Bill Clinton at the kitchen table in Arkansas with Uncle Raymond and Gabe Crawford, January 1974.
The land title, itself. Is it from heaven, hell or Louisiana?
  The Q-Tip in your own mouth.
Senator Glenn "Out There" with the things.


There is an emblematic moment at the start of Bill Clinton's political life. It is January, 1974, and the 27-year-old future president, only months out of Yale Law School, is back in Arkansas eager to run for Congress. A relative unknown, he faces an imposing field of rivals in the Democratic primary, and beyond, in the general election, a powerful Republican incumbent. Yet as soon as he enters the race, Mr. Clinton enjoys a decisive seven-to-one advantage in campaign funds over the nearest Democratic competitor, and will spend twice as much as his well-supported GOP opponent. It begins with a quiet meeting at his mother's house in Hot Springs. Around the kitchen table, as Virginia Clinton will describe the scene, avid young Billy meets with two of his most crucial early backers -- uncle Raymond G. Clinton, a prosperous local Buick dealer, and family friend and wealthy businessman Gabe Crawford. As they talk, Mr. Crawford offers the candidate unlimited use of his private plane, and uncle Raymond not only provides several houses around the district to serve as campaign headquarters, but will secure a $10,000 loan to Bill from the First National Bank of Hot Springs -- an amount then equal to the yearly income of many Arkansas families. Together, the money and aircraft and other gifts, including thousands more in secret donations, will launch Mr. Clinton in the most richly financed race in the annals of Arkansas -- and ultimately onto the most richly financed political career in American history. Though he loses narrowly in 1974, his showing is so impressive, especially in his capacity to attract such money and favors, that he rises rapidly to become state attorney-general, then governor, and eventually, with much the same backing and advantage, president of the United States . . . No mere businessman with a spare plane, Gabe Crawford presided over a back room bookie operation that was one of Hot Springs' most lucrative criminal enterprises. And just as Marc Rich, with his sordid international trafficking from Manhattan to Tripoli, was no ordinary investor, the inimitable uncle Raymond - who had also played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in keeping young Bill out of the Vietnam draft - was far more than an auto dealer. In the nationally prominent fount of vice and corruption that was Hot Springs from the 1920s to the 1980s (its barely concealed casinos generated more income than Las Vegas well into the 1960s), the uncle's Buick agency and other businesses and real estate were widely thought to be facades for illegal gambling, drug money laundering and other ventures, in which Raymond was a partner. He was a minion of the organized crime overlord who controlled the American Middle South for decades, New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello or "Mafia Kingfish" as his biographer John Davis called him.


This is an actual case.

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA loan for a client. He was told the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer 3 months to track down.

After sending the information to the FHA, he received the following reply (actual letter):

"Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you have prepared and presented an application, we must point out that you have only cleared title to the proposed collateral property back to 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear title back to its origin."

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows (actual letter):

"Your letter regarding title in Case 189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have title extended further than the 194 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property area, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the U.S. from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application. For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by then reigning monarch, Isabella. The good queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles, almost as much as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to fund Columbus' expedition. Now the Pope, as I'm sure you know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that He also made that part of the world called Louisiana. He, therefore, would be the owner of origin. I hope to hell you find His original claim to be satisfactory. Now, may we have our damn loan?"

They got it.


Using DNA to Trawl for Killers

More police departments are starting murder probes by rounding up hundreds of genetic samples. Civil libertarians decry the practice, which they say treats everyone as a suspect. 

  By , Los Angeles Times Staff Writer © 3/10/01

    Costa Mesa detectives scoured the bedroom where the body of Sunny Sudweeks lay raped and strangled. They recovered a DNA profile of the photography student's attacker but no other clues.

    Detectives suspected the killer knew his victim. Yet the genetic profile could still belong to one of hundreds of her associates and neighbors. Investigators had a problem: Which one should they test for a possible match?

The solution: Test them all.

