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Authors: John Nicholas Iannuzzi

Courthouse (3 page)

BOOK: Courthouse
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Now screaming and howling echoed through the cell-block on the opposite end of the building. They wanted out too. Casey and the others were relieved of their keys, cigarettes, money, and whatever else was in their pockets.

Davis, who had still been in the narrow outer corridor when the screaming started, was snapped up in a pincer move as prisoners moved in from each end. He just lifted his hands in surrender.

The two regular guards at the desk near the elevator had already pushed an emergency button. Bells were sounding through the building, their claxon intensifying the yells of the inmates. One of the guards at the desk was on the phone. He pressed a finger into his free ear to try and keep out the pandemonium of violence erupting around him.

“You tell those motherfuckers downstairs we're going to kill these motherfuckers up here,” one prisoner shouted at the guard on the phone.

“We're going to cut their balls off, and then their cocks …”

“And their heads too,” added another.

“And their assholes,” yet another.

They were all bold now, and elated, slapping palms in jubilation, saluting each other with the rebel's clenched fist, running around the cellblock, screaming, pounding each other on the back.

Ali Al-Kobar was the hero of the shouting. He stood tall in the midst of a milling herd, a great toothy smile playing on his face.

The shouts for freedom from the inmates at the other end of the floor were getting louder. They wanted to share this moment.

“Open the other side of the floor,” someone yelled.

“Let's free our brothers,” exhorted Al-Kobar, raising his fists in defiance and joy.

Realizing they could use the keys removed from Casey and the officers, the inmates began to open all the cells on the floor.

“What the hell is going on up there?” Deputy Warden Margolis demanded into the phone as he stood in his office on the ground floor. He was tall and bald. Bells and lights were sounding and flashing all around him.

“They got the whole floor opened up, Dep,” shouted the floor guard on the phone at the eighth floor desk. “They got Casey and four others inside. Got the keys. They're just opening the cells on the other end of the floor. All the prisoners are getting out now. They're starting to break the legs off the tables.”

“You two get on the elevators now before you're hostages too,” Margolis directed. He quickly motioned one of the captains standing in his office toward the elevators. The Captain nodded and ran from the office toward the barred door leading to the interior of the prison. “What happened to the guards and Casey?” asked Margolis. “Are they hurt?”

“Don't know, Dep.” The guard on the phone was stuttering now. “They took them inside. I can't see them.” He could see, however, that the prisoners were coming toward the barred doors that led to the elevators. “They're coming this way now, Dep. They're coming this way now.” Panic edged his voice clearly.

“Just hold on,” Margolis urged. “The elevator's coming. It's on its way. Try and put your key in the lock to the main gate. Break it or jam it in the lock!”

“Too late for that now.” The two floor guards were both on their feet at the elevator doors, wanting to go, wanting to run, shifting nervously on the balls of their feet like relay runners awaiting the baton.

The prisoners were gleefully swinging open the last gate. They began to sprint toward the desk.

The elevator door opened. The two guards threw themselves inside, leaving Dep. Margolis with a banging sound in his ear as the phone hit the floor. The Captain on the elevator punched the
button. Prisoners grabbed at the sliding door. An arm reached inside the elevator, groping. But the door closed. Immediately, pounding and kicking and cursing began to assault the door.

“Get this mother going,” one of the guards screamed. He was sprawled on the elevator floor, his face a mask of terror.

“We're gone,” said the Captain as he repeatedly banged the control panel. His eyes were transfixed on the buckling door.

The sound of the shouting and pounding and stomping carried to other floors. The guards on those floors had quickly herded all their prisoners into their cells before the contagion spread. Bells and alarms intensified the panic, as guard and inmate alike awaited whatever was coming.

“We got you, you blue-eyed devil,” shouted Ali Al-Kobar, “and we got you good.” He was addressing Casey, who was now surrounded by half a dozen inmates. “We're going to bust out of here. We're going out, man, and you're going to get us out.”

Screams of delight engulfed them all.

Al-Kobar looked at the joyous faces around him. He was a leader of rebellion at last. The thrill was electrifying.

