6 Episode results for "Mount Henry"
Life in the Shadow of the Mountain | S1 E2
"Chicago is built on a prairie the skyscrapers downtown tower over a completely flat landscape which made it all the more remarkable when John Christopher's giant illegal dumps begin to rise out of nowhere casting their long shadows over north Lonsdale and the homes of Gladys, Woodson and Jacqueline Rodney. It was that. At least two stories right. Hall as all of these houses around us. That's so big and he didn't watery down. The dust was all over the neighborhood everywhere. I don't care how much you clean. I still can write my name all Michael's. I have glass tape. I still can write my name in the table. We left off a guy named John Christopher, had established a pair of illegal dumps onto vacant lots north Lauderdale on Chicago's west side, one down the street from his Woodson and miss Rodney and an even bigger one. Just a few blocks away across the street from an elementary school and not only was John Christopher dumping truckload after truckload of gravel and bricks and rusted of medal. He was also operating a rock crusher a giant piece of machinery, the pulverizes concrete into gravel. Whenever he operated the crusher we all know because our buildings would be shaking and you could hear the mortar falling could hear the more falling through the walls of sound like the house houses were about to carry van here. The rock crusher two blocks away because it was shaking ground. Not only could we at when it was shaking. Our houses are more was falling out of the buildings to the point where we could see outside from inside the house. MS. Rodney MS Woodson and their neighbors and north Lonsdale had confronted John Christopher the dumper and we're determined to take them to court. The got the city of Chicago on their side and sue John Christopher that was in June of nineteen ninety. He said, I'll do what I won't when all and how I want. And I'll stay there as long as I want to know. You won't. We, you definitely not going to stay here. Except he would for longer than anyone could have predicted. I'm Robin namer from USA today. This is the city. As a kid growing up in granite city, Illinois, Henry Henderson would spend summer nights walking the mile or so from his home to the steel mills and watch them light up the sky. We'd go out in the night when it was really dark and watch them poor, the slag in return the sky into bright, bright, bright brightness because of the intensity of the heat involved in that hundred grew up around steel generations of his family had worked in and around the mills. My great grandfather came from South Wales from huge mining district, and he was, you know, at the Blast Furnace and who's a worker, and they'd come out, he'd come out every day to see a flag was flying at the mill to see if they're hiring, but but moving from mining to steal was in some ways moving from wife that was almost indistinguishable from the Roman surf into part of the modern. Demy Henry saw how vital the mills were to his family, but also the pollution. They spewed into his town, the toxic metals dumped in nearby waterways, deep black, smoke pouring out of the smokestacks and he wasn't alone and thinking, this was a problem. This was the nineteen seventies when the environmental movement was taking root and Henderson got swept up in it. It's fundamentally a question of Justice really key areas you where you can see significant issues of the Justice and the community is within the environment where burdens fall and we're benefits are not going Henry, went to law school, moved to Chicago and went to work for the Illinois Torney general on a task force dealing with hazardous waste. We had a huge number of issues. It went directly to questions of equity, Justice, quality of life, health and safety, and this was an opportunity to really get into actually solving problems us. The law as way to solve problems. Henry Henderson was beginning to make a name for himself as someone who used the full weight of the law to defend people from hazardous waste in his two or so years. At the attorney general's office. He worked on about ten cases, prosecuting dangerous polluters. An often the best weapon in Henry's arsenal was an injunction a legal order that forces someone to stop what they're doing under threat of arrest. So like in one of his cases, he was able to get a court order to stop a bunch of waste transfer stations from leaking into surrounding farmland. Henry Henderson, got good at cases like these going to judge getting an injunction and forcing polluters to immediately stop whatever they were doing. And so when the north Lonsdale dumping Hase's landed on his desk in June of nineteen ninety, he thought it would be an open and shut case. By this point, Henderson had moved to a new job as an environmental lawyer for the city of. Chicago, and he thought it would be pretty easy to do north Lonsdale what he'd done so many times before go to judge and get an injunction. Because this was clearly beginning of gigantic problem and needed to be stopped. Did you have full faith at this point that the courts would deliver Justice that the courts would produce some meaningful results in the situation? Yes, I actually actually I did. With an altar. Boy was. Can want want you. We don't have audio the legal proceedings against John Christopher. So we hired some actors to dramatize scenes from day city. Lawyers questioned him under oath. No. Our cast includes John Christopher c. h. r. s. t. o. p. h. e. r. his lawyer, a guy named James grainy purposes of the question. She will be specific when she had what she is speaking about. And one of Henry Henderson's colleagues. Another city lawyer named Susan her Dina. When I am talking about waste, I am talking about the materials that your company ordinarily receives and sells. Okay. Everything you're about to hear is taken for Begum from transcripts of that deposition here. Sure, sure. You got. Please state your full name for the record. John Christopher, spell the last name c. h. or s. t. o. p. h. e. r. Mr. Christopher we have met before. Let me formally introduce myself. My name is Susan her Dina, and I represent the city of Chicago in connection with the lawsuit that has been brought against you your company Christiane and various other defendants. Yes. John Christopher named his company, Chris, John. Are you aware of any complaints that waste material from the Kildare site has been disposed of on the public sidewalks surrounding the Kildare site? What do you mean by waste? I'm using that term to describe items that your company deals with either concrete debris dirt clay asphalt, any of those materials, we will object to the use of the term waste when referring to those items. We will object to the use of the term waste was this pas on this firmament. Henry Henderson had previously won cases dealing with hazardous waste according to federal law. Hazardous has a very specific definition for waste to be considered hazardous. It has to be highly flammable or reactive or toxic stuff like that. Henderson new this case would be different because a pile of crushed Uproxx is not the same thing as glow in the dark sludge in the strictest legal sense. This waste was not hazardous, but he never expected his team to have to debate whether in the eyes of the law. These dumps were in fact waste. What do you mean by wastes in a kind of shrewd and tactical move John Christopher, and his lawyer argued that this stuff wasn't waste at all. We will check to use of turn waste when referring to Adams for the purposes of this deposition when I am talking about waste, I am talking about the materials that your company ordinarily receives and sells. Okay. So we are talking about concrete rebar, asphalt clay stone, things that nature after something that is not waist. Okay. I don't want to get into for the purpose of the question. We specific when she identifies what she's speaking about. You are just not to answer. When she uses the term waste unless she specifies I don't handle waist. Okay. And I know I am getting brought into a suit because of ways as the defining dirt asphalt, broken concrete is waste. I know that, but that is not waste, and that is not an issue to go over at this point. I don't handle waste it. Is your contention that you handle material? Is that material. Material. John Christopher argued that he wasn't dumping waste but recycling material. Under city law. Anything that could be recycled was not considered waste. And in a legal brief, John Christopher's lawyer argued that the materials at the site weren't waste because they were being recycled. Remember John Christopher said that he was operating a rock crusher to pulverize all of that waste material, whatever it was and recycle it back into gravel. Of course, the problem with that argument was that only a very small percentage of the stuff he was bringing to the lots was being recycled. Much of it was just left there. The judge. In this case, Lester Forman died in two thousand three. So we weren't able to ask him what he thought about these arguments. But Henry Henderson says at the judge, took these arguments seriously enough to consider the junk Christopher could be in the right. This was clue. The case here where you could say, look, there is a value to this concrete. There's embedded value in all kinds of things can be treated as waste. That's actually the genius of the recycling movement is looking at imbedded value and things that are treated as waste, but actually have reuse possibility Henderson also believes that the judge was swayed by the fact that in a strict technical sense, nothing being trucked. The lot was hazardous as wasn't cyanide or arsenic. Nothing obviously threatened to catch fire or poison people. He thinks it would have been easier to get the injunction if it had been. Just two days after the city sued the judge denied the request for an injunction city tried again, and their second request was also denied. The case would keep working its way through the legal system. But while it did Christopher would be free to continue dumping. How did you feel during this time? I mean, I can imagine frustrated and going to a lot of community meetings was people being very, very upset and outrage about the fact that this actively was continuing to recur in their community. This was this is a big deal. We will fighting in court and he was still operating. Again, here's Jacqueline Rodney who live near one of the dumps eight put is much as he could on the site while we were in court. Ten months after John Christopher, I showed up north Lonsdale. The dumps had almost doubled in height and the neighborhood was about to find out just how destructive this non hazardous material could be. That's after the break. The right hire can make a huge impact on your business. That's why it's so important to find the right person. 