disorderly conduct. So it behooves you to move this motherfucker. OK, home, have a nice day." A car engine could be heard starting in the background.

"How you doing, sir? Will you roll the window down?" Drozd called to his next target. "My name is Dick Tracy. I'm with the Chicago Police Department. And I've got a surveillance. Every car that stops here is copping cocaine. Now, you see that big building up there? It's got a camera up there. Now if you should purchase a bag of cocaine and get in this vehicle, we will confiscate your vehicle, put you in fucking jail, and come get your family and your children. So, sir, this place is down. Have a nice day."

"How's that sound?" Drozd asked Cronin.

"You're a scream," Cronin said with a giggle.

"Hey, I'm doing it legit, right?" Drozd said. "I'm telling the truth!"

He yelled out his window at some nearby children, mimicking a lookout's warning of approaching police, "Hi guys! Hi Bob! Heads up! Heads up! Heads up!" The kids roared.

"Hi Bob!" Drozd yelled. "Heads up! What's up, Bob? Heads up!" The kids kept shrieking.

"Look at all the customers, huh?" Drozd told Cronin. "Hi guys," he hollered out the window, his voice cracking. "Say no to drugs. Remember that--tell Bay-Bay, tell Fats, and tell that fucking asshole Dickey [a reference to the leader of the TVLs], he's putting white heroin on the street, he's gonna get fucked! Have a nice day."

Drozd lowered his voice. "What a crew, what a crew, huh?" Then he lurched into a bit of gospel according to Drozd: "And the Lord took us down and said, 'Wash thy feet, but not wash thy mind.' And he left us empty minded."

Cronin laughed again.

"What's the sense o' you coming down here if you can't have fun?" Drozd said. "You know how you get to the point where you--I don't know. I just--I like to come out and have fun. Fuck. Where else can you go? I'm gonna go in this fucking gym and see where they're at."

Prosecutors deemed this taped segment "nonpertinent," and defense attorneys never challenged that, so the jury never heard it.

I asked Drozd about his comments on that tape.

"Just joking," he told me.

On his first day of testimony Drozd was asked by Saltoun about the bribe he said had caused him to start the investigation--the shotgun he was given on July 14, 1991. Drozd said he and his partner that night, Louis Gaal, were cruising through the 11th District in their unmarked car. Around 11 they drove down the 2700 block of Flournoy.

Drozd said he saw a host of cars. The officers parked, and Drozd got out and began waving his flashlight at the traffic. "I was telling the people to keep going, there's no dope being sold over here." Gaal, who wasn't his regular partner and who usually worked in a different neighborhood, remained in the car. The people in their cars "saw who we were, and so they kept going."

After a few minutes of this, Drozd testified, one of the defendants, Bud Patterson, approached and said, "Bob, you're killing us. You're killing us."

"What did you understand that to mean?" Saltoun asked.

"I was ruining the business over at 2725, where they were selling the rock cocaine....I was getting rid of the customers."

Then, Drozd testified, Bud Patterson "says, 'Can we do something?' I says, 'I don't know what you mean.' He says, 'Well, can I give you a gun?'"

"And what did you say to that?" Saltoun asked.

"I told him yes. And he told me, 'Come back around in 20 minutes.'"

Drozd said that when the officers returned to Flournoy 20 minutes later Thane Martin flagged their car down and told them to go around to the back. Drozd and Gaal drove into the alley behind Flournoy and parked. Martin pointed Drozd to a red truck on the other side of the alley. "So I went to this truck, and there was a double-barreled shotgun laying there, sitting there by the wheel when I had my light shining on it."

Drozd testified that only twice before in his career as a police officer had he been offered a bribe--once in the 70s and once in the 80s. On both occasions a person he and his partners were arresting--one on a gun charge, one when some marijuana was found in a car after a traffic stop--offered cash for their release. "Them two gentlemen we locked up."

Some of the defense lawyers would assert in their closing arguments that their clients wouldn't have tried to bribe Drozd on July 14 if he hadn't accepted bribes before then, but they could offer little support for the allegations, since their clients weren't about to further incriminate themselves by stating this on the stand.

Drozd later told me the allegation was "a scam," just another of the "tactics that the lawyers used. I have no skeletons. I have nothing to hide."

Did the accusation bother him? "No, and you know why? 'Cause I knew it wasn't true."

I asked him why it was that he'd never even been offered a bribe by a drug dealer in two decades on the west side until Bud Patterson offered him the shotgun.

Drozd explained that he and his partner for much of his career, Mike Cronin, were so renowned for their integrity that the dealers had known better than to try to bribe them. (Cronin, indeed, is highly regarded by west-siders; even many criminals describe him as an aggressive but honest cop.) Drozd said the dealers knew that if they made such an offer "they'd go to jail."

So why would Bud Patterson offer Drozd a shotgun?

"Why he gave me the gun I'll never know," Drozd said.