One of the inmates began beating and pounding a window with the leg of a broken table, chipping away steadily at the thick glass bricks. The inmates watched. A big chunk of glass gave way, falling out into the street. The bright, clear blue of the sky could be seen.

“Free, we're going to be free,” shouted one prisoner soulfully. “Look out there, that's where we going. Look, ain't that beautiful.”

They began dancing. One of the prisoners ran into his open cell and gleefully put a lit match to his mattress. Black smoke spiraled up. He put a match to another mattress.

Other prisoners started smashing at the glass bricks, wanting more of that sky, more of that heady feeling of freedom.

“Use your head, brother,” urged Officer Davis as he looked around. “How can you win this way?”

“Don't call us brother,” shouted Al-Kobar. “You're the brother to a pig. You're a white man.”

“Let's give them a trial.”

“Give them a trial like they tried me,” shouted Raul DeJesus, still inside his cell. The inmates wanted everyone to be free, but they weren't about to let DeJesus out of his cell. “Hurry before the machines are turned on again. They must have shut the machines off, thinking we were beaten. Hurry.”

The inmates from the cells on the other end of the eighth floor had now converged to the side where Casey and the officers were being held captive. There were about 230 inmates crowding, shouting, dancing, smashing.

Al-Kobar stood on the only table in the cellblock that hadn't been destroyed.

By now, many glass bricks had been knocked out of place. Some prisoners were hacking at the remaining windows. Others sat on the shoulders of fellow inmates and could see down into the street. The police had already cordoned off the building. Riot police in helmets surrounded it.

“The pigs are all over the place down there,” one of the inmates shouted from his perch on someone's shoulders.

“Fuck them, they're not getting in here,” shouted another.

Some inmates tried to get the elevators to stop on the eighth floor, but Deputy Warden Margolis had ordered the floor sealed off. The eighth floor was being monitored from the main control board in the Warden's office on the ground floor.

Restive and anxious, aroused for action, prisoners began using the weapons they fashioned from the broken tables to break everything in sight—the toilets, the sinks, the beds. Several mattresses were on fire. The entire floor was filling with black smoke.

“Smash open all of those windows.”

“We're going to break every fucking thing in the place.”

Water started to gush out from the broken toilets, flooding the floor. The inmates began slipping as they swung at the windows. Some fell to the floor, laughing hysterically as they tried to get up.

Margolis ordered the water mains shut off for the entire building. Everyone was under siege now.

“Burn the place down, burn it down.”

“Let's kill these bastards.”

“Kill them, kill them,” the chant began.

“No, we have to give them a trial,” shouted James Phelan, a thin white man with cold, beady eyes. A tooth was missing in the front of his mouth. “Give them a trial, and
we'll kill them.”

Casey and the guards were tied and gagged by now. They stared at the inmates around them, then looked at each other. Their eyes were glazed. Sweat was soaking their uniforms.

“Before we kill them, I got a better penalty,” said a Black inmate. “We'll give them a little ass-fucking.” He took out his penis and shook it at the guards.

Other inmates began a general shouting and shoving and laughing with that suggestion. Several of them took out their penises, shaking them at the prisoners, then at each other, laughing.

“Hold it. Wait a minute.” A thin Black man with glasses stepped onto the table next to Al-Kobar. “We have us some hostages and we all been bitchin' ‘cause they been treatin' us like shit, right?” His voice was hardly heard over the din.

“Right on!” from the crowd surrounding the table.

“What the fuck you doin' up here, man?” asked Al-Kobar, not wanting to share the limelight. “Mind your fuckin' business.”

“Leave him talk,” said a burly Black man, standing amid a group of prisoners from the other side of the building. “Let him have his say.”

“We want out,” Al-Kobar urged the crowd.

He was cheered lustily.

“Well,” said the thin Black man on the table, whose name was Moody. “They ain't about to let us out of here. Kill these pigs or not.”

Boos and curses.

“But we got these guys alive now,” Moody continued. “Maybe we make a stink, give them our grievances, we can get faster trials, better food …”

“More dessert …” shouted another.

