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Must-Read Crime Reporting by Chrisopher Goffard at the LA Times

John on June 28, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’m not a fan of the LA Times, but this crime story by Christopher Goffard is quite simply excellent. It’s long, long enough that the Times published it in two pieces, but it’s worth your time. I kept thinking as I was reading that it’s a wonder no one has bought the film rights to this story. If they haven’t someone should:

He kept thinking that there had been a mistake, that he’d be out in no time. That the system, set into motion by some misunderstanding or act of malice, would soon correct itself.

That was before the detective informed him of the charges, and before the article in the Ventura County Star. “Man held after woman found raped and tortured,” read the headline, and there was his name, along with a quote from a police officer: “In 19 years of police work, this has to go down as one of the most brutal attacks I have ever seen.”

The sky was beautiful that afternoon. Louis Gonzalez III remembered it felt like spring.

He was standing on the sidewalk outside the Simi Valley Montessori School, having just flown in from Las Vegas, hoping to get a look at his 5-year-old son’s new kindergarten. Standing there, waiting for the door to open so he could scoop the boy up in his arms and fly him to Nevada for the weekend.

The first officer arrived on a motorcycle and headed straight for him. He did not explain the charges as he snapped on the handcuffs. As Gonzalez stood there stunned, he noticed little faces pressed against the schoolhouse glass, watching, and asked if he could be moved just a bit so his son didn’t have to see.

Soon he’d surrendered all the items that tethered him reassuringly to the rational, workaday world. The BlackBerry he used a hundred times a day. His Dolce & Gabbana watch. His credit cards and photos of his son. His leather shoes and his socks, his pressed shirt and jacket, his belt and slacks and underwear. Naked in a holding cell, he watched his things disappear into plastic bags. He stepped into a set of black-and-white-striped jail scrubs, the kind his son might wear on Halloween.

A month passed in his single-bunk cell, and then another, and he had nothing but time to reckon all he’d lost. His freedom. His son. His job. His reputation. He had to wonder how much he could endure.

That’s just the beginning. The twists in this one will make your head spin.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Kudos to Christopher Goffard for really excellent work. This is Pulitzer caliber stuff.

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