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Slash the city and entering the offer code the city THE CIT y in the checkout code space, Bumba dot com. Slash the city offer code the city. Undeterred by the lawsuit, John Christopher kept dumping and every day the prairie wind would blow through the piles of debris and cover north Lonsdale in a layer of thick grey dust. When the dust will fly, you had look Los on Hewlett gloss will be full of dirt. I mean, you could taste it on your lips in your mouth. This is Michelle Ashford in nineteen ninety. She was nineteen years old and she lived just a few houses south of the larger dump and it was. I mean, it will be just a big Kushtia win, and it will just have the closure as Korea, mouth or whatever. Because once we experienced it, we knew, oh, become to wear, we cover up full when going mouse. So mill city issue. Issue, the prostitutes of yours out used to really have a problem with prostitution. That's Michelle's mother, Rita Ashford. She's talking about Roosevelt road the street, south of the larger of the two dumps the guys say, could come and pull up on the side of the dump. You know, all of that stuff is there and that's where they did their business at just to be clear. The dump had gotten so big that it cast the side street next to it into darkness with the prostitutes. Being able to go back there really like high. You couldn't actually see them unless you go down killed there. You actually see they will be down and it will be down ternan dates and everything right there on the street. The dumps had become a magnet that's actually a term of art in environmental circles. They were magnet in that attracted other illegal and unsavory stuff. The rents. No, that Retz actually took the seem it like that. Own it. You girl if it wasn't a. Hundred rats at one one and people were fighting rents. They will get an at homes. Everybody was talking about miss houses, Mattie, digging tunnel in her house. Everybody was dealing with the rats. We could sit on Miller's ports, look at the reds, one on the rocks crossbows of it. I'm really got hit by causing millet streaks. The Ashford's can laugh about a lot of this now, despite how serious it all was, but the dumps also began to affect their family in ways they couldn't laugh off. I have holes cake with that doesn't dust horrible because we didn't have a conditioning. So we put those fans in the windows, the fan, withdrawing in the dust as well. So is sucking into doesn't dustless something I'm in town. MS Ashford's daughter Sharona had just given birth to a baby girl Katrina. And when she was just a month old, she started to get sick here. Sure enough. I is a call fish, real bad call knows wanted in a skin was really dark. Serena took her daughter to a clinic, but she didn't get better than to the hospital in north Lonsdale and still get back still hit the shortness of Radic breezing. So I told us read, I say this something, something that's not right with that you kill too, because you hold her up and listen to her back. You could hear the weasing. And so she she was pan like that. You could actually hear it. Some like almost like a whistle. Finally, they took baby Katrina to the big hospital. They took a right on, and then that's when I gave her the first treatment he told me longs was congested and stuff, and they told me she asked us she was bronchial, but that's what they called the Ashford's now faced a horrible kind of new normal back afloat in the hospital almost every day almost every day. Yeah. In a month's time, we've probably was in the hospital. Twenty five days out of the month. Doctors prescribe the baby, a drug called prednisone and kept her on it for years. It's a powerful steroid with potentially powerful side effects of face was like so huge. My dad used to call to because she was so huge from the prednisone taking it trying to treat the asthma. We couldn't care. We have. We have to move around in the stroller. She was so heavy. She a growth. So you know be? Yeah, my. The Ashford's are convinced that the dust caused the baby's asthma, but proving cause and effect between a specific environmental hazard and a specific person's illness is often really difficult as Ashford and others actually tried in vain to get government agencies to come in and do some kind of survey or study that would provide data on the overall impact of the dumps. What I'm really wishes that they have in a medical team to Comey. And to check to see if in how that dust had -ffected them after living around that and breathing in that stuff. So I cannot tell you for certain. Yes. These dumps gave this baby asthma, but I can't tell you that the Environmental Protection Agency classifies construction, debris dust as particular matter, tiny particles that can be harmful to breathe, especially if you're very young or very old or have other kinds of breathing problems already. And other public health studies done at this time found that rates of asthma in Chicago were twice the national average. Those rates were even higher in some black neighborhoods, including north Lonsdale. And as we were all sitting around talking miss Ashford in her daughters started running through all the other people in their family who had asthma, which seemed to get worse as the dumps got bigger. There were Serena's other kid, her son Reginald. He gets been about Babbo six. He got a cold too. Is that real heart call than there was their nephew, Trayvon when he was the arm baby, he ended up whereas MMA, yes, she, she had own personal machine at home because he had it so much running back of all the hospital. So much than there were their neighbors. The Dickerson's. Daniel, Daniel has asthma real bad. They lived why up on dunk on the ward lows. Debbie wasn't another one that was dealing with an asthma who of a mad because they live right up on it. How could they not. To this family. The dumps were clearly a hazard, and the courts could have stopped John Christopher two days after the city filed suit. If the judge had agreed. After Henry Henderson, the city lawyer failed to get an injunction. He realized that if he was going to sway the judge, he'd have to change his tactics. So rather than argue that John Christopher was breaking the law on technical grounds, like not having the right permits or debating what even his waist Henderson and his team would hammer home the actual harm being done to the community. But John Christopher pivoted to instead of just tagging people. He also began waging a hearts and minds campaign to try to sway people from north Lonsdale to his side. He hired someone from the neighborhood to act as a community lease on and paradoxically. He offered to help clean up other vacant, lots in the area by giving people dirt. He'd screamed at the dumps. And some people took John Christopher his word. I found this petition signed by thirty north Lauderdale residents. It reads the following persons welcome Christiane. That's his company Christiane into the community and are grateful that the company is involved in a beautification project that will benefit the community and its residents. John Christoper took this petition and submitted into evidence during the court case to try to convince the judge of his good works north Lonsdale. He also started handing out money, small amounts, fifteen dollars here, ten dollars there sensibly to pay for cleaning supplies. MS Ashford brought this up. When we started talking about her neighbors, the Dickerson's. Mattel, yell, something shale. Let's be straight about deal. Millie got money from John Milly, Milly Dickerson. Whose apartment was right on the same lot as the larger of the two dumps and whose son had asthma as we were talking MS Ashford's daughter called Millie Dickerson deceives around that day leader in the conversation. MS Dickerson actually walked into the interview and told us she had taken money from John Christopher game day, talked to me and he's washing hanging clothes on beg poet. Any told me see that. You don't man about that. We overhand dumping this dump and then how he's Monnet to by using detergent and wash tone Wednesday month acid. But it washed my trolls Bacall that miss was getting all in my house. I had son at as and all that my house was turbo. Miss Dickerson and others living. You're the one junk Christopher to compensate them for all the damage he'd already done. But back trial, John Christopher turned around and use this against them. He claimed they weren't really worried about the dumps. They're just trying to shake him down. Here's how he described interaction. He supposedly had with one Northland resident to the city's lawyer. Let's go back to our reenactment. Can you give me an idea how many people complained? Five seventy, not all at once in. Can you give me a general idea of the nature of your conversation with these people? You really don't wanna know. Know I do wanna know who give me ten dollars giving you ten dollars. Yeah, you, you ain't going to make it off Roosevelt road. And what was your response to that will see? I'm here. Did you get the names of these people? I didn't need to the care of myself. How did you take care of it? I just told them my, it ain't nice as mother nature for ten dollars. John Christopher was painting himself as the victim and to some it seemed as rather than compensating them, he was trying to buy their silence. Here's Jacqueline. Rodney who heard from earlier talking about living next to the rock crusher. When I went into coordinate, asked me to testify, yes, me did. I'll want money. John Christopher, did the lawyer when I was sitting in the deposition ESPN what is it do? Do you want? Do you want money? What is it that you want from this operation? And I said, I want you to move. I want you to leave my neighborhood because she's destroying it. He told me, I wish we had you on our teams. And I didn't know what that meant. What does that mean? And you know, they thanked me for being there. I didn't know what that meant. John Christopher had previously cast doubt on the city's legal arguments, and now he cast doubt on the residents motives. So one full year after he first showed up, the city's lawsuit was still grinding its way through the court and the dump across the street from the elementary school had grown into a mountain almost six stories tall, so tall that the piles of concrete slabs towered over the house next door. And ultimately, this mountain took on a nickname mount Henry. How did you died feel about it being called mount Henry. He was quite subdued about quite sad about it. It was like he couldn't get nothing done about you like he'd been duped. I have been used to dunk that there. That's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today and is distributed in partnership with wondering, you can subscribe to the show on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening right now, if you liked the show please rate and review us and be sure to tell your friends about us. Our shows reported and produced by Wilson Sayer Jenny Koss and meet Robin Emma or editors Sam Greenspan. Ben Austin is our story consultant original music and mixing by Hannah's Brown, Jennifer Mudge, Chris Henry Coffey, David w starred in reenactments. Additional production by Taylor making about cockerel and Bianca media's Chris Davis is our VP for investigations. Scott Stein is our VP of product are decorative producer is Liz Nelson. Mary Wadsworth is the USA today networks, president and publisher special. Thanks to Michel Yussef and Daniel sped cove. Additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus, and Northwestern University. You like this show. Another might enjoy is WBZ's on background, which takes you inside the smoke filled back rooms of Chicago, Illinois government to better understand the people places and forces shaping today's politics. I'm rob Aamer. You can find the city on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod and visit our website where you'll find photos of our characters, John Christopher. Full deposition and more. That's the city podcast dot com.
