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Simon on Salsbury

David Simon shares his theories on the story of Julius Salsbury, which inspired his wife’s new novel

“Boy, it would be nice to know the end of that story. He’s not an unsympathetic character if you know the whole story. Here’s this guy, he wasn’t much of a gangster. He wasn’t a gangster in any sense. And then this 15-year term that the government gave him was grandiose by the standards of everything that came after him in terms of the drug war. It’s almost embarrassing in its excess. The reason the government felt so strongly about him, earlier in the mid-’60s—I don’t know if it was ever reported but it’s true—there were a couple of CID [IRS Criminal Investigations Division] agents who were corrupt and who made a case against him, an assets case, a civil forfeiture case, and they came to him and they threatened to chase him down or he could pay them off. And he paid them off. And it showed up on a wire tap that he paid these guys off. But they were the ones who approached him, he never sought to bribe them. That was really the reason that the U.S. attorney became so incensed about a guy who’s basically involved in gambling. He was a numbers bank, a sports book, and ran a strip joint. That does not equal 15 years. But if they think you are a corrupting force on federal agents, you get 15 years. I don’t know if anyone knows this. I got it contingent on some stuff years ago. Maybe I used it. I covered Pam Gail’s funeral. The FBI sent an agent to the funeral, just in case Salsbury showed up. This would have been the mid-’80s, late ’80s, sometime around there.

“I was kind of sympathetic. I think he got kind of a raw deal. He never should have run. He would have done three, three and a half, four years. [Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul] Kramer told me that they did receive through an intermediary a proposed proffer from Salsbury: If he could get a reduction in sentence, he would come back. They didn’t reply and never heard anything again.”

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