Excerpt from Choices: You Make ’em You Own ’em

Release Date: November 1, 2018.

The wait is almost over. The long-anticipated story, told by Jerry Tillinghast about his life, choices, and living with the consequences of those decisions, is soon to be released. Jerry reveals the truth behind the myth of organized crime and the highs and lows of the life as only someone who lived it can.

CHOICES_3D_1080-150An excerpt from the opening pages;

The stolen car made its way along the side streets of Cranston, Rhode Island onto Interstate 95 south. Cloudy and drizzly, the winds of November cast a pall over the night. Three men, two in the front seat one in the back, came together for a single purpose that evening.

One knew it was a deadly deception.

As the car sped up, other vehicles followed behind. Three undercover police units, two driven by detectives from the Rhode Island State Police and one by an FBI agent.

The stolen car took the Airport Connector exit in Warwick towards T.F. Green Airport. The police surveillance team followed behind. As the stolen car negotiated the corner, the cops lost sight of the car. The snow fence along the roadside momentarily blocked the view. Different today than it was in 1978, the curving off-ramp put cars right onto Post Road. The police regained sight of the of the vehicle as it waited at the red light.

Just two men, both in the front seat, were now visible in the car. Uncertain if the third man had been dropped off, and concerned they may have been spotted, the police watched the vehicle turn onto Post Road and then down a side street into an industrial area. They backed off and waited.

After several minutes, the cops moved into the area to locate the car.

It didn’t take long.

Two investigators approached the car, noticing the windows were steaming up. As they peered inside, they saw George Basmajian, the primary object of their surveillance, lying on the back seat, dead or dying from bullet wounds to the head and chest. The medical examiner would later count nine bullet wounds, several of which were likely fatal.

Nine shots were a guarantee of fatality.

No one else was around the area. The other men vanished into the night. The cops knew who they needed to look for and headed out to find them.

And this is where the story diverges. But to understand the differences and perspective, we must return to the beginning. To go back to the routes of involvement of those connected to this case through their early choices and associations with organized crime…

Order the ebook for Kindle today before the price goes up on release date. Click to order here and sign up here for notifications of book signings and the book release party.

 

 

A Naked Woman Dancing in the Street

A naked woman dancing in the street is not an invitation for sexual activity.  While societal norms might frown on such activity, it is not an open invitation for men to “have their way” with her.

Whether such things happen is exclusively up to her.

But that is not the way much of America sees it.

She was asking for it.  What did she expect? Look at how she’s dressed, she knew what she was doing.

18145_coverf
Image copyright Elon News network

The plague of sexual assault is one of the biggest threats to women in the world. In theory, we abhor rapists. Even within the insular walls of prisons, rapists must be protected from other inmates because of the inherent evil of their crimes.

But that is the tip of the iceberg. It is the wink and nod tolerance of “boys will be boys” in committing sexual assault in all its variations that places the onus and the burden on the victim for bringing it upon herself.

She shouldn’t have gone to that party. She shouldn’t dress that way. She shouldn’t have acted like she wanted it.

The double standard is appalling.

The normal progression of a child to puberty and the learning curve of acceptable behavior in controlling hormonal-driven feelings are complicated by this unequal expectation between males and females.

Sexual assault is the most underreported crime. We, as a society, place such burdens on victims they fear reporting the offense because of this. Can there be any more horrifying concept than a culture that blames the victim?

Much of this is cultural. There are still social practices throughout the world where women are nothing more than chattel, to be bargained with and traded by a male-dominated culture.

The vestiges of a father “giving away” his daughter at her wedding persist to this day. While we may view this as symbolic and harmless, it reflects a time when it was an absolute right of the family to determine who a woman marries.

A man was never given away, he was endowed with the right to “take” a bride.

When my then future son-in-law asked to speak with us about marrying my daughter, I appreciated the gesture. But I had about as much chance of telling my daughter who she could marry as I have of winning Powerball.

And that is how we raised her. She is not my property to do with as I please. She determines her own life.

In society, there is still the shadow of sexual assault victims somehow being responsible for the crime. Often, agencies tasked with investigating such incidents are wary because of the possibility of it being false.

