In­ves­ti­ga­tor’s mem­oir de­tails city graft

James Cabezas be­gan ca­reer as po­lice were tak­ing cash from gam­blers’ bag men

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - Ddono­[email protected]­sun.com twit­ter.com/doug­dono­van

James Cabezas in­ves­ti­gated pub­lic cor­rup­tion for three decades while work­ing in the Mary­land state pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice be­fore re­tir­ing two years ago. And he did it while go­ing blind and even af­ter he lost his sight.

Cabezas, with lo­cal jour­nal­ist Joan Ja­cob­son, re­cently pub­lished a mem­oir of his life and ca­reer — from work­ing as an un­der­cover Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cer look­ing for mob in­flu­ence on the docks and The Block to tak­ing down top elected of­fi­cials. The book, “Eyes of Jus­tice,” is filled with fas­ci­nat­ing anec­dotes of cor­rup­tion, which ev­ery Mary­land res­i­dent should never for­get and which The Bal­ti­more Sun will high­light over the next sev­eral weeks.

As a new Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cer, Cabezas quickly learned how in­ter­est­ing in­ves­ti­gat­ing pub­lic cor­rup­tion could be. On Jan. 27, 1973, a fed­eral grand jury had “re­turned in­dict­ments charg­ing six Bal­ti­more City po­lice de­tec­tives and two for­mer de­tec­tives with tak­ing bribes from three dif­fer­ent il­le­gal lot­ter­ies,” ac­cord­ing to the book. “Such ‘num­bers’ busi­nesses were very lu­cra­tive in the years be­fore the Mary­land lot­tery was estab­lished.”

Bal­ti­more’s re­form-minded po­lice com­mis­sioner Don­ald D. Pomer­leau had ini­ti­ated the probe by con­tact­ing fed­eral au­thor­i­ties to look into the depart­ment’s vice unit, “which was sup­posed to fer­ret out il­le­gal gam­bling.” The com­mis­sioner had hired re­tired FBI agents and as­signed them to in­ter­nal in­ves­tiga­tive di­vi­sions that re­ported di­rectly to him.

More fed­eral in­dict­ments came on June 14, 1973.

“Now po­lice com­man­ders were charged with tak­ing bribes from gam­bling op­er­a­tions,” the book says. “Five lieu­tenants, six sergeants and three pa­trol­men were charged with pro­tect­ing a large il­le­gal gam­bling or­ga­ni­za­tion which op­er­ated within the Di­a­mond Cab Com­pany lo­cated in the Western District.

“Among the gam­blers named in the in­dict­ment was Car­roll T. Glo­rioso, who ran a $7.5 mil­lion gam­bling oper­a­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the book. “He was once mar­ried to Blaze Starr, the na­tion­ally known strip­per who owned the Two O’clock Club, lo­cated in the in­fa­mous Bal­ti­more red-light district known as The Block.

“Ap­par­ently the bribes were so rou­tine that the money was picked up weekly by a ‘bag man’ — a for­mer of­fi­cer — who took it to the Western District po­lice sta­tion, where it was doled out in the park­ing lot and the men’s room.”

But Cabezas’ in­ter­est in pub­lic cor­rup­tion wasn’t sealed un­til later that year, on Oct. 10, 1973, when Vice Pres­i­dent Spiro T. Agnew, for­mer Mary­land gov­er­nor and Bal­ti­more County ex­ec­u­tive, pleaded no con­test to tax eva­sion charges and re­signed from the vice pres­i­dency.

“That day a ker­nel of an idea en­tered my head: maybe one day I would have the acu­men to work a case against a cor­rupt elected of­fi­cial,” he wrote.

James Cabezas, who in­ves­ti­gated pub­lic cor­rup­tion for three decades, has writ­ten a mem­oir with jour­nal­ist Joan Ja­cob­son.

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