October 26, 1998
MEMO TO: William Kristol, Editor
& Publisher, The Weekly Standard
FROM: Eugene H. Methvin
I have returned from my European trip and have had the chance to complete my response to Luskin's September 30 letter. Frankly, its shrillness and manifest slippery handling of key facts produce a self-inflicted wound to his reputation far more damaging, in my opinion, than anything I wrote about him. Luskin's letter runs about 2200 words. This response, which quotes substantial portions of it, runs about 5300. Believe it or not, in the interest of brevity I've omitted some of his more insignificant or transparently fallacious charges. Your readers won't wade through so much wordage about a 3700-word article, so obviously you will have to edit considerably. But I'd be happy to have the entire exchange made public. In any case, as a courtesy you or I should send the full text to Luskin.
Once again, I'm leaving town on Wednesday
the 28th and will return on November 2.
Luskin claims my report of "an illicit
alliance" was "thoroughly investigated and publicly
discredited following six months of investigation. . . and two
days of public testimony before the Crime Subcommittee."
There was no thorough investigation, and
it did not go on for six months. Reacting to my April 1996 Reader's
Digest article, "The Clintons and the Union Boss,"
the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime conducted a hurried
investigation of barely six weeks, using three borrowed
Committee Republicans and Democrats agreed
on "the complete absence of any evidence of any
political inflluence in the Justice Department's decision to settle
its draft RICO complaint."
Specious in the extreme. The sole Republican report language that might support the notion was on page 6: "While the facts gathered to date do not reveal a direct connection" between the agreement and Laborers Union President Arthur Coia's "privileged position" with the White House, "serious concerns exist about the propriety of the White House's extensive dealings with someone who was simultaneously battling federal prosecutors."
The majority carefully qualified: "the
facts gathered to date do not reveal a direct connection."
That is because the subcommittee knew it had failed to subpoena
witnesses who might have revealed a direct connection. As I
reported, the committee had information relayed from a reliable
confidential source inside the Department of Justice (DOJ) that
the racket-busters were told in effect, during the bargaining
over their draft civil RICO suit against LIUNA, "You are
not going to file that lawsuit, so go bargain the best settlement
agreement you can." The Subcommittee had a list of witnesses
who, if compelled to testify under oath, might have verified that
information, and the staff prepared subpoenas for those witnesses.
But Democratic objections prevented the Subcommittee from calling
them. Luskin's claim that the majority report makes no mention
of a "fix" or "confidential information" or
"blocked subpoena precisely because there were none"
would require him to enter the minds of the Committee members,
to know everything that they and their staff knew. In short,
his assertion is a logical absurdity. Mine was reporting, based
on knowledge and multiple reliable sources.
Complains of "Methvin's accusation that
'from the start' I have 'seemed to drag [my] feet" as GEB
Attorney . . ." etc.
So far (early October 1998), Luskin has taken no action against Northern California district council manager Archie Thomas, who seemingly violated federal law by putting a convicted felon-his son Craig-on the payroll of the district training center. In the two cases we reported where union members were assaulted at meetings for questioning expenditures, Luskin has done nothing, so far as he has publicly revealed, to discipline or oust the two national LIUNA vice-presidents and executive board members who were present and failed to discharge their duty under the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act to protect members' rights to speak freely. LIUNA Vice President Armand E. Sabatoni, a former Coia law partner, presided at the Connecticut District Council business managers' meeting where Local 665 Business Manager Ron Nobili was assaulted. Sabatoni made no move to intervene or stop the assault, or to discipline the assailant. Vice President and Executive Board member Vere O. Haynes was present at the Hartford, Conn., Local 230 executive board meeting when Local Vice President Steven Manos challenged excessive spending, was assaulted and bodily thrown out of the room. Again, Haynes did nothing, and so far as anyone knows, Luskin has not moved against him. In a civil RICO suit brought by two Local 230 members and since joined by the victimized vice president Steve Manos (and proceeding without lawyers since the plaintiffs cannot afford them), U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall on September 24 granted plaintiffs' motion to add Luskin and Vere Haynes as defendant-members of the continuing criminal conspiracy alleged to have controlled the local union since 1970. Judge Hall cautioned that her action granting the motion "should not be read . . to reflect the court's view of the merits." But Luskin's inaction speaks louder than words in maintaining the continuing oppressive atmosphere of tyranny within LIUNA; he would seem to have a responsibility to act vigorously, and to publicize his action widely, to dissipate the historic pall of Mob violence and control and to insure union democracy and protect the free speech rights of rank and file union members and officers.
