A shocking true story of corruption and crime in the ranks of the NYPD in the worst police scandal since the revelations of Fred Serpico In the 1970s, New York City’s 77th Precinct was known as “the Alamo.” In Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, Brooklyn—neighborhoods notorious for drugs and violent crime—some of the worst criminals wore police uniforms and carried badges. Henry Winter was a good cop when he first entered the infamous 77th station house that was already infamous as a home to the dregs of the NYPD. Before long, he and fellow officer Anthony Magno found themselves deeply entrenched in the Alamo’s culture of extortion, lies, corruption, and crime—and they were regularly supplementing their incomes by ripping off thieves, drug dealers, junkies, and honest citizens alike. But the gravy train couldn’t stay on the rails forever. Winter and Magno were caught and faced a devastating choice: They could betray their crooked friends and colleagues by helping investigators expose the rot that festered at the Alamo’s core—or spend the next several years behind bars. In Buddy Boys , Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative journalist Mike McAlary blows the doors off 1 of the worst scandals ever to taint New York’s uniformed guardians, the men and women sworn to protect and serve the populace. Blistering, shocking, and powerful, it’s a frightening look inside the NYPD and an eye-opening exploration of the daily temptations that can seduce a good cop over to the dark side.
|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Mike McAlary (1957–1998) was a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author. Originally a sportswriter, he worked as a reporter for Newsday and as a columnist at the Daily News and the New York Post. McAlary won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his extensive coverage of the torture of Abner Louima by Brooklyn police officers. He wrote one novel, Sore Loser , and three nonfiction books: Buddy Boys, Cop Shot , and Good Cop, Bad Cop. A play based on McAlary’s life, Lucky Guy written by Nora Ephron and starring Tom Hanks, debuted on Broadway in 2013.
Read an Excerpt
When Good Cops Turn Bad
By Mike McAlary
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Mike McAlary
All rights reserved.
"We have a deal."
Henry Winter was in the mood to catch some blues.
Out in Jamaica Bay and Long Island Sound, schools of bluefish were already starting their summer spawning run. By early summer, the waters would be bubbling with frenzied schools of bluefish traveling in hunting parties half a mile wide and an eighth of a mile long.
They are a strong, pugnacious breed — a fish that can weigh as much as thirty pounds and fight twice its weight. Built like missiles, bluefish have long, sharp, and irregular teeth, delicate blue scales, and a thin backbone. Fishermen regard them as demented fish — hunters that lose all self-control in the presence of too much of a good thing.
When the blues are running, a school will slam into a fisherman's boat, flopping against the sides and devouring anything he throws into the bait slick — chopped-up mackerel, butterfish, cigarette butts, paper, even beer bottle caps. Excited bluefish will eat, vomit, and eat again. They think nothing of taking single bites out of passing fish from their own school. And if a fisherman keeps a small bluefish on the line too long, a larger one will come along and gobble it up. Once you get a school of bluefish in an eating frenzy, it is impossible not to catch them.
The blues were Henry Winter's favorite fish. He liked the fight in them, and the fact that although they traveled in great blue waves, they were really only interested in preserving their own individual lives. Bluefish even reminded Henry of the cops he worked with in Bedford-Stuyvesant's 77th Precinct. Once the blue-jacketed cops had worked themselves into a stealing frenzy, their adrenaline pumping, there was no stopping them. They stole whatever was put in front of them on the streets — money, drugs, cars, electronics equipment, garbage cans, cigarettes, batteries, beer, and newspapers. It would be impossible not to catch them.
Henry woke shortly before 7 A.M. on May 23, 1986. It was Friday, the first day of a three-day weekend for him. The morning dawned clear, crisp, and bright, a fisherman's day, a day to bag your limit.
He dressed quickly and quietly, careful not to wake his wife and their two daughters. He slipped into a pair of shorts and pulled white jogging pants over them. The elastic band was just slightly uncomfortable. At thirty-four, the six-foot cop was developing a new plumpness.