A Tale of Two Cities | S1 E4
"When Dickie Nichols was a kid growing up north Lonsdale in the early nineteen nineties, he knew that lurking near his home was an evil rabbit. A myth day. It was evil rabbit up the it was a grow. Rabid used the chase key with reate. I. Reate. I still remember that is the change. We will looking for what they never see the evil rabbit. This evil rabbit roamed the neighborhoods hills and mountains. The ones made from construction debris. Older boys told this story to younger kids like day key to keep them away. It didn't work. We played up there. Everything plead Haggos seeing that was our Goto does what we did. We played up there everything. A lot of fun times. Lot of fun town main when his snow will use them as slaves. We get sleds and sled down when the summertime, Roger bites up and down the hill because there was that big of a, he'll. That was fun. From up on the hills Daiki and his friends could look down onto the roof of their elementary school and see all the basketballs and football's the neighborhood kids have gotten stuck up there over the years and they could look east towards the horizon and see all the skyscrapers downtown grass and plants and trees. Sprouted from the concrete hells old mattresses became trampolines. Junked out cars became jungle. Gyms does what we need. It does what the neighborhood needed as a kid because it wasn't no park. I mean, it was no part in Nigeria, but as an adult is a as us oil is about the community down. These hills, this mountain were John Christopher's illegal landfill. Of course by now six stories, high two whole city blocks wide and five city blocks long. The piles had been that way for two years, which to a kid was basically forever. At this point, the hills were just part of the neighborhoods, geography. There is a doughnut factory on one side of the dump where Daiki and his friends would dumpster dive for discarded treats instead of using the streets to get their cutting through the hills was often safer or just more fun. We don't know that we just knew you gotta go through the four is to get to the the don't affect. So I remember waiting for have full in the house and dead dead. Probably got us through the week was was the in donuts hick cakes cookies, spend enough time on a six story mountain of rubble, and someone is bound to get hurt. Deke remembers this one time around. Grade when he and his brother were playing, their Daiki was rolling rocks and chunks of concrete down the side of the mountain. And one of them rolled towards his brother you road over his finger and it was hanging off. So I had to hold it together and I had the walk him all the way home holding his finger on into. We got to the hospital, they hit the it. They had the spin about two or three days in a hospital because it was it was off. At the beginning of our story when the trucks will have construction, debris first appeared in north Lonsdale Dolores Robinson was a math teacher at Sumner elementary school. Eventually she became the principal, but she still struggled to keep her students out of the dumps day. He was one of them in them, like, stop it. I don't want you doing that. That's what I'm looking out the window at you. And so what I know the boys who were, you know, playful and athletic. So MS Robinson installed a regular teachers patrol to keep is on the kids coming and going from school. It wasn't just accidents like the kind Deke Nichols is brother had suffered that worried her or evil rabbits. It was reported. The body was found miss Robinson, didn't know whether it was true or not, but she repeated attor students like the story of the evil rabbit. It was a way of scaring them away from the dumps. As it turned out, she wasn't the only Chicago educator trying to shield her students from a dump like this because across town in a white neighborhood one where residents had the ear of the city's powerbrokers a new dump next to another school was also on the rise, the steps that parents and kids would take to protect these two neighborhoods, one white and one black got very different responses from the people in power. I'm Robin, EMA, and from USA today, this is the city. If you like the city, you may like another show from USA today. The five things podcast covers the five most important stories of the day and why they matter in less than five minutes. New episodes are available every morning, Monday through Saturday, and you can subscribe to five things for free on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Before we tell you about the dump in the white neighborhood across town. Let's recap what's happened in north Lauderdale since our story began after John Christopher showed up and started dumping neighborhood residents organized. They wrote letters to elected officials. They confronted John Christopher. They helped initiate a lawsuit against him and his companies. The lawsuit did not stop him from dumping and the mountain of rubble continued to grow as did the threat. It posed to the people of north Lonsdale. However, there was still a chance that the court could rule in the neighborhoods favor. Our reporter Wilson Sayer picks up the story from here. North Llandough residents had now been fighting the illegal dumps for two years frustrated by how long the problem had dragged on. They started looking for new ways to fight John Christopher, a group of people. We start a protest and we will stand out there with signs that's Michelle Ashford. Remember she was a teenager back then when the dust from the dump would get caught in her lip gloss, it was getting worse instead of getting better. We were just constantly protests in about this dump the Ashford's protested as a family, Michelle's mom. Rita Ashford was on the front lines because if you recall three of her grandkids and many of her neighbors kids were in and out of the hospital with severe asthma. So the first time we went down there, you know, we just marched with says, different stuff like that. They made signs that called out John Christopher by name down with John and dumped the dumps. The truck steel rode in trucks there. Well, doubt it did make a difference that we out there. So they went bigger one time. They borrowed a bus from I Corinthians church just down the road and used it to block the entrance to the lot. Another time, a neighborhood elder named Rosie. Lee Brown actually laid down in the street in front of the trucks. A rolls lay down in the driveway. She was stopped the truck, some coming in and trucks going out because they were still hauled in the the rocks and they were still holding out to concrete. But then old lady was worry. I'm gonna tell you and she actually this. I got my feet wet. This protest attracted the attention of the police who showed up at the law, but not to stop the legal dumping because they were saying, well, it's private property off like that, and they were really like they will. We're going to arrest her because she wouldn't move. While residents were literally laying in the street, the lawsuit that was supposed to stop. John Christopher was still dragging on. Remember there had been a fight over the definition of waste and twice. A judge had decided not to halt the dumping, but finally in February nineteen ninety two. The court ruled against John Christopher. All of his material was in fact waste, meaning his dumps were illegal and had to go. But the victory would prove to be hollow because there was still the question of how to clean up the dump. In March of that year, the court held a hearing to rule on the cleanup who should do it and how long it should take. This court will be as follows. We don't have a recording of what happened at this hearing, but as we done before, we had some actors dramatize scenes from court taken verbatim from transcripts. You'll remember some of the players you're on our police, the core. This is Susan her Dina, a lawyer for the city of Chicago, sir. Would you state your name for the record? Please? James grainy the lawyer for John Christopher, the man responsible for the dumps and John Christopher the man himself and one new voice who could not have made his disdain for this case anymore apparent. Judge Lester foreman. This case goes to the appellate court. This court will be ousted a jurisdiction. I don't know that I've sent my prayers enough to hope that that can happen to me. Judge foreman wasn't the only one tired of this case you're on are you? And all of us have lived with this case for quite a few months. I know I don't need to remind you about that. The primary question here today. Your honor is how long this cleanup should take. How long the residents of north Lonsdale would have to continue living next to this dump John Christopher's lawyer. I tries to argue that his client can't afford to clean up the site unless he's allowed to keep dumping if he's not earning money off the dumps, then he won't have money to pay for the cleanup. Thank you. Your honor. If this man is not there to continue to operate that site to maintain the premises. All that would result in is putting the man out of business. I, it's not going to result in the materials being moved, and if this man is not there to continue to operate that site, you're going to have a worse situation now than what we're trying to resolve the city of