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[00:00:01]

Listen. Listen, listen. When I was in jail, when I was a kid, it put me in a holding cell, right? They never Blocher's.

[00:00:07]

Previously on Serial Deterrence and How to Fix Communities and all that type of stuff. I try not to. I try to think of it that way. Can't prove you guilty. They'll give you a misdemeanor.

[00:00:21]

You may get a big judgment. Just don't go into this stack over here. Aren't being paid. It was false. What do you say? You say.

[00:00:31]

Did you hear anything about. I swear I did not say that he felt a bulk.

[00:00:42]

From this American Life and WBC Chicago, it's serial one courthouse told week by week. I'm Sara. After the police surprise arrested Jesse Nickerson, the East Cleveland courthouse held them in jail for a few days. He set up a call with his lawyer, Scott Ramsey.

[00:01:10]

It was just. How are you, Mama? I'm doing good.

[00:01:17]

They talked through the new misdemeanor charges Jesse picked up and also about whether Jesse's feuding with the East Cleveland police might lead to a lawsuit about Scott Ramsey paced around his cluttered office.

[00:01:27]

While Jesse filled them in explaining the arrest at the block party on the Fourth of July, how he felt like the police harassed him unfairly.

[00:01:34]

All. You can reassure. It like almost daily I his shoulder got injured.

[00:01:40]

How? They left him at the hospital with five tickets. How when he showed up in court to deal with those tickets. The police arrested him again and he says threw him in a locker room with no bathroom for two days.

[00:01:50]

I was I was kicking on the door, banging on door on, you know what? Can I use the bathroom? Can I use the bathroom? Can I use the bathroom?

[00:01:58]

A Emanuel and I heard Jesse had been locked in that same room where the East Cleveland police had put Arnold Black with his 22 million dollar verdict without will. There there's Jesse's lawsuit right there. Now, how could that not be a giant settlement waiting to happen? But Scott Ramsey wasn't that interested in the holding cell story, didn't seem outraged by it.

[00:02:16]

He thought it might be hard to prove. Instead, he wanted to hear more about the other thing on the 4th of July from Jesse's description.

[00:02:23]

It did sound like maybe the police had targeted him. Maybe that could lead to civil action.

[00:02:28]

OK, let me ask let me ask a couple of questions. The thing on the the the incident on the fourth. What proof do we have that it happened?

[00:02:36]

I have several video lifestyle video. And they have video again.

[00:02:42]

And then also you have video from people's cameras and probably some body cams is all just going to be different.

[00:02:49]

Definitely. We got the camera.

[00:02:51]

Scott Ramsey tells Jesse to gather video evidence, find witnesses. Seven to 10 people would be good, he says, preferably people without criminal records.

[00:03:00]

And then he'll assess the potential for a lawsuit that you have on your videos.

[00:03:08]

As time passed, it became obvious Scott Ramsey wasn't going to file a new lawsuit. Jesse didn't produce the evidence Scarabs had asked for. But also Jesse as a client was proving a slippery bet. His legal troubles seemed to blossom anew every couple months. Not just in his Cleveland, but in other municipalities. Jesse told Emanuel about a case he was especially worried about in Euclid, said the cops there had pulled him over for no reason. He asked Emanuel to come to court with him so he could see for himself, which, as he was up against Emanuel, did.

[00:03:40]

He went with Jesse to a court date. And you could. Here's Emanuel.

[00:03:46]

I went to Euclid on the day Jesse was supposed to go to trial on eight charges, all for one traffic stop, and it happened a few months back, Jesse's Venne girlfriend, Ashley, just giving birth of their second son and the baby was premature.

[00:03:59]

So they were both spending a lot of time at the hospital for tests and treatment. One day, Jesse bought as his brother's car so you could drive home and get cleaned up. You could police pulled him over. It was about nothing, really tinted windows on his own. A misdemeanor ticket. But Jesse didn't have his seat belt on and he was driving about a license until that actually drove. His car was like a party crime scene. Small amounts of weed, a scale and two open bottles of Smirnoff ice.

[00:04:29]

Hence the eight misdemeanor charges and a case in front of Judge Debra LeBaron. Same judge you might remember from and the spences case in episode three. We're going to talk more about this later on this episode. But right now, I want to tell you what happened between Jessie and Judge LeBaron since I'm starting.

[00:04:50]

Twenty five minutes late this morning.

[00:04:52]

Jessie Nickerson, the day was a mess from the beginning, like four one. Jessie showed up late. By the time he rushed into the courtroom, he was flustered and just Le Baron was mad.

[00:05:03]

Your Honor, as you're well aware, this matter was set for a bench trial this morning. Nine o'clock, it's nine. Twenty five turning here.

[00:05:15]

To be fair to Judge LeBaron, high rotation have been gathering for months. Jessie had already missed a couple of court dates. To be fair to Jessie, though, he'd been dealing with the case against these Cleveland cops who taken him to the park.

[00:05:27]

So this Euclid case had dragged on in large part because Jessie initially agreed to take a plea. And then at the last second insisted on a trial which delayed things more. My trial was supposed to happen today, and yet word was Jessie had changed his mind again a couple days ago.

[00:05:46]

A lawyer he'd hired, a woman named HL7 McCullough, had notified the court, but never mind. Jessie does want to take a plea. So we're there in court.

[00:05:55]

Does the bounce goals, Jessie, for being late? I mean, she tends to have McCullough. McCulloh, I, Mr. Nickerson wants to plead.

[00:06:01]

Now, is that correct, Miss McCollum? Yes, Your Honor. Sorry for the delay. No excuses. I mean, she turns to Jessie. Is that correct, Mr. Nickerson? No, ma'am.

