Well, today’s the Big Game.
Being a federal prosecutor often exposes you to worlds into which you’d otherwise never venture.
Such was the case when I (reluctantly) took over the newly minted Narcotics and Violent Crime Section of the United States Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas in the late 90’s.
The new unit combined about half of the Criminal Section (taking responsibility for primarily the reactive crimes, not the long-term, proactive White Collar investigations) and the Narcotics Section – formally known as OCDETF – the “Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force” – a dramatic mouthful.
As expected, I inherited the good and the bad – cases, personnel, history with the locals.
One example of the bad was a case had a tortured backstory, unknown to me at the time. It also concluded so ignominiously that to reveal the embarrassing details here would be unproductive; those involved were not long for our new unit or the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
However, one aspect of the case bears public exposure, as virtually all Americans prepare to deify our modern heroes – individuals whose primary attributes are the ability to grow inordinately large and run swiftly.
During the course of the investigation of a well known Vegas drug dealer named Andre McGee, very real concerns developed regarding the safety of the investigating officers, and one in particular.
Emergency measures were taken to relocate the officer and his family to ensure their safety during the pendency of the investigation/trial.
This is a prime example of the kind of thing the public never hears about, the constant threats and peril faced by officers, even extending to their loved ones. Matters that do not make the headlines and rarely even see the light of day.
In the meantime, while the officer and his family were being torn from their home and hustled into hiding in the dark of night, there was the matter of the defendant’s pre-trial status; that is, should he be granted bail or detained, without bail, pending trial.
This seemed an easy call to me under the circumstances.
But, as it happened, this particular defendant had a celebrity relative. An NFL star named Reynaldo Wynn. It was suggested by his defense lawyers, David Chesnov and Oscar Goodman, that McGee be released to the “third party custody” of his famous brother-in-law, to remain under “house arrest” in his mansion in Jacksonville, Florida, until trial.
I was appalled that the court would even consider such an arrangement. However, it did. In the meantime I frantically contacted NFL Security, explaining the lengthy potential drug sentence McGee faced upon conviction and the aggravating circumstances concerning the potential threat to the officer’s life.
The gentleman with whom I spoke explained that he was former law enforcement himself. I advised that before becoming a prosecutor, I too had been a cop, from a family of cops. Consequently, I felt that we had established a rapport of sorts.
The gentleman told me, in so many words, that distribution of controlled substances did not pose an obstacle to the proposed “custodial” arrangement. Nor did the concerns – many more details of which, parenthetically, I shared with him than I do here – of a possible Murder-For-Hire Conspiracy targeting a police officer.
This left one Pissed Off Prosecutor.
I can still recall being told, in a matter of fact tone, “if this involved in gambling, I might be able to help you out”, or words to that effect.
So the NFL viewed gambling more negatively than narcotics distribution or a possible Murder For Hire plot?
Before the dust settled on the issue, the Jacksonville Jaguars also weighed in. The court received a letter from the Senior Vice President of Football Operations of the Jaguars. I was provided a copy, which I saved. Here it is.
One postscript: the coach of the Jaguars at the time was Tom Coughlin, an apparently beloved NFL figure. From my research, it seems he was reputed to be a strict disciplinarian, known by some as “Colonel Coughlin”. It also appears that he had a relationship with Reynaldo Wynn, inasmuch as he later brought him along with him to the New York Giants.
I have no idea whether Tom Coughlin knew about any of this, though I find it hard to fathom that none of this information made its way to him, directly or indirectly. Yet, for all I know, he could be the most decent man in the world.
The same goes for Reynaldo Wynn, who by all accounts is a decent guy, and in fact a pretty generous philanthropist. So maybe these were two guys who were just saddled, through fate, with Andre McGee.
But I remain no fan of the NFL. I suppose that one could take the view that perhaps things have changed for the better over the years. Just scanning the headlines of the Sports pages poses a serious change to that optimistic point of view.
I also have much more contemporaneous information about the NFL and the character of some of its players which I am not at liberty to divulge. Let’s just say that information does little to alter my opinion.
Suffice to say that, notwithstanding their charitable endeavors (a mere drop in the bucket) and their over-the-top “patriotic” displays – today should be no exception – I personally believe that as an institution, the NFL is far more interested in covering its corporate ass and billions than doing the right thing.
Enjoy the game.