Naked Came the Prosecutor
Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson, the darling of the media and leading Young Republican protégé , has parlayed the “evils” of welfare, parole, drunk-driving, drugs and “obscenity” into the most saleable [sic] political package the suburban county has ever seen.
While Patterson gets great press for his attacks on people who are easily prosecuted and often can't afford the cost of a trial lawyer, the SUN's sources indicate the charismatic young crusader may be looking the other way on tougher challenges – like organized crime and political corruption in his jurisdiction.
Patterson, 36, who first gained a following in 1971 by defending Irene McCabe's anti-busing National Action Group, became Prosecutor shortly afterward and immediately launched a series of sensational prosecutions tailored to the fears of his moneyed constituency. When he rounds up another group of welfare cheaters or seizes a film he considers “obscene,” he does so with a flair and an air of “progressive” outrage – and he makes sure the media are watching.
“El Brooks” has mod looks, a good speaking voice, and lots of charm, plus ample political ambition. When a Free Press reporter asked him if he had any “vices” of his own, he replied, “I sometimes chew a whole package of Certs at one sitting.” Next question: Would you like to be President someday? Answer: “Doesn't every mother's son?” It's said, though, that the state Attorney General's office would satisfy him temporarily.
Unfortunately for Brooks, “Patterson's worst enemy may be himself,” according to Robert Rothner, who used to be his assistant prosecutor. “He has enjoyed a meteoric rise, like Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon. Like his 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 makeup.”
Where is L. Brooks Patterson coming from? “A prosecutor's job is to obtain convictions against lawbreakers,” says Morely Winograd, Chairman of the state Democratic Party. “Patterson is not pursuing anybody but newspaper reporters.” The Spinal Column, the only Oakland County paper to consistently oppose Patterson, accused him of “running the Prosecutor's office from the pages of the newspapers.” It's said that Brooks knows by heart the deadlines of every paper, radio station, and television station that covers Oakland county.
“Patterson is a master at producing favorable publicity,” concedes Elizabeth Howe, Chairwoman of the Oakland County Democratic 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 impression that he is interested in fighting crime. And he defines what is and isn't crime.”
Patterson uses his definitions to the fullest advantage. He forces the news media to cover his issues in the way he presents them. And he punishes those who buck him by cutting off their information. An Oakland Press reporter comments: “We don't always like Patterson, but we have to write about him. He's a star in this part of town, and the people demand information about him.” A former Spinal Column reporter was barred from a series of press conferences because her paper wrote an editorial criticizing the prosecutor's crusade against Last Tango in Paris.
On one issue, however, Patterson becomes inaccessible to all comers. While reporters, politicians and lawyers can cite his investigations into welfare fraud, pornographic movies and parole, no one can pin down Patterson's stand on organized crime, much less cite a case he has prosecuted in that regard.
Patterson remained silent throughout the investigation into the death of Harvey Leach, the chairman of the Joshua Doore Furniture Company, who was found dead in the trunk of a Cadillac parked at the Congress building in Southfield. Leach never arrived at a scheduled meeting with Leonard Schultz in Franklin. Schultz was an attorney for the furniture firm and for the Teamsters pension fund.
Patterson remained silent when the U.S. Attorney's office investigated Schultz's home for possible links to Leach's murder. He made only passing reference to the disappearance of former Teamster leader James R. Hoffa, who has an unfortunate dinner date with Schultz, Anthony Giacalone, and Anthony Provenzano at the Machus Red Fox, a known meeting ground in Bloomfield Township for syndicate types.
Patterson was more angry at Senator Henry Jackson's involvement in the case than concerned about solving the mystery.
Then there's the Southfield lawn mower repair shop of Guido Iaconelli, alleged by the prosecution in the 10th Precinct Conspiracy trial (see page 7) to be the cocaine connection for one of Detroit's biggest heroin pushers.
“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 publicity to the problem, Pernick says: “There are no easy victories in prosecuting organized crime. Headlines are sparse and hard-earned. Most people just don't see organized crime.
Continued on page 4
[Side Bar Text:]
Detroit declares war on abandoned HUD houses. [p. 3]
Ron Milner's “Season's Reasons” opens at the new Langston Hughes Theatre. [p. 11]
Who's behind them? This weekend's Teach-In in Ann Arbor shows coverups collapsing. [p. 6]
Black music is out at the Big X following the latest shakeup. [p. 13]
Pushers are happy in Ann Arbor, but junkies are in trouble. Why? [p. 8]