    Fanning out across the city, detectives armed with Q-Tips sought voluntary mouth swabs from any men Sudweeks knew in an all-out effort to find a genetic match. Four years later, police have taken DNA from 188 people, transforming a conventional murder probe into one of the longest-running genetic dragnets launched in the United States.

    Law enforcement for more than a decade has turned to DNA evidence, as a last step in criminal investigations, for final confirmation that police have the right suspect or, as in some recent, highly publicized cases, to free prisoners wrongly convicted of crimes.

     But some police departments, including Costa Mesa's, are now using DNA as the starting point, testing hundreds of people in search of a break. Over the last few years, detectives in Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Miami and elsewhere have experimented with such DNA dragnets in cases ranging from the hunt for a serial rapist in New York's Bronx to the unsolved 1985 murder of a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy.

     The operations are expensive and have so far solved few crimes. But supporters hail the method as a quick way to eliminate large numbers of suspects, allowing police to concentrate on more promising leads.

     And because law enforcement officers must rely on voluntary samples, they argue that the practice does not violate the civil liberties of donors.

     Privacy rights advocates, however, contend that dragnets are never truly voluntary. After all, anyone who refuses to give a sample runs the risk of becoming a suspect. And some fear that after samples are analyzed, police will retain them or even add them to DNA databases of convicted offenders to use in later probes.

     "It represents a very serious threat," said Barry Scheck, a professor at New York's Cardozo School of Law and an expert on the use of DNA evidence.

     The Sunny Sudweeks murder investigation offers a window into this debate. The genetic screenings have yet to deliver a breakthrough, but investigators have not given up. Even today, patrol officers working near Sudweeks' old apartment stop men who appear not to belong in the neighborhood and ask for samples.

     "It's like casting your net out," said Costa Mesa Police Lt. Ron Smith. "You try to cast it out as wide as you can, because you don't know where you're going to catch your suspect."

 Few Clues at Crime Scene

     As in most such cases, the wide screenings in the Sudweeks case were born of frustration.

     The body of the 26-year-old woman, who loved to dress in bright 1940s-style outfits, was discovered the morning of Feb. 23, 1997, when her two roommates arrived home after a graveyard shift as taxi drivers.

     The apartment, on the second floor of a peeling Mission Drive four-plex, yielded few clues. Police could not see how her killer got in. There was no sign of a struggle. And the intruder had ignored thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment--something a burglar would hardly overlook.

     Detectives soon speculated that the killer either knew his victim or had watched her from afar. Using evidence found at the scene--detectives won't say what--forensic scientists forged a genetic profile of the attacker.

     A week after the killing, a dozen detectives met to discuss what to do next. Halfway through the meeting, Smith made a bold suggestion.

     "What if we swab everyone we run across who will give us a swab?" he asked.

     The lieutenant prided himself on keeping up with advances in forensic science. Years earlier, he had watched in awe as investigators in rural England used DNA technology to identify a murderer by taking blood samples from more than 5,000 men in three villages. He was suggesting a similar strategy.

     Costa Mesa police had used DNA to eliminate individual suspects in the past but never on this scale. As the discussion continued, though, support grew.

     The strategy, the group concluded, had its benefits. If someone refused to provide a sample, it would raise a red flag. A hit, on the other hand, would reveal the killer. Besides, what did they have to lose?

     "It was cutting new ground for us," Smith said. "People started warming up to it. The reaction was, 'Just think. All we need to do is make that one hit and we've made the case.' "

     Equipped with swabs, detectives visited the places Sudweeks knew best. The Newport Beach art store where she worked part time. Her favorite bar, the Stag. Orange Coast College, where she studied to become a photographer. The neighborhood where she was killed.

     At the college, a detective knocked on instructor Ken Steuck's office door. At first, Steuck was taken aback by the request, thinking that he was suddenly a suspect. He had been interviewed a week earlier after calling police to tell them he was Sudweeks' supervisor. Now, police were back, this time with a Q-Tip.

