Rough Justice 

A message is being sent by federal prosecutors, whether they admit it or not.

Shortly after a jury convicted Calvin Williams, prosecutor Tim DiScenza said he and the United States Attorney's Office "don't bring cases to send messages."

Overruled, counselor.

When it comes to political corruption in Memphis, you've got the Post Office, FedEx, and the FCC whupped like a tired Grizzly.

Two and a half hours. That's how long the jury was out before making a decision. Christmas shoppers take longer than that.

You want a message? Remember the scene at the end of the movie Deliverance where the county sheriff, played by author James Dickey, leans into the city slickers' car just before they go home from their horrifying canoe trip? He gives them a smile that is one part nice and nine parts ice. A city slicker and two mountain men are dead or missing. The stories don't add up. The city boys know it and the sheriff knows it. But he doesn't have enough to hold them. So he gives them the look instead.

"Don't ever do nothin' like this again," he says. "Don't come back up here."

The FBI and prosecutors can't catch or try everyone or get to the bottom of everything. It's been 20 months since the first Tennessee Waltz indictments. and John Ford, Kathryn Bowers, and Ward Crutchfield haven't gone to trial yet. Last week, Ford got another reprieve until April 9th. But DiScenza can send a message. And it's not just the convictions of Williams and Roscoe Dixon or the guilty plea by Michael Hooks Sr.

The message is this: We're going to play tapes. We're not going to leave out one "motherf*****," not one "nigger," not one trash-talking insult or embarrassing slur that comes out of the mouth of any defendant or undercover informant. If that makes the jury squirm or your wife divorce you and your family and friends think less of you, too bad.

We're going to mercilessly cross-examine any defendant who takes the stand, as both Dixon and Williams did. We're going to zero in on every alibi and every inconsistency. Calvin Williams thought he could convince a jury he was about to make a $2.5 million score. By the end of the trial, that alibi wasn't worth two cents.

We're going to leave in the name of every public official and public employee whose integrity you impugn, whether we indict them or not. That means you, Lois DeBerry, and you, Cleo Kirk, and you, Walter Bailey, and you, Ron Pope over at Memphis City Schools. Prosecutors didn't accuse them. They didn't have to. The politicians' ex-pals, Williams and Barry Myers, did it for them.

We're going to stick you in a hole where the sun don't shine if you don't cooperate and instead try to bullshit us and the jury. Think we don't mean it? Dixon penned a note to sentencing judge Jon McCalla a few weeks ago, complaining about being in solitary confinement at an overcrowded Louisiana prison and asking to be let out while his case is on appeal. Tell it to the screws, Roscoe. Petition denied.

We're going to bring back Tim Willis, the human tape recorder, and put him on the stand as many times as we have to. Go ahead and beat him up all you want over his criminal record and his nice salary from the FBI. Because guess what? Jurors believe the guy. And he's getting even more persuasive and less smug the more he does it.

So it's all about rough justice and snitches and innuendo and words that make you cringe and hidden cameras and different punishments for similar crimes and Dixon in the hole and Willis in a fancy suit and some other stuff that isn't in the Bill of Rights.

Don't ever do nothin' like this again. Don't come back up here.

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