“Yeah,” chorused some of the inmates.

“And air conditioning …”

“And better food.”

“And bail. Let's get the fuck out of here and I'll eat my momma's cooking at home.”

“Yeah,” said Al-Kobar. “We want out, not some shitass jive. If you got no balls, step down, man.” He was glaring at Moody.

The inmates stood quietly now, looking at each other, perplexed as to the next move.

“We want blood,” shouted Al-Kobar.

“Right on,” returned some.

Others were not so sure.

“Well, if we ain't got these pigs alive,” said Moody, still standing on the table, “we ain't gonna get nothin' but life in the fuckin' can. With them alive, we got bargaining power.”

Some agreed and nodded; others grumbled, looking at each other.

“We want freedom … freedom … blood …” Al-Kobar urged his lagging followers.

The crowd murmured restlessly.

“Man, they not about to let us out of here, kill those pigs or not,” said Moody. “And if they don't let you out, and you burn them pigs, then what you gonna do?”

“Kill all the pigs. Kill all the whiteys. Kill them,” Al-Kobar exhorted.

“How many of you cats want to have a murder rap over your heads too?” asked Moody.

“Not me, Moody.”

“Me neither. I only got a junk bust here, man. I don't need no murder even it be a pig.”

“If we hold them alive,” shouted Moody, “we can get a break, maybe get some newspapers to put it in the paper. You know man, protest.”

“Yeah, I'll get my picture in the paper,” said a Puerto Rican with a mustache and beard. He ran his hand over his hair and smiled.

One of the officers, Lockwood, had been forced to his knees and his gag removed. James Phelan had taken out his penis and was now menacing the officer, coming ever closer to him. There was a satanic smile on his thin lips. Other prisoners in the crowd were watching with excitement, some held the officer down on his knees.

“Hey, you cats, cool that,” said Moody, still on the table.

Ralph Santiago, the Puerto Rican who wanted to pose for the pictures, jerked Lockwood out of the hands of the other prisoners. He stood him up.

James Phelan gave Santiago a hard look. He saw other inmates backing up Santiago—shrugged, tucked his penis back in his pants, and shuffled off to where the windows were being shattered.

“We want a break here, we want them to do something for us,” Moody continued. “They ain't gonna do it if we fuck up these pigs here.”

“You afraid, man?” demanded Al-Kobar, turning to Moody. “You're just a shit-ass nigger.”

Moody turned angrily. The crowd watched. Al-Kobar grabbed Moody by his shirt front.

“Leave the little man alone,” said the burly Black man who had been standing at the table backing Moody. He reached up and grabbed Al-Kobar's arm.

“What the fuck you buttin' in for?” said Al-Kobar,

“'Cause I want to hear what the little man has to say,” said the burly one starting to haul Al-Kobar off the table.

Al-Kobar released Moody. “Okay, okay, listen if you cats want to just sit around here bitchin' and bull-shittin'…” Al-Kobar waved his hand at Moody in disgust.

More sirens were wailing in the streets below. Inmates at the windows relayed the message that the fire department had arrived. The streets were swarming with police and firemen. Bull horns were blaring.

“Hey, you guys from the newspaper?” Santiago shouted down to the street. He was now sitting on another inmate's shoulders. Something must have been shouted back. “Hey, guys from the
Daily News
are down there, man,” Santiago announced.

“Yeah, yeah, put it in the papers how they give you shit to eat around here. How they keep you like an animal.”

“Let's get some demands together,” shouted Moody, over the din. “Put the hostages away in cells. Let's get something out of this besides more jail time.”

“Moody's right,” shouted a white prisoner standing at the table. “The first thing they'll want to know is how these hacks are. Let's put them on ice while we get some demands.”

“Who's got paper?”

“Get Lacey. He's the law man. He's got all kinds of paper.”

Lacey was a jailhouse lawyer, an inmate who spent his time reading law and drafting legal papers for himself and other prisoners.

BOOK: Courthouse
3.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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