[00:06:12]

No, ma'am. As in surprise. Jessie doesn't want to take the plea. I mean, it just spins out of control. What do you mean? What do you mean?

[00:06:20]

No, ma'am. Does the baron says I'm unhappy with my representation. Jessie replies when Jessie accuses having McCulloh of trying to pressure him to take a plea against his wishes. McCullough, who's standing right next to Jessie, is like, Hang on a minute. McCullough tells Judge Abound. This is the first time she's hearing this. I've been McCullough and Jessie start arguing.

[00:06:42]

I just want to go forward. She made no mention of her out of talks at a time. It's your lawyer's turn. Go ahead.

[00:06:50]

He spoke on two occasions yesterday and this morning before we came in here today, he made no indication that he was not comfortable taking this plea. So if he wants to continue the trial, he can do so if he's unhappy with my representation. I will excuse myself as I've done. I have done all I can for Mr. Decker, say. And if he wants to keep going on with this, I'm playing games.

[00:07:11]

I can't judge the baron sides of heaven. She's presided over Jessie's case for seven months and doesn't seem to have a question about whose fault is. But Judge La Bound forced to once again set another court date for Jessie.

[00:07:26]

Afterwards, Jessie tells me he'd flip flopped because he was afraid that if he took the plea does that Brown was going to thrown in jail. He tells me now he's got a new plan. Hire Scott Ramsey and win at trial.

[00:07:46]

About a week later, Jesse's next court date in Euclid. I got to a courtroom a little early to watch some of Judge Miller bounce other cases.

[00:07:53]

This morning, I heard from Sarah about just the Bolton was tough on weed smokers. I saw what she meant. Three of the cases that morning involve someone who had the same misdemeanor drug charge. Jesse did. And Judge, the ban was hard on all of them. When a nurse had fallen asleep in a drive thru, came before a double bound grumbled that someone should contact the state licensing board. She told a high school kid that she saw him again on a weed charge.

[00:08:19]

He was going to throw him in adult jail, adult jail for pot.

[00:08:24]

In comes Jesse looking like it just rolled out of bed.

[00:08:28]

He couldn't stop yawning and he kept running his tongue over his teeth like he was trying to get rid of last night's meal. He also reeked of weed. I mean, reeked. OK, Jesse and I took a couple seats in the courtroom gallery whispering as we waited for.

[00:08:42]

It's not gonna get it over with. Other this.

[00:08:49]

Jesse told me his plan for today was to plead guilty. That's right. After pissing off Judge LeBaron by not showing up to court. Men agreeing to a plea, then insisting on a trial, then agreeing to a plea. Again, Ben insisting on a trial. Again, Jesse's plan today was to reverse course one more time and accept a plea deal.

[00:09:11]

So what's your what are you. What's the strategy here? What are you going to say? Just tell the truth. She knew I was telling the truth. Could you pass a drug test?

[00:09:22]

No, I don't. Why would I have to?

[00:09:25]

I'm just saying there's a scenario in which he asks how often you take drugs. Right.

[00:09:31]

You're going to be honest. And I will tell you why. I've had judges ask people this quite a bit.

[00:09:37]

A sort of honesty test for defendants. Could you pass a drug test today? Are you good, boss? Well, let's do one right now. I know you couldn't pass. I'm sorry. Speak up. Still, Jesse, who smells like his shadow would fail a drug test, tells me now he's gonna play it straight, appeal for mercy. He thinks just about all respect that. Flash forward an hour or so, and if I drive past you today, you're going to be positive right now.

[00:10:05]

Oh, you're not. When's the last time you had smoked weed? All of that upsets me. But I say to. So do we.

[00:10:14]

Oh, you think it's clear from your sister. I know. I know. It's not awesome these days, huh?

[00:10:21]

I can't pass a drug test. Jesse Ventura admits not a good look. I need to get back on the right track. He says meekly. Where is Scott Ramsey just about asks. You told me on Friday you'd have him here. Yeah. He wasn't able to make it. Jesse mumbles. Geoff Baron asked Jesse if you've anything to say for himself, Jesse, half apologizing, half pleading, tells Judge LeBaron about the day was pulled over about his son being born prematurely, how he was just driving home to change his clothes.

[00:10:54]

Does the baron is not moved.

[00:10:57]

You're either Ivanhoe with the open container, Smirnoff or ICE in the summer. Paxo.

[00:11:04]

I didn't know that was the policy driving the car, so I thought it was. I thought it was like a fairly drink. I didn't mean I didn't exactly know what it is that I did have some marijuana. But I did not know. This is not what you're gonna go see your child. I'm saying I was I was under stress at the time. They've said that. Mr Mitchell said they are all under stress.

[00:11:28]

Men just let Baron start talking about Jessie's driver's license suspension.

[00:11:33]

And how many open suspensions did you have on that day? I hope you. Nine, nine.

[00:11:44]

A lot of suspensions I know. Although people walking around with multiple driver's license suspensions is not at all uncommon in Ohio, which I want to talk about for one quick second here, because it's a real trap built into the Ohio criminal court system, one that judges seem to hate and that snags lots of people, especially poor people who live in urban areas.

[00:12:05]

Here's how it works. I grew up in Ohio, love Ohio, but it is a terrible place to try to function without being able to drive.

[00:12:13]

Perhaps in part for that very reason, the state has learned that revoking someone's driver's license is a great way to get their attention for any number of things. That's car insurance. Open warrants being late on child support, unexcused absences from school. There are more than 40 different ways you can get your license suspended in Ohio, according to the DMV, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. One point one million people in Ohio got their license suspended last year as a temp from the state.

