I was fortunate to be invited to a debut screening last night and it propelled me back to the 1980s, when crack appeared in LA and NYC, and Iran-Contra-Cocaine started to explode onto the front pages.
Ricky started as a ghetto teenage tennis prodigy, and was well on his way to becoming the next Arthur Ashe when it was uncovered he was illiterate. After losing that career path, Rick turned to street hustling to survive, and became LA’s biggest cocaine dealer in short order, making over a million a day at his height, and working directly under a CIA-asset Danilo Blandon, who was flying arms to Nicaragua and filling the planes up with cocaine on the return trip—coke supplied via a system setup by Carlos Lehder (who now walks free thanks to his testimony against Manuel Noriega).
Gary Webb stumbled into Rick’s story, only he didn’t stumble, he was directed by the voluptuous and highly-educated Coral Baca, who some say was/is Lehder’s girlfriend and was allegedly working at AIG, a company with notorious offshore connections. Baca dropped out of sight for years after Webb’s book was published, while the CIA went after the groundbreaking journalist with everything at their disposal, eventually destroying his career and causing his suicide. (Webb was not the only significant journalist attempting to investigate Iran-Contra-Cocaine, that dangerous mission included one Danny Casolaro, who was murdered while his precious octopus conspiracy files disappeared.)
At the height of the game, Ross was unexpectedly betrayed by Blandon and became the designated patsy, and was put away for life via a manipulated Federal three-strikes law, while Blandon and the CIA assets soon walked free. Rick lost everything, ending up in prison in Texas, where Levin first visited him a few years ago. At that time Rick told Levin he’d be getting out soon via appeal. And he did.
Obviously, Rick is a force of nature, and used his years in prison as an opportunity to teach himself to read. He became a voracious reader and now lectures on literacy in schools and prisons across the land, sharing his hard-earned wisdom.
Maybe you know a Florida-based rapper stole his identity and made millions pretending to be a cocaine kingpin, when in fact he was a correction’s officer on the other side of the divide. When Rick got out of jail, he sued for $10 million and half the royalties, but the judge got vicious and threw the case out while ruling Rick had to pay the rapper nearly a half million dollars in legal fees. I have to wonder if somebody got to that judge, because this should have been an open-and-shut victory for the real Ricky Ross.
When the film comes around next month, check it out. It makes a great follow-up to the recent Kill the Messenger, which focused on Gary Webb.