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Mo' (Fake) Money, Mo' (Real) Problems

By Kathy Y. Wilson · March 6th, 2013 · Kathy Y. Wilson

This is a story about drugs and denial.

LaSalle High School has a drug problem.

LaSalle High School is in denial about its drug problem.

Anytime its students stupidly decide to trick an armed drug dealer with counterfeit money, all kinds of socioeconomic and chemical problems are in play beyond the pranksterism and tomfoolery of bored white teenage boys.

Although that’s part of it.

Because who, other than the allegedly invincible, would ever think that plan would work?

Seventeen-year-old LaSalle senior Justin Brown and three of his “friends” — and take the air quotes the way I intend them — tried to hand Dierres Lee, 19, a wad of counterfeit money the night of Sunday, Feb. 24 in North Fairmount in exchange for some weed.

Now, all kinds of identity issues are at play when a black man on the street, in full-blown disregard of his liberty, passes drugs of any type through an open car window to white people who are heretofore strangers in the neighborhood.

It packs the same body blow — but in reverse — as Halle Berry being sodomized by Billy Bob Thornton in Monster’s Ball. Only, black drug dealers don’t get Oscars for getting white people high.

The four tried to drive away, of course, knowing full well what a stupid thing they’d later try to get away with.

That treacherous, failed, petty drug deal was the culmination of perhaps hours or days of poor planning on the part of those four boys in that car on Carll Street.

The saddest part of this entire debacle is that bad ideas do not exist in a vacuum: There are all manners of widely reported stories of dumb folks across Ohio, Cincinnati and even America who’ve tried duping undercover cops with counterfeit money for drugs. 

In early December 2008, Eric Crawford tried to buy 15 pounds of marijuana and some OxyContin pills from undercover cops for $30,000 in counterfeit bills. The story pops up along with Brown’s shooting death during a Google search of  “fake money drug dealer.”

What sets the stupidity of a drug dealer apart from the stupidity of weed-seeking kids with fake money is that drug dealers like Lee know their risks every day they get up and put their two feet on the floor.

They know death or imprisonment is what’s ahead for them; it’s only a matter of which one will catch up to them first. 

I bet Brown and his friends assumed this was a caper they’d get by with and then, like stupid boys do, they’d brag to their LaSalle friends who’d also maybe try it, venturing to the same neighborhood, the same street.

Having said that, maybe someone else’s stupid son would’ve been shot at and killed by Lee or one of his colleagues.

And Lee?

He responded they way he was supposed to, the way he’d been trained to respond by street decree. Because what those four boys — three from LaSalle plus one other — didn’t count on was that respect, disrespect and retaliation aren’t merely flat Rap lyrics deflated of their full meaning by the distance traveled from an iTunes library through speakers or headphones.

When a black man raps about the glorification of slinging, capping and boasting, he’s either witnessed it all firsthand, he’s been part of it as some part of gang activity or he’s glorifying it for a record company paycheck.

Either way, he’s all in.

Whiggers take note: Shit is real.

Brown died at University of Cincinnati Medical Center the day after his three friends took him to Good Samaritan Hospital with a mortal bullet wound to his head.

And now mainstream media is regurgitating the “he-was-a-good-kid” mantra/salve first uttered by Assistant Cincinnati Police Chief Paul Humphries, who’s said he personally knows some of the “victims.” 

Funny, I never thought someone complicit in his own drug problems would be a victim, rather, a co-conspirator. The only victims here are Justin Brown’s family members, and even his parents must bear some of the responsibility for Brown’s actions.

And while we’re at the task of untwisting this, I do not understand why the three others in the car with Brown weren’t (and probably won’t ever be) charged with attempted theft by deception, passing bad bills or some other criminal charge.

They were, after all, attempting an illegal drug deal.

This reminds me of when cops roust prostitutes and ship them off to jail but they never arrest the johns.

An illegal transaction requires at least two parties.

Am I being naive?

“There are some takeaways from this,” Police Chief James Craig told reporters of Brown’s shooting. Craig said he’d hoped the shooting would get some discussions started with teenagers about making smarter decisions.