[00:12:42]

And on average, BMB says people with suspensions don't just have one suspension. They are free on average because people keep driving. It can be hard not to. And every time you're caught driving on a suspended license, you get another suspension. There's an escalating series of penalties, mandatory BMB fees, and finds that only a payday loan company would be proud of trying to get out from under these suspensions. Once you've been caught in the trap, it's a terrible business, Jesse.

[00:13:12]

He didn't even know how much he owed. I called around to various municipal courts, added up the potential BMV costs, and I'd say Jesse could oh, as much as ten thousand dollars. He told me he's tried from time to time to tend to the fees paid one fine here. Gone on a payment plan there. But at the rate he's going. He'll probably never be able to settle his bill or get a valid driver's license. OK, back to court in Euclid.

[00:13:47]

Jesse Stinking of weed is offering to plead guilty to two out of eight charges. Just Tesla, an accepted Jesse's plea.

[00:13:55]

Man, she wondered out loud whether Jesse would be a good candidate for probation instead of a jail sentence. But conclusions of the bound comes to is no. No, he would not.

[00:14:05]

You've got to do is argue with the probation officer over anything that I may order in this case, kind of like you did with the officers when they play show under arrest and you're kind of in the jail with the corrections officers.

[00:14:21]

My conduct at the jail with the corrections officers. Jesse asks. Does the on refreshes his memory? She takes out a police report from Jessie's arrest.

[00:14:30]

One that I hadn't seen as well while they were transporting you to the jail. Do you remember your lovely comments to the officers that say you're racist, you and your partner?

[00:14:42]

That's why they call you pigs. Fuck you, nigga. Fuck you over and over in the car.

[00:14:51]

Then at the jail, you're asking the officers in front of the corrections officers, what do you want to see them strip? Search me, you fucking faggot. Want to see my dick? It's really quite bracing to hear a Midwestern white lady drop the N-word and more in open court, like listening to your fourth grade teacher read a Quentin Tarantino script. But Judge La Brown is not shy. And Jesse, from what I can tell, is embarrassed.

[00:15:19]

He looks resigned and small, as does the band sentences him. One hundred dollars in fines, 40 hours of community service and those nine suspensions. Congratulations. Just Baron says you just bought suspension number 10 from the state of Ohio. Said, this is Jesse to five days in jail. Jesse tilt his head back. Closes his eyes as a bailiff, paces him in handcuffs and leads him away.

[00:15:54]

I want to tell you what ended up happening with Aramis Spencer, the guy with the Blunt who got arrested in the hallway of his own apartment building and put in the hospital by two police officers because Airmen's and Jesse. Obviously, their experiences with the police at the hands of police are very different and they're very different people. But in certain ways, their cases echo each other.

[00:16:15]

The aftershocks, especially if you remember Aramis was trying to get rid of his criminal charges so that he could file a civil lawsuit.

[00:16:23]

The resisting arrest was the sticking point. He wasn't going to plead to it. The city wasn't gonna drop it. They were at a standoff. A trial date was set.

[00:16:31]

And then that video came out, the one that Airmen's, his lawyer, called a miracle. Manna from heaven only legally speaking, of course, in every other way. The video was horrible.

[00:16:43]

It showed a white Euclid police officer, Michael Amiotte, the same one from Aramis, his case beating the crap out of a young black guy during a traffic stop, seemingly without provocation. The guy in the video actually videos there are several was named Richard Hubbard, the third. You could see Hubbard splayed out on the asphalt. Officer Amiotte on top of him, punching him in the face with both arms. Right, left, right, left. You see Hubbard's girlfriend on her hands and knees slapping the ground just a few feet away from them, screaming for it to stop.

[00:17:15]

Pretty soon, the story was in The Washington Post, The New York Post, The L.A. Times, CNN.

[00:17:20]

They did the same thing to me. I mean, it seems like they're going from one to another.

[00:17:25]

When Airmen's watched it, he recognized with bitterness the beating in that video. The series of moves the officers make, the way Officer Amiotte straight away tries to kick Richard Hubbard in the crotch.

[00:17:37]

That's all. Well, maybe that's a new procedure. And usually maybe they begin to tie you to the ground in you and kick you in the face and tase you. And that's maybe, I don't know, maybe that's a new procedure and I don't know.

[00:17:50]

Aram is a civil attorney. Paul Costello figured the Hubbard video would persuade the city of Euclid to drop the resisting, maybe drop everything, because how are you going to put an officer on the stand who's been suspended for excessive force, who, it turned out had had to resign from his previous job at the Metro Police Department for lying about a traffic stop, even wearing a crisp uniform? Officer Amiotte probably would look like a bad egg if he testified.

[00:18:18]

A few weeks went by. Euclid did not drop the whole thing. September 7th, 2017, Irma's had his final pretrial date in Euclid. It was a Thursday. The trial was scheduled for Monday, four days from now. Spiro's Kanakas, EMRs criminal attorney, was running around the courthouse haggling over the most recent plea offer. Armus arrived with his mother, Kalli. There, a little tense. Understandably, they weren't sure what was about to happen. They'd been fighting these charges for a long time, nine months now.

[00:18:48]

It was all very real prospect that if they couldn't work something out today and Irma's ended up a trial and was convicted at trial, he could get jail time.

[00:18:58]

Spiro's walks over motions that he wants to speak to Aramis and Callard.

[00:19:03]

Can I come now? No. Okay. They step outside the building.