Chicago won't clean it up if we mmediately put them out of business. No one's gonna clean this site. Oh, I submit to the court that my client doesn't have the financial wherewithal. The cleanup is site. Judge Forman doesn't buy this argument though. He's already ruled that the dumps are illegal, the dumping must stop. So judge Forman rejects this request and the case moves onto the cleanup. And notice in what follows that the debate over how quickly the dumps should be cleaned up, doesn't take into account the people with asthma or damage to people's homes or danger posed to elementary school kids. Instead the city proposes a timeline for the cleanup. That's all about trucks and weights and money. They factor in how much the average dump truck can hold twenty two tonnes and how long it would take to Phillips said dump trucks, roughly seven minutes and how many working days are aren't a year, two hundred and fifty five and how much stuff there was on the site approximately thirty one thousand four hundred twenty five truckloads the city wanted the judge to force John Christopher to clean up the dumps within thirteen. Months, but John Christopher argues that even that wasn't enough time, he wanted at least double that a minimum of twenty six months because when John Christopher gets up to the stand to testify, he says, he doesn't have the equipment on which the city based. It's time line defense calls John Christopher to the stand. Sir. Would you state your name for the record, please? John Christopher? All right. And what you relationship with Christiane construction company. I'm the president of Christiane construction. How many twenty ton trucks Christiane construction company own at the present time ten and the capacity of those is twenty tonnes. Yes, sir. All right. Now, Christiane construction avenue, twenty four, ten trucks. Do you have any twenty four t know. Does he have any other trucks besides these? Do you have any other trucks besides these ten twenty ton trucks have pickup trucks, three quarter, ton pickup chip size. Then after hearing all of this back and forth, the judge finally rules on how much time John Christopher will have to clean up the site. The order of this court will be as follows on questionably. These matters where you must balance the public interests against the private interest of business person. Corporation or entrepreneur who's operating a business that is unquestionably difficult bounce. I think it would be very narrow process on the part of this court to take a very short sighted and all overly aggressive attitude towards his up because I believe that the purpose of this court should be to accomplish a result rather than to come up with a judgment that looks good and appears to be very strict at this moment, which would be nothing more than giving somebody a chocolate covered aspirin, it'll taste sweep. It'd be sour going down. By the city's own estimate at the kill their site. We're talking about thirty one thousand four hundred twenty five truckloads stop and think what a lion would look like with thirty one thousand four hundred twenty five trucks lined up that perhaps would be a line that would take a road from one end of the city to the other. We're talking about an accomplishment of what I consider to be a gigantic task. The defendant will have thirty months within which to remove from this site. I believe that that is a reasonable length of time that takes into consideration the magnitude of the number of truckloads. We're talking about thirty months, John Christopher, lost the case, but he would have thirty months two and a half years to clear out of north Mondale longer than he'd asked for and longer than he'd been there in the first place. And again, judge forms decision was all about junk Christopher and his business and his money. None of it was about what would happen to Northland l. residents if the dumps were not cleaned up quickly, even with this very lengthy time line one that gave John Christopher more than what he'd asked for. He did the opposite of cleaning up the mountains. John Christopher did exactly as he had threatened to do when residents I confronted him at the lot. Well, John, Chris, Rebecca. Basically. Dispirit Henry Henderson. The city lawyer helped initiate the suit against John Christopher. By the time the case wrapped up. He become Commissioner of a brand new department within Chicago city government, the department of environment. The department was created in part to tackle big intractable problems like John Christopher's dumps. But despite Henderson's new role as the head of a city agency, he seemed unable to pin John Christopher down. You know, he popped up in other locations with different identity Hughes, John veto for awhile, and you know, occasionally people would catch sight of him. We got one of our inspectors would say, I saw John Christopher and he drove off, you know, he was very good at being being scared. Unable to find John Christopher the city couldn't force him to conduct the cleanup or collect any fines for him failing to do so. And now the city was stuck with more than thirty one thousand truckloads of debris that it couldn't get rid of. Now you've got to figure out how to clean it up. How do we find out something like this. The city failed to hold John Christopher accountable. Nine hundred ninety two past then nineteen Ninety-three then nineteen Ninety-four. Daiki Nichols moved from fourth grade to fifth to sixth and John Christopher's illegal dumps still marred the landscape. And then the city heard about another dump in another neighborhood. A mostly white, mostly well off neighborhood, and the story of that dump played out very differently than the one in north Dale. That's after the break. The city is grateful to have bombed us as a sponsor of the show. How often do you think about your socks? Probably only when you need to buy new ones and if you're like most of us, you don't even end up loving the ones you buy bombos is here to change all that made from super soft cotton bomb socks. Stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and every pair comes with features like honeycomb, arch support, a seamless toe and Bomba's innovative, stay up technology. 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It wouldn't have been the fourteenth forty, seven ward. It would have been gone. Each of these wards was either affluent or politically connected or both. And in the case of the forty, seventh ward majority white given Chicago's racial divisions. It seemed unlikely to me at least at first that a dump like the ones that popped up north Lonsdale would ever pop up in a wealthy white neighborhood in Chicago, but Wilson has been reporting on a dump that actually did show up in a white neighborhood in nineteen Ninety-four. So now we get to test out Conrad Henry's theory that dumped in say, the forty. Seventh ward would've been gone like that. Let's go back to Wilson. There's a sign lane, tack college prep school of champions. Wow. Oh, my. If looks like like Yale, like Ivy league university, red brick, gothic architecture. The dome was right next to one of Chicago's most prestigious public high schools lane tack. This school pulls in some of the highest performing students from around the city and boasts. An impressive roster of alumni Chicago artists. The Astro gates went to lane tack President, Bill Clinton's chief of staff, John Podesta one. They're also surprising number of pro baseball and football players graduated from school. Vivian Rankin who's youngest daughter was a junior lane tech. The time remembers on the dumping I began all of a sudden there were fifty trucks. Our pulling in and out huge semis were coming in. They would come down one St. and go out, go out another and just dump this stuff. I found a video online of what happened at lane tech in nineteen ninety four. I washed it with Vivian Rankin and her husband Bill Rankin who used to teach at lane tack. This is. Yeah. Okay. Got lane tech there. This. That's the stadium. The stadium and then school. The video is basically a home movie. We found on YouTube chop by local resident. In the video. You can see two story mountain of debris next to this high school truck. After truck turns onto the street, aside linked, tack trucks would drive into the lot next to the school and dump their cargo. The same kind of stuff that was dumped in north Lonsdale roken pieces of concrete dirt and other construction debris, and you can see the. Chris rock to be crushed the bulldozer on the top. Just west of that state. I think it was higher than there could have been. Yeah. The piles grew to be level with the top of the bleachers at the football stadium there so close. It almost looks like you could have walked off the top of the grandstand right onto the hills of debris at the time. Mr. Rankin was a member of the school council which met twice a week in the mornings. And soon after the pile showed up teachers and parents started to come in and complain about the dust and the shaking and the trucks because this time when. The school is not air conditioned. Windows were open, and it was the dust in the noise and the teachers were complaining about and the kids they were aware of as well. For me, the major issue is health. It's health and safety, five thousand kids. So even if they don't have much today could a six month exposure to that creepy crap created your shoe. We don't know. These were the same health and safety concerns. Dolores Robinson and Michelle and Rita Ashford. And so many others had over north lawn Dale. And again, this was nineteen ninety four at which point north Lonzo had been dealing with all of this for almost four years. The operation next to lane tack was run by a company called Ploto construction in north Wandel. John Christopher had gone to alderman Bill Henry for permission to set up his rock crushing operating and hear plea had gone to the two aldermen whose wards bordered the school Eugene shelter and dick Mel, I reached out to both of them multiple times for an interview. Neither responded plenty was repaving the Kennedy expressway, a major highway running from downtown to O'Hare airport. The highway pass a mile and a half from lane tech and so plenty was trucking in broken up pieces of the old highway to this lot. Next to the school, there were crushing it into gravel and then carting it back out to the highway to repave the road surface. Remember repaving the Kennedy and other highways was part of then Richard Daley's so-called renaissance. Some of the debris from those projects ended up. Northland, Dale. And now next to lane tack word about plays dump, slash rock crushing operation and this crappy crap. Next to a school made its way to the city's department of environment to