By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Are we self-deluded? Judge for yourself. Here's a little Buzz prediction to help you: If we were a bookie, we'd offer 3-1 odds that fired Dallas police narcotics officer Mark DeLaPaz, who last week became the only person in officialdom so far indicted in the city's fake-drug scandal, will not serve one minute behind bars. Not only that, we fully expect that he will one day sue the city for daring to fire him and win reinstatement, a fat award or both.
Hey, it happens.
We could be wrong, of course. Handicapping a criminal indictment is always chancy. As a reality check, we ran the prediction by C. Tony Wright, one of the defense attorneys who helped reveal the scandal. (In the event you're new to town, or been away visiting Pluto: In 2001, dozens of innocents were planted with kilos of ground billiard chalk by highly paid police informants and falsely charged with trafficking in cocaine.) Wright said he'd take the bet.
"Mark DeLaPaz needs to wake up and smell the roses inside the federal penitentiary," says Wright, who joked that the only way DeLaPaz would walk away home free is "if he rats out 1,000 evil deeds in the department...and he probably only knows 500."
Buzz wasn't persuaded. Why? Recent history is one reason. Consider the corruption case against former Dallas City Council member Al Lipscomb. Conviction overturned on appeal, no reindictment. Consider the vote-fraud problem that continues to plague mail-in absentee ballots in this city, the subject of reams of reporting in this paper and in The Dallas Morning News. You know it happens. We know it happens. All God's children know it happens. Has anyone gone to the pokey on that one? Nope.
Granted, we're comparing apples and oranges here. Besides, DeLaPaz is certainly entitled to the same presumption of innocence afforded the people his department framed--heck, maybe even more. Nevertheless, Buzz is sticking by our prediction. And if that's cynical, then good for us. If someone had been a little more cynical or a touch doubtful, then maybe the fake-drug cases would not have happened. At the very least, maybe the police department wouldn't have been gullible enough to commend DeLaPaz's work on some of the very cases that led to his indictment on charges of providing false information.
The award is old news, but the letter nominating him in August 2001 for the police commendation bar is filled with such delicious irony, we just have to quote it, with emphasis added: "Detective DeLaPaz has developed into a prototypical narcotics officer...his recruitment and handling of confidential informants may be his greatest asset...He has proven that he is truly outstanding in using all the tools available for narcotics enforcement...He works in a most unassuming manner, never boasting of his accomplishments, and even seems to be a little embarrassed of the attention his impressive work brings."
Did we say 3-1? Shoot, make it 5-1.