[00:19:07]

I can see them through the plate glass windows. Spiro's gesticulating, Amazon. Caleigh listening, nodding or gesticulating or nodding. They come back in.

[00:19:19]

Yes, we all go into the courtroom.

[00:19:26]

At the prosecutor's table was a guest prosecutor, a woman named Sara Fanelli from a fancy Cleveland law firm after the scandal with Officer MEAC. You could have hired her to deal with Emma's case.

[00:19:38]

You already know the judge, Debra LeBaron.

[00:19:42]

My understanding is a plea agreement has been reached. Is that correct? That is correct, Your Honor.

[00:19:48]

And the plea is served on behalf of the city of Euclid. At this time, is my understanding that Mr. Spencer will draw his previous later pleas of not guilty plea of guilty to a drug abuse charge for the ballot. No charges in are dismissed at his course.

[00:20:04]

After all the struggle over these four charges and the civil rights secrets they contained, weed landed here. Now resisting not even a last ditch. Disorderly conduct. Just the weed.

[00:20:16]

So you're dismissing counts B, C and D, the theft, the resisting arrest and the criminal damage is a, correct? That is correct.

[00:20:23]

Judge Albarran checks with Oremus, is that correct? Yes, Your Honor. She asks him if he's using marijuana.

[00:20:30]

He says no. That he stopped after the incident. He tells her he's trying to get a job. Irma's his mother.

[00:20:36]

Caleigh is moving around in her seat in the gallery.

[00:20:40]

Mammies, you seem like you want to say something to me. I do.

[00:20:45]

Just a few minutes ago, out in the lobby before court started, Kelly and I had been talking. She's got four grown sons. They're close family.

[00:20:53]

She's been right there with Aramis every step of this case. She told me the police don't realize one day this could happen to one of their children. Some way somehow, she said the excessive force. It has to stop. I said I can care less about anything else. That's my main goal, just to stop it. I mean, I'm not trying to throw no race car this that another. I just want it to be fixed because I'm in it.

[00:21:20]

I'm not saying police are bad, but the system non-fixed was as bad then. They mean the whole system is corrupt. But you want us as a society to fix what's going on in our home. But you don't want to fix what's going on in your home.

[00:21:36]

I mean, enough is enough.

[00:21:39]

She talked about the beating her son took, what it was like for her to see him in a hospital bed, his face disfigured, how she felt blessed.

[00:21:47]

She hadn't been called to come view her son's body that day. Now, Kelly was about to address the judge for the first time, I thought here comes even though it was a bad incident that happened.

[00:21:59]

I'm glad because I've been trying to get my son off marijuana for years. He's been clean. There's this December. I couldn't ask for a better payment for me is to see my son back like he was before. So Sandhamn offered marijuana and everything else is a blessing. So for that, I'm thankful.

[00:22:27]

And I appreciate your comments, ma'am. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes something bad to happen for something good to come out of it. Hello, love. Oh, for.

[00:22:36]

You know what? You know what we're talking about now. Yes. Well, I see, Mr. Spencer, you have great support in your mother, and you're very lucky to have that.

[00:22:48]

And the drug abuse charge. I found you guilty. It'll be one hundred and fifty dollars in costs. Spiro's.

[00:22:55]

It said it to this incident. He told the judge has helped Hermes.

[00:23:00]

He's been clean off marijuana. Straighten out. He's just happy to put this matter behind him all the time.

[00:23:06]

The elephant in the room, the kicking, the tasing, the two hospitals, the broken orbital bone. All of it had suddenly shrunk to the size of a bulge. A blunt sized bulge, as if this whole ugly endeavor was only about getting air mass off of weed. Airbus knew the truth of it, of course, later outside the courthouse, he'd give me a wry smile and say, I'll take what I can get. But in this moment, Caleigh was flooded with maternal relief.

[00:23:36]

She walked over to Sarah Fanelli, the visiting prosecutor, and gave her a hug.

[00:23:41]

He has changed his life.

[00:23:42]

And this guy got that hug. Not the end of the story. More after the break. When Paul had first taken me to meet Aramis back at the end of 2016, as you were driving home, he'd impressed on me how enduring the consequences of a beating can be.

[00:24:04]

Paul's talked to a lot of people who've been hurt by police officers or corrections officers. And he said it's not something that's over even when it's over.

[00:24:12]

When when you are seriously injured by the police, when you're sent to the hospital and isn't just a soft tissue, some bullshit. It really does affect them. It'll it'll that this will mess with them. You'll like if you stick with this story and we follow them, you'll see. Understood the broad strokes of what Paul was saying, that there'd be some kind of fallout over time, psychological fallout. But I wasn't sure what that was going to look like.

[00:24:42]

A few weeks after Airmen's criminal case ended. Paul told me about a confusing conversation he'd had with Aramis during which Armus was repeating certain things about what had happened in his hallway, as if it were looping in his head.

[00:24:54]

I called Carly to ask whether she'd noticed the same thing. Over and over and over. Oh, wow. Yep. As if that happened yesterday. And are you like, how worried are you about him? Very. Oh, really? Hairy as a mother? Yes. It's not easy watching your child go through this. And you have no way I Shelford. I don't know. For me, it's like he his trust level was not. Was.

[00:25:33]

Anytime something comes up in the news, she said. Or maybe they're watching a movie together, which used to be a joy for her. Now, if something comes up related to police violence or government corruption, she's worried about Imus's reaction. Press day USA. See, I told you can't trust nobody. That's why he gets made me angry and he gets to talk and you keep your voice as loud. You could feel the. A sense of rage at him and his tone now just body language, just totally different.