That is precisely why a thorough and effective investigation is necessary. It should never be viewed as a waste of time because of anything the victim may have done, said, or where she went.

The recent confirmation hearing illustrates the problem. While the sense of fairness to both sides is essential, we must always lean on the side of innocent until proven guilty.

Yet it also underscores the problem.

Had Professor Ford felt more comfortable reporting the incident when it first happened we would not have to make a choice. And let’s be clear, it is our fault as a society that victims feel unable to report these crimes because of what we may do to them for merely standing up for themselves.

Sexual assault survivors bear the burden of being a victim twice. Once by the perpetrator, and again by those responsible to protect them. We live in a world where the President of the United States can mock a victim in the name of politics and many Americans applaud the behavior. If that is what the moral majority represents, we are indeed in decline.

Until that changes, there will be more victims left in the shadows of our immoral morality.

Passages

William Shakespeare said life is an “uncertain voyage,” and, as I add more days to my past, it seems the uncertainty grows.

Except for one thing.

timeThroughout this uncertain voyage, we share experiences. Often, we experience the most meaningful ones with good friends. It is in this friendship that life’s uncertainties can be managed and endured.

I have been most fortunate to have a group of friends I have remained close to since we first met in the 8th grade almost fifty years ago. The warranty on most things doesn’t last that long, yet we have.

Ralph Ezovski, Tony Afonso, Cam Nixon, Clyde Haworth, and I have almost five decades of being friends. During those many years, we’ve experienced the many stages of life.

High school with all it’s cusp-of-adulthood explorations of the trappings of life; girlfriends, surreptitious beers, parties, driver’s licenses, and graduation, followed by college and jobs and marriage and children and all the highs and lows of being human.

The one consistency of life is change. Nothing, no matter how permanent it may seem, remains the same.

The passing of one’s parents is one of those shared elements. For some, that experience came way too early. For others, it was spaced over the course of our friendship. Yet these shared experiences, whenever they occur, are the threads that hold the fabric of our lives together and bind us to each other.

One of the other realities of life is that parents of friends influence our lives even when we don’t realize it. How they raise their children, the expectations they set and the character they mold, affects us all. It is one of my great fortunes to have friends raised by kind, intelligent and most of all caring parents.

Firm when necessary, gentle when possible, and caring about us all.

One parent, Clyde’s father, recently passed away. He enjoyed a long and plentiful life enriched by his family and friends. His manner and example having an untold influence on this group of friends.

For that, we are all the better for it,

It is at these moments we reflect on such things. While no one can alter the passages of life, we can take time to appreciate how fortunate we are to experience them.

Friends are not something one collects or counts. Good friends make this uncertain voyage worth the journey.

Justice Tempered by Mercy, Mercy Me

Oh mercy, mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be

Mercy Mercy Me   Marvin Gaye

I know I’ve compromised the lyrics from a song about pollution to one about the justice system, but the lamentation of the words is appropriate.

A recent headline on FOX News blared,

Florida man gets 20 years for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes

A Florida man who stole $600 worth of cigarettes from a convenience store was sentenced Friday to 20 years in state prison, The Pensacola News Journal reported.

An Escambia County jury convicted Robert Spellman, 48, of burglary and grand theft in August. Spellman went into a Circle K in December, and stole 10 cartons of cigarettes from a stock room in the store manager’s office, authorities said.

The State Attorney’s Office said authorities found Spellman nearby, matching a description of the suspect, and had the cigarettes, The News Journal reported.

Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender, The News Journal reported. That led to the lengthy 20-year prison sentence imposed Friday by an Escambia County judge.

The lengthy prison term prompted outrage on social media, with some people accusing the prosecutor of imposing too harsh a sentence for a seemingly petty crime.

“Just such a disproportionate sentence,” wrote one Twitter user. “[W]ho are these cruel judges?!?” Bradford Betz – FOX News – Monday, September 24, 2018

Somehow, people were outraged that a man could be sentenced to twenty years in prison for stealing $600 worth of cigarettes.

Mercy, mercy me.

They apparently skipped the part that said,

“Spellman had 14 felony and 31 misdemeanor convictions prior to the cigarette theft, which qualified him as a habitual felony offender.”