Two of Andre's sisters were among the spectators in the courtroom the afternoon Drozd began his testimony. In the hallway during a recess they told me that their 53-year-old mother, Glo, had suffered a stroke two days before and was in intensive care at Mount Sinai Hospital. They said she'd recently resumed shooting heroin, after only snorting it for years, and they thought that might have precipitated the stroke.

"Been 15 years since she used the needle, but she went back to it without any of us knowing," Denise Turner, Andre's oldest sister, told me.

"She don't seem to know who we are," Dovie Williams, the other sister, added. "We ain't gonna tell Ty or Moose yet. They got enough on their minds--why worry 'em any more?"

February 22, 1996: Saltoun began the long process of presenting the tapes to the jury through Drozd. The jurors were given large black binders, with rings as big as handcuffs, containing transcripts of the conversations. The transcripts were essential. Drozd had kept the recorder in a jacket pocket, and the defendants usually spoke to him at his car window; so Drozd usually came in loud and clear, while the defendants' voices were muffled, with a lot of background noise. Their words were frequently hard to grasp, even with the headphones offered to the jurors. When their words were clear, their meaning often wasn't. Drozd was to be the interpreter, the one who supplied the context of the conversations. The government wanted to get off on the right foot in this effort, wanted to assure the jury from the start that it could trust Drozd's portrayal of what was happening.

Drozd told the jury that after the July 14, 1991, bribe that set off his investigation, he didn't return to the Flournoy-California area until July 19. The cassette recorder, supplied by ATF, which had agreed to participate in the investigation, was in his jacket pocket.

Saltoun played the first tape he said he'd recorded that day, which consisted of three brief conversations between Drozd and a man he identified as Curtis Gipson. In the third conversation Gipson directed Drozd and his partner that night, Dennis Maderak, to a Valor .25-caliber pistol in the alley behind the drug spot on Flournoy.

"I'm gonna try to get you something real fast," Gipson said early in the first conversation.

"You told me you were gonna get me two," Drozd said.

Saltoun asked Drozd why he'd said that to Gipson.

"Because I was promised two weapons," Drozd testified.

"When was that?" Saltoun asked.

"This was on one date earlier before that," Drozd said.

But Drozd had just testified that he hadn't been back to the Flournoy area since July 14.

Saltoun gave him a chance to clear this up. "Well, Officer Drozd, was this the first conversation you had when you went back after recovering the first gun?"

"Yes."

"What were you doing when you were saying, 'You told me you were going to get me two?'" Saltoun asked.

"Before this conversation that was on tape, I was promised two," Drozd said.

Saltoun decided to move on. But after lunch she revisited the matter. Drozd reiterated that he hadn't talked to any of the people in the Flournoy area between July 14 and 19.

"So when you told Curtis Gipson...'You told me you're going to get me two,' what did you mean by that?" Saltoun asked.

"I was just stimulating the conversation," Drozd said, "and I used it a lot--often just to have a conversation."

"OK," Saltoun said. "So had you talked to him previously about getting two?"

"No."

February 26, 1996: Saltoun played a tape from October '91 on which Robert "Shaky" Patterson promised Drozd three guns for the following day. But in the conversation Shaky also passed on a complaint from Bay-Bay. "He say you're playing him like a ho', man. You don't leave us like Officer Ed and 'em, man. He said you got to give him some air, man. You ain't like Officer Ed and shit, and you just be coming around, man, sitting around and want everybody to give you a gun every time we see you. He said it don't supposed to be like that, man." Shaky told Drozd he ought to stay away from the drug spot a week for every gun he got.

Instead of trying to find out from Shaky who Officer Ed was, Drozd quickly switched the subject to the next bribe he hoped to receive.

Saltoun asked Drozd if he knew who Officer Ed was. Drozd said he didn't. But he assured the jury that on other occasions when people described what sounded like shady police work, and when it was clear who the officers were, the names were turned over to the Chicago Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, "and they would investigate afterwards."

After the trial Drozd told me, "I still don't know which Ed they were talking about. There's thousands of 'em, maybe 50 Eds working in the 11th District. OK? And if they do catch Ed, I'd like to be introduced to him."

Drozd and the ATF might have been able to hook a few of the wrong kind of fish in Operation Flournoy, but they seemed a lot more intent on snagging dealers than cops. On a half dozen occasions in January and February '92 people on Flournoy made comments on tape to Drozd about other cops squeezing them for guns--cops threatening people with phony arrests in some cases. IAD was indeed informed of at least some of these allegations, but not until a year and a half after they were made, "because of the undercover nature of the investigation," according to a memo written by Kevin Cronin.

No criminal charges were ever filed against officers as a result of the taped allegations. And Chicago police won't disclose whether any officers were disciplined in any way because of the information given IAD. But checking out the allegations surely would have been difficult, if not impossible, at such a late date. A few follow-up questions from Drozd whenever an allegation was made might have helped determine what officers were involved and whether anything improper had really happened. But Drozd seemed disinclined to poke his nose in other cops' business--even when that business may have been not just squeezing a dealer for a gun but shaking him down for cash.

