BFTN #24 2018-11-14
November 14, 2018
BFTN #25 2018-11-19
November 19, 2018
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Part TWENTY-NINE of our series on the WAR ON DRUGS – “DeLorean”.


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Show Notes:

  • If you don’t know the story of DeLorean
  • He worked at GM where he invented the Pontiac GTO, the first muscle car, in the early 60s.
  • He then developed the Pontiac Firebird which became the Trans-Am, The Bandit’s car and KITT.
  • He left General Motors in 1973 to form his own company, the DeLorean Motor Company.
  • And of course the car he produced was the DMC-12 – the Back to the Future car.
  • Unfortunately it took 8 years to get the car to market.
  • And when it did, the U.S.economy was in a downturn.
  • And the car got average reviews – it looked sexy as hell but it was expensive and had lower horsepower than other sports cars on the market.
  • The company ended up not being able to sell many cars and was saddled with $175 million in debt and went into liquidation.
  • DeLorean was already mired in legal problems by the time Robert Zemeckis chose a DMC–12 to serve as Marty McFly’s time machine in “Back to the Future.”
  • In an early script, the time machine was a refrigerator, and Marty would need the power of an atomic explosion at the Nevada Test Site to return home.
  • Zemeckis was concerned that children would accidentally lock themselves in refrigerators, and felt it was more useful if the time machine were mobile.
  • The DeLorean DMC-12 was chosen because its design made the gag about the family of farmers mistaking it for a flying saucer believable.
  • AND THEN… On October 19, 1982, DeLorean was charged by the U.S. government with trafficking cocaine following a videotaped sting operation in which he was recorded by undercover federal agents agreeing to bankroll a cocaine smuggling operation.
  • The $25,000 automobile hit the market just as the world recession sent most car companies into a tailspin, and sales were slow.
  • compared with $10,000 for the average car and $18,000 for a souped-up Corvette.
  • On the day of DeLorean’s arrest the British government, which had lent his company more than $160 million, closed his factory in Northern Ireland.
  • The FBI set him up with more than 59 pounds (27 kg) of cocaine (worth about US$6 million) in a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport after arriving from New York, and the FBI stated DeLorean was the “financier” to help the financially declining company in a scheme to sell 220 lb (100 kg), with an estimated value of US$24 million.
  • If convicted on all counts, he could have been sentenced to 67 years in prison and fined $185,000.
  • The government was tipped off to DeLorean by confidential informant James Timothy Hoffman, a former neighbor, who reported to his FBI superiors that DeLorean had approached him to ask about setting up a cocaine deal; in reality, Hoffman had called DeLorean and suggested the deal (which DeLorean then accepted) as part of Hoffman’s efforts to receive a reduced sentence for a 1981 federal cocaine trafficking charge on which he was awaiting trial.
  • Hoffman (whose name was redacted on the original indictment) also stated that he was aware of DeLorean’s financial troubles before he contacted him, and had heard him admit that he needed US$17 million “in a hurry” to prevent DMC’s imminent insolvency.
  • Taken together, these two elements allowed DeLorean to successfully defend himself at trial with the procedural defense of police entrapment.
  • DeLorean’s lawyers successfully argued that the FBI and DEA had unfairly targeted and illegally entrapped DeLorean  when they allowed Hoffman (an active FBI informant who only knew DeLorean casually) to randomly solicit DeLorean into a criminal conspiracy simply because he was known to be financially vulnerable.
  • Another factor was DeLorean’s lack of criminal history, whereas Hoffman was a career criminal who stood to directly benefit if he was able to convince DeLorean to incriminate himself on tape.
  • The DeLorean defense team did not call any witnesses.
  • DeLorean was found not guilty on August 16, 1984,  but by then DMC had already collapsed into bankruptcy and DeLorean’s reputation as a businessman was irrevocably tarnished.
  • The attorney who successfully proved entrapment in John DeLorean’s cocaine case noted, “There’s rampant paranoia among the criminal defense lawyers, and it’s there with good purpose.”
  • When asked after his acquittal if he planned to resume his career in the auto industry, DeLorean bitterly quipped “Would you buy a used car from me?”
  • On suspicion alone, the Supreme Court ruled that summer, an international traveler into the United States may be strip-searched and then held incommunicado until he or she defecates into a wastebasket.
  • Customs agents in Los Angeles had done that to Rosa Elvira Montoya de Hernandez, a Colombian citizen arriving from Colombia, because they suspected —rightly —that she was carrying cocaine-filled balloons in her digestive tract.
  • After almost twenty-four hours locked in a room with only a hard chair to sit on, and denied permission to call an attorney, Ms.
  • Montoya de Hernandez was taken in handcuffs to a hospital and put through a forcible rectal exam that revealed a cocaine filled balloon.
  • Over the course of the next four days, she excreted eighty-eight more such balloons under observation, and was charged with smuggling drugs.
  • A federal appeals panel had overturned her subsequent conviction, questioning the “humanity” of such a procedure.
  • A study at the time revealed that for every woman apprehended this way, five innocent women were put through the degrading experience.