     "It felt sort of creepy," Steuck recalled. "How could they even consider for a second that I could be connected to this?"

     The photography instructor assumed that he had no choice but to give a sample, and did so on the spot. The test came back negative. But his anger over the request lingered long after the detective left.

     "I did feel pressured to do that," he said. "I absolutely felt that there wasn't going to be an option. . . . I felt that anyone who came forward to offer information" was treated like a suspect.

     Orange Coast student Blade Gillissen was less concerned when police came to him: "You give it and you're ruled out. Then they can move on to what they should be focusing on."

     Police collected dozens of samples and dispatched them to the Orange County sheriff's crime lab. The tests came back negative. Undeterred, they stuck to their plan, sending new batches of swabs for tests every month.

     Four years later, Sudweeks' murder remains unsolved but the swabbing goes on. Detectives scour logs of newly released prisoners, searching for people they can ask for samples. Patrol officers regularly cruise the streets near Sudweeks' old apartment, seeking swabs from reported prowlers and men loitering around the area.

     So far, no one has objected to giving a sample. Detectives were initially surprised by the level of cooperation, but they believe the technology is so new that it doesn't carry the stigma of traditional identification tools, such as fingerprinting.

     At about $400 per analysis, the dragnet has cost an estimated $75,000. The cost of the genetic testing is a source of criticism to some in law enforcement, who believe it's too much to spend on a longshot.

     Despite the failure to find a match, detectives defend the costs, saying the screening has helped avoid even more expensive work, such as surveillance of suspects easily excluded by DNA. And police said they remain optimistic that one day they will find a match.

     Smith's team has even cast another dragnet, this time testing 113 men so far in connection with a 1988 murder. Indeed, Costa Mesa police say they plan to routinely take swabs during interviews when cases rely on genetic evidence.

     "We need to be patient," Smith said. "I don't think any of us are looking at it as if it's not working. . . . It's just a matter of time."

     Sunny Sudweeks' mother shares that hope. Sandy Sudweeks said she takes comfort in the way detectives are keeping her daughter's case alive through the testing.

     "I'm just so grateful for that," she said. "I have every faith in them because of the lengths they've gone to."

Practice Developed in Europe

     DNA dragnets got their start in Europe, where authorities have swabbed thousands of people and solved dozens of crimes. German police two years ago launched the world's largest known screening, swabbing 16,400 men in a successful effort to identify the assailant who had raped and killed an 11-year-old girl.

     DNA technology makes such mass testing feasible because a match provides much more conclusive evidence than other identification tools. Though fingerprints found at the home of a rape victim could easily be explained away by family or friends, DNA collected from semen is virtually impossible to dismiss.

     In the United States, however, police have been slower to embrace the practice--in part because of concerns over whether the screenings violate the Constitution's strict limits on search and seizure. Although no U.S. court has ruled on the issue, more and more police agencies nonetheless have begun seeking voluntary samples and believe their evidence will stand up in court.

     Los Angeles was one of the first. In the early 1990s, detectives took blood from more than 200 associates of a Korean family slashed to death in their Granada Hills home--a killing that police still call "one of the most brutal" unsolved slayings in the city.

     Miami police tested more than 2,300 men along a trail where the bodies of six prostitutes had been dumped. And in New York, detectives took DNA samples from more than 50 people in their hunt for the "Bronx Rapist," who attacked dozens of women over a span of five years. Police in San Diego, Palo Alto, Maryland and elsewhere have used the practice.

     None of those operations has identified a suspect. But two years ago, authorities in Lawrence, Mass., showed that DNA screenings could work. Detectives took blood from 32 men at a nursing home where a patient in a coma had been raped and impregnated. Testing the samples, forensic scientists discovered that a nurse's aide, Israel Moret, was the father. Moret later pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

     Detectives said that samples, while not always providing ironclad links to suspects, can point them in the right direction.

