By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
By Monday afternoon, however, the information has changed. Luis has indeed been charged with several counts of sales, and conspiracy to sell narcotics. He is to be arraigned on Tuesday.
Tuesday morning, the boys go back to school, but Estephanie pleads to go to the arraignment with Frances. “I don’t know if she could really concentrate at school, if I make her go,” Frances says. When Estephanie is asked if Luis’ arrest is scary for her, she looks away. “Really scary,” she says.
Waiting outside the courtroom for Luis’ case to be called, Frances has an unexpected encounter. An older man, a base head, whom we’ll call Gustavo de la Rosa — Gus for short — scuttles in her direction, his expression full of apology. “What are you doing here?” Frances asks, making conversation. “I’m here to testify against your husband,” he whispers in Spanish. “I got arrested for possession, and that cop” — Gus names the officer with whom Frances has the problem — “he told me when he busted me that if I didn’t say Luis sold to me, he’d put me in prison for a long time.” Luis did not sell to him, Gus said. “It’s not true, but I’m too old to go to prison. I’m sorry.” Stunned, Frances starts to say more, but Gus only shakes his head.
“Why does that cop hate us so much?” Frances asks, crying furiously. “We’ve known Gus forever. He lives with the sister of my oldest, best friend.” (The sister, it seems, is a fetal-alcohol-syndrome baby, now in her 20s, who has been on the street since her teens.) “We always help them. We sometimes give them clothes and shoes. And a couple of times we let Gus crash in our garage when he was out on the sidewalk, too drunk to walk. He knows Luis hasn’t dealt in a long time. But he’s scared. It’s not right.”
In the days to come, Frances’ mood whiplashes frequently from optimism to pessimism, then back again. On Friday, January 30, a week after the arrest, the Jobs for a Future staff gives her a surprise baby shower complete with cute party decorations, refreshments and a cake. Plus, everyone has pitched in to buy her the combination car seat/stroller of her dreams. “It’s by Eddie Bauer in burgundy!” she squeals. “Exactly what I most wanted!”
After yet another week, the downstairs tenants are late with the rent, both Frankie and Elijah are crying for Luis, and Luis goes to court again. This time he is appointed a permanent attorney, a tall 50-ish man named James Bisnow, who gives Frances a copy of the police report that details the evidence the cops used to get the search warrant. It states that officers observed multiple drug buys from Frances and Luis’ property on three separate days during the month of January. Most of the sales are attributed to a 17-year-old called “Lil’ Happy.” But one, at least, is attributed to Luis, and it is suggested that Luis sold on other occasions. The primary officer in the case is Officer Rudy Chavez, again the same cop against whom Frances has filed the complaints.
Frances grows frightened as she reads the nine-page document. Lil’ Happy (whose real name is not used here, as he is a minor) has been crashing in Frances and Luis’ back bedroom off and on since before Christmas. Now Frances wonders if the kid was selling out of their house when they were at work. “He was living on the street, and Luis felt bad for him,” she says, “so he said he could stay with us for a while, because his mother was a mess, and he didn’t have nowhere to go.” Frances allowed him to stay, but only under pressure. “Luis thinks he’s Captain Save a Homie,” she says. “I told him, ‘Look, you have to think of your family, not everybody else. There’s a Mexican saying, ‘Quieres tapar el sol con un dedo.’ It means, ‘You’re trying to cover the sun with your finger.’ That’s what I told Luis. ‘Quieres tapar el sol con un dedo. You’re not superman.’ But he wouldn’t listen. And now look.”
As for the charge that Luis himself is dealing, Frances refuses to believe it. Instead, she’s convinced that the cops are somehow setting Luis up, as the old base head Gus has obliquely suggested. “Why would Luis deal drugs when he had a good job? He knew that Chavez was watching him all the time,” she says. “On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Luis would always come home late because those were the days that Chavez was on duty, and Luis wanted to avoid him, because Chavez would trip with him.” She also dismisses the notion that Luis knew about Lil’ Happy’s alleged dealing or even perhaps supported it. “Listen, Luis was much too paranoid to do something like that,” she says. “Him letting Lil’ Happy deal from our house would be straight crazy. It’s like asking to get busted.”