  • But Justice William Rehnquist reversed the lower court on July 1, 1985, saying the freedom to control one’s own bodily functions is a justifiable sacrifice to “the veritable national crisis in law enforcement caused by smuggling of illegal narcotics.” To strengthen his point, he listed some of the freedoms he had likewise helped diminish: “first class mail may be opened without a warrant on less than probable cause… Automotive travelers may be stopped … near the border without individualized suspicion even if the stop is based largely on ethnicity … and boats on inland waters with ready access to the sea may be hailed and boarded with no suspicion whatever.”
  • For Justice William Brennan, who had the year before declared the Courts victory over the Fourth Amendment “complete,” the ruling was a disgrace.
  • In a bitter dissent, Brennan compared the Customs agents to kidnappers.
  • Furthermore, Brennan wrote, “Neither the law of the land nor the law of nature supports the notion that petty government officials can require people to excrete on command.”
  • On November 29, 1985, crack cocaine made page one of the New York Times for the first time.
  • What Egil Krogh learned in Vietnam held true again.
  • The government, putting pressure on marijuana, helped make cocaine more attractive to smuggle and sell.
  • When the government pressed hard on cocaine, dealers found it worthwhile to boil it down into a smaller and more potent form.
  • Users in turn found it cheaper and easier to smoke cocaine instead of snorting it.
  • Newsweek was running articles saying “Crack is the most addictive drug known to man right now,”.
  • Technically, this was untrue.
  • Cocaine does not create a physical need the way heroin does.
  • Cocaine is, however, powerfully reinforcing.
  • In other words, a cocaine high makes the user want more.
  • In about a sixth of the people who use cocaine regularly this desire is so strong that it is a kind of psychological addiction.
  • Crack, bypassing the narrow blood vessels of the nose by being smoked, is said to be even more reinforcing than cocaine.
  • It may be one of the most reinforcing of all known drugs.
  • But if crack is “instantly addictive,” then everybody who tried it once would be in trouble, and that is far from the truth.
  • Among high school seniors in 1987 (the first year they were asked about cocaine), 4.1 percent had used crack in the past year.
  • Less than a third of those had used it in the past month, and a fortieth of those who had tried it were using it every day.
  • The proportions have remained about the same since then as overall crack use has declined.
  • The numbers actually indicate that nicotine is more reinforcing than crack.
  • In 1987, fully 65 percent of the high school seniors who smoked cigarettes at least once a month smoked them every day, in most cases half a pack or more.
  • the 1984 figures showed cocaine killing fewer people than either aspirin or the flu.
  • Cocaine was “mentioned” in 604 deaths in 1984.
  • That doesn’t mean cocaine killed that many people, just that the drug was present in the bodies of 604 people who died suddenly from substance abuse.
  • You might get mugged while crossing the street, but if you have coke in your system, it counts to that total.
  • It was a threefold increase from 1981, but hardly the biggest health crisis facing the country; five times as many Americans died choking on food and ten times as many died from ulcers.
  • To say nothing of stroke, heart disease, auto wrecks, handguns, and other causes of preventable death.
  • “There is simply no question,” Newsweek wrote in “Kids and Cocaine,” “that cocaine in all its forms is seeping into the nation’s schools.”
  • In truth, however, only one senior in eight had tried cocaine by 1987.
  • Fewer than half of those were using it every month, and only about 1/26 of them — or 0. percent of all high school seniors — were using it daily.
  • Cocaine deaths among children were almost nonexistent.
  • The total number of Americans under eighteen who died from cocaine in 1984 was eight.
  • That issue of Newsweek, with a cover photo of a teenager snorting coke on a suburban home’s carpeted stairway, sold 15 percent more copies than that year’s average.
  • Recognizing a good thing when he saw it, editor-in-chief Richard M. Smith put crack on the cover again three months later.
  • “An epidemic is abroad in America,” he wrote in a signed editorial, “as pervasive and dangerous in its way as the plagues of medieval times.”
  • Thus was cocaine, which killed 1/400,000 of the population that year, compared with the Black Death, which wiped out a third of Europe.
  • The media at the end of 1985 radically changed the way they portrayed the “cocaine problem.” Until now, the typical coke user had been white, rich, attractive, and ultimately tragic.
  • Now, almost all of those shown snorting or smoking cocaine were either black or Hispanic.
  • Cocaine users were no longer tragic, but menacing, and their neighborhoods were “like a domestic Vietnam.” No dispatch from “the front lines of the Drug War” was complete without a picture of a white cop arresting a dark-skinned crackhead.
  • The switch may have been one of simple opportunity; it’s easier to film black people doing drugs on the street than white people doing drugs in their homes.
  • Two University of Michigan researchers tallied the coke users portrayed on television and found that, beginning in December 1985, the depiction of white cocaine users fell by as much as two-thirds while that of black users rose by the same amount.
  • “These numbers support our view,” the researchers concluded, “that, during the Reagan era, the cocaine problem as defined by the network news became increasingly associated with people of color.”

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