[00:26:08]

What's your fear for him if he's kind of got that rage and anger?

[00:26:16]

He's he's got to the point now where he's not really afraid of the street. And I am. Aramis is hurting, she said, and the shape of that hurt seems to be a need to prove to everyone around him that he's not a punk. That he's tough. So Carly's biggest fear now is that he'll take that hurt and that need out into the streets and deploy them where they don't belong. Kelly says none of her sons had been in the streets growing up.

[00:26:46]

This is new for her. For them, she never thought this kind of thing would happen to her family. But she said suddenly, you are that family that it's happening to. Officer Michael Achmea, the cop and emesis case, was fired from the Eucla police department, more use of force incidents had come to light, including a dreadful thing in the Euclid Public Library. Body cam video showed him taking a 16 year old girl wearing a backpack to the ground face first while she was in handcuffs, kept her down with his knee.

[00:27:25]

A small child was watching, shrieking. Amy outstayed fired for about a year, but it appealed his termination. And just recently, an arbitrator sided with him. Officer MEAC should be back on the youthful police force any day. Paul Costello did end up filing a lawsuit on behalf of animus against the city of Euclid. The police officers and Airbuses apartment building. Sarah Fanelli, the guest prosecutor whom Kelly hugged, defended the city of Euclid this past summer.

[00:28:00]

They settled neither the city nor the officers admitted liability. Aramis got fifty thousand dollars. It wasn't as much as Paul had hoped, but he felt like it was the best they were going to do things with.

[00:28:11]

Aramis had become Rocky. He picked up a few new charges marijuana, but also domestic violence. They were all misdemeanors. But still. I don't want to make excuses for whatever MS might have done, and to be clear, neither did Paul.

[00:28:26]

But I did ask Paul whether he thought there was a connection between then and now. Was this what he was talking about back in December of 2016 when he told me this will mess with him?

[00:28:36]

If you stick with this story and we follow him, you'll see. Paul said, I don't know. I really don't know. In a civil trial, assuming you win, the jury has to figure out damages. That's the final stage of reckoning. Cause leads to, in effect, leads to compensation for the damaged on you financially, physically. It's a fairly rational calculus. But how do you quantify the intangible damage a cop does to your sense of the world, to your sense of yourself when he kicks your ass?

[00:29:10]

And then what if it's not one cause that's led to the damage? What if there are many causes, many effects? I tried to call it message Airbus. Finally, I got word through Paul Airbus didn't plan on calling me back. He said he didn't have any interest in that right now. Jesse Nickerson, though, different story. Jesse had a lot to say to Emanuel about causes and effects. I'm going to hand you back to Emanuel now.

[00:29:38]

For months, Jesse continued to rack up all kinds of tickets and charges, including a charge for menacing in the East Cleveland police officer at a gas station. My first heard about this thing, honestly, my for now is just more of the same. The police have a hair trigger for Jesse. They were probably harassing him and he gave it back. Small thing took on a life of its own. Here's how Jesse initially described it. He said, yeah, he'd confronted a cop, but it was nothing really.

[00:30:08]

Pretty tame. So when I got the video of what had happened, it really threw me. It was not tame.

[00:30:17]

The video is from a body cam that David Duncan and his Cleveland police officer was wearing in it. You can see that Duncan standing inside a gas station convenience store right by the entrance. Man, Jesse enters the frame coming from the back of the shop carrying a drink. Jesse skips everyone in line at a register. Put some money down on the counter. And if he walks past Duncan towards the door, starts cussing him out.

[00:30:47]

Right. I'm sorry. You got it. Let me tell you, I had a brother.

[00:30:54]

Jesse leaves the store, but then comes back in. He walks towards Duncan and then backs up, opening the doors if to leave. Again and again, as Duncan tells Jesse, he never did anything to him. Jesse is trying to start something with Duncan. Duncan's really not going for it. But Jesse is relentless. You only do stuff to people in cuffs.

[00:31:14]

Jesse says you a coward until you did nothing to nothing to Jesse motions toward the parking lot.

[00:31:28]

Sort of. This doesn't work. I never do anything to you. I never do anything to you.

[00:31:37]

I found this video is shocking. Jesse so aggressive. I didn't understand it. Didn't understand what Jesse, 40, was doing or what in the world he could possibly get from going off to a cop this way of having more trouble. A few hours off, I got the video. I met up with Jesse to talk about it.

[00:31:56]

Picture of hope over here. Right there. Oh, Jesse.

[00:32:00]

Been smoking weed in his car in the parking lot on a train and bus station called Windermere Golfing right in the middle of East Cleveland. A lot of people seem to come and hang out here.

[00:32:12]

Jesse and I sat in his car and watched the video. We got to the part where Jesse seems to be challenging Duncan to fight. I paused it.

[00:32:22]

So what are you asking him to do? I'm telling him I'm telling him to address the issue. I'm I'm I'm saying I'm fed up. Basically, I'm fed up with two people. Put your hands on me. That's what I'm saying. Like be a mayor. Come on. I'm not saying I'm gonna beat Joe ass right now. Obviously, you all saying, like, step outside.

[00:32:43]

I repeat what I said. I'm telling him to take office. What do you mean take off his shirt, take off his take off his arm or his badge and all of that and be a man. Like what? What does that mean, BMA? I'm saying because. Because obviously every time Nader ran it to me, they didn't beat me up. Why do I have handcuffs on?