the desk of Henry Henderson, serious outcry from neighbors, serious complaints from parents of people at lane. Tech kids were having real problems with reading and neighbors were not happy with the truck traffic and were raged by what was happening there Henderson new plenty, didn't have a permit to dump their because he'd have been the person to issue on. So Henderson grabbed a colleague. They hopped in a car and drove up to lane tack to see what was going on. They saw all these piles of debris and the trucks coming in and out and the crusher crushing rocks into gravel. So I said, you know, look, I'm commission environment and I have thirty said. You've got to stop this and they basically said, you know, go crush rock where the sun don't shine. So Henry Henderson called the cops, five squad cars showed up. Police came over and said, stop it immediately. Remember the police had also been called to north Lonsdale. In that case, the police were there to protect the dumpers. But when the police came to lane tech, they stopped the rock. Crushing Henderson did give plenty a temporary permit to keep dumping at least until they could figure out where the stuff could go. When asked why he'd give me a permit, even temporary one Henderson pulled the press quote. I couldn't shut down the Kennedy people would be outraged by the inconvenience, but the rankings and other lane tech parents and students, one of the piles gone. So they did exactly with the parents and students had done in north Lonsdale. They protested. Here's Bill and Vivian rank. And again, some of the kids actually laid down in front of the trucks so they couldn't get to the crusher. Didn't take very many. They were, I think, are mostly football players. I recall enough to be pesty and then someone has to come out and say, okay, get off the ground. It doesn't take a lot. It doesn't take a lot WGN channel. Nine local TV news station was just two blocks away from lane tech, the rankings. Remember students from the school's video club, filming the dump, and then giving the footage to the station. Pretty soon the lane tuck dump was all over the news TV, and the papers in a way that northbound l. had never been bad publicity is something that politicians just don't like. And so if you can get that and if you can get a newspaper or TV station, then usually you can stop at outcry from students and parents and the media resulted in a community meeting. Henry Henderson was there Bill and Vivian rank. And were there cloudy? Was there the alderman where their kids came out, parents came out community groups, school groups, health groups, the American lung association was there. The near cancers society had representatives that came to meetings. These families were able to get national organizations, people with clout and power to show up in support of their cause inside lane tax, fancy art, deco auditorium person after person got up and told plenty and the aldermen that they wanted the dumps gone yesterday at first plea pushed back. I think the floaty company tried to say what they were doing was not handful in any way. But then one of Bill rankings, friends, which shot video of the dumb plead it for the audience took dumping stuff. The showed that dust clouds coming up, then the banging of the crusher showed all of them. We reached out to Pluto to ask them about this incident, but the company declined comment as for the alderman who originally given cloudy permission to be there. Dick Mel dug in his heels and continued to support the operation at the time. He was recorded to have said that the Kennedy construction project was already dirty and noisy. So why worry about a few more trucks, but the other alderman Eugene shelter cracked under the pressure and switched sides, saying, quote, under no circumstance, will I find this an acceptable activity and quote, and with the protests and the media coverage digit was up. News of the lane tech Dems, went all the way to the top to mayor Daley himself a few weeks after that community meeting at the recommendation of Henry Henderson, daily announced that he would be cracking down on rock crushing sites that quote come in and environmentally destroyed the community. The mayor fancied himself an environmentalist daily would later put a green roof on top of city hall. He was after all the one who created the department of environment in the first place, and the one who had hired Henry Henderson to run it daily had never said a word publicly about the dumps in north Lauderdale. But here he personally ordered a shutdown of the site. Next to lane tack employees didn't even try to fight the mayor at least not publicly quietly seemingly overnight Ploto loaded up truck after truck Encarta the mountains of debris away from lane tack. To get rid of the dump next to their school and homes lane tech, parents and teachers wrote letters made calls organized protests. In other words, they did exactly the same things. People north Lonzo had done with very different results. The cries of lane tech parents did not fall on deaf ears. Their complaints were not bogged down by endless court proceedings. Apparently when you've got the mayor of Chicago on your side, you don't even need to go to court. The dumps in north Lonsdale plagued the neighborhood for years. The lane tech dump was gone in a matter of weeks. In other words, the city listened to the lane tech community and took action in a way that it had not in north London. Why that's coming up after the break. For decades. 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The situation at lane tack on the situation in north Lonsdale could not have played out more differently. If you ask why activists, dad, Bill rank and says, it's because he and his neighbors did something different something more effective than what residents in north Llandough must have done. If you're going to do something that makes people change, you have to do something that they have to react to, and you know you can write a letter and they'll ignore it. You can go standby there. As soon as you leave, they'll ignore you or you know, you can make telephone calls, but the the big thing is that they have to react. We know Mr. Rankin is wrong. North Lonsdale residents did the same thing that lane tack parents had done, but he's also right in the sense that the powers that be did not react to north longdale the same way they did to lane tack. Wilson looks at why in segregated Chacao. Ago. North side is often used as a shorthand for the white side of town and south and west sides. For the black and Brown neighborhoods, it's an oversimplification, but it's used all the time reporter bend your Ascii. We heard in our last episode reported on the lane Technumn in nineteen ninety four draught ski says residents on the north side like those who live near lane, tack have come to expect more from the city and suddenly nor ciders Gullo little taste of what it's like to live on the southwest side men. They didn't weren't happy with Otis the difference in how the city reacted on. We're not gonna put up with that. There's a difference between entitlement. You know, that's the difference between a city that responds to certain constituents and one end of town, and they don't respond to constituents on the other end down. Jurassic says, and the record makes clear that it wasn't what residents did that made the difference. It was how city powerbrokers reacted. When Leanne TEK parents complained. City officials came out quickly. The TV news media took notice when the police showed up. They were there to stop the dumping instead of protect the dumpers pressure from parents force alderman shelter to take their sign. When community meetings were called, national organizations showed up to support the cause and mayor Daley himself stepped in to shut down the dump. In other words, the lean tech community mostly white, mostly well off had political power. What in Chicago we'd call clout. So now we need to revisit or blame list because some of the people on that list are powerbrokers reacted very differently to the police from north Lonsdale parents like. MS Ashford and those of lane tech parents like Mr. Rankin and we should start with the press and reporters like bender Ascii his piece for the reader about lane tack back in nineteen. Ninety four was called crushing the Kennedy. The story of a really stupid idea you you wrote about the lane Tech's. Did you ever write about the dump in north London? So no, I never wrote a. I didn't follow it. Most of the stuff I did was like people would call me with story ideas. If someone called me, it would have been totally different. I would have like plugged in person there, some news outlets, namely black owned ones like the Chicago defender did write about the northbound Dale dumps, but no TV crews made it out there. There wasn't a TV stations across the street, and historically, the Chicago press corps has done a poor job of comprehensively covering the south and west sides. So back to our blameless te next up, we have to go to Henry Henderson in both north Lonsdale and at lane tech. He personally drove out to inspect the dumps, but at lane tech, he brought the cops with him and shut down the dump immediately. I asked him about this when we spoke, the thing that really jumped out at me was that picture of you showing up at lane, tack confronting the guys from floaty and then bringing the cops into say, no, you have to stop this immediately and I have to ask you, did you ever do that in north Lonsdale? Did you ever go to north Lonsdale with a police escort to confront John Christopher and say, you have to stop this now. Did not bring the place because I don't know. I didn't bring the place, but the fact is that those experiences informed. What we need to do subsequently. So it's like, how do you prosecute these things better? So you learned by doing essentially hundreds and argued that he learned his lesson the hard way because the court battle proved if you did not stop the dumping right away before it got bad, the dumps would get so big. You'd be facing this monumental problem that could not be stopped or fixed overnight and four years later, he applied those lessons to lane tack. Except there's no reason. Henry Henderson couldn't have called the police to restaurant Christopher, especially once he was in violation of the court order. At this point, the city's response is basically a well. We can't find him. And to me, that feels like Henry Henderson felt the pressure of lane tech parents more, and therefore he acted more quickly. And then there's the guy Henderson reported to the mayor where was mayor Mr.. I love trees again bender Ascii leave hunters at alone. He's just a bureaucrat daily was the guy where was daily? Why wasn't daily