One way to make sure teenagers make better decisions is to ensure they feel and see real ramifications like jail, fines they pay themselves and/or community service for those bad decisions, especially when those decisions transcend the immoral and slip into the illegal.

I thought Craig would be more equitable in doling out justice, but he’s turning out to be softly paternalistic and dangerously close to demonizing solely the actions of blacks in the city’s criminal justice system.

One of the boys who was in the car with Brown is the nephew of a District 3 sergeant. I wonder what the conversations were that swirled around decisions not to charge the boys.

I also wonder if Justin Brown, the only name we know, was bored with his small town, Catholic-centric life. Making LaRosa’s pizza, playing recreational baseball and volunteering in food drives may have made him feel trapped, forced to be “a good boy,” the one everyone so desperately wants him to be.

Smoking weed was probably the biggest, cheapest escape Brown could muster, a passport beyond the din of mundaneness of West Side life and all the expectations that come with the mere mention of all those West Side icons.

LaSalle’s got a problem.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



03.06.2013 at 07:42 Reply

A whole article about how some high school kids trying to get stoned by tricking a drug dealer deserve something other than our sympathy. I wonder what this article would have looked like had the races of the parties involved been switched. Something tells me Wilson's sympathies would not lie with the murderer, as they seem to in this article.


03.06.2013 at 07:54 Reply

This article is about how some dumb kids trying to get stoned tried to trick a drug dealer. One of them was murdered for it, Ms. Wilson feels that the pot seekers should be punished. I wonder where Ms. Wilson's sympathies would lie if the races of the parties involved were switched? Something tells me she would know exactly who the vitcims were in that case.

Thankfully authors are free to write whatever they'd like. Publishers are however under no obligation to put it into print. CityBeat's editorial staff should be embarassed. 


03.06.2013 at 09:21 Reply

"And Lee? He responded the way he was supposed to, the way he'd been trained to respond by street decree."

I hope that one day this attitude can cease to exist. So that others regardless of how incredibly stupid their decisions might be, may still have a life to hold on to. And however the wrong doings one person might come across in life, that they may find the strength to test the will of their character. So that they may not ruin their lives, as well as the lives of many others by pettiness. 


03.10.2013 at 09:46 Reply

This essay unfortunately suggests that it is a reflection of racism in the police department regarding the way they deal with crime. It isn't.

The issue that Ms. Wilson is presenting is that LaSalle has a problem. It is bigger than that. Cincinnati has a problem. Yes, LaSalle has a problem; 'good kids' are looking to indulge in illegal substances. This has been rampant in our society for decades. It might be a little difficult for the parents of a 'good' catholic kid to be upset about him wanting to smoke a little pot. What if this kid had been attempting to purchase coke, crack, or acid?

The problem is much bigger than that though. Cincinnati police answer to themselves. Regardless of societies opinion about whether they are dealing with internal affairs in a proper manner, CPD does not answer to society. One of their children gets caught in a drug deal, he/she and the rest of his 'gang' gets a free ride. No consequences. This is another example of how corruption is rampant in the dealings of CPD.

This isn’t just a racial issue, this isn’t just a class issue, this is government deciding to separate themselves from the rest of society. LaSalle isn’t the only one with a problem. Thanks for the essay Ms. Wilson. Perhaps next time you could be a little more colorblind?


10.17.2013 at 01:24 Reply

Well, you are obviously someone who has plenty of time on their hands. I know Justin and his family  personally and the fact that you are saying these things about a 17 year old dead kid who has a younger brother and a loving family is disgusting. These were young boys who thought they were invincible, just like a lot of teenagers these days. And to say that dierres did the "reasonable" thing is ridiculous. He was a drug dealer, and he is horrible. I'm sure this wasn't the first time he shot someone and I'm sure it wouldn't have been the last. He is not an asset to society, actually I'm pretty sure society is thankful to have him off the streets. And Justin's life was the furthest thing from mundane, and if I may correct you again, he didn't make pizzas at Larosa's, he made hoagies and pastas, and he loved his job, and he loved his life. He unfortunately went a long for a ride that would change his life and his families life. You also refer to Justin as someone's " stupid son", I think that his parents have suffered enough. They don't need someone's stupid, uninformed opinion about it.