[00:33:02]

I guess it's confusing to me because on the one hand, you said I don't want any business with these police. I'm going about my business. I'm not doing anything illegal. And they're arresting me. But it seems like. But it seems like you all go. You're harassing this officer right now, like you were starting this. Yes, I did. Jessie reminded me that David Duncan wasn't some random housekeeping police officer. Duncan was the officer who daunted, free of a crowd of people on the Fourth of July.

[00:33:33]

Left everyone else alone and grabbed Jessie. It was Duncan who dragged Jessie to the car. It was Duncan on the body cam from that night who stood over Jessie, insisting that Jessie hurt himself as Jessie Leyva. Shouting in pain.

[00:33:50]

We lost you. Oh, God.

[00:33:56]

Jessie also told me he knew Duncan even before that. Remember Officer Nevilles, the cop who gave Jesse's phone number to Demesne Dixon for one so-called mean Jessie in the park, just had gone to the police department to complain about Nevilles. And when he did, it was Officer Duncan. Jessie said he'd talked to Jessie, said Duncan asked him who he wanted to complain about. And when Jessie told him Nevilles, Jessie said Duncan told him, man, get the fuck out of here.

[00:34:24]

I tried to talk to Duncan to ask about his various interactions with Jesse, but the police department refused to make him available. Jesse told me as a rule, he's never backed down from a fine except for police. Sure, he took his mouth off at them, but he never fought back physically, not in the park of Denine Dixon. Not on the Fourth of July. Not when he says they threw him in the holding cell. Jesse felt like the police were bullying him and he was just taking it might have been bothering him more and more.

[00:34:57]

Another time, we were hanging out at Windermere.

[00:35:00]

Jesse told me he'd been having dreams about being back in the park with the name and the other cop, reliving the moment, denying and challenge him to a fight. It sounded like these dreams were one part flashback, one part fantasy about how things might have gone differently. The situation probably would have worked out for the best or the worse if I would have defended myself. I tried to run from the situation. Then they chased me and beat me down.

[00:35:23]

So I'm thinking like like if I were to handle my business right in the neck because I'm a man and I and I know life.

[00:35:29]

You think that if you defended yourself, it would be better for you?

[00:35:32]

If I were defending myself, it would have been better. Because I know. I know. I know for me my physical well-being like I can I can handle him like I can handle. I kind of have it, both of them officers.

[00:35:44]

I doubted that the name was a six foot four X Arena football linebacker. I don't know.

[00:35:49]

I just felt like two against one in that situation. I'm not trying to like that. Would not have turned out wealthy. No, I'm I'm I'm not saying like I would a day. I'm saying this a lie. I hate that I couldn't defend myself. I hate that I can defend my son. When I just ran that mean, I didn't I surrender to him like I didn't surrender to. I knew Jesse felt ashamed about that night in the park.

[00:36:17]

Mine always for that was because it's inherently humiliating to be physically overpowered. But talking with Jesse, I realized I didn't have that quite right. Really, the thing Jesse feels ashamed about is that he ran away.

[00:36:33]

Just legacy. The more I watched a video in a gas station for more, Jesse's confrontation with Officer Duncan looked different. Jesse was asking Duncan to fight him like a man. Navot Jesse wasn't in cuffs. You're going to hear as fight me like your man, but also for Duncan to fight.

[00:36:49]

Jesse, like Jesse is a man to sit in a video after what feels like an eternity of yelling at Duncan, Jesse finally gives up leaves. We have other people in this door start talking a lot of my home eyes. One guy in the store DAPs Duncan up congratulate Duncan on keeping his cool. At one point the woman says to Duncan about Jesse, that is so sad.

[00:37:27]

I saw the video of Jesse yelling at Duncan. I want to get my hands on as much information about Jesse's interactions with the police as possible. So same day I went from Jesse's car to the East Cleveland police station to see if I could pick up some more police reports from Jesse's arrest on the Fourth of July at the station.

[00:37:45]

There was a man at the vestibule window. I never met before. Sergeant Jeff Williams, Sergeant Willand is an older white guy, well-built, weathered, bald, with a salt and pepper goatee.

[00:37:56]

I told him I wanted a police report. He got up, ambled over to a computer and asked who it was for Jesse Nickerson. I said, I want to see a report of a Fourth of July. Father Williams nodded, printed off reports as he walked to the window. Williams scanned the pages, laughing a little as he read what Jesse said to the officers that night.

[00:38:18]

But then when he got to the window, Sergeant Williams, his eyes suddenly welled up with tears. He told me that Jesse never would have talked to him that way. I've been trying for months to get anyone from these Cleveland Police Department to talk to me about Jesse and I had just been impossible. Father Williams didn't say much else, but emotionally over to a door and buzzed me into the back. We went to an office where Wims offered me a seat at a desk.

[00:38:44]

He told me he didn't want to be recorded, but he said, Let me tell you why Jesse is the way is. Father Williams told me he'd been acquainted with Jessie's family for 20 years. The Nickerson's were sort of notorious in East Cleveland and Jesse's older brothers were constantly getting in trouble. But Sergeant Williams said Jesse was a really sweet kid, super bright, the kind of kid you want to save from the world around him. Sergeant Williams smiled when he talked about it.

[00:39:11]

Many polls suggest he stopped being that bright young kid after Ricky died. Jesse told me about Ricky, his older brother, and how Ricky was murdered in 1998 when Jesse was 10 years old. We were sitting in his living room and just he built a makeshift diorama on the coffee table in front of him using a cigarette lighter and a bottle of vodka. Just move him around as he told a story about one night he'd been with three friends hanging out in the parking lot smoking weed laced with PSAP.