"By any objective measure, the LIUNA
reform process has worked at least as well and just as quickly
as more costly and intrusive forms of government intervention."
The Justice Department's civil RICO action against the Teamsters brought about court oversight within eight months. That settlement was followed within 33 months by a federally supervised free election in which rank and file members voted directly for the first time for their two top national officers and entire executive board of 16 at-large and regional vice presidents.
Within three years the court-appointed federal overseer, Judge Frederick Lacey, removed 138 local and national Teamster officials on charges of corruption or Mafia connections. Others quit before Lacey could fire them.
I would be delighted to have Luskin provide LIUNA members, the Congress and the press with a detailed case-by-case list, naming names, of those LIUNA officials he removed or forced to resign from office, been expelled from the union, by the end of the agreement's original three-year term.
Certainly there are cases where individuals simply quit once investigation commenced, and others who refused to respond to questions or show up for deposition, etc. He could list those as well. He has claimed credit where he is hardly entitled, for booting such officials as Matthew Trupiano, the St. Louis Mafia boss; Dominick Lopreato in Hartford; and "Zip" Liberatore in Cleveland, after the Justice Department had already convicted them and sent them to prison. Let Luskin publish his full list, and let the world evaluate his performance.
It is not impressive to say that all the individuals named in the Justice Department's 1994 draft complaint, except for General President Coia, have left or "agreed in writing to leave the union permanently." The draft was not an inventory of the union's racketeering infrastructure. It was the beginning of the process of discovery, which was aborted by the agreement.
Moreover those "agreed in writing"
cases include some unconscionable buy-outs and "golden parachute"
agreements. In Buffalo, identified Mafia officers and employers
of Local 210 were allowed to take hundreds of thousands of dollars
in the cash value of insurance policies that rightfully should
have gone back into the members' treasury. Others have been allowed
to qualify for pensions to which they were not entitled. These
"side agreements" amounted to unjust enrichment. These
agreements were signed or approved by Luskin.
Luskin credits "the LIUNA reform process"
with cleaning up the union's district council in New York City.
This is simply outrageous. It also illustrates why Luskin's failure to secure Coia's removal 44 months (as of October 1998) after the LIU-DOJ agreement was signed puts both that agreement and Luskin's performance under a cloud. As the Teamster civil RICO litigation firmly established, it is a "smoking gun" for a union officer to do nothing when he has a duty to act to protect the rights and assets of his members. Coia became LIUNA's No. 2 officer in February 1989, and its president in February 1993. In early 1995 Federal Judge Robert W. Sweet nailed him roundly for failure to move against the flagrant MTDC corruption. Judge Sweet recited the record of ten criminal convictions of MTDC officials and their Mafia bosses from March 1987 to December 1992, plus the February 1993 conviction of MTDC President Frank Lupo, whose salary was $391,000 a year. Judge Sweet noted that from December 1993, during Coia's presidency, the Justice Department prosecutor, Allen Taffet (a veteran of the team that won the civil RICO case against the Teamsters) urged Coia and his attorneys to impose a trusteeship "to put an end to systematic corruption in the District Council and the local unions." Throughout the period, Judge Sweet recounted,Coia knew of the criminal convictions and fraud and looting of trust funds, and of Taffet's repeated "inquiries" about whether or Coia would do his duty. In September 1994, Taffet filed a 110-page civil RICO complaint-which Coia read, and again, did nothing, according to Judge Sweet. On November 1 Taffet dropped a legal nuclear bomb in the court: a two-foot high stack of depositions, wiretaps, FBI reports and other evidence demonstrating complete Mafia control and rape of the MTDC. LIUNA capitulated and signed a consent decree giving the government everything it asked for. On November 9, five days after the Justice Department served its draft civil RICO complaint against Coia and the whole Laborers International, Coia proposed a union trusteeship for the MTDC. Judge Sweet jibed: "The record compels the inference that avoidance of his own prosecution was at least one motive for Coia's decision to impose the trusteeship." It was a useless gesture, because the Court-approved consent decree gave the Justice Department complete control.
