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A Private View From a Real Private Eye

by Clifford Mosby

I have been a private investigator since 1967. That is a fact! I probably don't fit many people's image of a private investigator. Once, my dad, who always finds fault with me about one thing or another, out of the clear blue started chastising me about the fact I don't have an office with a secretary sitting behind a desk, or an office, period. I don't fit his image of an investigator. In fact when most people think of a private investigator, they imagine Magnum P.I. or some other glamourous Hollywood type of guy who solves crime, has sex with a pretty client and has a shoot out while jumping across roof tops.

There was a movie called "Harper" starring Paul Newman where he portrays a private investigator. In the film, he has a problem with alcohol, was going through a bitter divorce and had an old car that kept breaking down. That's Me! No sex with a pretty client. No high speed chase, except for the one where the guy was chasing me. No shoot out with bad buys, although I have been beaten up and roughed up. No "solving" crime. Usually I work for the defense and therefore my client is usually the accused, or "bad" guy. And usually my guy did do the crime. Ironically, the bad guy in most of my cases is the prosecuting attorney or the "D.A." I don't know if Detective Ferhman planted the bloody glove at O.J.'s, but believe me, the police and the District Attorney's offfice have manufactured, mishandled or tainted evidence in most every criminal case I have had!

My office is a room in my home with a computer, typewriter and a telephone with a bill I am usually up against the wall to pay. I often have trouble with my car, which is not a Ferrarri. It is my 34th car! I wear them out driving around the streets of Los Angeles. Generally I drive no further than Long Beach to the south, North Hollywood to the north, Santa Monica to the west and Pomona to the east. I go other places but in the main this is my beat. Being Black, most people hire me to work "Black cases" and work the Black communities. Seldom am I considered for a case where the participants are not Black.

My office and I are a big disappointment to my dad and all those who love Magnum P.I., YET, scattered across my floor, in complete disarray, are files that reflect the history of our times. Files with names like Reginald Denny. An unpaid bill for preliminary work I did in the Rodney King case. Demott Davis, whose case changed the way football helmets are currently made; actor Todd Bridges' drug and attempted murder case; Jaqueline Rabb, whose case caused Andre Champagne to put the protective cap with the warning label over the plastic cork. The American Airlines crash at O'Hare Airport in Chicago where 274 California residents were killed. Thirty six video tapes on the L.A. riot. Five or six current murder cases I have not even read, five or six murder cases I am currently working and an assortment of rape and robbery cases that other investigators would be glad to have.

I have worked on actress Carol Burnette's law suit against the National Enquirer, the preliminary work in Richard Pryor's burn case, singer Marvin Gaye's domestic suit, and actor Lou Gosset's divorce. Cases involving two city councilmen. I discussed with attorney Johnnie Cochran me being assigned to Michael Jackson's case as well as O.J.'s. Bad guys: The Hillside Strangler, Ken Bianchi, I remember chatting with him in the jail attorney room about food. The Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, I remember talking to him about getting his teeth fixed. Accused (and acquitted) McMartin Preschool child molester, Ray Buckey and I talked about the raw deal he was getting. Lyle and Eric Menendez; Doc Holliday, head of the Black Guerilla Family; Henry Earl Duncan, the next to be executed in California and whose name comes up in the O.J. Simpson pretrial motions. One way or another, I have had dealings with them all on one level or another. Even crazy attorney Irvin Kanerick who represented Charles Manson, (for which I was never paid). I've been on national television, interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and quoted in national legal magazines. I have spoken at UCLA.

Los Angeles history is scattered across my floor. I am sure I am forgetting many other notable cases, but as I clean my humble little office room and put away my copies of the District Attorney's video tapes on the L.A. riots, it occurs to me that I am filing away a big piece of truth about the L.A. riot that will never be known by the general public. That being the truth that the so called flash point of the riot, that part that involved the so called Reginald Denny beating at Florence and Normandie did not actually start over the verdict in the Rodney King beating case, as is commonly believed. Here is what actually led up to the incident at the intersection:

On that day, the Los Angeles Police Department was anticipating a verdict in the trial involving the four police officers accused of beating motorist Rodney King. They had set up a command post at the bus terminal at Arlington near Slausen, a short distance from Florence and Normandie. There were many news reporters in the area who were attempting to position themselves in the community. Just in case "something broke", they wanted to be right there. This proved to be brutal for some.

