First, Cothran depicted the Marcus Garvey/MLK raid as a "gang operation." He concludes, therefrom, that there was no reason for the organizers to notify the head of the district attorney's narcotics unit of their plans. The premise is wrong, as is the conclusion that Cothran draws from it.
This raid was a narcotics operation, directed primarily by the feds. Its purpose was to stop the drug dealing in the Marcus Garvey/MLK housing complex. The search warrants that were served were narcotics warrants. A substantial portion of the officers involved were members of the SFPD Narcotics Unit. Tippy Mazzucco and a second assistant district attorney, who was assigned to the narcotics unit, were both intimately involved in the planning and execution of the raid. The fact that Mazzucco and this second ADA opted not to use the ordinary chain of command regarding this raid was a direct violation of the operating protocols of this office. Cothran had to be aware of the participation of the second ADA, but for some reason chose to leave this fact out. By omitting details regarding the nature of the raid and its participants, Cothran manipulates the reader's attention away from the real issues presented by the manner in which the raid was conducted.
Second, each of the people who Cothran states knew of the decision to circumvent the chain of command (Richard Iglehart, George Butterworth, Lt. Kitt Crenshaw) denies such knowledge and indicates that Cothran never spoke to them to verify these facts.
By electing not to tell your readers the source of his information (donning the well-worn veil of "high-ranking SFPD source[s]") Cothran deprives readers of any meaningful ability to verify the reliability of his facts and evaluate his conclusions.
Third, the truly tragic figure in this debacle is one Ranon Ross.
Ross has been an investigator with the DA's Office for seven years; he is not a "deputy" as Cothran states. (Yet another easily verifiable fact that Cothran chose to ignore.) Yes, Ross grew up in the King/Garvey Coop. (King/Garvey is a cooperative housing development that does not even fall under the supervision of the S.F. Housing Authority. It is not a "housing project" -- another one of those pesky facts that Cothran failed to investigate and report accurately.) He has not lived there for 11 years.
Unconstrained by the fact the he happened to be born into a disadvantaged situation, Ross built a better life for himself, first attending a local public high school, later earning his undergraduate degree from the Claremont Colleges. He has been appointed to a position of trust and responsibility in this office and he has without exception lived up to that trust. His reputation is respected not just in this office, but in the SFPD; indeed, some of the officers identified in this article have entrusted him with sensitive information. Cothran does not identify a single legitimate reason that Ross could be considered a security risk. Most tellingly, he does not even ask the question. Why?
By extending credibility to the notion that Ross is a security risk, solely by virtue of his birthright -- and his race -- Cothran does his part to ensure that Ross will never be able to free himself from the stigma of an impoverished childhood -- an act which bespeaks Cothran's true politics more loudly than any personal attack that he can ever level against members of the District Attorney's Office.
Vernon C. Grigg III
Managing Attorney, Narcotics
San Francisco District Attorney's Office
George Cothran responds: At key points in his letter, I strongly suspect Mr. Grigg is playing a game of trying to get me to reveal my sources.
His most damaging allegation is that Assistant District Attorneys Richard Iglehart and George Butterworth and SFPD Lt. Kitt Crenshaw deny knowing Grigg was cut out of the chain of notification regarding the police raid on the Marcus Garvey/MLK projects, and that all three men say they never talked to me about the matter. To rebut this claim, I would have to reveal, through process of elimination, who I did and did not talk to. Since all my sources spoke to me on background, out of fear of retaliation, I will not play Mr. Grigg's game.
The numerous high-ranking law enforcement sources I talked to are thoroughly credible. Unbeknownst to each other, they told me that the proper superiors above Thomas Mazzucco were notified of the time and date of the police raid. These superiors were also told that Grigg had not been notified and the reasons why.
To Grigg's assertion that he should have been notified because the raid was a "narcotics operation," I can only repeat what I reported: The gang unit and gang prosecutor Mazzucco were in charge of the raid because the target was a gang, the so-called Knock Out Posse.
Finally, Grigg alleges that I treated DA investigator Ranon Ross unfairly. I reported that Ross, who works for Grigg, has friends and relatives living in the housing project that was raided. I wrote that prosecutors kept information about the raid from Ross and Grigg in order to avoid the understandable temptation Grigg might have to tell Ross, or that Ross might have to tell his relatives to get out of harm's way. How this is unfair is hard to fathom.
Grigg implies that I am motivated by racism. I did not seek to learn, nor did I care, what Ross' race was. It was not important to me.
Bugs vs. Elvis -- Let History Decide
While the quality of SF Weekly has improved dramatically since the New Times buyout, I found myself distressed that Brian Alcorn couldn't be bothered to check any of the readily available reference works on Warner Bros. cartoons to ascertain the title of the Bugs Bunny short which serves as the central metaphor of his review of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach's Painted From Memory (Reviews, Nov. 18).
I find it especially galling since I consider the cartoon in question, What's Up, Doc? (1950, directed by Robert McKimson), to be approximately 10,000 times worthier of notice than the collected whinings and whimperings of Elvis Costello.
Drugs and Muni
Don't get me wrong -- Muni does suck, real bad ("Rewarding Failure," Dec. 2 and Dec. 9). And yes, everybody likes to complain about their local transit system. But did you ever consider that it's made so much worse by the fact that Muni riders suck?
I routinely see people trying to get into crowded trains without brushing up against anyone else, trying to elicit "excuse me"s from every other standing passenger remotely in their path, and other freaky unrealistic behaviors wholly inappropriate in this second most densely populated city in America. All that "Tuscan light" here in Frisco must be bleaching people's brains.
People would like to think San Francisco offers the casualness, space, freedom, and lifestyle of California combined with the urban bustle of New York City; it doesn't. The two things are pretty much mutually exclusive. Also, San Francisco is the promised city of drugs -- people here have been methamphetamine addicts for decades, heroin addicts are renowned for their irritability when not nodding, ditto cokeheads. And -- sad truth here, people -- this is still America, and we have been losing our ability to get along with others for God knows how long.
So next time those train doors open, issue a blanket "pardon me" and knife into the heart of the car as quickly and carefully as possible.
As for Mr. Coates, so happy now in the Windy City ("Chicago Transit Beats Muni," Letters, Dec. 23): I was born and raised in Chicago and lived there up until 17 months ago. You haven't really experienced bus "bunching" until it's in subzero temperatures (layering -- that's the key. And plenty of it). And as for those trains arriving every three minutes, I'm saddened that you couldn't make a clean start in the Big Onion -- you are obviously hooked on hallucinogens as no L-line can field trains anywhere near as often as every three minutes, not even in rush hour.
Aren't All Curmudgeons Cynical?
I'm not religious, and I'm not saying The Prince of Egypt is the greatest movie ever made, but it deserves better than the negative review given in this paper ("The Greatest Story Never Told," Film, Dec. 9).
I saw it on Christmas, and I suppose the heavily charged cultural, racial, and religious issues may affect one's personal interpretation of the story's presentation, but the movie is also a dazzling visual spectacle with a humanism that touched me deeply.
It was a mistake to send a cynical curmudgeon to review a film. To not recognize The Prince of Egypt as a classic is to ignore logic and reason while sadly exposing a lack of empathy and passion.