Looking like a sailor in white pants, a white T-shirt and white sneakers, Henry emerged from his house. He headed for the garage and packed up his fishing gear, loading it into the back of a blue 1982 Ford pickup truck, then returned to the house and the refrigerator, filling a small plastic cooler with ice and seven-ounce bottles of Budweiser. He placed the cooler in the back of his boat, an eighteen-foot Cobia christened Bolt Action, and secured his outboard motor, a water-cooled, seventy-horsepower Mercury. Then he hooked up the boat trailer to his truck and headed out.
Henry never even noticed the maroon Buick following him — a car filled with the kind of cops who bait city streets for a living, waiting for crooked cops to bite. His movements on that day are well documented. He drove west along the Belt Parkway, breaking off the highway at the exit for Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach, Queens, continuing south across a toll bridge that led to the narrow strip of Queens called the Rockaways.
Stopping briefly at a delicatessen, Henry ordered a bagel with cream cheese and peppers to go, with a chocolate Yoo-Hoo soda. Then he stopped at a bait shop to get something for the blues — a two-and-a-half gallon container of chum, a box of butterfish, and fourteen sickly looking mackerel.
On Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Henry put his boat in the water at a public launch, leaving his truck and trailer parked in a lot across the street from a McDonald's restaurant. Within an hour after leaving his home, Henry was on the water, motoring through an inlet and out into the Atlantic Ocean until he reached the Ambrose light tower six miles out.
There were already several boats in the area by the time he arrived. Some of them were drifting, a sure sign that they were fishing for fluke, a flat fish that looks sort of like a flounder with the measles.
Henry spent the rest of the morning chumming for bluefish, and caught three ranging from six to ten pounds. Before noon he headed back toward the inlet, drifting for fluke but continuing to bounce a butterfish along the ocean floor in hope of catching one more blue. He landed a dozen flukes but none of them were fourteen inches long — big enough to keep.
The watcher studying Henry Winter through binoculars was surprised at the patrolman's display of lawfulness. It was odd that the same Henry Winter who took bribes from ghetto drug dealers would not steal from the sea. The watcher wondered what set of rules guided this cop's life.
By two o'clock Henry had packed up his gear and headed back in. Judging by the size of his catch, some might have said that he had had a bad day fishing. But he was happy. He regarded any day on the water as a good one. He hardly even noticed his sunburn — or the group of men in sports coats scrambling for their cars as he pulled up to the landing.
After loading Bolt Action onto the trailer, Henry secured his gear and engine and headed back home. He stopped briefly as he entered Howard Beach to inquire how some men fishing off a bridge with drop lines had fared with the fluke, then he continued onto South Conduit Avenue. He had traveled about three-quarters of a mile when he heard a car horn behind him.
Checking his rear view mirror, Henry saw two white men in a maroon Buick waving at him frantically, a red, flashing dome light on the dashboard between them. He didn't hear a siren, but then he knew what the cops wanted. Police Officer Henry Winter was driving an unregistered boat trailer. He would have to talk the traffic cops out of writing him a forty dollar ticket.
The Buick pulled up along the left side of Henry's truck. The man in the passenger seat waved a gold shield out of the car's window.
"Pull over," the cop yelled.
"Ah, shit," Henry thought. "Haven't these traffic humps got anything better to do?"
He parked his truck on the shoulder and got out. As he walked to the back of the pickup, two more unmarked cars pulled up in front of the truck. Now Henry was surrounded by three sets of badges. Two cops wore bulletproof vests over their sports coats.
"What's the problem, guys?"
"I'm Lieutenant Andrew Panico from Internal Affairs Division," a man said.
"I'm placing you in custody."
"Official misconduct and three counts of bribery receiving," Panico answered.
"Turn around and put your hands behind your back."
Henry put his arms back. A cop stepped forward and snapped handcuffs around his wrists.
"Where's your gun?" Panico demanded.
"Under the front seat of the truck."
Winter was dazed. For the first time in his life, someone had put handcuffs on him. He had done the same thing to other people a thousand times. Now he felt disoriented, violated, humiliated. A cop led him by the arm to the Buick.