JusticeNow, I will be the first to point out our corrections system is wanting in the rehabilitation department. Our prisons are warehouses and little more. But when an individual, not otherwise suffering from mental illness or incompetence, has been convicted of 45 crimes, including 14 felonies, there is little left for society to do than “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Mr. Spellman could be the poster child for the failed court system. I will bet, if one reviewed the court record, Mr. Spellman was warned by many judges not to return to the courtroom and be of good behavior. To which Mr. Spellman, or most likely his overworked public defender, assured the court he would.

Anything to escape responsibility.

Everyone deserves a second chance, perhaps even a third chance. But 45 chances are bordering on the court being an accomplice to the crimes.

While there are myriad social implications for failing to provide meaningful rehabilitation to criminals, everything from skills training to assist with job opportunities after release, deterrence and punishment for crimes is still a valid societal tool.

Mercy, Mercy me

How much more evidence do we need?

I Say Thou Art a Witch

The recent anonymous accusation against Judge Kavanaugh raises the troubling specter of the Salem Witch Trials. Innocent individuals, accused in a frenzy of ignorance and superstition, were tried, convicted, and put to death by a system willing to accept unreliable and difficult to refute charges.

WitchThe same holds true for the anonymous and ancient accusations of sexual misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh.

Now I would be the last person to defend such behavior. The long troubling history of sexual abuse gives one a powerful reason to find and punish such criminality. But we cannot do that at the cost of sacrificing our long-standing well-established principle of the presumption of innocence.

In cases such as this, the passage of time degrades our ability to investigate, substantiate, or disprove such allegations. Under our system, the presumption of innocence prevails. No matter how horrendous the situation, to do otherwise would eliminate any defense against such allegations.

If we will evaluate the fitness of an individual with a long public career for any position by considering anonymous allegations of conduct from high school no one would pass muster.

No matter your position on the Judge’s qualifications to sit on the bench, hysterically embracing what amounts to be charges of witchcraft and consorting with the devil is setting a dangerous precedent.

Where does one draw the line?

Such behavior, if it happened, rarely ends with high school. That’s where it starts. But absent similar behavior as an adult, it is not something we should consider. This is nothing but character assassination.

It is troubling that the letter was held onto for several months before releasing it to the FBI.  If such things are critical, why not bring it to the FBI long before the hearing begins? It sounds more like strategy than the pursuit of the truth.

The problem in this country is the widening chasm between left and right. The phenomenon is compounded by the data-driven marketing wizardry of social media. If one reads a left-leaning article, one is presented with five more. If one searches for a conservative concept, five more suggestions are offered.

The search for ideas that one agrees with becomes not just a source of information but a source of reinforcement and validation. The tragic demonization of the print media, a once invaluable source of balanced reporting, coupled with the rise of social media without any cross-checking of truth, compounds the problem.

The instantaneous nature of social media without filters and the unwillingness of many to take the time to read anything beyond a Tweet or Facebook post forces the once fact-driven print media to report “news” derived from social media.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of half-truths gaining widespread acceptance. And the algorithms feed you what you want to see, not what you must see.

The polarization of this country, more so than any sitting President, Congress, or Supreme Court Justice, will be our demise.

Left wing and right wing won’t matter if it’s not connected to the body in the middle. If we do not work together to fly we flop uselessly on the ground, unable to soar as America once did.

 

 

An Act of Courage or Complicity?

The New York Times decision to publish an anonymous Op-Ed piece from a “senior White House official” is troubling. Reading the piece reinforced many beliefs I have of the Machiavellian nature of the Presidency. But on contemplation, a more troubling aspect of this action by an administration official bubbled to the surface. If we are to believe the motivation is to put country first over politics, the veil of anonymity casts a shadow of cowardice.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/opinion/trump-white-house-anonymous-resistance.html

It would seem the writer is more concerned with protecting themselves, continuing the professed but inconsistently followed policies of the President, and maintaining Republican control of the White House than protecting the country from the deranged and dangerous President.