In an October '94 conversation Andre told Drozd and Dennis Maderak about officers who "be coming around here late nights...taking money like a motherfucker." He described cops taking money from another defendant-to-be, Willie Conner. Drozd's next question wasn't when did this happen or what did the cops look like? It was "Who's Willie selling for?" Then he steered the conversation back to the dealing on Flournoy. Andre's allegations about police officers never made it into Drozd's report about the day's activities, or Cronin's for that matter, even though Cronin monitored the conversation from another car.

Drozd told me he didn't bother to ask follow-up questions when the people he was talking with made allegations against police because "most of the time these fucking guys were lying." Cronin, who could have instructed Drozd to ask follow-up questions, declined to be interviewed for this story.

One of the tapes Saltoun played during the afternoon of February 26 featured Andre in his customary go-between role. "Bay-Bay told me to tell you...I got one for you, right," Andre told Drozd in the November '91 conversation. "He said he gonna have some more for you in a couple more weeks....He said give him slack and keep all the other motherfuckers away from here. He gonna take care of you, and you only."

In the courtroom Saltoun asked Drozd, "Who did you understand you were to keep away?"

"My understanding was that I was to keep other police away from the 2700 block of Flournoy," Drozd said.

On the tape Andre could be heard directing Drozd to meet him in the alley and then moments later saying, "Here you go." Drozd testified that Andre handed over a .357 Magnum as he said that. Saltoun showed Drozd a .357, and he identified it as the gun Andre gave him that night. Saltoun held it up high for the jury to see.

Andre told me later that he was accustomed to doing Bay-Bay's bidding. Bay-Bay knew Andre from the neighborhood and had got to know him better in the 80s because Andre and Bay-Bay's brother Shaky were good friends. One day Bay-Bay asked Andre to drive him around. Bay-Bay enjoyed Andre's playful spirit, according to Andre, and soon Andre was his regular driver. This was around 1989, when Andre was 19. Andre had taught himself how to drive. With his reading difficulties, he didn't think he stood a chance of passing the written test, so he'd never even tried to get a license.

Bay-Bay would beep Andre in the morning, and Andre would hustle down to Bay-Bay's bungalow on North Latrobe. Andre would first take Bay-Bay over to Flournoy so he could make sure everything was running smoothly at the spot; then he'd drive him to a racetrack. They'd return to Flournoy in the late afternoon, then go to Altgeld Park in the evening to play basketball. Then Andre would take Bay-Bay home.

Andre told me he drove Bay-Bay seven days a week, for which Bay-Bay gave him about $500 a week. The vehicle usually wasn't anything particularly flashy. Bay-Bay didn't flaunt his wealth, preferring Chevy Blazers to BMWs. Andre just enjoyed being behind the wheel. There was no danger of getting busted either, because Bay-Bay always rode around clean. He tended to carry a fat bankroll though. Plainclothes cops curbed them frequently. They'd ask Andre for his license but didn't seem to care that he didn't have one. They'd search Bay-Bay and wonder what he was doing with 35 or 40 Gs. Bay-Bay would flash his racetrack receipts.

Andre told me he tired of the driving job after a year and started working on the 2700 block of Flournoy. He worked one day a week as a supervisor. Someone would bring him the "work"--the rock to be sold. Andre would find a few workers, give one a pack, collect the money when the pack was sold, hand out another one. He spent a lot of the day just circling the block in his car, keeping an eye out for problems. He'd work a 24-hour shift and make about $700 or $800.

The supervisors' chief responsibility, Andre said, was "making sure the money was right." Other supervisors didn't hesitate to direct younger dope-dealer wannabes to whup pack men who came up short. But Andre said, "I wasn't with that violations thing. I would just take the money outta my pocket and make it right. I didn't wanna see nobody beat up."

Not that the former King Moose was the Prince of Peace. In January '92 Bay-Bay traveled to Tennessee to visit relatives for a few days and left Andre in charge. On one of the following evenings, Andre told me, he had the drugs and the proceeds stashed in a vacant apartment in a building on California. He knew that leaving the stash in one place very long was asking for trouble. The workers at the spot had seen what building he'd been going into whenever they needed another pack. A rip-off by one of them wasn't the only danger. A friend of Andre's had noticed that the police had just nabbed one of the workers. "He gonna tell where that stuff is," the friend cautioned Andre.

But Andre was too involved in a dice game to heed the warning. When it was time to fetch another pack he discovered somebody had kicked in the door to his safe house. All the money--about $20,000--was gone, as was most of the cocaine.

Andre imagined reporting this to Bay-Bay. He panicked and directed a nephew to bring him his gun. Then he marched outside to confront his workers.

"Which one o' y'all got it?" he asked them. "Just come on out with it, and we're gonna leave it at that."