[00:39:43]

Then one of Ricky's friends had a psychotic episode. Shot Ricky in the head. The other guys ran, but a friend of a gun. Hundred feet down, one by one and killed them. According to Jesse. All of this happened with a police officer just one street away. An officer who no doubt heard the gunfire but didn't respond until after the shooting stopped. The police could have saved one person that night, Jessie said. But the officer didn't do enough and sat over there.

[00:40:12]

And three people died. Sergeant Williams told me that after that night, Jessie wasn't the same. We've been a couple of years. He started getting in trouble. He said just his whole family seemed to reel from Ricky's death. For years afterwards, Sergeant Williams said he would constantly be picking up one of Jesse's other brothers for small crimes, mostly drug related. One night, Williams responded to a disturbance, and when he got there, he saw just his brother was involved.

[00:40:41]

Jesse's brother was so high and out of it, Sergeant Williams decided to just take him home instead of taking him to the station. As they drove, as his brother told Sergeant Williams, you don't know.

[00:40:52]

Deaf father Fatherlands admitted he didn't know deaf. The only people he'd ever lost were his grandparents. He dropped Jesse's brother off when Sergeant Williams came home that morning. He arrived to find his own 14 year old son. Kyle had died. He'd been huffing a bottle of dustoff computer cleaner and gone into cardiac arrest. Sergeant Williams, out of a deaf, tore his family apart. He blamed himself for not knowing how dangerous huffing was. His daughter blamed herself because she'd seen Kyle sneak off with a bottle of dust often.

[00:41:24]

I hadn't said anything. Father Win said she never recovered. Sergeant Williams told me his watch Jesse get in trouble. And to him, it's always look like suffering. The only reward Jesse's ever gotten for his suffering, it seems. Sergeant Williams was be beaten up by two cops and sent away a little bit of money.

[00:41:44]

He said these days, whenever he hears just his name, he braces himself for the news that Jesse is dead. He told me, but if I was going to do a story about Jesse Nickerson, I should talk to Jesse more about Ricky. So I did. Three weeks later. Jesse and I met in his apartment. Jesse was not the greatest of moods I interview, had spilled into a Thursday night and he could hear his friends drinking outside. I brought up Sergeant Williams.

[00:42:18]

I ran into him not too long ago. And these are some really nice things about you.

[00:42:26]

I started to tell him what Sergeant Williams had said about what a sweet, bright kid Jesse was about Ricky's murder. But he said it wasn't like that. I know.

[00:42:36]

Obviously, nerdy is shit for me. He's clean. He never gave me extra damn apple or nothing. So that's a lie. That's a lie. OK. Because, I mean, he didn't even say that he'd that he'd really done. I didn't even say that he. I'm just saying it's no officer. That never, never been nice to me.

[00:42:55]

So, no, Jesse was adamant, more adamant. I never heard him be. He denied that Sergeant Williams knew anything about him. There's this.

[00:43:05]

This are blind and foolish. You will see. He does speak. And only he not speaking on me. He's speaking on my brother. We'll. I'm Tony LA. I'm 20 now. My brother, my brother. I killed 20 years. I went now here in St.. You wouldn't know. You wouldn't know me, right? That's a lie. But he said you were like a small kid and that, you know, he knew you as a small kid.

[00:43:30]

I wasn't. I wasn't out in the streets. I wasn't out here.

[00:43:34]

I'm trying to get you to actually do the math. Like, listen, I have not interacted with the officer on the school stuff. How? I'm not sure how. What is it, Nancy?

[00:43:49]

Jesse says Sergeant Williams must be confusing him for his brother William, because I've met Jesse's brother, William. He and Jesse do look little alike. But in any case, I think Jesse most strongly rejected this, was that Ricky's death had changed the course of Jesse's life in a way sort of meaningful, saying his brother got killed.

[00:44:08]

I've seen I seen it troubled. Listen, we'll on crime in order to see me cry. If you see me, Krauser. That's we're supposed to do. I went to the things that I was going to do when I was younger because I was young and dumb. I was young and dumb. I see everybody out here, we're out of last you stuff in order. I wanted I want the same stuff. But, you know, quite a case when I was 18, got out when I was 22 and I never went back.

[00:44:39]

So this cool day, I mean, I'm I'm not angry at the officer who just. Now to speak facts, man. Life is about facts. But they want to single out something like why I am a troubled human being and why I'm a troubled person.

[00:44:57]

This is a person spectator. Somebody else life. That's it. In all he's trying to do is be like this. This is why Nickerson is the way he is or is why he went to the. The driver of leisure. He didn't want to. That's not the case. That's not the case. Jesse went on angrily for the next 10 minutes about Sergeant Williams's fairy. I think his reaction was so intense because he's been through so much more than Ricky's deaf, his sister Denise, who Jesse was close to, went missing for over a week when Jesse was a teenager, when she was found dead in her apartment.

[00:45:35]

His brother, Antoine, died as an infant. His teenaged nephew, Diondre, died in a drive by. Ben, there are over wrongs, Jesse believes the police have done him. I think when Sergeant Williams pin so much meaning on Ricky and how Ricky's def affect Jessie, Jessie found it offensive generalizing. Jesse wasn't in the mood to have a Sargents faries. He was too angry for that and he wasn't interested in being explained, especially by of all people.

[00:46:05]

A police officer like I'm very sorry now, like, I am not. I'm tired of being treated like I'm tired. I'm tired of being a victim. So no more. Justin Nickerson is being a victim. I'm not. What does that mean? I'm never in me. I'm not. I'm saying I just want the world to know about she. I'm not buddy. Keep being a victim like my father. Come up on me and put their hands on me for no reason.