looking out for the interests of the kids? Although Henderson had a lot of power as a city Commissioner mayor, Daley had more a lot more. You can go through the courts plead with government agencies, or you can get dailies attention and he can snap his fingers and get it done. Take the story of makes field. It's almost Chicago Lor at this point. It happened years later, but it showed how daily behaved when he cared about something makes field was an airport. One way built on an artificial peninsula that stuck into Lake, Michigan. It was right next to Soldier Field where the Chicago Bears play and the natural history museum and the planetarium prime real estate and daily wanted a park instead of an airport. So he sent construction workers out in the middle of the night and tore big x. The runway mayor, Daley with to makes field in the middle of the night and tore up a runway said, fuck you to the federal government. See in court made up an excuse for saying, oh, terrorists are gonna, knock down our city, and yet we can't get a dump off land in our city. I don't think so. In other words, spend says, if daily wanted. Something done it got done. If you had one of the dumps Northland Elgon they would have been gone people in Chicago government who could have come out in the middle of the night and dealt with the dumps in north London never showed up Billy care about the people that neighborhood. They didn't care about that they allowed that dump to exist for years that this dump got one month. It was gone on the north side, so I don't buy it. Mayor, Daley, simply said of Claudy construction company quote, they have to find another site. That's their problem. And quote daily did not do the same for north Lauderdale we reached out to daily for comment, but he never responded to our requests. Although Henry Henderson had not been able to catch Christopher and despite the fact that Henderson's boss seemed not to care enough to personally intervene Henderson told us that during this time he had also been trying to get help from the state and federal governments to stop and then clean up the north Lauderdale dumps. So eventually in late nineteen, ninety four and early nineteen ninety-five, the state and federal environmental protection agency's finally came out to north Lonsdale to clean up the dumps. This could have been the end of our story, but it isn't over the years. John Christopher's dumps had attracted more than just construction. Debris fly by night numbers had left behind these fifty gallon drums of silver goo and read a novel and other mystery chemicals plus old roofing material tires, carpet window frames, even car. There's so when the Illinois and US EPA as came to clean up the dump. This was the stuff they were interested in the US EPA declined to talk to us, but a Representative from the Illinois EPA who was involved in the cleanup, told us that the agency was more concerned about the hazardous material than what they called the clean construction debris. So even these environmental protection agencies were not interested in the six stories of rebel, they were not interested in removing the mountain. The mountain at the Ashford's believe gave their family and neighbors asthma, the mountain that Rosalie Brown head lane in the street to protest the mountain that Daiki Nichols is a little brother, almost lost a finger to the environmental agencies did not see the mountain as their problem. So they walked away leaving almost all of John Christopher's mess behind. So Henry Anderson made one more call. To a friend of his who worked for the department of Justice. So you know, we're having real hard time. We're hearing, you know, this John Christopher is much larger than what we can do. And we think that this is a larger criminal endeavor here, and we really need some help. It was clearly before I knew of John Christopher's relationship with with federal government. The federal government's Jong Christopher wasn't just a shady ways taller. He was working for the federal government undercover that's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today and is distributed in partnership with wondering, you can subscribe to the show on apple podcasts, NPR one or wherever you're listening right now if you like the show please rate and review us and be sure to tell your friends about us. Our show is reported and produced by Wilson Sayer and Jenny Koss with me Robyn Aamer. Sam Greenspan is our editor. Ben Austin is our story consultant. Original music and mixing is by Hannah's Brown, Jennifer Mudge, Chris Henry Coffey, David Dublin, ger, and Michael Cullen starred in our reenactments. Additional production by Taylor making Isabelle cockerel and Bianca media's Chris Davis is our VP for investigations. Our executive producer is Liz Nelson. The USA today, networks, president and publisher is mayor bell. Wadsworth special. Thanks to Michelle Yussef and Daniel sped cove and Gary Siegman for permission to use his film of the lane. Tech dump. Additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus, and Northwestern University. If you like this show, you may also like WBZ's new podcast on background, which takes you inside the smoke filled back rooms of Chicago and Illinois government to better understand the people places and forces. Shaping today's politics. I'm Robin Aamer. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod or visit our website where you can find a video of the lane tech dump and more. That's the city podcast dot com.
Operation Silver Shovel | S1 E6
"On the evening of October twenty. First nineteen ninety four. An Illinois state rep named Ray free us paid a visit to John Christopher's southside office the low slung unassuming brick building on west seventy. Fourth street was on a block that dead ended by some train tracks, making it an ideal location for a clandestine meeting. Neither one of us could stay long. He's got an award stew on. The meeting was captured on video and in it you can see Ray free us and John Christopher seated at a wooden table in the middle of a plain looking office with dingy, carpet and beige walls. The table is strewn with papers. There's a mini fridge and a rotating fan. Ray free us. Where's a dark suit and a patterned tie and sits with his hands folded in his lap John Christopher. Whereas a blue polo shirt and lights a cigarette, John Christopher speaks first. I do not be honest with you. I mean, this is all summer weekly from next year weekly prefer. John Christopher has called this meeting because he wants Ray free as his help getting one of his construction companies certified by the state and an exchange Christopher is willing to pay free us a consulting fee. She told me, I mean, what's worth you? I don't know. I mean, I can't one. What do you believe you could do to believe you could help me. What you're hearing is tape of John Christopher, trying to bribe a Chicago politician. Eventually they agree that five hundred dollars a week is a fair price for this exchange. Seal we start. Okay. And to give me a privates that has an efficient s as simple as that. Great. That's great. Okay. That's a consultant. Get in previous episodes. We've had actors dramatize John Christopher's time in court because all we had were transcripts, but this is actually John Christopher. This tape is real. This recording is one of more than a thousand audio and video tapes. John Christopher made in secret while he was working undercover for the FBI. And it's one of nine tapes that we got by suing the FBI earlier this year, it took us almost three years to get these tapes. And even though we only got nine, they provide a front row seat to how John Christopher operated as the FBI's prize informants back and John Christopher's office. He and Ray Frias had settled on five hundred dollars a week for this consulting fee. But then free gets nervous. I will stood up. Mobile right now also, I mean, this is. I mean, any kind of rain like this war over as alleged so too. To movie. Thank you. Alexis. That's why they want him out. Could can make moving Zico politicians when they don't think one. You just got to find the right roof as free as starts to come around. John Christopher pushes harder to seal the deal. The only reason why you're seeing here because you are seeing what's. Okay, because it can make one. The other one is for Zo. So if you feel uncomfortable, what are we clean? I said, the white way to you all. Thunder salt wrong with you because there's no politicians role that I know that go give me this on give you that. You give me this and I'll give you that. It's the transactional nature of Chicago politics. I give you a dollar. You vote for my candidate. You vote for my candidate. I give you a job as we previously learned from the story of north London, alderman Bill, Henry, it's the Chicago way. But in this case it's not business as usual. It's what the f. b. I would call a quid pro quo. That's this for that in Latin and it's a legal, you help my company get certified, and I'll give you five hundred dollars a week quid pro quo. After the FBI had busted John Christopher for Bank fraud for falsifying his loan applications and walking away with millions of dollars, he'd used to build up his businesses, the FBI flipped him convinced him to wear a wire and put him in the center of new investigation. So wearing a wire and acting on the FBI's behalf. John Christopher went looking for dirty politicians. He found many who were willing to conspire and some who are less. So almost all of his targets were black or Latino and came from segregated neighborhoods that industry had left the FBI called this new undercover investigation operation, silver shovel silver, like the forty pieces of silver Judah, Scott for betraying Jesus and shovel like the bulldozers at John Christopher's dumps the investigation was intended to tackle public. Corruption and would become one of the biggest corruption probes and Chicago history. But as it unfolded operation, silver shovel seemed to replicate the harm. John Christopher had caused in north Lonsdale and became a grab bag for anything. The f. b. FBI thought John Christopher could help them do. I'm Robin Aamer and from USA today, this is the city. If you like the city, you may like another show from USA today. The five things podcast covers the five most important stories of the day and why they matter in less than five minutes. New episodes are available every morning, Monday through Saturday, and you can subscribe to five things for free on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Before we get back to the story. I wanna tell you about another podcast you might enjoy if you like the city. You might also like future. Perfect. A new podcast from vox future perfect explores provocative ideas that