Lenny Bruce is dead but he didn't commit any crime
He just had the insight to rip off the lid before its time. - Bob Dylan
I'm too busy too often these days, and my head's getting turned by mere politics in the last week of what looks to be a catastrophic election. So apologies for the posting lag, and the brevity of this one. I mean to have more soon.
If you've followed the case you likely know that Richard Hamlin was convicted and now faces a life sentence. An injustice? I won't pretend that I know enough to play armchair jurist to answer that conclusively. What I know is that Hamlin didn't do himself any favours by his defence, even if it was the truth. Alleging ritual abuse and mind control isn't exactly a winning formula in the courts these days. Not when, to most Americans, both claims have been "debunked" and swept from the realm of what's possible by powerful forces in the dominant culture. Presumably, that's why the evidence of Satanic cult activity in Ponchatoula's Hosanna Church were dropped by the DA. He would rather rest his case upon the testimony of child victims than introduce hard evidence that the abusers were acting with cultic intent, including "videotapes and nine bin liners full of masks and robes for use in the ceremonies." As I wrote last June, "What remains are still inconceivable crimes, yet now without motive." As a successful attorney Hamlin must have known going in what his accusations would sound like to a jury composed of citizens whose nation conditions the conviction that such things don't happen. And that contributes to my suspicion of his innocence.
But now that's that, and for most people who note it the Hamlin case will register as yet another example of a bizarre and discredited theory. No; despite Susan's confession to police, her reported absence of claimed injuries, her child telling his teacher that he wished mommy would stop licking him, and her plant pathologist father's unexplained presence in Indio during the Wackenhut/Cabazon years (why wasn't he called to the stand?) this one's all wrapped up.
Just like the Jeffrey MacDonald case. Except that's not, either. MacDonald has just won the right to pursue a fourth appeal of the murder conviction of his wife and two children in 1970. (And it's some kind of coincidence, though I don't know what kind, that Ted Gunderson has figured in both.)
Like Hamlin's, MacDonald's story is virtually unbelievable if all you know is that story. If you know something about Fort Bragg and, most important, the protected drug trade out of Vietnam, you're more likely to shrug and say "Yeah, I can see that."
MacDonald was an Army drug counselor at the base, which was on the receiving end of a military drug cult that set up shop in Indochina known as the "Black Masonic Club," led by "Sergeant Smack," Leslie "Ike" Atkinson (eventually arrested by the DEA and given a 40-year sentence). They used the remains of GIs as mules, stitching bags of heroin into their body cavities. The local dealers loathed MacDonald, who was pressuring those in his treatment program to name suppliers.
After the MacDonald family murders, an informant named Helena Stoeckley contacted narcotics detective Everette Beasley to say she had been in the house at the time of the killings, and provided details of the military drug operation.
Alex Constantine writes in Psychic Dictatorship in the USA:
The recipients of the heroin, she said, had contacts in Vietnam who placed it in the bodies of war casualties. The bodies were re-stitched and shipped to Johnson Air Base and other installations around the country. When the bodies arrived in the US they were met by a military contact and the heroin was removed. The bodies were then sent on to their final destinations.
"The persons who met the bodies at the respective air bases knew which bodies to check, based on a predetermined code," Beasley says. "Helena told me that the people who handled the assignments in Vietnam, and those who met the planes in the United States, were military personnel."
She also told him that the couriers made their pick-ups at Fort Bragg. Distribution was handled by enlisted me, civilians, police officers. "Local attorneys and Army officers as high as generals were part of the operation. She stated that she would name and identify the people if given immunity by the US government."
She wasn't, and so would have faced conviction herself for participation in the crime by being in the company of the murderers. Though Stoeckley had previously supplied information that had secured over 200 arrests in the Fort Bragg area, in this case the authorities simply didn't want to know her. She died a couple of years later, quite rapidly, of liver failure, after compaining to friends she was being followed by "two men in suits." (In Potter and Bost's Fatal Justice, the rebuttal to Joe McGinniss's duplicitous Fatal Vision, writes that her former neighbours confirmed noting well-dressed strangers often parked outside her apartment.)
The MacDonald apartment was kept sealed by the US Army and the Justice Department from 1970 until 1981. "Fort Bragg fought to regain custody of the quarters beginning in February of 1981, but the Justice Department kept rigid control of them for three years following, citing that the apartment where the murders occurred and its contents might be needed as evidence to offset anticipated defense appeals." All this time, MacDonald's council was denied access, which naturally was sought in order to compile evidence that could support the case that his family had been slaughtered by intruders.
on the night of June 7-8, 1984, everything in the apartment was completely burned and then buried at the Fort Bragg trash dump. This included all furnishings, the ceilings, walls, doors, window sills, ledges, hardwood floors...leaving nothing but a skeleton of joists and sub flooring. The destruction also included items that, by regulation, were required to be placed for public auction by the Army - things like furniture, light fixtures, appliances, sinks, etc. Most importantly, the burning and burying of the entire contents of the apartment destroyed everything that might have been touched or left behind by murderers.
As a cover for this deliberate crime, the government claimed in its paperwork that MacDonald had "abandoned" his property, when in truth, he was not allowed access to reclaim his property. The secret destruction actually occurred while MacDonald's attorneys were still trying to wrest court permission to examine the quarters. No one informed them that both the quarters and its contents no longer existed.
There is much more to the MacDonald case, but the impressions left by McGinniss's Fatal Vision - since proven to be a work of slander - persist. Fables work better when the monster is just one man who didn't get away with it, rather than many powerful men who always do.