Bad Dog

White gangsters or misunderstood jocks? The Devil Dogs beat their victims -- and the system.

The barking the Devil Dogs did while beating Jarvis and the Taco Bell victims could fit under a number of the state guidelines.

The gang-lite treatment of the Devil Dogs is all the more perplexing because these guys do not learn from their mistakes or from second chances:

· The near killing of Hughes, and the subsequent interrogation by the police, occurred at the end of 1998.

From left, Devil Dogs Kevin Papa, Kenneth Couturier, Barry Nutter and Michael Spears.
From left, Devil Dogs Kevin Papa, Kenneth Couturier, Barry Nutter and Michael Spears.
Clockwise from left, Devil Dogs Kevin Papa, Kenneth Couturier, Barry Nutter and Michael Spears.
Clockwise from left, Devil Dogs Kevin Papa, Kenneth Couturier, Barry Nutter and Michael Spears.

· On March 5, 1999, nine Devil Dogs jumped two young men at the Taco Bell. Arrests followed.

· On April 27, 1999, three Devil Dogs assaulted an Asian couple. As Theresa and Nhiem Nguyen paddled about a town lake in a rowboat, the three hoodlums swam out from shore. As the terrified woman screamed that she could not swim, the Devil Dogs responded by rocking the boat violently, then climbing into the dinghy and yelling "Chink," "Gook" and "Charlie" at the pair before stealing the couple's cell phone and diving back into the water. Arrests followed.

· On May 31, 1999, Jordan Jarvis was beaten.

· There have been numerous other incidents in the past two years involving the Devil Dogs, including an investigation of a significant steroid drug ring by law enforcement that placed Kevin Papa and the gang at ground central. This probe never went public as various police agencies began bumping into each other around the Devil Dogs.

· Throughout the indictment and the subsequent plea negotiations with the Devil Dogs, the Jarvises said they endured a campaign of intimidation. Their home and cars were egged; Jordan was harassed at work; and callers filled their answering machine with loud barking.

· One month before Kevin Papa was to be sentenced for the Jarvis beating, the authorities arrested his older brother, Michael, founder of White Power -- the gang that preceded the Devil Dogs. Michael Papa was accused of running an ecstasy distribution ring with Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, the Mafia hitman who murdered 19 people before testifying against John "The Dapper Don" Gotti.

Relocated to Arizona, Gravano and Michael Papa were reportedly running the largest ecstasy ring in the state, with weekly sales of $500,000. The Papas' mother, Mary Ann, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering. Also booked on drug charges was Devil Dog associate Jovan Isailovic, whose house was the site of the beating that Kevin Papa and the younger Devil Dogs administered to Jordan Jarvis.

Authorities are still examining what, if any, role the younger Devil Dogs played in the ecstasy ring.

When you look at the record, it is difficult to overcome the suspicion that nothing else except race could explain how these affluent white teenagers escaped the wrath of God. Taken one at a time, the Devil Dogs cleaned up well, presented reasonable grades and could discuss their future with expectations. One day they might grow up and go to law school if given half a chance.

Take Kevin Papa.

Handsome, personable, a kid with a terrific smile, he was a straight-A student who'd been admitted to Arizona State University.

"I feel that in whatever I do, I will be successful," he told the judge who was about to sentence him. "Incarceration for me would not suit me. I no longer hang out or are friends with those kids."

That was the good Papa speaking.

Even Zettler had to roll his eyes.

The prosecutor then played for the judge a surprise videotape showing that, rather than putting the Devil Dogs and the life of violence behind him, Papa had recently organized a "Fight Club" party in which high school boys punched the snot out of each other in the bottom of a drained pool while dozens of classmates, boys and girls, cheered the combatants on.

Because he lied, Papa was sentenced to two years instead of one.

In the end, Zettler excused the differences in the charging of the Devil Dogs versus his office's prosecution of the Park South Crips by pointing out that the victim of the Crips was, after all, raped.

This last argument, floated repeatedly by lawyers, is supposed to end all discussion, as if the person asking the question just . . . doesn't . . . get . . . it.

It is well and good that the justice system finally has a more compassionate grasp of the devastation of rape.

But rape is punished more severely today than, say, theft, because we have finally acknowledged that rape is not merely uninvited sex, but violence. Surely we can agree that a savage beating is also violent.

When Zettler argues that the injuries sustained in the rape were more grievous than the aggravated assaults, he is not talking about physical injuries -- of which Jarvis' were more severe by any measurement, medical or financial -- but rather the emotional damage.

Zettler's idea is a ditzy thought concocted with a jigger of political correctness and a soupçon of James Cagney-put-up-your-dukes nostalgia.

What happened to Jordan Jarvis, and many others, was not simply a boy's rite of passage.

We can tally the medical expenses and chart the operations, but even if you have a son of your own, you can only begin to imagine what this violence has done to Jordan Jarvis' heart.

"I am closer to accepting that when I look in the mirror, I will never see the same face I think I will see: my old one," said Jarvis.

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