could radically improve the world in a time where the news has never felt more dire or distressing future. Perfect. Offers a window into a brighter more hopeful world. It's host. Dylan Matthews asks big questions. Like what career should I choose to do the most good? Or is it possible to make our prisons more humane? These questions don't have simple, yes or no answers, but they do kick off fascinating conversations. Listen to those conversations every Wednesday on future. Perfect. By vox you can find the show on apple podcasts or ever you're listening. Okay. Back to the story. In July nineteen Ninety-two FBI special agent, Jim Davis was put in charge of operation silver, shovel and assigned to be John Christopher's handler, he cents that this was going to be a big case. We told headquarters about, you know, the people that he had been paying recently who we thought he could pay in the near future. After John Christopher crossed over and started working for the FBI. He told the bureau about his bribes to former north Lonsdale alderman Bill Henry, you'll remember he was the Wheeler dealer who had reportedly given John Christopher permission to set up his rock-crushing operation in exchange for five thousand dollars a month. But the f. b. i. couldn't start with Bill Henry. And Jim Davis is kind of flippant about why I think he was dead before our k started. Otherwise, we'd have paid him instead. They started. With other officials. John Christopher claimed to be bribing. There was an alderman named Virgil Jones. A former cop in the mostly black fifteenth ward Virgil Jones had also given John Christopher permission to dump in his ward and exchange for a bribe ten dollars a load. Then there were high level officials from Chicago's water treatment agency. John was in the middle of a relationship to pay those guys for subcontracting work on a construction project that was going on, you know, at that time, but Jim Davis and his fellow FBI agents suspected that with an informant like John Christopher, they could find even more city officials to bribe ones. John Christopher had yet to meet the FBI needed to catch them misusing the power of their office to help John Christopher in exchange for money. They needed to establish a quid pro quo, and they had to get it on tape. John Christopher had a ton of credibility with other criminals. But Jim day. Davis knew that he would have zero credibility with a jury. John Christopher had an extensive criminal history Bank fraud trying to murder federal witness, and the f. b. I didn't want to risk putting him on the stand with the defense could play up his laundry list of past crimes. So every time John Christopher went out, Jim Davis wired him up to record his conversations. Technology for recording conversations was changing very quickly at that time. So we started out with a thing called in Nagara in a g. r. a. which was pretty good size like scary, big, real trail tape machine. It was a real real tape machine. Wow, so hiding that was difficult though. Jim Davis wouldn't tell me exactly where he hit the device. Don't want to go into that in understand why, right? I'm not trying. I'm not trying to be evasive or secretive or anything, but you know, I just don't want people. Dialed in art techniques. You wanna protect future investigations by protecting that information as they started to select their new targets. They came up with a plan that was supposed to meet specific legal requirements. We couldn't just kinda throw out net and in gather up these guys, we had to make sure that we had some Predication that they were involved in criminal activities. Predication means that there had to be some evidence that the person they were going after was already doing something illegal and thus might be willing to do more illegal stuff. Oftentimes that establish that through the politicians network. One alderman would introduce us to another to another to another. John Christopher may have disappeared from north Lonsdale, but you could find him dining with elected officials all over town. You could find John Christopher at the I hop at ninety four th in western, he'd be sitting across from alderman Virgil Jones who had given him permission to dump construction debris on the south side. The f. b. i. listened in as John Christopher gave Jones four thousand dollars wrapped in a newspaper. You could find John Christopher at Theodore's on ninety. Fifth street there he asked another southside alderman to send a city street sweeper to clean up the mess. He'd made a job site offered that alderman more than five thousand dollars in cash. And you could find John Christopher at Jack's a fancy English restaurant. Overlooking the magnificent mile shopping corridor there he gave a water Commissioner cigarette pack filled with forty rolled one hundred dollar bills. To aid this growing investigation, the f. b. i. brought in an undercover agent to act as John Christopher's business partner. Mark Sophia was a veteran f. b. i. agent from Chicago who was also Italian. Although he was more clean cut and well-spoken than John Christopher. The bureau thought that he could play a convincing mobbed up construction guy. He was often in the field with John Christopher when he bribed public officials during the investigation marks feel went by an alias Mark Delana. We wanted him to be Italian. I mean, marks Afia is Italian, but I haven't picking name that basically ends in all in. I didn't realize it until we had been in this for a while and I should. So where did you get to long ago to Lanka is not an Italian name. Mark was a West Point grid, and a ranger army ranger in the third phase of ranger training is based in. Delana Georgia and like his fake business partner. Mark Delana was also all over town meeting with a state rep at a diner near midway airport, where handed over the five hundred dollars. John Christopher had promised or hunkering down in an undercover apartment in suburban oakbrook terrace, where he'd sometimes pay bribes in his bathrobe and count out money on the coffee table. Shaved about to grad based on two leaks, so sure that would be one gram. So they're in this video recording Mark. Sofia as Mark Dhillon aga- is paying a southside alderman for helping John Christopher, clean up a parking lot repaving job. Or short, it's a little hard to hear, but that's Mark Sofia actually counting out money to give to the alderman. Okay, sir. The f. b. i. cast a wide net between the two of them. John Christopher and Mark Sofia eventually tried to woo and then bribe at least forty people. There were so many targets and each had his or her own story. But let's drill down into one of these officials to better understand how the investigation played out in practice and what it felt like to be caught in John Christopher's web. That's after the break. Do you wear clothes that don't fit? Are you listening to a podcast you hate probably not. You taken control of the rest of your life. It's time to take control of your sleep. Helixsleep Bill to quiz takes just two minutes to complete the use the answers to match your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress. I was matched to the helix dusk. 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Giles and his wife police live in a tidy, split level ranch house on a quiet tree lined street in Chicago's south suburbs, very different from where he grew up in rural Arkansas. He was one of ten children and the son of a sharecropper. The family's home didn't have indoor plumbing until after he was ten years old Giles went on to study at the university of Arkansas. And then like so many other black Chicagoans. He left the south as part of the great migration and made his way to the west side. Giles would become part of a wave of young black politicians who came up under the city's first black mayor Harold Washington in nineteen six. When he was in his mid thirties, Giles was elected to city council. Even today, if you ask Percy Giles what accomplishment he's most proud of from his time in office, he'll tell you it was getting garbage out of his ward familiar with the west side. Chicago always got. Reputation of being not clean and and everybody looked down at the rest of the on the west side. But what determined right away is that the west, I wasn't treated fair. Percy Giles is ward the thirty seventh was and still is similar to north Llandough majority black, not a lot of clout with city hall and chronically underserved by the city. The same set of factors that had prompted north Lonsdale alderman Bill Henry to buy his own street sweeper. Percy Giles was first elected. The city had insisted the ten west side wards including his all, send their household garbage to a local incinerator. So the alleyways in his word became clogged with bulkier items, like couches or TV's that couldn't go to the incinerator and they let this other stuff. Just people put it out there to sit at just so the Senate claim that they were sent a bulk up there to pick it up later, but they've they didn't do that. Eventually Percy Giles convinced the city to let him send the words trash to another site and that got the garbage problem under control. If I have to say the one thing I did as alderman, that was the most significant thing I would say that would be it that changed the fiber of the west side. And yet Percy Giles was eventually taken down by an undercover investigation that started with a mountain of waste. By January nineteen. Ninety-five Percy Giles had already served to successful terms as alderman and was running for a third place to be. Look for ways to raise phones. Trials got a call from political consultant. He'd hired the consultant told him that he'd scheduled a lunch with possible donor named John Christopher. I got this. John Christopher. They said, you know, he can. He raise some money. A few days later Percy Giles and his political consultant meet with John Christopher for lunch at a west side, soul, food restaurant called edna's edna's advertised the best biscuits on earth and had a back room where VIP's could meet in private. The people. Here. What I should Percy Giles ordering the short ribs. He's really hard to hear in the tape because the tape recorder is across the table from him hidden somewhere on John Christopher's body. So when all of these recordings, John Christopher is much easier to hear. Hot dog that was Burke was polish sausage. Give me a hot one. On your guys neighbor, all. Go onto the Ryan. On just on the point John Christopher and Percy Giles finish ordering and start making small talk Giles asks how he's been doing and John Christopher lifts up his shirt. Allusion away from gaining weight what I'm doing. Go stay out of trouble while you know she'll want my wife or gain weight when I'm away