In an interview with me in August 1995, Coia declared he was "heavily involved in working with" Taffet and the Justice Department and made a decision to do nothing "so no one would say we obstructed their investigation" or "to infringe on their jurisdiction or ability to investigate it appropriately." As Judge Sweet's recitation of the record demonstrates, this was a bold-faced lie. Luskin was present at this interview, and knew it, because he represented the union in Judge Sweet's hearing. The cleanup of the MTDC continues under a court-ordered federal monitorship. Luskin & Company can claim no credit. See Judge Sweet's opinion in MTDC Executive Board and James Lupo v LIUNA, decided April 17, 1995, 884 F Supp 823.
Indeed, if the Justice Department had filed its civil RICO suit, on the public record of Coia's inaction in the face of the wholesale criminality in LIUNA's New York district council as recited by Judge Sweet, a federal judge would not have needed 44 minutes to boot Coia out. So why has not Luskin accomplished the removal in, now, 44 months and still counting?
Worse-for Coia and for Luskin and his "LIUNA reform process," there is the public record of Coia's positive action in carrying out a Buffalo Mafia plan to seize control of a wealthy rebel local in Rochester and its $150 million pension fund. Ron Fino revealed this plan when it was hatched, in the late 1980s, while he was still undercover as an FBI informant. In April 1994 Coia sent 15 LIUNA "heavies" to Rochester, physically seized the local's offices, changed the locks, and threw out its elected officers. Federal Judge Michael A. Telesca declared Coia's action a "clear violation" of the union's own constitution, and ordered an election. At that Coia retreated. This positive action, too, was another "smoking gun," a major count in the DOJ draft complaint.
If Luskin needed more evidence of Coia's malfeasance, Coia gave it to him in sworn testimony on May 19, 1995, barely three months after the LIUNA-DOJ pact was signed. One of Coia's first moves after rising to the presidency in February 1993 was to appoint Chicago vice president John Serpico as the international union's official to hear rank and file members' appeals against their local unions and district councils. Coia admitted in sworn testimony in John Serpico's suit over his ouster that from 1989 on he (Coia) knew Serpico to be a pawn of the Chicago LCN gang. Coia testified that he met Vince Solano, whom he knew to be a Chicago Mafia boss, at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 1989 and Solano told him Serpico was the Chicago Mob's choice to succeed aging Angelo Fosco as LIUNA's General President. Coia's action in appointing Serpico to the crucial LIUNA appellate role, knowing his fealty to the Chicago LCN, alone should have been enough for Luskin to charge and oust Coia.
Luskin cites Ron Fino's testimony before the July 1996 House Crime Subcommittee hearing. He says Fino himself "rejected any suggestion of an 'illicit alliance' to perpetuate mafia influence in LIUNA." He did no such thing. The ranking Democrat, Rep. Charles Shumer, drew from Fino agreement that he believed Luskin and the LIUNA inspector general, former FBI agent Douglas Gow, were men of integrity who would pursue evidence of wrongdoing and kick out Coia "if you gave them information." Then, Shumer asked, "Why do you think they haven't until now?" Fino's answer: "Well, I think that's still under investigation."
