¡Fo Reels, Yo! (...and for rants, and for other things too.)

March, 2009
the many warts of the Rudy Giuliani administration, most having to do with widespread police brutality were all but forgotten in the summer of 2002.  Just off the 9/11 attacks, Giuliani was considered a hero to the world for literally being in the soot, delivering orders, and keeping cool just yards from where the Twin Towers went down and where 3,000 people were murdered by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization who operated safely from Afghanistan's Taliban theocracy. 

Only years later did we find that Giuliani, as heroic as he was in personally guiding civilians to safety, was only out on the streets because he had been locked out of his own command post.  A billion dollar emergency center which was his brain child.  Shortly after the first (1993) World Trade Center attacks, he had this state of the art command center built inside, of all places, the World Trade Center complex itself.

His having to abandon ship, or better stated, not being allowed on ship to begin with, was not yet made public in 2002.  That June, New Yorker and first time filmmaker, Jon Osman, released his documentary, Justifiable Homicide, at Lincoln Center.  Positive reviews and further screenings in New York and London (Justifiable was co-produced by Oscar nominee Jonathan Stack and by UK Channel 4) aside, the doc failed to garner much attention.  Despite a cameo by Giuliani (seen doing a radio show during his pre-9/11 worst) the public seemed to have already turned the page.

Maybe they'll be willing to turn back so that we can get a re-release.  One which is deserving of a new title because in these post-Sean Bell days, a new and final chapter has finally been added to Osman's film.  One which proves that the executions of two Puerto Rican New Yorkers were not so justifiable after all.

Osman was a recent NYU film school grad when spotting Margarita Rosario in late 1997.  She was holding a rally against police brutality.  For the next three and a half years his cameras followed her champion a crusade for justice.  The documentary centers around Margarita's cause, her transformation from Giuliani supporting housewife to a political activist, as well as the execution styled shootings which changed her life forever.  These cold blooded murders took place on the night of January 12th, 1995, at 1740 Grand Avenue in the Bronx.

First however, it is crucial to add the necessary back story.  Back story covering the political climate of the early and mid 90's and to what is still considered one of the most bizarre NYPD cases and cover ups. 

By the early 90's, relations between police and public were at its worst since the shooting of Frank Serpico.  Popularized in Sidney Lumet's 1973 film, Serpico, and detailed in the 1970-1972 Knapp Commission, widespread corruption within the force was finally made public. 

Twenty years later, the arrest of six police officers who were later convicted of cocaine-trafficking, lead not only to a new corruption investigation, the 1992-1994 Mollen Commission, but also a new city organization, the Civilian Complaint Review Board.  Against the wishes of the NYPD, the CCRB was established in the summer of 1993 as an independent investigator of suspicious police activities.  

Even before the Mollen Commission was released, even before then-Mayor Dinkins implemented the CCRB, there were angry grumblings by cops.  A protest lead by then-mayoral candidate Giuliani on September 16th 1992, broke into riot as 10,000 (almost entirely) white off duty officers stormed the steps of City Hall.  All while inside City Hall, Dinkins was first proposing the Civilian Complaint Review Board to the City Council.  Giuliani used profanity while barking outside from a podium, provoking the cops to violence.  This during a time when many officers felt they were the victims of public, media, and political bashing.  It was clear that Giuliani was there to show New York that a new sheriff had arrived.  Upon defeating Dinkins in November of 1993, it was just as clear that this new sheriff would not subject himself to the Mollen Commission findings or the CCRB. 

Those findings, to the surprise of few, were that the NYPD was stuck in a new culture of corruption.  Not the "dirty money being taken under the table" styled corruption which was prevalent during Serpico's times.  Instead, widespread abuse of authority and brutality.  In the most extreme cases too, as seen with former officer Michael Dowd, cops were actually cutting out the criminals, the middle men, and trafficking drugs themselves.

The culture of corruption only escalated during Giuliani's administration.  On the night of December 22nd 1994, officers from the 46th precinct (one of the precincts hit hardest by the Mollen Commission) in the Bronx, arrested David Baez for disorderly conduct while he and his brother, Anthony, were playing football in the street.  David's football accidentally hit a parked cruiser and police officers asked him to stop playing.  When the brothers continued David, was arrested.  Anthony, a 29 year old security guard who weighed over 250 lbs rushed to his smaller brother's defense.  Angry words were exchanged, and before long Anthony was put in an illegal choke hold.  A hold which choked the very life out of the young husband and father.
Three weeks later, and less than a mile from where Anthony Baez was killed, an even bloodier incident occurred.  Because of some foggy details, the case didn't lead to the immediate outrage of Baez' murder, but it would become the subject of Jon Osman's documentary.
CORRECTION - September 11th, 2012:  Previously we incorrectly reported that filmmaker Jon Osman was born in Afghanistan.  He was not.  Apologies for the error.