And his words purposely trailed off…
I walked back to the table, remained standing, and looked “00” in the eyes. “Anthony, if I’d have only had you in my life when you were the age of those young boys you saw me with at Glenn Hines, well, I can tell you this much…I wouldn’t have let you go astray.”
“I know,” he softly replied. “I know that.”
“Anth, I wish things had been been different as well. There’s been a lot of blood spilled in Newburgh recently; so much of it senseless and needless. And much, if not ALL of it, attributed to young men like you who simply refuse to value life.”
“You ain’t lived my life, Coach. So you don’t know.”
“No,” I admitted, “no, I have not lived your life. But maybe where I grew up as a minority in Decatur, Georgia, on the east side of Atlanta, in a black neighborhood, and with an economic situation that saw my family eligible for free lunches at my elementary school wasn’t so different.”
“Ain’t even the same,” he sniffed. You had options. Opportunities.”
“So did you,” I quickly countered.
“Nah, not the same,” he declared. I’m guessing you had two parents at home. I’m assuming you had guidance.”
“Yes, that’s fair. I did.”
“00” leaned back in his chair and solemnly folded his hands in his lap. “Well, that makes all the difference. No one chased after me and showed me what could be. I didn’t sense the opportunities.”
“We all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” I allowed. My parents were swift to make sure I knew what needed to be done to get to where I wanted to be. You saw the BLOODS, a street gang, as your penultimate station in life. Anth, you were capable of so much more.”
“So judge me on what I knew back when I had to make choices, Coach, or, um, FBI Special Agent. Judge me on that. Don’t judge me the way you and others like you always been judging me. You know my history and my past. Maybe if you stop and think about what I saw as my options, what was available, you’d see me differently now than you do.”
“Anthony, I think you should carefully reconsider your decision not to cooperate. I’m going to send some detectives and some FBI Agents soon in to talk to you. Think about what you want to happen. You’re not going home tonight, and quite possibly, forever, if you elect to honor the code and ‘hold down the ‘hood.’. Think about that.”
“00” paused a few measured beats before he spoke, and then he carefully began:
“You already have my answer on that. But I want you to think about something too. Think about how lucky you are, about them parents, and about how you got to be part of something bigger than yourself too. Think about all that as you judge me.”
“I know,” I softly murmured, “as Tupac said, ‘Only God can judge you now.’ Except there’ll be a judge and a jury of your peers, and Anth, I gotta tell you, we’re gonna bring the full weight of the federal legal system down upon your head. We have to break this cycle of violence in Newburgh. And dismantling your gang is the first step.”
“Cut the head off the snake…” he perfectly stated. “Yeah, I know how the saying goes. Just remember that whether I’m out there bangin’ or not, someone else will. Snatch me up and someone else will take my place. You understand that, right, Coach?”
“I do. But I can’t think about that. I have to deal with the ‘right now,’ Anthony.”
He stared down at the table.
I turned back towards the door. I glanced back and saw he put his head down on the desk and cradled his face in his hands.
“Anthony, I wish I’d had you on my Boys & Girls Club team ten years ago. But we’re here. And it’s too late for that.”
He lifted his head slowly of the table and locked eyes with me.
“Agent Gagliano, never forget that the choices we make as kids are sometimes predetermined for us. And when you go home tonight, thank God you weren’t presented the exact same choices I had back when I was younger.”
I nodded. “Good luck, Anth. The case folks will take it from here. I have to go home. But I won’t forget that there’s another ‘Anthony Boykin’ out there on the street right now. He’s facing those same choices you had. And I hope I’ll be there to make sure he chooses the right way.”
“You can’t save ’em all, Coach.” And then he winked again. And this time I was certain it wasn’t a speck of dust in his eye.
“Anthony, I’m not trying to save them all. My passion is the attempt to save the little ones who call me ”Coach.'”
“Yeah, I got you,” he said. “You cool, Coach. Good luck with what you gotta do.”
As the door closed behind me with a click, I nodded to Stevie and he started towards the door, prepared to begin the final effort to debrief “00.”
It would be three years and some eight months later before I laid eyes on “00” again in person.
Seated inside the federal courthouse in White Plains, New York, following the four week jury trial, I listened intently as U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon announced that Anthony Boykin had been found guilty of racketeering, murder, attempted murder, narcotics conspiracy, and gun charges. It was June of 2013. As I’d predicted, “00” had been held over on the gun charges from his October of 2009 arrest on the streets of Newburgh. And now he’d been convicted on the impending federal charges I’d warned him about on the night of his arrest.
The notorious leader of Newburgh’s Bounty Hunter BLOODS would likely never see the outside of a prison cell again.
Times Herald-Record reporter Doyle Murphy, who had covered the Newburgh gang cases from their beginnings, recorded then U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement following the verdict:
“The Bloods in Newburgh — including Anthony Boykin, the gang’s leader, and Justin Simmons, a soldier — have laid siege to that city, making victims not only out of those who they shot, stabbed and killed, but also out of every Newburgh resident who has had to live with the terror wrought by the Bloods’ legacy of drugs and violence.”
I didn’t remain in the courtroom long enough to witness “00” being led away by the U.S. Marshals. I’d abruptly exited, not wanting to engage in the self-congratulatory high-fives and hugs that typically follow a successful conclusion to the long, arduous process of building a solid case against a nefarious criminal. I’d been reassigned by the FBI during the summer of 2012, a victim of the Bureau policy that forced transfer of street supervisors to headquarters posts after a certain period of time in command. I had chosen to instead take an overseas post in Mexico City, Mexico as the Deputy Legal Attache assigned to the U.S. Embassy there. I was currently enrolled in language training with the Department of State in Arlington, Virginia.
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