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Naked Came The Prosecutor

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Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson. the dading of the media and leading Young Republican protege, has parlayed the "evils" of welfare, parole, drunk-driving, drugs and "obscenity" into the most saleable politica! package the suburban county has ever seen. While Patterson gets great press for liis attacks on people wlio are easily prosecuied and often can't afford the cost of I trial lawyer. the SUN'ï sources indicate that the charismatic youne der may be looking the other way on I tougher challenues like oigunied ciinie and political corruption in his jurisdiction. Pátterson, 36, wlio first gairted a following in 1971 by defending Irene McCabe's antibusing National Action Group, became Prosecutor shortly afterward and immediately launched a series of sensational prosecutions tailored to the fears of his moneyed constituency. When lie rounds up anotlier group of welfare cheaters or seizes a film he considers "obscene," he does so with a flair and an air of "proeressive" out rage - and he tnakes sm e the media are watching. "El Brooks" luis mod looks. a good speaking voice, and lots of charm, plus ampie politica] ambition. Whcn l'rcc Press reporter asked him if he liad any "vices" ofhis own, he replied, "I smnetimes chew a wlu)le package of Certs at one sitting." Next question: Would you like to be Presiden! day' Answer: "Doesn't overy mother's son?" It's said, though. that the state Attorney General's office would satisfy him temporarily. Unlortunately tor Biooks. "Patterson's worst enemy may be himself," according to Robert Rothner, who used to be his assistant prosecutor. "lie has enjoyed a meteonc rise, like Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon. Like lüs predecessors. he has the same sense of overkill. One last thing, one last step will do him in. He has to do this - it's part of his character inakeup." Wliere is L. Brooks Patterson coming from? "A prosecutor's job is to obtain convictions against lawbreakers," says Morely Winograd. ('liaimian of the state Democratie Party. "Patterson is not pursuing anybody but newspaper reporters." The Spinai Column, the only Oakland County paper to eonsistently oppose Patterson, accused him of "running the Prosecutor's office from the pages of the newspapers." U's said that Brooks knows by heart the deadlines of every paper, radio station, and televisión station that covers Oakland county. "Patterson isa master at producing favorable publicity," concedes Elizabeth Howe, Chairwoman of the Oakland County Democratie Party. "He has a great ability to take an issue and an announcement and present it in a ready-for-news format. "He conveys the mpression ' ihat lic is mteiested m flghting . crime, nd he defines whal it and isn'i crime." Patterson uses his definitions to the fullesi advantage. Ik' torces the ncws media u covei lus issues in the way he presents them. And hc punishes thosè wlui buck hira by cutting off ilion Information. An Ouklaihl Press reporter conv ments : We don t always liko Patterson, ve I ni ve lo write about him. He's a stai in iliis pa 1 1 ui town, and the peopte demand informa(ion sbout liim." A f ormei Spinal Column repocUi barred trom a senes ot' press conferences because hei paper wrote al) editorial criticizing the prosecutor'i crusade against Last Tinga in Paris, On one issue, however, Patterson becomes inaccessible to all corners. While reporters, politicians and law ers can cite his investigations into welfare fraud, graphic movies and parole, no one can pin down Patterson's stand on organied crime, much less cite a case he has prosecuted in that regard. Patterson remained sileni thiouglnmi the investigation into the death ofHarvey Leach, the chairman of the Joshua Doore Furniture Company, who w;is found dead in the trunk of a Cadillac parked at the Congress building in Southnelcr, Leach nevei arnved ai a scheduled meeting with I eonard Schuit in Franklin. Schuit w;is ;m attomey foi the furniture linn and tor the Teamsters pension fuitd. Pattoison remained lent when the U.S. Attorney's office invcstigated Scluilt's home lor possible links lo leach's murdei. He mude only passing referen cí id the disappearartce oí tormer Teamsier leader James K. llolïa. who had an unl'oitunate dimier dalo witli Schuit. Anthony Giacaione, and Anthony Provenano at the Machus Red Fox. a known meeting ground in Bloomfield Township foi syndieate types. Patterson was more angry át Senaíoi Henry Jackson's involvement in tlie case ihan concerned about solving the mystery. Then there's fhe Southfield lawn mower repair shop of Guido laconelli. alleged by the prosecution in the lOth Preeinct C'onspiracy trial (sec page 7) to be ihe cocaine eonnection lur one of Detroit 's biggest heroin pushen. 