It should be. The Fino testimony Luskin
relies on was more than two years ago. Luskin squiggles Fino's
1996 testimony into an endorsement of his 1998 record with this
subtly deceptive sentence: "For reasons fully supported
by the results that we have secured, Fino declared himself a supporter
of the reform process." Today Fino is highly critical.
In an October 6, 1998, interview with me about Luskin's claims,
he said, "I'd say we have a long way to go." He is
impressed with Luskin's actions in Buffalo and Chicago. "But
nothing's been done in New England," he said. He pointed
out (as I did in the Weekly Standard article) that the
limitations imposed by the DOJ-LIU agreement prevent them from
cleaning out the benefit funds, because they lack subpoena power
over nonunion trustees and managers. In Buffalo, for example,
Victor Sansanese, who has been identified as an LCN member, is
still director of the Local 210 joint union-management training
center. The management trustees have lined up behind him. The
new union trustees want to get rid of him and now reportedly are
ready to buy him out. Luskin did not seek control of those funds,
nor has the DOJ.
"In fact, the Inspector General and
the GEB Attorney have full power to subpoena any member . . ."
Here Luskin merely confirms what I wrote: He cannot subpoena nonunion witnesses. But then he gets himself in trouble when he goes on to say the ability to subpoena third parties with no union affiliation "is essentially an empty one" because ". . . third parties can (and, in real life, do) assert their Fifth Amendment privilege not to testify without any risk of sanction by a court monitor or court."
Surely Luskin knows better. As LIUNA's executive
board attorney, presumably representing LIUNA's members, Luskin
could seek a court decree under RICO placing union trust funds
under court trusteeship where there is evidence those funds are
being abused. Indeed, he would seem to be obliged to do so.
Under a broadly scoped federal court monitorship, a federal judge
or his appointee would be able to remove any union benefit fund
trustee, including management members, who flees behind the Fifth
Amendment to avoid answering questions with regard to his discharge
of his fiduciary duties. The judge could construe the witness's
silence against him and order restitution of stolen or misapplied
funds, or "unreasonable" or "imprudent" expenditures.
This is not, as Luskin claims, an empty power. If a nonunion
trustee representing management had Mafia connections (and significant
numbers of LIUNA fund management trustees do, as for example in
Chicago) and took the Fifth Amendment, he would face serious repercussions.
Union trustees would be derelict if they allowed such a nonunion
trustee to remain as a fund overseer; the union trustees breach
their ERISA or Taft-Hartley duties if they let such a Fifth Amendment
trustee continue to sit. And of course one who takes the Fifth
Amendment can be granted either limited testimonial immunity or
transactional immunity and compelled to testify, or jailed for
Claims the elected LIUNA General Executive
Board and Coia are powerless to influence him and the Inspector
General, Douglas Gow, or to reverse or even appeal their decisions.
Luskin dodges the point. Perhaps he will explain how the General Executive Board last summer cut off funding for his and the Inspector General's operations, claiming they cost too much. Though the funding was restored-again, under the shadow of Justice Department takeover-the action was a brazen threat, and moreover, it showed the Board's hostility to cleaning up the union. In the Teamster civil RICO case, given similar opposition by the union's executive board, Judge Edelstein construed that opposition as evidence of the board's hostility to discharging its own fiduciary responsibilities, and issued an order for the supervision of a free election that went beyond anything even the Justice Department and the court's own elections officer sought.
If Luskin is so autonomous, as he claims, he should explain why he deferred to President Coia after Alex Corns complained to the Justice Department of Coia's inaction in the jurisdictional raids on his Hodcarriers Local 36, in violation of the LIUNA constitution. In his August 29, 1997 letter to Corns reporting on the investigation by the outside law firm he hired, Luskin was careful to state that "the General President and the GEB Attorney endorse and adopt" the investigative findings. In that case, Coia certainly did not find out about Luskin's action's "at the same time as every other union member: when they are publicly announced." The outside law firm's report was specifically addressed jointly to Luskin and Coia.
