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Joshua Clark Davis
President George Bush wanted to show America what crack cocaine looked like at his first Oval Office address on Sept 5, 1989. He wanted to show you could even buy crack in front of the White House. That’s how bad the crisis had gotten. That’s how Bush announced his War on Drugs.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
But there wasn’t much crack sold near the White House. As a U.S. Park Police official explained, "We don't consider that a problem area…There's too much activity going on there for drug dealers." Easy solution: invite someone to sell crack outside the White House!
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
The DEA caught wind of Bush’s plan and they set about arranging a deal for Lafayette Square across from the White House. DEA agents planned to lure someone there to sell them a small amount of crack. Later a WH official claimed no one requested the DEA make the purchase.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
On August 31, DEA Special Agent Sam Gaye was approached by his boss and asked if he could make a crack purchase across from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
The DEA’s first choice ended up not showing up, so agents went to work on a second choice. That was Keith Jackson, an African American resident of Anacostia and 19 year old high school senior who agents had been in contact with for months.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Jackson + Bush lived in the same city, but they lived worlds apart. DC was deeply segregated, two-thirds Black, but a city where most whites cloistered in the NW corner. The halls of power in the fed govt were shut off to most Black DC residents, too.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
“Where the fuck is the White House” Jackson asked in a secretly recorded call with an undercover DEA agent. That’s how segregated DC was. The Agent had to explain the location to Jackson, who eventually replied, “Oh, you mean where Reagan lives."
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Agents lured Jackson to Lafayette Square where they made the small purchase from him, but didn’t arrest him, on September 1.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
On September 5, President Bush held up the bag of crack on national TV. "This is crack cocaine...seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House . . . . It could easily have been heroin or PCP."
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Without getting too deep into the details, Bush’s central point was this: “we need more jails, more prisons, more courts and more prosecutors.”
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
DEA agents had decided not to immediately arrest Jackson. Not sure why, but it seems that they thought the story of a White House drug bust would make the news and undercut the drama of the President’s address.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
DEA agents worried Jackson would see the address and hear Bush discussing the Lafayette Square purchase and flee. But they were happy to learn that Jackson “had absolutely no idea what went on” with the national address, and they easily arrested him after the speech.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Many applauded Bush’s story of the arrest, but Kevin Zeese, a defense atty specializing in drug cases, didn't. "It's disgusting...The situation is not bad enough that they have to create a false situation? It's the government creating a hoax so they can rev up the war effort."
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Keith Jackson was charged and then tried two times his senior year, once in December 1989 and again in January 1990, both times ending in hung juries. Prosecutors tried him a third time and finally got a conviction in September 1990.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
At sentencing, “U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin told Jackson, who had no prior criminal record, that he regretted having to impose the sentence of 10 years without parole. At the same time, Sporkin urged Jackson, 19, to ask Bush for a commutation.” (Washington Post, 10/01/90)
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Sporkin: "He used you, in the sense of making a big drug speech," said Sporkin, former CIA general counsel appointed to court by President Reagan in 1986. "But he's a decent man, a man of great compassion. Maybe he can find a way to reduce at least some of that sentence."
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Sporkin apparently thought 10 years was too harsh, but regretted, "I've got to follow the law."" Congress had recently passed a new mandatory minimum law as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse of 1988. (WP, 10/01/90)
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
Bush never commuted his sentence. According to one historian, Jackson served almost 8 years for the sale in four different prisons until being released on August 5, 1998.
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
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Joshua Clark Davis Dec 1
Replying to @JoshClarkDavis
This is a major part of Bush’s legacy. It’s what his War on Drugs did to just one person. But it shows the human costs of that war in miniature detail. A high schooler was lured to the WH to sell crack and spent 7+ years in prison, so that the President could make a point on TV.
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