Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran Contra’s Dark Secret Revisited With Activist’s Death, Part Three of Four

In 1993 I began writing a screenplay from news reports I had produced about Eddie’s case. I wrote Eddie in prison and began working with his mother, Thelma, to write the screenplay and investigate the Iran-Contra cocaine which devastated Robeson County and led to Eddie taking the action he took. Eddie did not take hostages simply to draw attention to the issue, but also because he was afraid he was “next on the list” to be killed and wanted to draw attention to the drug issue in a way that would also put him in the custody of law enforcement outside Robeson County to protect him from the same fate as others. Eddie and Timmy never asked for amnesty. They were perfectly willing to stand trial and be punished for their crime in a way that Oliver North and the others thought they were above.

Eddie was released in 1995 because he had full-blown AIDS. He was gay. He was almost everything Helms had contempt for. In 2001, as Helms announced he would not seek re-election, Eddie was prosecuted and convicted for a murder he could not possibly have committed by a relative of the former world’s deadliest prosecutor who was the man behind the state’s double jeopardy charges against Eddie and who lost the judgeship election to Pierce even though Pierce had been dead six weeks. The stress must have been too much for Thelma because she died a year later in 2002. I was oblivious to all of this until 2006. I had gone to North Carolina in 1995 to try to make a movie based on the screenplay after being turned down by Oliver Stone, Robert Redford and other liberal Hollywood icons. They weren’t interested in political films and this was as political as they came. I had the best Native American cast ever assembled and was talking to heavyweight Hollywood actors until it all began falling apart. In 1996 however, before giving up, I held a press conference with the information I had uncovered to thwart Helms’ re-election, which did no good. No one cared. Eddie was not impressed either. In fact he was angry at me. He felt exploited. I came back to L.A. with another plan which did not materialize. In January 2006, when I discovered that Eddie was back in prison and that Thelma had died, I began writing a book to help Eddie because I thought his life was in danger again and the only way I could help was with something big and quick. However, even with 162 pages, I never finished the book because Eddie became angry at me again. He had lost faith in many people, feeling exploited (perhaps some did exploit him), and had become bitter about everyone around him.

In 1994, Eddie’s complaints caused Bill Clinton not to name the former sheriff to head the Eastern District of the U.S. Marshal Service in North Carolina. In 2007, nearly two dozen Robeson County deputies and the new sheriff pled guilty to charges resulting from an investigation named Operation Tarnished Badge that included drug trafficking. The judge who sentenced them was the same judge in Eddie’s federal trial. Was it more damage control? Could they not ignore sloppy Robeson County law enforcement again after Eddie’s claims? However, if Eddie could have succeeded in telling his story back in 1988 when America was busy electing George H.W. Bush and whitewashing Iran Contra, perhaps the conspirators would not have gotten away with it, and perhaps Bush/Cheney, etc., would not have been able to get away—so much more easily—with what we are currently suffering through.

Many people were traumatized by Eddie’s hostage taking incident—I do not condone it—and others, especially those in and around Robeson County, vilified Eddie as a madman and a common criminal. They never knew the real truth or the bigger story or believed it even if they glimpsed it. However, once the Robesonian’s editor heard Eddie’s story and saw the evidence, he wanted to escort Eddie and Timmy to the FBI car waiting outside because he, too, thought they would be killed to insure their silence. He even wrote an editorial several days later saying the ordeal could have been much worse.

For all Helms’ pro-Contra work, bravado and posturing, his presence in the Iran Contras hearings is almost as an insignificant footnote; referred to as simply “the Senator” during Singlaub’s testimony. Helms died on July 4th of last year. How ironic that the man who may have helped forever corrupt America with religious right and his brand of anti-communism, died on that day. Eddie and others may have described it as the day the U.S. declared its independence from Helms, but now Eddie is dead too and will never be able to tell what he knew. He said he was writing a book, but that was doubtful. He was too sick from AIDS and debilitated by all the HIV medication.

Part Four, tomorrow.