Again, it has escaped my attention if Luskin
has publicized his action or disciplined the responsible union
officials who violated the LIUNA constitution in this retaliation
against an elected local president who dared to run for national
LIUNA vice president. I would be happy to have Luskin enlighten
"Union members have been fully and painstakingly
informed about the progress of reform."
This is crass deceit. Even by any lawyerly stretch of definitions, members have NOT been fully informed. From the start the reports of Luskin and Gow in the union magazine, The Laborer, have been skimpy, opaque, and seeingly deliberately designed to tell as little as possible. Any fair-minded comparison to the reports of Judge Lacey and the other court-appointed officials in The Teamster will show that the LIUNA officials seemed to bend over backwards to keep members in the dark. Luskin is simply incorrect when he says "detailed accounts of every pending charge . . . are published in each issue of the Laborer. By no definition of the word "detailed" is this true. Their reporting has improved slightly in recent issues, for whatever reason-possibly Justice Department complaints and members' complaints.
As for Luskin's claims that the record and all evidence and transcripts of every "completed" disciplinary action is "available for review by every union member," that is a theoretical right only, like the right to free speech enshrined in the Soviet constitution. As explained to me by Luskin and other union officials, a member may inspect the documents, but only by traveling to Washington to union headquarters to visit the office of the Secretary-Treasurer. In September 1995 I did so, and as Luskin states I was allowed to see the records of the few cases completed thus far. It was an unimpressive collection. Since that time the LIUNA public relations shop has even refused to provide me with a copy, for example, of the Independent Hearing Officer's decision in the Chicago District Council case. To Luskin's credit, when I appealed to him he provided a copy, saving me the trouble of obtaining a copy from some cooperative Chicago journalist.
From the start I and other reporters have been denied admission to Luskin's proceedings before the Independent Hearing Officer in Buffalo, Chicago, California, and elsewhere. Even union members are denied admission to these trials of their own elected officials. The contrast with the Teamster civil RICO case is stark. Judge Lacey admitted reporters to his hearings-and I and others have attended them.
For union democracy to come to LIUNA, its
members must have access to timely independent reporting of the
cleanup process, not merely what Luskin and Gow choose to tell
them through the pages of the house magazine. Later release of
transcripts and official decisions is no substitute for seeing
witnesses and defendants testifying live.
"It is not true that 'more than a year
elapsed before [Luskin] prosecuted Fino's Local 210 in Buffalo.
. . the complaint was filed ten months after my appointment as
Luskin is technically correct. He became
the GEB's attorney in November 1994 when Coia hired him to negotiate
over the draft civil RICO complaint with the DOJ. But the formal
office of "GEB Attorney" was not created until the GEB
revised the union constitution in January 1995, and Luskin was
thereafter appointed to fill the office he largely designed to
strengthen LIUNA's bargaining position in the DOJ negotiations.
He filed his complaint against Buffalo Local 210 on December
13, 1995. I erred in that I looked at the date of the LIUNA February
22, 1996 press release announcing the settlement agreement, instead
of the December 13, 1995 press release announcing the filing of
charges. The two-month error is insubstantial, but I regret it.
"Although Methvin contends that we have
'dragged [our] feet,' perhaps the best benchmark for how well
and how quickly we moved is that in the preceding 15 years, the
best and most persistent efforts of federal prosecutors in Buffalo
and Chicago had produced a total of one successful misdemeanor
conviction and one guilty plea of two union shop stewards in Buffalo."
A false comparison. Criminal convictions
require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil RICO action requires
only a preponderance of evidence-meaning the evidence establishes
that "it is more likely than not" that the charge or
claim is valid. Even so, the Justice Department's record of criminal
prosecutions in both Buffalo and Chicago for LIUNA racketeering
is disgraceful. See the 1986 report of the President's Commission
on Organized Crime, The Edge: Organized Crime, Business, and
Labor Unions; and also, Record of Hearings, VI, April
22-24, 1985, Chicago, Illinois. The presidential commission
roundly rebuked the Justice Department for failing to use civil
RICO actions against union-management racketeering precisely because
civil action is a more versatile tool. It is much easier to throw
crooked officials who betray their trust out of office than into
jail, and it should be.