'The major criminal element has moved into this county and little has been done about it," says Oakland County Commissioner Lawrence Pernick. Asked why Patterson gave no ptiblicity to the problem, Pernick saysr'There are no easy victories in prosecuting organized crime. Headlines are sparse and hard-earned. Most people just don't see organized crime. Cotttinued on exige 4 (25c) Cantinued front the cover 'They aren't sensitivo until it's too hile their ehildren are hooked on hard drugs, their busmesses are pushed out, théir homes are robbed by professional thicves (hen the damage is done. "The criminal element is taking over legitímate businesses, eating at the heurt of our society." Peinick says. "Legitímate businessmen have no ability to compete not against the massive funds the syndicale has at its disposa!. " According to Pernick, Patterson has made two requests to the C'ommissioners for matching funds t gain a SI, 500,000 grant through the I aw Enfoi cement Assistance Admmistration. Ihe granis were tumed down at .1 state level, but Patterson could still have access to the SIOü.000 of matching county inoney. He has nut used this money to date. Asked if Patterson could launch a citien's grand jury on SI00.000, Vincent Piersante, director of the State Attomey (ie'neral's Organized Crime División, replied, "Yes, indeed." The jury could be empaneled for a six month stretch, as in Wayne Cuunty, and issue subpoenas to persons involved with oreanized crime. Jhe jury woulJ moot two days a month at a cosí of S 1 0 a day . The onlv additional expense wou Id he office space ai clerical work. The LEA A grant of SI, 500.000 would uoume ratterson's exijting $1,431.000 budget. Oakland ('ounty Sheriff A Johannes Spieen vetoed the initial funding requcst because the syndicatc taste torco woukl have been arranged long politica] lines. Without a citizens' grand jury, organized crime can flourish, Piersante says.The state task forcé cannoi investígate without locally-issued subpoetias Piersante said this very problem styrnied investigation rnto Lt. Governor James Dammon's alleged Troy land use scandal invotving members of tlie Lincoln Trust Company. Tlie Attorney General's office could ooi obtain subpoenas to fora members of tlie Trust Company to talk. Patterson has done nnthing with the list of Oakland County organized crime figures provided him by Piersante. Piernte notes that organized crime has mówd into land sales. Oakland County's biggest asset is unused land. It offers a legitímate business with reasonable profits. Piersante says ihat it is not easy to label huw the nioney is moving into legitímalo _ channels. It could-be through the Teamster Pension Fund, or through money gained by the bookmaking services (norsesand othei sports). Without subpociia powers, no qne may know, Piersante, who is considered one ol the tpughes) eops iu the siate of Michigan, says (lis office has one oí the smallest budgets because of resistance built intogovernment. lic viys rel uct anee to establishing an organized crime task force at a county level Isembedded in politics, ■""riiose who control the purse strings ask 'Are yon going (o investígate me"' and thcy don't allocate the f'unds."' They do, however, allocate a S45. 000 budget, plus the services of an attorney, two investigators and a secretary, to pólice Oakland County 's welfare recipients. Maggie Tyson, chairperson of the Frierais of the umi ÜJJQ LWiJ JüyJ Oakland County Welfare CoaBtion, said Patterson could bettei spend ihat money cracking down on severe crimes. "Instead he harasses welfare motheis who are only trying to foed theii children," Tyson says, The average monihly Aid to Dependeni fhüdren granl is$228.30or S2."5O a year. The máximum allowable granl for a family of four - wliich would cover rent. heat, liglits. utüii I, clothing and personal need 7C.8() a month. ir 54,567.60 a year. The l'.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says a famfly t tour needs S 10,500 to live a moderate hut adequate existence. Patterson has prosecuted 200 welfare recipients tor earninga little extra money. Tyson suia' most of llie recipients are loo poor to hire a lawyei to delend ihemseives. Patterson pounces with equal vigor on prison parolees. stating "We're being raped. robbed.and murdered by the same people over and over again." Zolton Fetency, Professor ofCrimínoiogy ai Michigan State Universitv, disputes Patterson on ihis issue. ■'There is absohitely po evidence that parolóos commit the same crimes. In fact, convicted m'urderers seldom, if ever, commit tlic samo crime again. "There is no question, though, that ; " the issue has great appea!. People are uptight abiut crime and violence. He luis a ready audience. "Patterson lias the power to reverse the tide oi sociológica] research by brandishing community fears. His efforU are tieglibite, at best." Ferency feels the community wmild do mure to reduce crime by providing more anremties to