TALES FROM THE PEN


The following has been transcribed (with minimal edits for clarity and format) from handwritten letters by our correspondent “Leather,” who is currently serving a sentence because of charges related to a family dispute, subsequent warrants, and the labyrinthian carceral state in general. Leather was previously incarcerated at the Orleans Parish Prison but has recently been transferred to a facility in Ferriday.


The D.A.: “The Devil’s Advocate”

As an ex-con one of the most feared people in the New Orleans judicial system is the district attorney, or as we like to call him, the devil’s advocate. In Orleans Parish we have one of the most notorious district attorneys in the country by the name of Leon Cannizzaro. He strikes fear in the hearts of many criminals because he is zero tolerance. He believes in picking up charges on every single case that comes across his desk. He doesn’t care about your color, gender, or political status. His main goal in life is to keep the jailhouse full. Every bed has a body in it. Over the years he has made hundreds of enemies, some who are very dangerous. But make no mistake about it, Cannizzaro is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a gangsta in his own right.

There’s one story that comes to mind. There was a guy in New Orleans, a supposed drug kingpin who was fighting multiple charges by the name of Telly Hankton. Cannizzaro had an ongoing beef because I guess Hankton felt Cannizzaro had a personal vendetta against him, because Cannizzaro would show up at every court date and took a personal interest in Hankton’s case. While on trial Hankton had made multiple high dollar bonds. A million dollar bond was nothing to Mr. Hankton because he was rich. Cannizzaro would re-book him and raise the amount of his bond (if I’m not mistaken). Hankton paid a bond of up to five million dollars before he was unable to make bond; or Cannizzaro made it so no bondsman would accept Hankton’s money, property, or let anyone post his bond. You have to realize these are two very powerful men: one man powerful in the streets, one man powerful in the courthouse. I don’t know if they were on a power trip or what, but what I do know is that it was a very tense time in the city. I guess you could compare their battle to the Gulf war or the war in Iraq. It got so bad that it was said Hankton sent a car full of explosives to the courthouse in an attempt to kill Cannizzaro. The car was intercepted, the bomb defused, and that was the end of that episode. After that happened security was beefed up and made it impossible to catch Cannizzaro. I know this sounds like something out of a movie, but believe me this is real, and if you’re from New Orleans you know about this.

Of all the crime figures, Telly Hankton is one of the biggest in the history of New Orleans. Hankton’s name runs along with names like Sam Skully, Vernon McKay, B-Stupid and so on. New Orleans has always had a high crime rate. New Orleans held the highest murder rate for many years so it was imperative that something drastic had to happen to get the city under control. You see, New Orleans is a city where it ain’t what you know, but who you know. This is why New Orleans had to recruit certain city officials from different cities to help get the city under control. The city council members figured it was better to hire people such as the police chief from other cities, because they have no political connection to the city. This way it’s harder to bribe them. The city has been corrupt for so long it’s hard for one man or woman to fix all the problems that New Orleans has to deal with. The justice system has been messed up for as long as I can remember, and I can remember back as far as Harry Connick, known in New Orleans as the silver fox because he was so cunning. As far as I know they have been trying to clean up the city since the days of prohibition but money and power causes people to do unthinkable things.

But there are a few people who care about the city and its people who really put human life over money, and Arthur Hunter is one of them. If you notice, every time something big happens in the New Orleans judicial system one of the first people they talk to is Arthur Hunter. He’s been a lawyer, judge, spokesman, and is known to be a fair man who’s always been compassionate to the needs of inmates. There’s a few good guys like John Fuller, Greg Carter, and Jason Williams who seem to bring new life into the system. Guys like these have a whole new way of thinking, a new way of dealing with these old laws. Jason is a major player in this, taking the bull by the horns and running against Cannizzaro for District Attorney. He is favored by most inmates because he’s fair and has done a lot for the people of New Orleans over the years. He has to help with the high bonds set by some judges which causes people to stay in jail for longer periods of time, and that causes people to lose their apartments, cars etc., just because they set our bonds high so we can’t get out. This is crazy, because how can you make money if all you do is lock everybody up? This is why we need somebody who understands things such as high bonds and long pre-trial sentences, so we have to make sure we vote for the right man for the job so we can get New Orleans back into the city we all love. So I urge you to take your time, research, and make a wise choice in choosing our next District Attorney. Jason Williams will be better in office for the people of New Orleans.