But the workers all pleaded innocent. So Andre cocked the gun, aimed it at the midsection of the worker he suspected the most, and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened. The workers fled. Andre had loaded too many shells in the gun, and it had jammed. To this day he thinks often about how lucky he was the gun didn't fire. (Presumably the man he was aiming at does too.) But had the gun gone off, had the man been killed, and had Andre been caught and convicted, his punishment would have been far less severe than what he now faced from the feds. (The sentence for murder in Illinois is 20 to 60 years, and someone with Andre's record--with no previous violent crimes--likely would have been given a sentence at the lower end of that range; at the time, convicts who behaved had to serve just half the time they were sentenced to.)

Bay-Bay called Andre on his way back from Tennessee to find out how things were going. When Andre reported the rip-off, Bay-Bay "told me, 'You ain't did nothing to nobody?' I said no, I didn't know which one of 'em got it." About a month after the incident, Andre said, his mother and a sister told him that the culprit had been one of his own brothers (not Tyrone).

Andre insisted to me that Bay-Bay never punished him for the loss and that he wasn't fired from the drug spot, as a defendant told Drozd in a taped conversation. But he quit working on Flournoy soon after the incident, he said, because he found it too stressful. For a while he ran his own spot at 13th and Karlov. Then he went back to chauffeuring, driving for one of the other big-time dealers in the Flournoy-California neighborhood. Then he worked for his brother Tyrone, at a spot Tyrone was running on California at Arthington. Then he got busted by the feds.

I asked Andre if it had bothered his conscience to sell dope when he'd seen the damage it had done to his mother and siblings. "That thought ain't never come into my mind," he said. "At the time I wasn't thinking about it, 'cause the money was coming in so fast, and I was buying the stuff I always wanted--nice outfits, nice shoes. I ain't never experienced life like that before. Just like people get addicted to drugs, you can get addicted to the money."

He knew that dealing was a dead-end pastime--that he'd get caught eventually. The concept of looking for a legitimate job occasionally cruised through his head, but it never parked. "I ain't have no skills to try to find no job. I figured it would be hard without no high school diploma." He had little faith in his ability to earn a GED certificate.

He told me he never considered himself the big-time dealer the government was making him out to be. "I was just a little guy trying to get a few dollars."

February 27, 1996: Saltoun played another tape--this one of a conversation between Drozd and defendant Clinton Patterson at the Harrison-Kedzie police station on New Year's Day '92.

Clinton had been brought to the station after a bust that afternoon in the alley behind the spot on Flournoy. Gang-crimes officers had already arrested one man there for possession of cocaine and three others for mob action.

Clinton and another defendant, Edgar Williams, had thought they too were about to be taken to jail, so Shaky Patterson offered to give the officers a gun in exchange for their freedom, according to a police report. The officers took Clinton, Edgar, and the gun to the station.

The officers were aware of Drozd's investigation, and they told him what had happened. They also told him they hadn't been planning to charge Clinton or Edgar with anything--that they were going to be released. But Clinton and Edgar didn't know this. Drozd decided to have a talk with Clinton.

In the taped conversation Drozd informed Clinton that the other officers were planning to charge him. Drozd told him that if he wanted his freedom, he had to come up with 20 bags and a gun.

"I don't wanna go to jail," Clinton responded.

"I swear for God, Clinton, you know I don't wanna go beyond the means of the law," Drozd said. "I'm not threatening you or anything--hey, listen, you don't have to do a fucking thing for me."

Clinton and Edgar were released shortly thereafter. That evening Drozd and Maderak toured the Flournoy-California neighborhood, telling everyone they saw how they'd sprung the two men.

"I got 'em both out, man," Drozd told Bay-Bay.

"We saved both of 'em, man," he told Bud Patterson.

"We had to go through a bunch a shit...getting 'em outta there," Maderak told Andre.

According to the tape, Clinton came up with ten bags of rock for Drozd late that afternoon. Drozd wasn't satisfied. He encountered Clinton on Flournoy later that evening and reminded him of the favor he'd done him. The size of the favor grew each time Drozd described it. If not for his intervention, he told Clinton, he would have got ten years for violating the parole he was on and another ten for whatever crime he would have been charged with committing in the alley. "That'd be 20 years....And you're 47, 48. So you're talking life imprisonment."

Clinton directed him to another ten bags of rock in the alley behind Flournoy late that evening.

"OK, so that's 20 bags you gave me today and we're even," Drozd told Clinton after picking up a Jays potato-chip bag containing the rock. "The first time was getting you out. This time is to stay outta here."

"All right, we straight," Clinton said.

In the courtroom Saltoun held aloft for the jury a transparent evidence bag containing the potato-chip bag, the ten smaller bags, and the cocaine.

Was this bribery, as the prosecutors contended, or was it extortion, as the defense attorneys charged?

Extortion is "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear," as Judge Gettleman would later instruct the jury. Extortion is a defense against a bribery charge, Gettleman would say--but only if it's "so overpowering as to negate the criminal intent or willingness of that defendant to commit the act of bribery."

