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
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"
This piece is copyright
by the author. It may be forwarded electronically, provided this notice
is kept with it, but may not be otherwise reproduced without permission
from the author. Thanks.