Luskin claims his two-year Chicago investigation
"produced a vastly more detailed and comprehensive portrait
of mob influence over the District Council than was available
to Justice Department investigators in 1994 or set out in the
draft RICO complaint."
How strange this claim is. Most of the
expert witnesses Luskin called to testify in Chicago were former
FBI agents employed by LIUNA Inspector General Douglas Gow, and
most of their testimony dealt with information they obtained from
underworld informants while they were working for the FBI. Note
the clever conjunction in Luskin's protest: "a vastly more
detailed and comprehensive portrait . . . than was available to
Justice Department investigators in 1994 or set out in the draft
RICO complaint." Isn't it obvious that those FBI agents,
later employed by Gow and Luskin in their Chicago proceeding,
had collected "a vastly more detailed and comprehensive portrait
. . . than was . . . set out in the draft RICO complaint"?
And that that information would have been used by Justice Department
prosecutors in any RICO court action to secure a court-appointed
trusteeship over both LIUNA and the Chicago District Council?
And that it would not have taken the Justice Department until
1998 to win that victory? And that Luskin's boast that he has
already got rid of all the individuals named in the civil RICO
complaint, or persuaded them to sign agreements to leave, is hollow
in the face of the greater number of Chicago officials he was
able to remove with the testimony of those former FBI agents?
"Methvin's inflammatory account of Arthur
Coia 'settling into the high life of a Laborers' president . .
. [while] Fino continued his undercover work for the FBI"
is a preposterous fiction. Fino resigned as Business Manager
of Local 210 and cut all ties with LIUNA in February 1988, and
'came out' as a government witness early in 1989. Arthur Coia
did not become General President of LIUNA until February 1993."
My original sentence read, "While Coia lived high . . . Fino continued his undercover work . . ." A Weekly Standard editor changed the sentence to read, "While Coia settled into the high life of a Laborer's president. . ." I failed to notice the change when I saw the proof. I regret that I did not catch the error and change it, but it is immaterial to my point, which is that one LIUNA official enjoyed the high life while the other risked his life to try to clean up the union. Coia became business manager of LIUNA's Rhode Island state council in 1967, special International representative in 1972, manager of the New England and Eastern Canada region in 1987. Fino met him in 1978 and their association grew closer in the 1980s, and all the while, Fino was reporting to the FBI. Fino's sworn DOJ declaration states that in 1986 and 1987 they were meeting "between twenty and twenty-five times per year," and discussed, among other things, their Mafia controllers. But the article as published was nevertheless wrong to state that Fino's undercover period and reporting overlapped with Coia's presidency.
Luskin makes an error of his own when he
says Fino "cut all ties with LIUNA in Feburary 1988."
In a sworn October 20, 1993, declaration for the Justice Department
Fino states he decided "in late 1987" to quit Local
210, formally announced retirement, and ended his association
in February 1988, but Buffalo's LCN boss still required him to
work running the union after the formal retirement.
This is the place to correct another error
that crept into the article in the editing process. The second
error, which Luskin does not mention, occurred after I saw and
approved the proof. A Weekly Standard editor changed my
original sentence, apparently seeking to clear up what he thought
was an ambiguous reference that I thought clear. My sentence
read: "An FBI bug in Patriarca's Providence, R.I., headquarters
overheard him meddling in everything from union elections to decisions
on who got kickbacks on coffee machines." The editor changed
"him" to "Coia," referring to the present
LIUNA president's father. That was wrong. The reference was
to Patriarca. I took care to insure that the dissident Laborers
for a Democratic Union corrected the sentence before posting the
article's text on their Internet webpage.