"What about my truck?"
"We'll park it for you, officer."
"The fucking car is my car," Henry exploded. "It's a clutch. You're talking about moving a truck. I got a boat on the back of it. I've got an expensive fishing rod. The gear alone in that truck is worth more than your fucking car. Let me park my truck."
"No, we'll move your truck."
The officers put their prisoner in the back of the Buick. Henry knew the routine. Any minute now one of the cops would start reading him the Miranda warning from a small card. "You have the right to remain silent ..."
But there was no warning, no words.
"What's going on?" Henry finally asked as the car shot along the Belt Parkway on Brooklyn's underbelly.
"Don't say anything," Panico said. "We're not talking to you. You're not talking to us."
Henry shifted back in his seat. He tried to fill the car with an air of coolness. "They're just cops," he thought. "Cops can't frighten me." But then, as happens with all cops who suddenly find themselves wearing handcuffs, he thought of the worst possible scenario. This was going to make the six o'clock news, he realized. Betsy Winter was going to see her husband walk across a television screen in handcuffs.
"I've got to call my wife," he said. "I want to make my phone call."
"No phone calls," Panico said.
No phone calls? Now Henry's head was reeling. And his confusion only deepened as the Buick headed into Manhattan, passing through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Once free of the tunnel, the driver made a sharp right turn, parking on a deserted side street near Battery Park.
"Look, we're taking the handcuffs off you," Panico said. "Don't be foolish. Just do what we tell you to do."
"No problem. Look, I'm not a bad guy. I'm not here to hurt you or myself. Let's just do what we have to do."
Henry believed he was being taken to One Police Plaza and Central Booking. He expected to be suspended from the force, arrested, his fingerprints taken, and jailed until his arraignment. Instead, the cops led him down a street in the opposite direction from police headquarters. They escorted him into a towering stone office building at Two Rector Street — only a short distance from Wall Street.
Surrounded by four cops, Winter walked into the unmarked building and took the elevator to the twenty-third floor, where he spotted a sign — Office of the New York State Special Prosecutor for Corruption.
"Oh shit," Henry thought to himself. "These guys are serious."
The cops escorted Henry down a narrow corridor and left him alone in a small room for what seemed an eternity — approximately ten minutes. Two officers spied on him through an open doorway from across the hall. They did not want their prisoner jumping out of a window. Henry Winter was too valuable to lose now.
Men in suits, smelling of fine cologne, made short visits to the room. They spoke in soft, agreeable tones. Henry made them for lawyers.
"Can I get you any coffee, Henry?" one asked. "Coffee, cigarettes, or anything?"
Henry had played the role of good cop to his partner Tony Magno's bad cop routine long enough to know what was happening now. The investigators were loosening him up, looking for a soft spot. It was like a game after a while. He would ask to make a phone call. The lawyers would deny him access to a phone. Men paraded into the room one by one, saying essentially the same thing.
"You have to think of your family now, Henry."
"Henry. Now's the time to think of your wife and kids."
The strategy was working too, because by the time State Special Prosecutor Charles J. Hynes entered the room an hour later, all Henry could think about was his family.
"Come here," Hynes said gruffly, never even bothering to identify himself. "I want to show you something."
Hynes led Winter into a large adjoining room where a group of twelve men sat around a rectangular table. Each man had a small pile of papers stacked neatly in front of him. Henry was told to sit facing a television, a videotape recorder, and a tape recorder.
"I don't want you to say anything," Hynes said. "I just want you to listen and read." One investigator handed Henry a set of headphones. Another produced a typed transcript for him to read.
He recognized the first voice on the tape instantly. It belonged to Benny Burwell, a forty-eight-year-old cocaine and marijuana dealer from Bedford-Stuyvesant. Benny had a drug operation set up in the 77th Precinct near an area patrolled by Police Officers Henry Winter and Tony Magno — Sector Ida-John. Benny had been paying Henry and Tony to protect his drug operation for months. The cops had never actually done anything to protect Benny, but they had taken regular payments from him. Lots of cash. Lots of times.