It's evident from the tapes that the defendants had a variety of reasons for giving Drozd the guns and drugs he sought. Getting him out of the area so they could do business was clearly one of these. But often Drozd's threats to hang around and drive away customers didn't persuade the defendants to give him anything. They hid from him, made excuses, promised him something another time.

When Drozd didn't get bribed he would ride through the neighborhood vowing to "call the [paddy] wagon." But was this, as the prosecutors insisted, a threat to bust people legitimately--which would require catching them in the act of committing a crime? Or was it, as the defense attorneys contended, a threat to haul people in on phony charges?

"We got new rules and regulations now," Drozd told a defendant one evening. "You tell...all them boys over there they were supposed to do something for me for two days and haven't did nothing. Now the new rules and regulations are...ain't nobody gonna stand on this corner that don't belong there, and if they are they're getting a baloney sandwich [street talk for a trip to jail]....Tell 'em I'm tired of getting violated, man. The bullshit's over now."

Perhaps the prosecutors thought Drozd had crossed the line into extortion when he used the specter of a bogus arrest to get the first ten bags from Clinton Patterson that New Year's Day, since they didn't charge Clinton with bribing Drozd with them. They did charge him for the second ten bags, maintaining that they were a bribe to keep Drozd away from the drug spot. But Clinton's attorney, Stanley Hill, would argue later to the jury that Clinton had just been appeasing Drozd, trying to satisfy a man who'd amply demonstrated the power he held over Clinton's fate.

As part of his undercover role, Drozd had made sure people in the neighborhood saw him as a man with special capabilities. He asked people on tape about criminal cases they had pending and offered to try to fix them. He instructed other officers to swoop down on the drug spot on Flournoy and pretend to make arrests, then he would appear on the scene and rescue the defendants. He was clearly a man to have on your side.

Defendant Durwin "Darren" Baker seemed willing to do anything to curry Drozd's favor. In the backseat of Drozd and Maderak's car one night he offered to serve as an informant for Drozd, promising to lead him to a stash of guns in the neighborhood, and he offered to get Drozd two guns himself--a sawed-off shotgun and a Tec 9, a lightweight, semiautomatic nine-millimeter pistol. In return Baker didn't ask Drozd to let him sell drugs on Flournoy undisturbed. All he wanted was a box of diapers.

"Uh, I'll tell you what we do here," Drozd said. "If we get the sawed-off and we get the, uh, the uh, the Tec, we'll buy you a box of Pampers tonight, OK?"

Baker told Drozd he just wanted to do something "that'll make you happy."

A few minutes later he got his chance to help when the officers' car wouldn't start.

"I can't believe this is happening," Drozd said.

"Hit it two times and hold it," Baker suggested.

"It's not even clicking," Maderak, the driver, said. "It's not even catching."

"The choke is closed up," Baker advised.

"Open the hood," Drozd told Baker. "Go up there and check it out, man. I don't know anything about these cars."

"I took a motor apart, man, and put it back together, man--hour and a half," Baker boasted. He got out of the car and apparently started tinkering under the hood.

"What a piece-o'-shit car," Maderak said.

"Maybe we're out of gas. Check for gas?" Drozd suggested.

"Naw, we got gas," Maderak said.

"Try it," Baker called.

The engine turned over, then died.

"Hit it, hit it, pump it, man," Drozd told Maderak.

"Will you shut the fuck up?" Maderak responded.

The engine caught.

"Darren, what a guy, man," Drozd said.

"Hey, you're all right, Darren," Maderak said.

"Here's a guy, gives you narcotics and he fixes your car," Drozd said. "All right man, my man. We're gonna get you them diapers now."

Baker was unable to come up with any guns for Drozd that night. So instead of diapers, he had to settle for a cheeseburger, fries, and a shake from McDonald's, the officers' treat.

I asked Andre once why the defendants gave Drozd the guns and drugs he asked for. He looked at me quizzically, like it was the strangest question. "'Cause he the police," he said.

During a trial recess, a relative of one of the defendants told me, "You're gonna be scared whenever it's a detective out there. And if it's a white detective, you're gonna be very scared. If he tells you to piss all over yourself, you're gonna piss all over yourself."

February 28, 1996: The jury listened to the recording of a conversation between Bay-Bay and Drozd on January 9, 1992.

"You have agents around here on us, man?" Bay-Bay asked Drozd. "Who you be fucking with?"

"I don't fuck with nobody, Bay-Bay," Drozd replied.

"No, but that's what, that's what you got the guys scared of," Bay-Bay said. "That's why they don't wanna give you shit--they think you got agents, think you wired up and shit, gonna send 'em to the penitentiary."

"Ah, give me a fucking break, man," Drozd said. "If I had motherfucking agents they, they be locking me up, you know that....I swear for God, man, I don't do that shit."

"But you got these guys scared though, Bob....They scared to death."