prisoners, such as conjugal visits, work releases, and half-way liouses, whicli would oase a parolee's re-ent ranee into society. Ferency doubts Paticrson will achieve wide ut tice by crusading on parole Form. He notes tliat the legislation aWhored lv Patterson to block early release of pardees has gone nowhere próof that his idea has no basis tu reality. Ferency abo notes that tlic populist base Patterson stands on ís similar to ofGeorge Wallace.and tlms too sniall to gain more than 20 per cení of the statewide vote. Rothner, the attomey who first handled the Studio North obscenity case, feels the film may canse Patterson's fall from the ProsecUting Attorney's office. "Pattersoñ said the community supported him, h wantod the theatre to stop showing the film; vet a jury ot' Ferndale citlzens couid not ñnd Öie film obscene," Edftorializing on the obscenity issue, the Spirial Colutnn said. "Liberty is severelv eroded when any man eleets himself as judge ovei wlui the public can and cannot see. Patterson is working from his. nol courl uidelines." Dorothy Macintosh, heaU óf the lenuiale Republicans Club, led a group of .0 picketers past the home ni attorney Thomas d. Plunkett, who successfuüy won a hung jury in the obscenity trial. Betty Howe comments, "It's no co-incidence tlie pickets were whipped up by the party to sup port l'attcrsun. The iiext thing they II use is violence. It's a deplorable tion. I just wondci wllo suggested it." Howe would not pul il pasi il Brooks, i'irst remerobering his cpntinued on pctge V J7 awiimicil firom page 5 lust remembering his antr-fouang days. "He parlayed lilis cause into a saleable product. violence induded. Ferndale can tl glit its own battle, not by being used as a ttepping stone tor Brooks' politica) caieer." Patterson told the SUN tliat he wants to prosecute all crimes, regardless of ho small. For examplc: Ho lïied si high school volunteeis from Bloomfield Mills and Parmington because none would admit to stcaliiiga maiked dollai Irom a sociotary's purse. He threatened to take tho Milford Board of Educatiofi to court because it allowed the high school to havo a smoking lounge. He personally contiscated a pack ot eigarettes trom an underaged youth he observed buying them from a vending machine. He has urged municipal and county officials to close pinball arcades, pool rooms, and bar rock concerts in the name of cont tolling drug traffic. When the SUN's Ralph Vartabedian asked him [f that meant high schools should be closed because drugs are sometimos trafficked the re, Pattorson replied, "It wouldn't be a bad idea, somotimes." He implemented a drunk driver's educaiion program which offenders were foreed to take befóte going to trial. .1 direct violation of citizens' tight to trial, These crimes máy be "small", but Pattorson told Detroit Magazine that "it won't always be that way." "One of the greatest frustrations of this job is seeing things I know are wrong but can't correct," Patterson says. "That's because l'm just a crummy little county prosecutor." Brooks, Kowever, has high hopes of rising above his present humble posilion to the status ot a now, "hipper," media-wise George Wallace, Joe McC'arthy 01 Riqhard Nixon, in the "silent inajority," so-called populist" tradition. In fact, he hasn't stopped running for office anee the day lie rk office. It niay be that Kis tendency to pounoe on nowsworthy issues liko .1 thousand poond canary will be lus downfall, as il was Mc 'ai thy's and Nixon 's. lorall the fanfare, II Brooks' grandstanding hasn'i heen producing results on 1 par with his publicity. ll mm ma be making him a hol news conv modity rjghl now, bul his chronic overreaching could well get in the w.iy of lus grandioce plans. In the meantime, people are beginning to wondei why the Vieeman Cometri wheiever there are easy, politically handy prosecutions to be had, but stayeth away fiom toughei customers, like organized crime. The l'rosecutor. according to Patterson, is supposed to investígate all criminal acts. Could it be ihat Brooks1 spectacular roundups of welfare cheaters and "obscene" films might distrae) public attention frorn highef-tevd goings-on in Oakland C'ounty'.' And that o piek up the $100,000 offered foi an invostigation into organized crime in Oakland Courrty, along with Piersante's list ot local syndicate figures, wouKI be politicallj lessadvanlageous than issuing tirades against parolees and pinbali arcades? Vftei all. I . Brooks Pattérson doesn'l wani to be a "crummy Bttle prosecutor" ioiever. Mannen McDonald has watched I Brooks Pattérson woo the presses front a reporta 's tcsA the Daily Tribune ín Rn val Oak. I lic paper, which endörsed Bstterson in his election campaign, wasn 't interesled in exploring ■ siorv helmut Mr. Patterson's "Mr. Clean" image. With the help of freelance writer Ralph Vartabediáh, the speni three weeks investigating the prosecutor to compile iliis account.