The Washington Post told the world that I had been arrested. The newspaper that I loved published a story about my encounter. Other media covered the story as well. Since I was a government spokesman, the arrest was news. The local press, my former colleagues, many of them friends of mine, knew me well and commonly referred to me as the “jail spokesman.” To them, my arrest sculpted a strange and twisted contradiction. The mouthpiece of the prison system was swallowed and chewed up by it.
Actually, it felt worse than that. It felt like I was a zookeeper grooming a compliant lion and then suddenly it attacked me, sinking its teeth deep into my gut. Then it flung me to the ground and mauled my face.
The headline of The Post story only partially captured the ugly incident. It ommited that I was actually thrown in jail, which was not an uncommon fate for someone charged with serious traffic offenses. Nevertheless, on the day after my arrest, this is what I woke up to in my morning newspaper, the same wonderful paper where I was once a respected colleague:
Jail Spokesman Charged
“The spokesman for the D.C. Department of Corrections was arrested yesterday and charged with numerous traffic offenses after police pursued his car for six blocks in Northeast Washington, D.C. police said.
“Edward D. Sargent, 29, of 2215 Bunker Hill Rd. NE was pursued down 13th Street NE at about 9:45 a.m. after a 5th District police officer saw that Sargent’s black Porsche was missing a front license plate, said police spokesman Sgt. J.C. Gentile.
“Sargent, whose car was stopped in the 1300 block of Webster Street NE, was charged with reckless driving, driving 30 mph over the speed limit, running two red lights, failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians and failing to display a front license tag, Gentile said.
“Sargent also was charged with possession of a radar detection device.
“Police said that Sargent could be fined up to $700 if found guilty of all charges. Sargent said last night that he has always obeyed the laws of the District of Columbia and asserted his innocence. He said he has asked for an investigation of the matter and will talk to a lawyer. Sargent also disputed the police enumeration of the charges against him. He said that charges of running red lights, failing to yield and lacking a license plate did not appear on court papers.
He said he was released on personal recognizance pending an appearance in D.C. Superior Court Oct. 5.
Note: The photo above did not appear with the story.
The unreported rumor was that drugs were involved somehow. That’s typical, isn’t it, when a cop stops a black man in an “expensive” car? The rumor is almost always there, between the lines, when a brother behind the steering wheel of an exotic vehicle gets arrested. Why would the police arrest him, if he hadn’t committed a crime? He must’ve been doing something wrong. Probably was dealing drugs. Yep, that’s probably how he could he afford to buy that car.
The truth is, being a drug salesman was never my goal in life …
Benjamim Bradlee, Again
As I mentioned earlier, Ben Bradlee was not just a legendary newsman, he was the consummate friend …
He remained a father figure to me. I had always admired his decisiveness, his in-your-face-attitude, and his famously fiery and unfiltered opinions. His impressive executive office, which perched in a far corner of the newsroom, was very spacious, with a glass wall that, after sunset, sparkled with the bright and colorful lights of the lively metropolis that surrounded The Washington Post’s iconic 15th Street building, which has since been demolished. Ben and I sat and chatted for a bit. It had been about a year and a half since I had left The Post to serve as a government spokesman.
After brief niceties, our conversation transcended friendly chit-chat and became more of a heart-to-heart, man-to-man rap session. He wanted me to know that he understood my pain and anger over being falsely accused. He shared with me a private story that assured me that he could relate to my frustration with the cops …
… I walked out of Ben’s office once again more sure-footed than when I walked in. I felt like a soldier after being told that his old commanding officer was going to join him in battle, fighting the enemy, right by his side.
A Good Attorney, Indeed
My attorney, Leroy Nesbitt, was not just good. He was one of the very, very best. An artful 53-year-old criminal defender in private practice when I hired him, Nesbitt was a master at fighting racists cops in courts of law. He was a slender black man, always impeccably dressed with nicely polished shoes. At 6-foot-1, I stood a few inches taller than he, but somehow his regal presence made him seem 10-feet-tall.
Nesbitt was well known in legal circles for his flawless criminal trial cross examinations. He was a surgeon of the law. His chief instruments were his precise oral scalpel and his engaging, tough but gentle—even humble at times—courtroom demeanor …