"Man, I tell you what," Drozd said. "The first motherfucker's scared to death, him and I will go in the bathroom and strip....Do you understand what I'm saying? I ain't about that agent shit."

"OK, well if you ain't then," Bay-Bay said. "I mean I'll take your word."

"You got my word, Bay-Bay. You, you had my word for, for how many fucking years?"

"I trust you," Bay-Bay replied. "I believe you. I believe you and I'm fittin' to tell them too."

"Man, I don't want to hear that shit, do you understand?" Drozd said. "If these motherfuckers, hey, believe that bullshit, man, I'd have been locked up a long time ago."

"In one hour, he'll have something for you," Bay-Bay promised.

Shortly thereafter, as Saltoun showed by playing another tape, Andre and another defendant delivered a .380 to Drozd.

Saltoun reviewed the transcript of this conversation almost line by line with Drozd, asking him to clarify for the jury what he'd been telling Bay-Bay, and what he'd understood Bay-Bay to have been telling him. Drozd's reminder to Bay-Bay "You had my word for, for how many fucking years?" was one of the few remarks she skipped over.

When Bay-Bay put him on the spot in this conversation Drozd had responded masterfully. "This is where Officer Drozd shows his undercover skills," prosecutor Ryan Stoll would tell the jury later in closing arguments. The skill he showed, of course, was the one he'd been honing for two decades on the west side--the ability "to bullshit the way they bullshit."

"I was thinking, 'This prick's onto me,'" Drozd told me after the trial. He hadn't expected Bay-Bay to challenge him this way, and so he hadn't prepared for it; his bluff--the offer to go into a bathroom and strip--was sheer improvisation. For good measure, he told me, he'd flung his jacket on the ground at Bay-Bay's feet during the conversation. The recorder was in a pocket of the jacket. (One might expect to hear a thump on the tape or a change in the intensity of Drozd's or Bay-Bay's voice at that point, but there's neither.) Had Bay-Bay picked up the jacket and discovered the recorder, Drozd told me, "I think it would have been all over." But he said he still would have tried to lie his way out of the jam. "I probably would have said, 'What the fuck is that doing in there?'"

I asked what he meant when he told Bay-Bay, "You had my word for, for how many fucking years?"

Drozd said only, "He thought he knew me for all these years, that I could be trusted."

March 4, 1996: "Directing your attention to approximately 7:30 on February 24, 1992, Officer Drozd," Saltoun said, "were you asked for assistance in serving an arrest warrant?"

"Yes."

Drozd testified that he and Maderak saw a state police car in front of 2725 W. Flournoy that evening, and that the state cops said they were there to serve an arrest warrant. The warrant was for a parole violation by Willie Patterson, a nephew of Bay-Bay's but not a defendant in this trial. The state officers didn't find Willie at 2725, Drozd told the court, but Drozd and Maderak located him shortly thereafter around the corner on California. The state cops were gone by this time, according to Drozd; he called for a beat car to take Willie to the Harrison-Kedzie station.

It was a stroke of fortune that the state police materialized on Flournoy. Drozd and Maderak had been touring the area before the state cops showed up, complaining vehemently about getting "stiffed" again by the dealers.

"All we're doing is getting the bullshit runaround," Maderak had groused to Clinton Patterson on tape.

Drozd had given Clinton 15 minutes to come up with 20 bags.

"After that 15 minutes, it's shut down," Maderak piped in. "Everybody out here is--"

"Going to jail," Drozd said.

"We're gonna get the wagon," Maderak said.

An hour later Clinton still hadn't come up with the 20 bags. So when the state cops arrived with their arrest warrant, it was just the leverage Drozd and Maderak needed.

After Willie was taken to the station, Drozd and Maderak informed Clinton what had happened. "Do you know where Willie is now?" Drozd said. "We just locked him up....He's going back to the penitentiary. Tell Bay-Bay that's his first gift."

"His second is yet to come," warned Maderak.

"Tell Bay-Bay that's a gift from me, OK?" Drozd said. "For not doing what he's supposed to do....You tell Bay-Bay... Willie's gone because of his dumbness."

The officers then headed to the Harrison-Kedzie station. According to the report Drozd later wrote, they were "unable to verify the existence of an arrest warrant" for Willie Patterson. But rather than simply release him, Drozd grilled him.

"Now, what do you want to do to get cut loose?" Drozd asked at the beginning of the recorded conversation.

"Give you guns like you said," Willie responded.

"How many guns are you going to get, Willie?" Drozd asked.

"You said three," Willie replied.

Drozd allowed Willie to call his uncles to try to come up with the guns. It was soon clear what Willie's freedom was worth to his family.

"I need to get three guns to let me go," Willie said into the phone. "Huh? Three guns, yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't hang up. Don't hang up, man. I said don't hang up."