Methvin's account of Fino's unmasking &
confrontation with Sam Cardinale "is straight out of Methvin's
B-Movie imagination . . ."
My account of Fino's unmasking as a government witness came straight from Fino himself. He has told me that story more than once over ten years, and both memory and contemporaneous notes show he told it consistently as I reported it. He even specified that he was "wired" with a Panasonic recorder inside a pack of king-size cigarets. "And it's on the tape, crystal clear," he said. The best evidence of that particular conversation of course is the tape recording. But I and other reporters were denied access to Luskin's Buffalo hearings. [Moreover, since my April 1996 Reader's Digest article appeared, the Laborer's Union has refused to make available to me even the publicly released decisions of the union's hearing officer.]
Now, Fino tells a different story. When I reviewed Luskin's letter with him on October 6, 1998, he said emphatically he did not say during his Cardinale encounter the quotes I attributed to him. That is because Luskin or his staff have now reviewed with Fino the transcript of the tape recording Fino secretly made that day. Fino now says another mobster, Leonard Falzone later told him to tell Cardinale, in effect, "Lay your fucking hands on me and I'll break 'em off." From an official source I learn that Luskin and his staff wanted Fino to tell the Cardinale confrontation story essentially as I related it when he testified in Buffalo. Apparantly Fino had told a similar version to the FBI around the time of the event, duly recorded in the FBI report of interview (F.D. 302). But when Luskin and his associates transcribed the tape they found the conversation did not occur the way Fino related it to me. Now Luskin uses that transcription to accuse me of writing "B-Movie" fiction-when he knows better!
I drew on my contemporary notes of two interviews with Fino three years apart, in which he told the story essentially the same way. I recorded one of those interviews, transcribed notes on it, and reused the tape, as is my usual practice. I also drew on memory of hearing that story from Fino, related to me or others in my presence. Those notes, not "imagination," were the basis of my report.
There IS a storyteller's license. We all use it-for example, when we get home and tell our spouse how "I really told that traffic cop off." We embellish such stories with what we wish we had said as we think about it afterward instead of what we actually said. It is a license to enthrall and entertain our listeners. Apparantly Fino used that license with me. But it is a license I certainly never use in my reporting-and reporting is what I did in telling Fino's story.
As for Luskin's comment that my account might "provide ammunition for diligent defense attorneys who have unsuccessfully sought for years to undermine his credibility by accusing him of furnishing inconsistent accounts of his actions," I concede that Luskin as a career criminal defense attorney knows how to utilize such tactics better than I, but he also knows how to thwart them. The answer is simply that Fino under oath does not use such license, and Luskin knows it because he apparantly used that 1988 tape to refresh Fino's recollection, and when Fino testified under oath he was careful to be accurate. Investigators and prosecutors are always careful to use FBI memoranda of interviews ("Form 302s"), transcripts of wiretaps and bugs, videotapes even independent reports of other undercover witnesses who may have been present, to make sure their undercover witnesses are as truthful and accurate as humanly possible when they are testifying under oath.
Reporters do not have that advantage. We rely upon what witnesses or participants tell us. Would I believe Ron Fino under oath? Yes. He is a conscientious witness. Indeed, in many conversations over the eleven years I've known him, Fino has been remarkably consistent in recounting his experiences. Would I again rely on a tape recorded interview or notes of an interview with him without warning him I intended to print what he tells me? No. And if I tell him so, I believe Fino will give me as straight and honest account as is humanly possible.
There is no doubt that if Cardinale had
patted Fino down and found that recorder, Fino would have been
killed. He was in the company of Cardinale and his two sons-three
against one. No transcript could have caught whatever expression
and body language Fino used, along with words, to deter Cardinale.
The fact is, Fino objected to being frisked, and Cardinale backed
away, saying, "Out of respect for your father, I won't do
it." Be that as it may, if Luskin wants to set the record
straight, let him publish his transcript of Fino's tape recording
and the record of his Cardinale proceeding.