Burned at Both Ends

A background in hauling pot gives you the skills and chutzpah to become a Medicaid mogul

That includes Boyd. "He's a nut! He's a nut!" the investigator cries. Boyd's M.O., he says, is to dig his heels in and blow smoke to distract from his own guilt. "He's attacked everyone that even remotely had to do with his case. He tells the truth just point-one percent of the time. In fact, if he did decide to take a plea deal and cooperate with the government, I wouldn't even bother debriefing him, the guy's such a documented liar."

If anybody wrote an article and quoted Boyd, he said, "It'll be good fiction, basically."

c. Stiles
John Darrell and Tracy Boyd in the 1970s — just your everyday friendly international drug traffickers!
Courtesy of john darrell boyd
John Darrell and Tracy Boyd in the 1970s — just your everyday friendly international drug traffickers!

In court, John Darrell Boyd sat on the witness stand staring down his attacker.

State prosecutor Stephen LeClair is a big, jowly man. When he takes a step, the room seems to thunder.

LeClair greeted Boyd by asking, "Have you ever been treated for mental illness?"

Boyd shot back, "Funny — I'd like to ask you the same thing."

"You don't get to ask the questions," LeClair said brusquely. "I do. Have you ever told a doctor that you suffer from paranoia or delusions?"

"No," Boyd answered, "but we talked about you doing that yesterday."

It was September 20, five long years after Boyd's arrest. The defendant had tried every tactic to get his case tossed out. He had plowed through lawyers; he'd argued that Safety Drugs had been searched illegally; he tried saying that detectives had interfered with his Fourth Amendment rights. Today was a last-ditch hearing on a motion to dismiss.

Judge Dava Tunis, wearing an oversized robe and dainty pearl earrings, listened patiently. She could not have been any sweeter, chirping instructions and peppering her speech with compliments. It seemed as though she might pacify the two feuding bulldogs by pulling juice boxes out of her desk. But after three hours of rambling testimony by a string of witnesses — including Albuerne, who spoke softly and rubbed his temples as though he were exhausted by the whole ordeal — Judge Tunis had to ask, "Where is this going? I mean, legally, where is it going?"

Boyd said on the witness stand, "Lawyers were conspiring with the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to bury me. I was left out on the ice floe! I'm 64 years old. I don't want to die in jail."

Tunis explained to Boyd that despite all of his research, despite any dirt he may have kicked up defending himself, his guilt or lack thereof would not change and his ability to get a fair trial would not be compromised "even if there was fraud between Cantera and the MFCU." She suggested he try to work out a plea and scheduled another hearing date.

Afterward, back at the tiki bar, Boyd felt dejected. His research seemed to have gone to waste, and at this point, LeClair had little desire to go easy on him. The prosecutor stated that even if he were going to work out some kind of a deal, it would have to include prison time. But, he pointed out, the first step in a plea is for the defendant to stop insisting he's innocent.

Boyd sighed. "I'm still a media star with the law enforcement guys," he said. "I'm a big pork chop! If they could nail me..." If they do, in fact, nail him, don't count on him to stage another spectacular fake death. "If worse comes to worse," he says, "I'll become a jailhouse lawyer and make the State of Florida rue the day they ever heard my name."

These days, just in case he's headed to the big house again, he savors every last sip of every Mango Fandango. He pets Schwartz — "the only guy I can trust. Him and my brother."

In retrospect, he says wistfully, "Believe me, I should have just pled guilty. But I couldn't bring myself to say I was a thief. I'm a whole lot of things, but I'm not a thief."

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