Between Willie's calls Drozd pumped him for information about the drug spot on Flournoy. Willie confirmed that his uncle Bay-Bay ran the spot, said that Bay-Bay kept five or six guns in a house on Lexington, said that about 100 packs were sold at the spot every day and a half. (Even though Willie wasn't a defendant, the prosecutors were playing this tape because these statements corroborated their case.)

"How much would you think they make in a whole week?" Drozd asked.

"About three something," Willie said.

"About 300,000?" Drozd asked.

"In a whole week," Willie said. "That man got a lot of money, Bob."

But Willie's estimate may not have been reliable. Drozd, marveling at the 300,000 figure, asked Willie, "You know how many weeks in a year?"

"About 360, man," Willie said.

"No--52 weeks in a year," Drozd corrected him. Drozd's math was equally impressive. "Fifty-two times three...do you know what that is? That's a hundred eighty-four thousand dollars a year."

ATF agent Kevin Cronin, who was sitting in on the conversation, reminded Willie, "We're doing you a big favor by not calling the state."

"Willie, there's only one person in this city that knows you," Drozd said.

"I know," Willie said.

"Who?"

"Bob."

"There ain't nobody that know you but me."

"You right," Willie said.

After another phone call Willie told Drozd that his uncle Clinton was going to have the three guns for him, and Drozd and Maderak returned to Flournoy.

"Well, what are we gonna do, man?" Drozd asked Clinton when he encountered him. "It's him or three guns."

Clinton left the officers to see if one of his brothers would come up with the guns. He returned a short time later empty-handed. "They ain't got it," he reported.

"Well, Clint, why don't you tell them this here," Drozd said. "Tell 'em to give us a G-ball [$1,000], we'll let him go....'Cause he ain't got no bond."

Clinton struck out again.

Drozd amended his price once more, to a gun and 40 bags. "And we will bring Willie to the house," he told Clinton. "Right to the house."

But when Clinton returned again he still was empty-handed. "Bay-Bay said he ain't doing nothing....Said he ain't worth it."

If the state police had in fact tried to serve an arrest warrant on Willie Patterson for a parole violation in February '92, there "definitely would be a record of it," Kim Donahue, a spokesperson for the Illinois State Police, told me. But no such record could be found, she said, after checking the department's records at my request.

"It might have been the county guys," Drozd told me.

But the county wouldn't have attempted to serve a warrant for a state parole violation, said Sergeant Rufus Epps of the Cook County Sheriff's Police fugitive warrants division.

Willie Patterson was released that night, but ten other people on or near the 2700 block of Flournoy were locked up by Chicago police officers, most for disorderly conduct, and five more Flournoy regulars were busted the following day on another misdemeanor. Drozd would testify that he had nothing at all to do with these arrests. The fact that they came on the heels of Maderak's promised second gift to Bay-Bay was apparently more dumb luck. "I think Dennis was referring to sooner or later he [Bay-Bay] was gonna get locked up--that's how I interpreted it," Drozd later told me. Maderak did not return my phone calls.

According to other tapes, the officers spent the next few days on Flournoy threatening further arrests if they weren't bribed--and this time the defendants responded, coming across with 18 bags of crack on February 26 and a gun on February 27.

"They lock motherfuckers up for nothing, man," defendant Lennell Patterson complained to Drozd on February 28. Lennell had spent a half day in jail on February 26, after he and four others were arrested by other officers for criminal trespass to vehicle. "They didn't get us for shit though," Lennell told Drozd. "We just standing around and talking, man."

"You can't do that over there," Drozd responded.

March 5, 1996: Drozd told the jury this morning that at the end of February '92 he was directed by supervisors to end his undercover role because of fears he might be exposed.

He and Maderak didn't resume their undercover roles until October '94. Drozd testified that in the interim they reviewed the tapes they'd recorded and resumed their regular duties as gang-crimes specialists. Under orders from their bosses, they stayed away from the 2700 block of Flournoy.

Commander Thomas Sadler, Drozd's supervisor during the first part of the investigation, would testify later in the trial that when he heard the January '92 tape on which Bay-Bay asked Drozd if he had agents on them, he worried the dealers might be onto the officers.

That concern was heightened the following month because of a case pending at the Cook County Criminal Courthouse. A man had been arrested by Drozd in an unrelated drug case and convicted on Drozd's testimony. Word got back to Sadler that the man's attorney was planning to ask for a new trial based on information he had that Drozd was a dirty cop. The attorney had represented several of the Pattersons in previous drug cases, and Sadler assumed they'd told the lawyer what Drozd was doing on Flournoy. A decision was made to suspend the field portion of Operation Flournoy until this defendant's case was disposed of. The defendant was sentenced in April '92 without any motions by his lawyer regarding Drozd's integrity. Why Drozd and Maderak stayed away from Flournoy and didn't resume their undercover roles for another 18 months is unclear.

