CLEVELAND, OH – After this writer took office as East Cleveland’s mayor on January 1, 2006, I ordered the late Patricia Lane to disband “the Jump Out Boys” plain clothes police unit Ralph Spotts led as a police unit. I’d seen the civil rights violating shit they’d done to the people they stopped while I was campaiging for the job. I wanted no part of that type of fucked up shit around the city’s 96 percent Black resident population.
Every cop was ordered to wear a uniform and drive “marked” instead of “unmarked” vehicles. Fuck all that secret undercover bullshit. I wanted police in the open where the taxpayers could see them.
David Hicks was not a detective when Sandra Varney’s body was discovered behind the Town Home Motel in October 6, 2007. He was a uniformed patrol officer who’d been reassigned from the Jump Out Boys a year earlier to a shift and a marked public safety vehicle.
I led a team of building employees and public safety workers to the motel for an inspection after Varney’s body was found outside it with her head wrapped in a bag and her hands bound. My former deputy safety director, Kenneth Adams, reminded me that the motel’s owner said in front of the city’s building and safety employees that Hicks had been given a complimentary room the night of the murder for an undercover assignment.
The problem with what he’d told us was that Hicks had not been given an undercover case to investigate as a “patrol officer.” Detectives, not patrol officers, investigate crimes and city officials have no legal authority to ask a motel owner for a free room. If surveillance was needed a purchase request would have been generated and I would have signed to pay the motel operator for the room. The undercover story Hicks allegedly gave the motel operator was a lie. At the time nothing connected Hicks to the crime and we didn’t solve it.
Sometime in 2009 “the streets” started connecting Hicks to Varney’s murder. A “white girl” in a predominantly black city turning tricks on the streets is known by the streets. The streets knew Varney and her black East Cleveland friends were still bothered by her death. So was I as mayor and not because she was white. I was sick of reading the daily brevities police gave me about the violence; and I wanted to do something to stop it. I always saw better in “our people” instead of the worst in them and that was my problem with Spotts. I saw more good in him than the good that was actually in him as a human being.
By 2009 I’d made the mistake of appointing Spotts to lead the police department. An FBI agent thought I’d kept Lane because I’d been “turned.” That wasn’t it. Gary Norton and council refused to pass legislation that would let me appoint a police chief with a law and civil rights background from outside the corrupt police department to manage and supervise the corruption out of it.
Police departments are required by law to operate under a constitutionally-compliant framework. It’s a criminal offense of “dereliction of duty” when police officers fail to “obey all local, state and federal criminal laws” under 737.11 of the Ohio Revised Code. It’s the federal criminal offense of conspiracy against rights pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 242 when mayors fail to prosecute them for disobeying criminal laws under the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Control Act they haven’t read but must enforce. Mayors commit the federal offense of “misprision of felony” and violate 18 U.S.C. 4 if as law enforcement officers they don’t enforce laws and report crimes anyone commits; including the employees they manage.
Spotts had a degree in “gym” and played semi-pro baseball after Shaw High School. He was a jock. Not an intellectual. He also hadn’t mastered all of the local, state and federal criminal laws police officers have a duty to obey after a near 20 year career in public safety. Neither did the cops I assigned him to supervise.
Training police to know none of the criminal laws they’re mandated to obey is the single-most important reason why a culture of disobedience to laws and concealing their unlawful acts is embedded in police culture. A law enforcement officer who’s mastered all of the criminal laws they’re required to obey and enforce instinctively guides themselves away from violating them.
By 2009 I didn’t trust Spotts and had reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice to identify the steps for requesting an FBI investigation of the cops. Before the primary election in September I’d held a town hall meeting that included NAACP executive director Stanley Miller. He heard Spotts and concluded he was a “rogue cop.” Miller offered the NAACP’s support for the federal investigation I wanted.
After Spotts criminally helped Norton distribute drag pictures stolen from my personal computer by Pitassio Taylor to win the September 29, 2009 mayoral primary election, sometime in December before I left office news reporter Carl Monday identified a woman who connected to Hicks and Varney. It was the same allegations I’d heard earlier and I knew my time was running out to do something about it from the inside.
I called Spotts to my office and discussed Monday’s report and the woman’s allegation. He told me “Oh. That’s Carl Monday.” Yeah. But I was investigative journalist just like Carl and I knew him. I didn’t share Spotts’ opinion so I told him to call FBI Special Agent in Charge Frank Figgliuzzi to set up a meeting.
Spotts tried to talk me out of it by saying Hicks didn’t know Varney; and that he could not have possibly killed her. He came back to my office with the message that Figgliuzzi didn’t want to meet.
I told him to sit down. I knew the FBI’s number after interacting for years with former Special Agent Robert Hawk as the agency’s spokesman during my time at the Cleveland Press as a police beat reporter. 216-522-1400.
I asked for Figgliuzzi and he greeted me. I told him about Hicks and the information Monday shared in his report; and that it coincided with what I’d been hearing. When I asked him why he’d told my chief he didn’t want to meet he said Spotts – that lying mutha fucka – didn’t call him. Figgliuzzi gave me a time and I told Spotts he’d better not miss the fucking meeting.
We arrived at FBI headquarters and Figgliuzzi had two other agents with him for the interview. One of them I’d worked with on the Emmanuel Onunwor and Nate Gray investigation. Spotts knew he’d face criminal charges if he lied to FBI agents so I sat next to Frank and watched the two question him.