Then in early 1986 Benny was arrested by another cop in the 77th Precinct who wasn't renting out his shield, and who caught Benny with close to a pound of cocaine. Major weight. Felony weight. Benny knew he was going to jail. So he told his probation officer to get in touch with the Brooklyn district attorney. Then Benny sat down with the prosecutor and said the magic words.
"I can give you cops. I've been paying off cops in the Seventy-seventh Precinct for years."
When pressed, Benny mentioned the right names — Henry Winter and Tony Magno, two cops already suspected of taking bribes. Elizabeth Holtzman, the Brooklyn district attorney, turned the case over to Hynes, a special prosecutor with close ties to Governor Mario Cuomo. Working in conjunction with the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, Hynes outfitted Benny Burwell with a tape recorder and supplied him with payoff money. The dealer had been out on the streets trying to bribe cops since February.
Henry wasn't really shocked. Not at first, anyway. "All right," he thought. "They wired Benny. They turned a mutt drug dealer to get us. They got me and Benny talking and they got Benny giving me money. Okay, that's good. But how are they going to prove it?"
A former city fire commissioner who had made his name as an investigator during a statewide nursing home scandal, Hynes had carefully orchestrated this entire production. He seemed to be reading Henry Winter's mind.
"Now look up," Hynes said in his most dispassionate voice. "On the television screen."
An investigator reached past Henry to push a VHS tape into the recorder. Henry's image, wearing his blue uniform, appeared on the screen alongside Benny, who was holding up a brown paper bag full of money. Benny handed the bag to Henry.
"Thanks," Henry heard himself say.
The investigators produced two other tapes of Henry and Benny. Each contained the same critical scene, the one where the cop accepts the payoff from a man he knows to be a drug dealer. Henry watched, but he did not see. He knew they had him. But every once in a while someone would ask him, "Had enough, Henry? See enough yet?"
Finally Henry took off his headphones.
"I saw enough."
"Don't say anything," an investigator said. "We don't want to know anything. Just think of your family."
He was led to a room and left alone again. He asked to make a phone call.
"I got to call my wife. She's going to be looking for me."
"No phone calls," he was told again. "You can't call anyone."
By now it was close to five o'clock. Henry's wife was getting ready to contact the Coast Guard. His brother-in-law was already out looking for him. The people Henry loved were concerned about him. But he was beginning to worry about someone else.
"Where's my partner?" he thought. "How could they grab me and not Tony?" While he waited, a lieutenant from the Internal Affairs Division suddenly entered the room.
"We have a problem," the cop began. "We've been sitting outside your partner's house since seven o'clock this morning."
"Well, we got to get him out of the house. He's been in there all day and only came out once to walk the dog. It's up to you to get him out."
"Up to me?"
He was told that he had to come up with a plan to get Tony out of his house. "We don't want anybody to know we're grabbing him, we don't even want his wife and kids to know we're taking him."
"Let me go get him. You drive me out there, park, let me out at the corner, I'll call and tell him my truck broke down. He'll come out. But promise me first that you'll give me a second to talk to him before you grab him."
The investigators, lawyers, and prosecutors all agreed to go along with Winter's plan for taking his partner into custody. They piled into four cars and headed back through the Battery Tunnel into Brooklyn. The Borough of Churches. And confessions.
Tony Magno was cursing, again. Standing on the toilet bowl, he was trying to hang silver and white foil wallpaper on his bathroom wall. The paper slipped and crinkled under his hands.
"Goddamn it," Tony yelled. "Hanging this shit is like trying to nail fucking Jell-O to a wall."
A seventeen-year veteran of the force who had spent his entire career in the 77th Precinct, Magno rarely left the sanctuary of his home on his days off. During the work week it was different. Tony drank beer with his buddies in the backs of grocery stores — called bodegas in the ghetto whether they were owned by Hispanics or not — and held court in the precinct locker room. He was liked by younger cops and veterans and was considered to be a leader who knew the ins and outs of the job.
Excerpted from Buddy Boys by Mike McAlary. Copyright © 1987 Mike McAlary. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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