An FBI memo indicates that other problems had developed in the field operation. In February '92 FBI agent Allen Close, according to a memo he wrote, met with Chicago police chief Sherwood Williams, director of special functions, at police headquarters. (The FBI was involved in Operation Flournoy in its initial stages, and Close was the agent assigned to the case; the bureau's participation ended early in '92.) At the meeting Close gave Williams a list of 13 incidents that "indicated there were obvious attempts by certain individuals to sabotage the joint investigation."

Listed were instances of tactical officers, regular patrol officers, and gang-crimes specialists descending on Flournoy--sometimes even after being ordered by their bosses to stay away. The memo also noted that a gun-recovery unit had exchanged shots with people on Flournoy one evening in January, and that members of the unit were "observed during darkness, sneaking between buildings with hoods up and guns in hand." Neighbors had said they thought the cops "were robbers there to do a rip-off." (An investigation by an 11th District watch commander found no wrongdoing on the part of the two officers involved in the shoot-out, according to a police memo. Drozd told me he assumed that when Close described officers wearing hoods and sneaking between buildings, he'd been relying on the bogus reports of neighbors. "The FBI doesn't work the streets," he said. "They can't see through the fucking lies a lot of times." Close declined to comment on his memo.)

In the publicity splash after the Flournoy defendants were rounded up, police authorities had told reporters about police officers who, unaware Drozd was playing an undercover role, had informed superiors he'd turned crooked. The impression left was of officers concerned about corruption staining their department. But Close's memo indicates that some cops feared Drozd had become not a rogue but a rat. "Rumors are out that UCPOs [undercover police officers] are working with the feds, are 'wired,' and are after crooked cops," the memo said.

Stanley Hill, lawyer for Clinton Patterson, wondered later how it would affect a neighborhood to have cops feigning crookedness, not just for weeks but for years. It wasn't just Drozd who'd pretended to be dirty, but a half dozen other officers who rode with him. "The kids in the neighborhood didn't know it was an undercover sting happening," Hill told me. "They just knew there were cops out there saying, 'It's all right to sell drugs--just bring me a piece of it.' Why wouldn't a kid think, 'If all cops are crooked, what's wrong with me selling drugs? If they're making some money, why can't I?'"

Asked if this was a concern, prosecutor Kathleen Murdock acknowledged that it would have been "if there were no other dirty cops out there. But unfortunately that's not the situation. I think the impact of dirty cops is as devastating if not more devastating than dope dealers in a community. But unfortunately, they're a reality."

March 7, 1996: When Saltoun finished questioning Drozd about the last transcript in the investigation, the jurors closed the fat black binders in their laps quickly, gratefully, a merry thump resounding through the courtroom.

"Officer Drozd," Saltoun said, "was April 14, 1995, the last day that you acted in your undercover capacity as a corrupt police officer on the 2700 block of West Flournoy?"

"Yes."

"Directing your attention to April 19, 1995, what happened on that day?"

"The indictment came down."

"When is the last time that you are aware any drugs were sold on the 2700 block of Flournoy?"

A chorus of objections rang out from defense attorneys as they leaped to their feet. Gettleman sustained their objections, ruling there was "no foundation for that question whatsoever."

"Judge, I have no further questions," Saltoun said. Court recessed for the weekend.

Saltoun's unanswered question implied that Operation Flournoy had extinguished drug dealing on the 2700 block of West Flournoy. And on that single block it seems to have. Gone are the streams of cars, the lines in the gangway, the calls of "rocks and blows."

Other prosecutions, state and federal, have nailed some of the dealers who ran drug spots elsewhere in the area. But residents say that everywhere in the area, except for the 2700 block, dealing is still rampant, though somewhat less conspicuous.

Major crime in Chicago declined in most categories in 1995, but drug arrests rose by 18 percent. Andre and the other 18 alleged members of a key narcotics operation were incarcerated for more than two-thirds of that year, and several more Flournoy workers were in jail on state charges--but that didn't slow the dealing in the 11th Police District. Drug arrests there rose by 35 percent.

Close the neighborhood grocery and people won't stop eating. So it is with drugs, as Drozd himself acknowledged. "It's like prostitution," he told me after the trial. "You can only move it. You'll never get rid of it. If the people didn't want drugs, we wouldn't have it."

"Ron says we're looking good," Andre told me after the direct examination of Drozd was finished. He was referring to Ron Clark's assessment of how the case was going. "Lawyers always say that, but I think I'm looking good."

Andre wasn't worried about what it would be like to spend the rest of his days in a penitentiary. He'd been locked up for almost a year now, and that seemed like forever. In a week--on March 13, 1996--he would turn 26. He assured himself it would be the only birthday he'd ever spend imprisoned.

It was easier to fight off gloominess during the day, when he had things to do, he said, than it was at night, in the stillness and darkness of his room. He had a "little bitty box window" through which he could peer down at a parking lot and the adjacent street 18 floors below. He'd stare at the little moving figures, "wishing that was me walking down that street, getting in that cab, getting in that car and going." o

To be continued next week.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photos by Chip Williams.

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

 

Add a comment