The American people, for reasons I still cannot fathom, elected Mr. Trump. He is the President of the United States. That the American people should breathe a sigh relief because unnamed, unknown, and unelected officials are manipulating government policy on our behalf is ludicrous.

This shadow government bears a strong resemblance to the “Deep state” so often blamed by the President for his problems.

533-0221040827-a.pngIf, as the writer points out, consideration has been given to invoking the 25th Amendment then that is the only path provided for removing an incompetent, deranged, or dangerous President.

When faced with a moral or ethical crisis within government it is expected those called to such service rise to the occasion and publicly take a stand. If that comes at the cost of one’s position such is the burden of public service.

The New York Times is not blameless in this. The media faces an unprecedented challenge to its survival. The public trend of seeking only that which confirms beliefs, no matter how foolish or wrongheaded, and disparaging different perspectives is dangerous.  There has rarely been a time in history where a free and respected media is more critical to our survival.

Protecting anonymity is often the only way to obtain critical information. The long-protected secret of Watergate, ‘Deep-throat,” is the classic example. But protecting the anonymity of individuals who offer evidence of a dangerous man at the head of our government and profess to know what is in our best interests is a conspiracy to undermine the very foundation of government.

The anonymous writer invoked the name of John McCain as someone we should use as a model for a government of compromise. I admired John McCain.  Millions of Americans admired John McCain. If McCain were still among us, I believe he’d be the first to demand the veil of anonymity be removed for the good of the country.

 

Do Snapping Turtles Eat Bikers (the pedal kind)?

The first of the annual snapping turtle hatch has begun along the Blackstone River. Each spring we come across many turtles digging holes and laying eggs, but the giant snapping turtles are the ones I like. Gnarly, black/grey, with remarkably long necks, they make their way from the murky river to a spot in the sun, patiently dig the hole, deposit the eggs, then wander back

Without a second thought of how, or if, the eggs survive.

Most do not.  Raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, all have their turn at finding and digging up the nests.  The egg-laying takes place over two weeks. Over the next few days, there are grey/white eggshells everywhere.

It’s a wonder the species survives.

But they do. Beginning in late August or early September, those nests that remained undisturbed erupt with life.

IMG_6622 (004)As evidence of the perseverance of nature, we came upon this little guy trying to cross the bike path. Usually, I defer to nature. It is not for me to decide if this turtle survives or dies within hours of hatching but, I made an exception.

My reason for interceding in the process is simple. The bike path is not a natural barrier to the turtle’s march to the river. The trail is the domain of dangerous, if goofy looking, predators; hordes of Lance Armstrong wannabes zoom up and down the path festooned in the most ridiculous bike racing accouterments. It is a drag queen bike race of the fashionably challenged. I bet the advertisers adorning stretched and strained material never expected that kind of publicity.biker

Fixated on maintaining the balance of their stitch-straining bulk squeezed into the neon fashion nightmare, they’d crush the turtle without a second thought.

Just once I’d like to see them hit a full-grown snapper. There, I’d leave nature to its course.

It would give me great pleasure watching them launched into the air. I know turtles are carnivorous, but it might be too much to hope the saga would end with a bale (the name for a gathering of turtles) devouring the biker.

In my imagination, the trees would be swarmed by a murder of crows (another excellent group name) waiting patiently to clean the bones.

It hasn’t happened yet, but there is hope.

Absent any air-borne bikers to watch, I picked the little guy up and took him to the marshy area along the river, far from the dangerous bike path of death.

I don’t know if he or she will survive the winter, but I hope they do. I hope they grow big and healthy and robust.

I hope they develop a taste for bikers.  That would be a great example of evolutionary progress.

Forty Years

Time does indeed pass in the blink of an eye. It was forty years ago on this date I began my career with the East Providence Police Department.

Patch old
Original patch when I started

Forty years.

It doesn’t seem possible.

To serve on a police department, while challenging, terrifying, hysterically comical, and, too often, heart-breaking, it is also the front row seat to the most amazing show on earth.

Police officers see things most people couldn’t ever imagine. It is a reality few ever experience.

There were moments of profound helplessness and sadness.

A few days after my wife and I discovered she was pregnant, I responded to a medical call. I was the first one there.  As I walked in the house, a hysterical woman handed me a very cold, very dead, four-month-old child.

