A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

HOW $20 IN CRACK LED TO FIFTY YEARS IN PRISON

While the Do Drugs/Do Time program has processed more than 200 people arrested with powdered cocaine like Ken Roberson, only one actual abuser of crack has graduated. Roberson smoked his cocaine by freebasing it, a method of consumption experts classify as every bit as dangerous as smoking crack. But Roberson's drug life had one important distinction from Harper's: Because he earned $75,000 a year as a chemist at a major utility, Roberson had little need to peddle coke to underwrite his habit.

To a large extent, the problem of crack addiction nationally is an urban-black problem. In Arizona, blacks represent less than 3 percent of the state's population. If the president and the drug czar are going to sell Arizona's Do Drugs/Do Time program as the national model, they will have to make it work in Tom Wolfe's New York, Jesse Jackson's Washington, D.C., and a Los Angeles where the Bloods and Crips are a reality.

They will have to sell it in Los Angeles where people read in their morning newspaper about Corey Feldman, a star in Stand by Me and other movies.

Feldman, 19, was arrested twice--September 20 and March 9--on drug charges after police confiscated 25 balloons stuffed with heroin and cocaine as well as two packets of heroin hidden in the socks Feldman was wearing.

Last week, on December 11, Feldman was sentenced to probation.

LINDA GREEN, 27, makes the trip to the prison in Florence as often as she can to visit her brother Louis Harper.

"I went to all his courts," says Green, "every last one. My sister missed one. Me and my brother was close. We used to eat together, bathe together. Go to the fair together.

"He seen his friends he grew up with having cars, stuff. We was poor. I guess he got tired of it. I remember being barefoot. He let his friends put shit in his head. Fast money ain't good money."

A resident of the Matthew Henson housing project, Green has seen crack in her South Phoenix neighborhood for years.

"It used to be all over, kids in the projects, near the store. I used to leave the neighborhood, to get away, go out with my girlfriends to the Club 902. You'd see guys selling all over the parking lot. I have seen police take someone dealing, take him around the corner, take the cash and let him go. Now my brother's in prison."

Green thinks she has the answer to why her brother is in prison for five decades.

"The judge was white, the jury was white," says Green. "So many years--that's just prejudice."

You don't have to agree with Green to notice that the laws in Arizona and the Do Drugs/Do Time program operate with a double standard. Nowhere is that more obvious than with the county attorney and the police chief, the men responsible for jailing Harper.

On July 18, 1990, the day Louis Harper was convicted, the county attorney who put him away, Richard Romley, was drawing cash payments from the very saloon where Linda Green socialized, the very nightclub where people like Louis Harper peddled crack.

Romley was co-holder of a $40,000 lien on Club 902 worth $800 per month in revenue. According to Lieutenant Ron Hergert of the Phoenix Police Department's antidrug unit, the bar was downtown Phoenix's most notorious outlet for crack sales.

Romley's stake in the 902 was masked from the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, where state records listed the ownership interest as held by Romley's father, a man who died in 1984.

When Romley's role in Club 902 was exposed, he denied there was any conflict of interest with his responsibilities as co-chair of the Do Drugs/Do Time program or his duties as the county's chief prosecutor. Saying he saw no reason to divest himself of a financial interest in the 902, Romley simply refused to discuss the subject.

In a series of articles in January, this newspaper revealed that in 1989 police made 127 arrests at Club 902. Of those busts, 65 were for narcotics violations, the majority involving crack. Under state law, Police Chief Ruben Ortega's staff is required to forward copies of every arrest report to the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for follow-up enforcement action.

Without this documentation, the state agency is powerless to act against a lawless bar. Yet a review of state records revealed that not one single narcotics violation at Club 902 had been forwarded by the police to the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control.

Saying only that he saw nothing improper with Romley's interest in Club 902, Chief Ortega declined to explain the missing paperwork in state files and then, like Romley, he, too, refused further comment.

Following the press revelations, Hugh Ennis, superintendent of the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, personally reviewed each police report relating to Club 902.

On October 5, Ennis signed an order that permanently revoked Club 902's liquor license and shut the bar down.

Linda Green was unaware that the man who put her brother in prison also held an interest in the crack den Club 902.

"Only thing I know they got a fence up around the place and it's all closed down."

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