At this time, the brother of Damian Williams (who stood trial and was convicted of wrongdoing in the beating of Reginald Denny) was to be arrested for throwing an object at a member of the LAPD. This throwing incident was completely unrelated to the trial or Rodney King, just a spiteful act towards the police.

The police, probably out of boredom, left the nearby command post and responded in large numbers at the Williams household, including a helicopter in the sky. There was no need for the massive show of force, but everyone at the command post was probably sitting around with nothing else to do, so this would probably be some sort of hands on exercise. The large number of officers caused a big commotion in front of the Williams home on Seventy-first street and Normandie. The throng of police caused almost everyone along that street, including local gang members to come to the scene. Amateur photographers who had been monitoring police scanners also came to the scene and this is how and why much of this is documented on amateur video tapes which were used in trial.

The people who had gathered started harassing the police and the arrest of Damian's brother became anything but routine. Damian came out of his house and shook his penis at the police, pulled down his pants and mooned them while they stood shoulder to shoulder at the ready. Damian even confronted an Asian officer who later punched Damian in the face with his fist. The blood on Damian's teeth later was seen in a blowup of a defense photo at trial. The blood made it look as if the person accused of beating Denny had a gap in his teeth, when actually it was just the way the blood from Damian's mouth formed an illusion of there being a gap in his teeth. The prosecution never realized this and the so called gapped teeth in the photo enlargement were a problem for them in the trial when they were attempting to prove identity, since Damian did not have a gap. The so called gap was puzzling to the press and to the prosecution to this day. They have never figured it out. You are the first to know.

At any rate, the commotion at the Williams home caused the police to second guess their presence, and on the video tape you can hear the police commander say over the loudspeaker, "It's not worth it, it's not worth it, let's pull out and regroup at Florence and Normandie." At this point, the police leave for Florence and Normandie, a block or two away, followed by the entire neighborhood, including the gang members who were still looking for confrontation. Once at Florence and Normandie, the police leave again, to return to their command post at the bus terminal, leaving the hyped and hostile crowd. The gang members started throwing rocks at any type of official vehicle; busses, fire emergency vehicles, police cars and eventually any motorist whowas not Black. This activity still had nothing to do with the verdict.

A short time later, the verdict regarding the police officers in the King case was being aired and although passing motorists may have been aware of the verdict and certainly the people in the news helicopters overhead knew, the crowd at the intersection had already begun the attack mode wihout knowing of the verdict.

In the video you eventually hear passing motorists drive by yelling "Rodney King! Rodney King!" and from that point, It Was On.

The rioters at the intersection were actually lured there by the police, who incidentally never returned to assist any of the people who were subsequently attacked there. Truly, if the police had not reacted as I state here, Reginald Denny and the others would not have been victimized that day and the intersection of Florence and Normandie probably would not have been the historicale "flash point" and possibly, quite possibly no riot would have occured, since we watched the action on televison for hours before we became indoctrinated as to why to riot and how.

Much of this information was suppressed at the time of the trial because it was ruled that the mooning and the penis shaking incident as well as the mention of gang involvement would be prejudicial to the defendants, Damian Williams and Heny Keith Watson. So the jury and the press never got to hear any of this.

Now that I have shared that bit of unknown history with you, I will feel better cleaning my "office" and filing away the video tapes and this piece of unknown Los Angeles history. It will be filed away, probably forever along with the other cases I have mentioned here.

Now, I will go and serve some subpoenas on witnesses for an upcoming trial, a deed never performed by Mr. Magnum.

Clifford Mosby Licensed Private Investigator assigned to assist the defense in the "Reginald Denny Beating Case"



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