A SIDS death.

I can still hear the whole family screaming at me to save that child.

No one could, but they expected a cop to try.

There were moments of humor some would find abhorrent, but in the midst of a bloody fatal car accident, or suicide, or homicide, it keeps cops sane.

Without attributing this to any specific department or individual, I heard a story that illustrates cop humor.

It would seem there was this old school detective who, at the end of each day, would light his pipe and smoke at his desk as he did his daily reports (they did that back then in the dark ages.) Part of his routine was to prepare the pipe beforehand so it would be ready when he returned.

Some officers noticed this pattern and wondered what would happen if some of the tobacco was replaced with some excellent quality marijuana from a disposed case.

This was done with great stealth and cunning.

The detective returned, lit the pipe, and within a few moments the squad smelled like a 1970’s college dormitory. We, ah, they found this hysterical. But the best moment came when the Detective Commander, an old school guy, walked out of his office and said,

“Hey (name withheld to protect the innocent) what’s that tobacco you’re smoking?”

“Why?” said the now relaxed and happy for the first time in years detective.

“Cause my kid has incense that smells like that.”

The room, I hear, roared with the laughter of those in on the gag.

We had our moments.

There was great satisfaction in bringing cases to a full conclusion after a lengthy trial and the professional reward of a job well done.

In the twenty years I served on the East Providence Police Department, I worked with a fantastic group of men and women.

I stood shoulder to shoulder with them in those moments of terror.

We took a stand when those who would corrupt and corrode the department for their own political purposes refused to follow the law and forced them to leave when no one thought we could.

I was privileged to work with other local, state, and federal agencies experiencing the true nature and potential of cooperation in seeking justice.

I spent twenty years catching bad guys with some of the most exceptional people I have ever had the privilege to know.

Time has allowed me to reflect on those moments. Yet, no matter how bad some days and nights were, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Pro Bono Publico.

Patch new
The patch today

Fake News: You Get What You Pay For

The problem in America is not fake news; it’s not journalists with an agenda, it’s not secret backroom meetings of newspaper editors crafting the most critical, or the most praiseworthy, headlines about the President.

OrwellWe have met the enemy, and it is ourselves.

The New York Times, Boston Globe, LA Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and all the other media outlets are for-profit businesses. If nobody buys a newspaper or places ads in the paper to reach those who still buy them, they close.

Same with electronic media. If nobody buys ads on Fox or CNN or MSNBC, they cannot survive. The press provides a product to consumers. Demand drives decisions on content. The old print adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” still applies.

Americans want a flashy headline with not too much reading or attention draining effort to think about things.

They want a simple statement of a “truth” and damn the corroboration or facts.

“The President’s economic policy is driving the best economy in decades.”

Excellent, just as I knew he would. Time to switch to ESPN for the critical stuff.

“The President’s economic policy is the worst in decades, driving the debt to record heights.”

Ah, a disaster. Just like I knew it would. Time to Instagram my neighbor’s cat licking wine from a discarded bottle. LOL, ROFL, IMHO

The dumbing down of much of America has been slowly eroding our society for years. Our idea of the perfect news story is one that holds our attention span for milliseconds, reinforces pre-conceived beliefs and then switches to the famous for being famous, or sports, or Antartica’s Got Talent.

Our society is slowly disappearing into a head down, cell-phone screen hypnotized, zombie-like shell of its former self; insulated and cut-off from any intellectually challenging effort to think.

The ideal news channel is a 24-hour drive-by of a car accident. I can get a quick view of things. I don’t want to see any blood or body parts (unless it is of an opposing opinion.) It doesn’t interfere with my commute or plans for the day.  Then lets me carry on with my life.

Much like the time President Bush, Jr. announced Americans should continue going to the malls while American soldiers fought and died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There’s nothing to concern ourselves with here. We got this. Don’t worry about it.

The President doesn’t like criticism. Who does? But if he didn’t understand the Presidency is a lightning rod for criticism, he shouldn’t have sought the job.

And remember this, George Orwell may not have been good with dates about when we would reach this point. But, he was prescient in seeing the danger of the government deciding what is real and what is fake.

