He Dunnit (No, He Dunnit!)

Michael Ray Roberts has avoided serious prison time by ratting out his partners. So far.

Brooks and Miles were late for the rendezvous, and by the time they arrived, it was ten minutes after midnight. Brooks checked in to Room 372 and called Roberts back to set up the deal, according to court documents.

Throughout the sting, Roberts was sitting in a holding room at the Customs office in West Palm Beach. When it was time for the deal to go down, Roberts followed instructions from the federal agents and told Brooks he was sitting in the motel parking lot in a white Dodge Dakota pickup with a camper shell. The truck was parked in the rear of the Days Inn lot, past the IHOP, and in a darkened corner of the dead-end driveway. As Brooks and Miles approached, the inside of the cab was too shadowed for them to know that an undercover agent sat inside.

Listening on his cell phone, Roberts heard the whole sting fall apart in seconds. "It was like a big snowball of shit," he says. "It just went downhill and fast."

Michael Ray Roberts, after his August 1 arrest on charges of smuggling 400 pounds of pot
Michael Ray Roberts, after his August 1 arrest on charges of smuggling 400 pounds of pot

As Brooks and Miles came up to the truck, government agents rushed in. They ordered both of them to the ground, where they dropped to their bellies. The cops were part of a drug task force made up of DEA agents, local police, and others. Among them was a Jupiter cop on loan to Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office organized crime bureau, which provided backup for the sting. Authorities won't release the Jupiter cop's name or any details of what happened next.

But what they will say is that as the cop rushed in, his gun fired, perhaps accidentally. Brooks died instantly.

On the other side of the pickup, Miles says he heard the shot and thought he might be next. "I just couldn't believe it," he says. "I didn't know if they were going to kill both of us. I still didn't know what it was about. It was like an execution." From under the truck, he could see blood running across the asphalt from Brooks' motionless body.

The agents arrested Miles on two federal charges of trying to distribute drugs. Press statements claimed that Brooks had paid Miles $500 to take him to Florida, something Miles denies. Miles, who faces up to 40 years in federal prison if convicted, says he won't take a deal if they offer him a chance to testify. "I knew nothing about this," he says.

While the feds built their case against Miles, the Sheriff's Office began investigating whether the shooting was justified. The Sheriff's Office finished its investigation September 26, although the results have not been released to the public. Prosecutors must now decide whether the Jupiter cop shot Brooks improperly and, if so, whether the officer should be charged with a crime.

Brooks' family has claimed the shooting was intentional. His ex-wife, Antoinette "Princess" White, believes the cops meant to kill him. "He was always talking about how he had a partner who is a police in Florida somewhere," White claimed by phone from her home outside Toronto. "I know that is why they shot him. They needed to shut him up."

In Jamaica, a half-dozen of his family members tried to get visas to come to Florida to find out what happened, but the U.S. government refused them. His sister, Juliette Cunningham, speaking by phone from her home in Jamaica, says Brooks' family still doesn't understand what happened. "He was a black man, and police just came up and shot him — that is all we know," she says. "What happened to a man innocent until you prove him guilty?"

Meanwhile, Roberts spends his days looking over his shoulder at the jail in West Palm. He says he knows the Jamaicans are after him. "I feel sure they would kill me in a heartbeat," he says with a cold stare from gold-rimmed glasses. "These guys, these Jamaicans, are a real professional outfit. They're some bad motherfuckers. That's for sure."

Roberts didn't get any guarantees for his testimony — at least, any that have been made public. The government agreed only to ask a judge for leniency, according to court papers. In exchange, Roberts must testify against Miles — the only person nabbed in the sting. Hudson, who allegedly supplied the dope, is still in Jamaica. Big Man is free, still using the New York City cell phone he used in the deal, though he didn't respond to messages from New Times left on the number.

Even if the judge goes easy on Roberts again, he says his idea of sailing the South Pacific is dead. The government seized his boat, and he's penniless again. "Any idea of me retiring now is gone. I'll have to work until the day I die." While he may get off easy again, he says his time in jail won't be easy.

Less than a month after Roberts set up the sting, prosecutors filed court papers indicating that they would seek a stiffer sentence, even with the deal he cut. They're asking for a minimum of ten years and as much as life in federal prison for a snitch who has, at least until now, been adept at ducking prison time.

"If you want to come back after I'm sentenced, I'll tell you what happens to federal witnesses in this place," Roberts said in the jail's visiting area. "It's a horror story that'll blow your mind."

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