[00:46:36]

I'm not gonna let it happen. I'm not just. But as you can see, all these other towns I never did and that I just been a victim is not. I'm not brother. Keep me in a victim.

[00:46:48]

I had to press him to get him to lay it out explicitly. But Jesse was saying that the next time the police got physical with him, his plan was to fight back. Pretty more awesome for everyone. Especially worrisome because in the months after that. That leads in East Cleveland appeared to be driving down Jesse Street a lot, riding Jesse ticket off the ticket for the usual, driving on a suspension, Reade possession.

[00:47:14]

One is Cleveland. Cops later told me the attitude of the folks in charge was that while officers shouldn't go out of their way to wipe Jesse up, they should, quote, handle Jesse whenever every opportunity presented itself. Eventually, these Cleveland cop told me the snowball effect will, you know, take effect.

[00:47:43]

Last thing I'm gonna tell you is how Jesse's pile up of criminal charges in East Cleveland. Check out Jesse beat one charge at trial.

[00:47:51]

But the bulk of them dragged on for months, months and months until one cold day in January when his Cleveland essentially held out one hand to make a deal with the other.

[00:48:02]

It took a swing.

[00:48:04]

The city dropped all five charges from Jesse's Fourth of July arrest. I didn't have body cam video. I backed up the claim. But Jesse was the aggressor, but he'd spat on an officer. In return, Jesse pleaded to three misdemeanor charges, including the menacing charge against Officer Duncan at the gas station. And on those charges, the city went after him asking for a year in jail. During his sentencing, the city prosecutor listed some of Jesse's old felony convictions, noting Jesse's long rap sheet in his Cleveland, some 22 cases in all, she failed body cam video from one of Jesse's previous arrests where true to form.

[00:48:43]

Jesse was mouthing off to the police officer. What she didn't know was that that same arrest was suspect. Jesse later beat that case at trial. Anyway, in a brief filed with the court, the city argued that Jesse posed a danger to the police. And on top of that was a, quote, extremely negatively perverse influence on the city of East Cleveland. The judge, William Dawson, didn't seem moved by the city's pitch. Instead, he did something I did not see coming.

[00:49:15]

He pretty much acknowledged that the city had a point, but also diplomatically told everyone that he thought Jesse had a point to the city and the police had it out for him. Paulson said in not so many words. That's probably true. Obviously, I wasn't there. I don't know what occurred. But it seems like you prevailed. There was a settlement. So obviously something happened. And that could be the reason you have a problem with the police.

[00:49:40]

I cannot discount that. And at the same time, that may be a reason why they have a problem with you. It's like, OK, we think that he prevailed and he shouldn't prevail. So, yeah, every time, you know, his blinker is not working, we can pull them all listeners. This is caught it as black as possible. They don't like you maybe. And you may not like them. So now how do we deal with encounters so that you end up in court?

[00:50:01]

That's the key. George Dawson decided some kind of solution other than jail time was in order. And with that, he sentenced Jesse to six months of probation and enrolled him in a program designed to teach people how to have better experiences with the criminal justice system. His hope, he later told me, was that Jesse would learn how to behave better around police to calm himself so these interactions would be less heated. I thought it was almost kind, though.

[00:50:31]

It also seemed like the judge was hoping Jesse would change because he knew these given police weren't going to. Just before Jessie's 30th birthday, he was talking to Emanuel on the phone.

[00:50:55]

Jesse was full of resolve. He was wasting too much energy on the court. He said he's ready to do something meaningful, maybe write a book about his life. He wanted to write the end of his story now. He said so that it would be a good ending if you saw Jesse into a data set.

[00:51:13]

No one's favorite place to hang out. Sorry, Jesse. But if you consider him not as a trash talker with a rap sheet, but as a 30 year old man going about his business, odds are the criminal justice system is pretty much done with Jesse because people in their 30s and older, they're not the ones committing the most and the worst crimes. There's one research paper I read gently put it.

[00:51:35]

Crime tends to be a young person's activity to see that people the system is really focused on. We need to just lean to the left a little bit and look behind Jesse at the teenagers. That's next time on Serial, which will be in two weeks. I got to go out of town, but then we'll be back with our final episodes.

[00:52:09]

Ciro's, produced by Julie Snyder, Emmanuelle Joce, Ben Calhoun and me with additional reporting by Italia's Koskie. And a fee Scruggs editing on this episode from IRA Glass.

[00:52:18]

Winnie Dangerfield is our digital editor, research and fact checking by Ben Failing Sound Design and Mixed by Stowe Nelson. Music Clearance by Anthony Roman. Seth Lind is our director of Operations. The zero staff includes Emily Condon, Julie Whitaker, Cassie Howley, Frances Swanson and Matt Tierney. Our music is by Adam Dorn and how Willner with additional music from Matt McGinley and West Schwartz. Our theme song is by Nick Thorburn and remixed by Adam Dorn. Special thanks to Derrick Jackson, Mariah Crenshaw, Nick Castelli, Judge Michael Donelli, Judge John O'Donnell, David Eisenberg and Lindsay Bhau, Greg Edwards and Marcia Fisher from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

[00:52:54]

Abigail McNeil, Amanda Bates, Linda Ricot and Jack Green. The art on our website was made by Martinez E.B.. He created the mural for this episode and Mothe studio did the animation. Please check it out on our Web site Zero podcast artwork, that serial podcast dot org, where you can also sign up for our e-mail newsletter.

[00:53:12]

And be notified when new episodes are released. Serials, a production of This American Life and WBC Chicago.