It’s not the omnipresent Big Brother we need fear, it is our own surrender to mediocrity in thinking about the realities of this country and our responsibility to stay informed by a broad spectrum of ideas and opinions.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.

                                                                                                            George Orwell

 

 

Memories: Random, Recreated, or Otherwise

Hanging On

While rummaging through what is known in most households as the junk drawer, I came Good Conductacross this medal. It is a Good Conduct medal issued to my father during his service in the United States Marine Corps.

I believe he received it early in his enlistment before he ended up on an all-expense paid cruise up the coast of South Korea. Followed by some beach time. (The Marines call it an amphibious landing.) Other than the North Koreans shooting at them, Inchon was lovely.

He later got a full land tour all the way to the Chosin Reservoir where the Chinese cut the trip short. Along the way, he gathered some other tokens of his time in Korea, three Purple Hearts, Two Bronze Stars, and the Silver Star.

But this one he gave to me and seeing it brought back memories. Funny how it is the only thing I have from when we lived in Pawtucket, RI. But here’s the story.

It was 1960 or 61, just before we moved to Cumberland. My sister Peggy–do not call her Peggy Ann. She hates Peggy Ann so do not call Peggy Ann, Peggy Ann—were playing in a neighbor’s yard. In this yard was a rather large hole being dug for some purpose I never knew. In the bottom of this hole were pipes, rocks, and water.

The hole was several feet deep and surrounded by…nothing.  Different times, those.

Of course, we were intrigued.

Anyway, Peggy An..I mean Peggy got too close and tumbled off the edge. I managed to grab her by the jacket.  I wasn’t strong enough to pull her up.  All I could do was hold on.

Eventually, someone noticed this. Whether it was me yelling or them I don’t know, but the next thing I knew my mother ran over and pulled Peggy up.

When my father came home from his tour of duty with the State Police (they lived in the barracks then, so it was a few days later) my mother filled him in.

For my actions in the line of facing deep, muddy, and dangerously unprotected holes and for hanging on I was awarded the medal.

I wore it to bed.

I wore it to Kindergarten.

I wore it to Church. (Yes, I used to go there, under penalty of parental damnation mostly)

And somehow, after all these years, it’s the one thing I’ve held onto…or it held onto me.

Night Baseball

On a recent walk along the bike path onto Martin Street in Cumberland, I chanced past a field where I experienced my halcyon days of Little League baseball. It was where I believed my professional sports career would flourish.

Halcyon, yes. Flourishing career, not so much.

I believe I set a record that stands to this day in that league. I was hit three times by a pitch at-bat in one game.

The pitcher, a rather sizeable 11-year old who looked like he shaved and, I believe, parked a car somewhere hidden from view since I never saw his parents, had two conflicting abilities. He could throw a fastball, and he lacked any control over the direction of the ball.

Combine that with my sloth-like reflexes, and you have a recipe for disaster.  I wasn’t so much a batter as a backstop.  My ability to move as if in slow motion earned me the nickname “Turtle” from my teammates. The longest ball I ever hit bounced off the fence in center field, and I got thrown out.

At first base.  Slow doesn’t even come close.

I’m not sure which one of those guys gave me the name, no matter how well deserved and accurate as it may be, but I recall Eddie Reilly, John Johnson, Scott Partington, Greg Vartanian, and others hollering it with great vigor in between laughing at me and falling to the ground.

Now that I think about it, I was bullied. I probably have PTSD from all those games, plus the bruises. I should sue.

What sparked this memory was the changes going on in the field.  They are installing lights for night games.

NIGHT GAMES in Little League.  Next thing they’ll have signing bonuses and no-cut contracts.

Our idea of night games were those interminable games when the score was 25 to 23 in the fourth inning, 8:30 on a Saturday night in August, and the darkness creeping in.  At the sound of the ball hitting the bat we all had a fleeting glimpse as the ball disappeared into the night. We pretended to look for it, but we were really trying to figure out where it would not land so as not to get smacked in the head.

Now they have lights.

They probably have pitchers with some control over the ball.

Where’s the fun in that?