     Los Angeles police decided to try the strategy two years ago when they reopened their probe into the murder of George Arthur, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy fatally shot in 1985. Investigators drew up a list of 165 possible suspects and began requesting mouth swabs as they interviewed witnesses and Arthur's friends and relatives. They collected a dozen samples before approaching Ted Kirby, an old colleague of Arthur's in the Sheriff's Department. When Kirby refused to give a swab, detectives grew suspicious.

     After gathering more evidence, they flew to Oregon and approached Kirby again, this time with a court order demanding that he give a saliva sample. A subsequent DNA test determined that he was the killer. But before he could be arrested, Kirby committed suicide.

     Large-scale DNA testing has appealed to investigators working for private businesses. In the last two years, Cellmark Diagnostics, one of the country's top private DNA labs, has conducted tests in half a dozen genetic dragnets for private firms, said Mark Stolorow, general manager of Maryland-based Cellmark.

     In the largest case, he said, a Midwestern manufacturer took mouth swabs from 350 workers. The samples were tested against saliva found on an envelope carrying a letter that threatened to tamper with the firm's product.

     Corporate testing "goes on far more frequently than the public realizes," Stolorow said.

     No government agency keeps track of DNA dragnets or what is done with genetic samples after donors have been eliminated as suspects--a fact that troubles civil libertarians.

     Some inside law enforcement consider the approach a waste of resources and fear that broader use of dragnets would swamp already backlogged crime labs.

     Others condemn genetic dragnets outright as a violation of innocent people's privacy, and often point to a case in Ann Arbor, Mich., as a worst-case example of how a dragnet can go wrong.

     It was 1994, and a serial rapist was terrorizing the city. Detectives had a DNA profile of the attacker and a vague description that said he was black.

     As fear in the city intensified, police embarked on a last-ditch attempt to identify the rapist, asking 160 African American men to submit blood.

     The dragnet failed to identify a suspect, but police eventually caught the rapist as he attacked a fourth woman. When news of the arrest broke, relief spread through the town. One man who had provided police with blood decided to ask police for his sample back. They refused.

Fighting for His Blood

     Blair Shelton was already angry at his treatment during the manhunt. He claimed he had lost his job at a clothing store when detectives told his co-workers that they wanted to interview him. And now he decided to fight for his blood.

     Shelton waged a two-year legal battle against the state. Eventually, he persuaded a judge to order authorities to hand over his DNA records.

     "It was horrible, your worst nightmare," Shelton recalled. "Who knows what they'll do? They've got your DNA. . . . Why would they want to keep something if you're innocent?"

     In his refrigerator at home, he keeps the two sealed vials of his returned blood as a reminder of the ordeal.

     The episode, civil libertarians say, underscores how innocent people are unfairly treated by mass screenings.

     "It was a DNA witch hunt, and African American men were all viewed as suspects," said attorney Michael J. Steinberg, who represented Shelton and is now legal director for the ACLU of Michigan.

     In Costa Mesa, police say they are looking at ways to reassure people about their operation. Officials promise they will use samples only for the one investigation and will destroy them after a potential suspect is eliminated.

     Meanwhile, the count continues to climb. And as they send each new batch of swabs away for analysis, detectives hope they will finally get the phone call they have long awaited--the one confirming a perfect match for whomever killed Sunny Sudweeks.

     "This one has haunted me ever since the beginning," said Lt. Smith, who was the first investigator to arrive at Sudweeks' apartment the night of the attack. "I've taken this one personally. I really want Sunny's killer."


"Back in those glory days, I was very uncomfortable when they asked us to say things we didn't want to say and deny other things. Some people asked, you know, were you alone out there? We never gave the real answer, and yet we see things out there, strange things, but we know what we saw out there. And we couldn't really say anything. The bosses were really afraid of this, they were afraid of the War of the Worlds type stuff, and about panic in the streets. So, we had to keep quiet. And now we only see these things in our nightmares or maybe in the movies, and some of them are pretty close to being the truth."
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