Bad Company

Drugs from Bolivia. Cash to Panama. Arms to Nicaragua. Bo Abbott says the CIA called - and he delivered.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Abbott's guilty plea in August1984, ruling that Judge Shannon had not followed federal court rules when accepting Abbott's plea. Shannon, the appeals court ruled, failed to advise Abbott of the specific charges against him and ensure that he was pleading of his own free will.

The court appointed Houston attorney Phil Green to represent Abbott as he again faced trial on the nine-count indictment. "Bo was an angry man," Green recalls. "Even though it's probably true that Bill Coller got Bo involved in a lot of shenanigans, Bo was viewed as the guy who corrupted Bill."

Abbott insisted on a trial, and remained in prison until the summer of 1985, when a jury was selected and his case was days away from proceeding. Then Abbott reversed field and again pleaded guilty to a single count.

His abrupt reversal, Abbott says, was prompted by fears for his life. In trial, he would have to detail all his claims and theories about what the government was doing in Central and South America, and he decided it wasn't worth the risk.

"I know what these fucking people will do," he says by way of explanation.
This time, Abbott was offered five years in prison to be followed by 15 years of special parole for his plea. He took the deal.

"Quite frankly, Abbott was a pain in the ass about everything," says prosecutor Murphy. "His entire attitude was 'Fuck you.' Every time he would come to court with his attorney, all he wanted to do was make accusations and rant."

Abbott did not go quietly after his second plea. He filed more appeals and lost. He served his time and was released from federal prison in the summer of 1986.

By the time Abbott got out, Coller was out as well, and Abbott says he hooked up with his old DEA running buddy. The two had started on a book about their exploits, but then Coller got arrested again for smuggling drugs and was sent back to prison.

Abbott was also sent back to the pen in 1991 for violating his parole. Abbott says investigators claimed he was trying to line up another drug shipment through the Austin airport.

While he was being held at a minimum-security federal prison in Alabama, Abbott ran away and was recaptured about eight months later. He was shipped to the federal prison's nut bin in Springfield, Missouri, for psychological analysis.

Abbott was released from Springfield in November of last year. Broke, unable to find work, his pilot's license revoked, Abbott had little choice but to move in with his mother on a quiet street in Richardson.

With plenty of time on his hands, Abbott walks almost daily to the nearby University of Texas at Dallas campus to use the library, reading the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.

He also has plenty of time to rethink his ill-fated career as a government informant. He has no lack of conspiracy theories, grand ones and small ones, to explain how his life became such a mess.

Conversations with Bo Abbott tend to be wide-ranging affairs, literally. Seated in a booth at a Richardson ice cream shop, Abbott becomes suspicious of a young Hispanic man who sits at a nearby table. "He's too clean-cut," Abbott says. "He may not be an agent, but that's what agents look like."

The meeting moves to the UTD library, where Abbott stakes out a pair of study carrels in the corner, away from traffic. After some time, he becomes uncomfortable there, and the interview moves to the Student Union building.

During one conversation, Abbott insists on moving from the ice cream shop to a cheap hotel on North Central Expressway. A recent acquaintance of Abbott's--a man from Arkansas named Gary who dresses in all black and keeps a semiautomatic rifle next to his bed--agrees to let Abbott use his room for several hours.

Gary takes his rifle--and a shoebox from the dresser--with him when he leaves the room. Abbott is a felon on parole who cannot be near firearms, or whatever is in the shoebox.

The room is safe from prying eyes, Abbott figures, and the interview continues.

Abbott says he wants the world to know his story. That he was just a dutiful foot soldier in the drug wars who got caught up among forces larger than himself.

He swears he was sent to prison only because he knew too much, and was sent back because government officials were afraid he was about to talk.

"I tried to get into the Noriega trial and testify for his defense," Abbott explains. "Noriega was only a puppet. He did what he did because he was working for the U.S. government and the CIA. Just like me."

Recounting his travels and travails now, Abbott is able to see the hidden hand of the CIA everywhere--masterminding political coups, arranging for him to deliver drugs and arms, even instigating his arrest and torture in Mexico.

"The government picked me up and carried me along. I thought I was doing the right thing," Abbott says. "Then they made me a political prisoner. They tried to shut me up. If I fuck up between now and 2007, they ship me back to prison. They've got a leash around my neck."

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