Out of Spotts’ mouth came the following stunning admission after he’d lied to me that Hicks didn’t know Varney. He told Figgliuzzi and the other two agents that she was Hicks’ informant. Again, patrol officers do not have “informants” and there are tight legal controls on how government officials can interact with citizens in this way. His answers to the FBI agents revealed that Spotts and Hicks had violated them all.
Spotts was specifically asked about the CI File or “Confidential Informant’s File.” He confessed that none of the citizens police were forcing or using to inform for them were identified in official records and paid through a legal process with authorized public funds . The senior FBI agent specifically asked Spotts if Varney was “Hicks’ out of pocket” information and he said “yes.” I asked Figgliuzzi if it was legal and he said “no.”
That admission added support for claims that cops were taking drugs and money from citizens trafficking in illegal drugs; and using it to pay off snitches. It also connected Hicks to Varney after that piece of shit Spotts lied to me that he didn’t even know her.
I ordered Spotts to immediately remove Hicks from the detective bureau and got another song and dance from this vicious criminal even after his stunning confession to three FBI agents. Hicks, he said, was working on cases like Art McKoy’s Superfly drug bust. I didn’t give a shit that cowardly-fool McKoy had helped Norton when he took pictures he got from that douche bag Michael Smedley to distribute to the city’s ministers and garbage like Tom Meyer. I’d close McKoy’s barbershop all over again under the same circumstances. Drugs were sold out of this ex-heroin addict’s barbershop and crime dropped almost to nothing when I shut him down. Fuck him. The property owners around him who lived in the city were happy his Cleveland Heights-azz was gone.
What bothered me was that Spotts had lied to me to cover for Hicks and told the truth to the FBI. All of Hicks’ so-called “investigations” had to be reviewed by the law department whether I was mayor or not. The “city” should be investigating Hicks for “murder” and not allowing him to spend another day in the detective bureau.
I wanted Hicks away from policing, but I only had about a week or so in office. Spotts went on vacation and employees like him, deputy law director Ronald Riley, Collette Clinkscales, Scott Gardner and others were already secretly following Norton’s orders as he criminally-obstructed the office of mayor while I was still duly-elected.
I had invited Norton for an official and lengthy up-close transition after the election. He ignorantly chose the backdoor route and opted to meet with me once after I’d met with the FBI.
At our one 90 minute meeting this ignorant fool asked if he could have more meetings on my time when I left office; and after he’d wasted the last two post-campaign months because he’d told people he thought I’d fuck him up for releasing my drag pictures to the media the day my father died. I told him “no.”
Norton admitted that he’d made a mistake in talking to the lower-ranked employees instead of the official who’d managed them; and who knew more than all of them “combined” about the governance of the city. That wasn’t my problem. It would be East Cleveland’s.
I briefed Norton on the Hicks situation and the meeting with Figgliuzzi. All the lies Spotts had shared with me were shared with Norton; as well as my orders for Hicks to be removed from the detective bureau and investigated for the homicide whether the FBI did or not. All I saw were legal liabilities from the claims I could see being filed against the city if Hicks continued to interact with citizens as a law enforcement officer.
Norton didn’t care. I would later come to learn that he Spotts, Hicks, Scott Gardner and Riley were joined at the hips in their effort to get rid of a mayor who wanted these criminals prosecuted, convicted and jailed for the crimes they were committing against my U.S. Descendants of Slaves people.
The day after I left office Norton, Riley and Spotts sought a search warrant from Judge Sandra Walker to enter my apartment to remove the laptop and gun I’d paid for on leaving office. Norton held up my last check and called me a thief after telling both Riley and ex-finance director Ron Brooks not to comply while I was still in office; and under threat of termination if they didn’t.
On this ignorant fool’s first fucking day in office, instead of dealing with Hicks who’d fucked over his co-conspiring partner in ignorance, McKoy, he assigned Hicks to investigate me. Seriously. This evil garbage decided to create allegations that I’d spent the last four years shaking down city business owners and pocketing cash. Hicks told cops still close to me he had evidence in the form of confessions from store owners.
The FBI’s Figgliuzzi responded in two ways. He assigned a “fresh” female agent to investigate Hicks and she made contact with me. I also administered an oath of office to an undercover federal law enforcement officer who was left among the dirty cops I wanted criminally-investigated. I wasn’t worried about Norton, Spotts and Hicks.
After I left office East Cleveland detective Henry “Pete” McCurdy told me Spotts assigned him to “investigate” Hicks, but secretly ordered him to structure the investigation to “clear” him of the murder. McCurdy refused and Spotts used his influence with Norton to harass and fire him.
Scott Gardner, who had already obstructed the criminal investigation I ordered of Norton and his cousin Pitassio Taylor’s collusion in my computer theft, used a dispute at the home of a McCurdy friend to claim he was armed when he intervened; and sought a warrant to enter his “friend’s” home to search it for weapons. The friend was a former East Cleveland jail employee.
After McCurdy was gone Spotts killed Varney’s murder investigation and continued to cover for Hicks and other criminals impersonating law enforcement officers while terrorizing the city’s predominantly Black residents. Evidence of his own crimes and those of Hicks, Gardner and other law enforcement officer impersonators is found in Arnold Black’s $50 million victory against the city that I knew would come if he stayed on the job.
When I learned of Black’s arrest from cops inside and talking to me I contacted council vice president Chantelle Lewis and told her to go to the jail and visit him. I told her to use the floor of the council meeting to expose Spotts and Hicks. She did.
Spotts and Hicks each have $15 million they owe Black. Amazingly, current East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King told council recently that Spotts wants to return to policing in the city. Spotts loves East Cleveland so much.