from I lose weight. Hugh lift up his shirt. He grabs his belly and shakes it up and down FBI agent. Jim Davis would later tell me that when John Christopher did this lift up his shirt. It was his way of signalling to Percy Giles or anyone else around that. He was not wearing a wire though. Of course, the only reason we're hearing this is because he was. And as they're making small, talk talking about the upcoming mayoral election and who's ahead in polls, that kind of thing. John Christopher brings up his dumps in north London. Good news, dumping business. I don't do that little more. I don't wanna do it says to Christopher your known all over the city. In other words, you're infamous leave with head of my neetings with Henderson. Translation Percy Giles was heard about John Christopher and his construction. Debris dumps from Henry Henderson Commissioner of the city's department of environment and now for the first and maybe only time here is John Christopher on tape defending his actions in north Lauderdale. All of this fucking table. Table. I made a lot of money over Balza both saying they made a lot of money. You wanna know tensions want to hurt nobody. There created job Stor. Percy Giles seems sympathetic to John. Christopher Giles explains that he had been meeting with Henry Henderson because he's now facing a situation similar to the one in north Lonsdale he had thrown his support behind a company called Niagara that had promised to bring eighty jobs to his ward. Niagara then set up a construction, debris dump next to a beauty supply factory, the dirt and debris were now piled so high that runoff from the dump had flooded the factories parking lot Percy Giles was now taking heat from the factories owners and the city, and the press including a reporter from the sun times. Kim, you'd be. Playing to what it was she. And his political challenger in the upcoming election had also started using the dumps against him, putting up flyers around the ward that said, the dump was talk. Opponents shit bit. They can't do that them now of nothing. One on one. Plus they already put it out on in the community about tactic, mini minds and the toxic dump John Christopher offers Percy. Giles some words of wisdom are just gonna give picture right. Watch the heights of it will aunt you watch the heights of it. In other words, be careful how big the dump GATS especially when you're running for reelection under skewing. I feel that if you're going to be with somebody can Molly information, you could help them out later. And I was the first one basically that started all the dumps. You know the first. Question. So listen. Percy Giles. Let me save this with you. Okay. Give a Mason deal. The all get your running form. Okay. I want to months of court room battles. What sitting fro-. I started the can't want city. That could want you for years to come. You know this, Jesse won the election just lower Moshe. And you is a couple of people call up and saying that they got those problems. Jesse Miller who won Bill Henry seed after the former alderman supported John Christopher and the Northland l. dumb. Again, this is a warning learn from what happened in north Lauderdale for me. Would you take. In John Christopher's advice may have been offered one businessman to another, but he's here to do another kind of business. And all this small talk is probably just to establish trust because once they've built that report, Jon Christopher goes into dealmaking mode. I, he tells Percy Giles that he has a new construction company. We'll keep real small. John Christopher explains that on paper. His new construction company is run by a guy from north Lauderdale actually the same guy that he'd hired to do community relations in the neighborhood back when he was fighting the city's lawsuit. And because this guy is black and fronting as the official head of the company that makes them eligible for contracts set aside for minority owned businesses are not a while when he calls for the job. Anyone, anyone, if my name is much and pulls that radical stuff and says, what is this shit because of problems. Comes now, you know, I mean, he really fights. That's all very good tape. We wanted during these guys up. That's Jim Davis. John Christopher's f. b. i. handler, he was one of the first people to hear this tape after it was recorded this white Italian guy talking to a black elected official in saying a were taken advantage of the NBC certification. E stands for minority business enterprise. You know, by saying that we are a minority run business when in fact, look at me in to have those conversations in front of the alderman in have the alderman not say, hey, you know, you can't do that that paints the alderman in a certain light. After explaining that, he's basically set up a front company. John Christopher makes his pitch. He wants a contract for shopping center being built in Percy Giles ward. I won't where they work with number. You wanna say, I wanna the all in exchange for this help. John Christopher offers Percy Giles ten thousand dollars. What's going to happen basically. Effort to be given. Okay. Commitment of trying to get some workers that what we're saying here. And. Would you get the pain of the. Have somebody. I can't guaranteed. Nothing hundred can do all we can provide anything in a way that we can be assistant you. That's my call. Drought can to help. It's new. That's all that's needed. But John Christopher actually needed to get the payment on tape. So a few days after that first lunch, John Christopher and Percy Giles meet at edna's again. And this time John Christopher brings the money with him the first of two payments of five thousand dollars each. Now, what follows is really hard to hear because even John Christopher is speaking in hushed voice. He says to Percy Giles, here's the five thousand, it's all there. And then he asked Percy Giles if you want to count it. I can't believe you won't. If you've ever ripping put in your pocket. By John saying, please hurry up. Put that in your pocket. It dirties up more. You know you saying, you know, let's not make a big spectacle even though he is gonna make a big spectacle. Giles sounds giddy as he takes the cash. Member should move. This fucking. To be I agent, Jim Davis. This is a slam dunk. They have a sitting alderman on tape taking money from their informant, but that's not how Percy Gile side Giles admits taking the money, but swears that he believed it was a campaign contribution. It's why when he takes the money, he says, I'll win the election in African American minutest. It's difficult for us to raise money for elections, and that was like the best fundraising that I had and really did help me by material of real wood to ten thousand dollars mean to your campaign efforts at the time a lot. That was about a third of my campaign dollars. So this is a really big deal for you because you're running for re-election. You have a meeting with this guy that you think is a local businessman and he's affectively just given you in like to face to face meetings, a third of the money that you raise so far very election campaign that Nelson blessing Percy Giles says, he's still wilder as to why the f. b. i. chose him as a target. He argues that the f. b. i. turned an otherwise loyal public servant into a figure of corruption. The Cincinnati to meet the Mana fact a crime that they say that pro, whatever Lille put poll banana factor that the say, oh, we got him. He committed a crime. I wasn't doing anything to anybody, but taking my business, I would say that's fair. I make to me, you can do that with anybody. Now, granted him, some people smarter than me. They mo- politica stoop than me. They around families that who have been having business, they know how people are, but I came from a background. Nobody told me into this. I came from Arkansas, just Arkansas. The hospitality state we speak to everybody in Arkansas people. They pretty much say what they mean and they mean what they say, and that's that's where I come from. And so that was just shocked to me. Giles was eventually indicted and convicted, not just for taking ten thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher, but also for taking eighty one thousand dollars in bribes from Niagara the company that set up the dump in his word when he talks about it. Now he says the money was for the ward and Niagara told him it would bring jobs Percy Giles would not be the last person to critique operation silver shovel or the last alderman to get caught up in the investigation in ways that mirrored John Christopher's time in Northland, Dale, that's after the break. Sometimes the smallest thing can make a big difference. Take your socks. For example, they might not seem like the most important thing in the world, but think for a moment about the last time you were a pair of socks that just weren't cutting it. An uncomfortable pair of socks can affect your whole day. That's why I love Bumba socks. They are truly the most quality made most comfortable socks I've ever worn one of my favorite things about Bomba is that just as they're making a difference in my day, I know they're making a difference in someone else's. See socks are the number one requested item in homeless shelters across the US. When the founders of Bomba saw the statistic, they decided to do something about it. And that's why for every pair of socks they sell. They also donate one to someone in need to date. They have donated over seven million socks to shelters. All fifty states bomb socks are available in a variety of different colors styles. And so. Sizes for men, women and kids. They are so cute and you can save twenty percent on your first purchase by visiting Bumba dot com. Slash the city that's b. o. m. b. a. s. dot com. Slash the city and entering the offer the city in the checkout code space. Although the FBI was successfully going after elected officials by offering them bribes in exchange for contracts or help from the city. It was often very hard for us to find something that these guys could do for us that we could pay them for. Because as Jim Davis points out, there were a lot of rules that limited what the f. b. i. could do. So we would have conversation where it was very clear that they wanted money from us and that they would do whatever we ask them to do. We just couldn't figure out what what it was that we could ask them to do that wouldn't create, you know, uncontrollable, third party liability. Third party liability means harm to anyone who is not a target of the investigation. For example, if they got a city contract, it meant that another legitimate business would not get that contract in some of the the rock crusher scenarios that we ran as part of this investigation. If we set up a rock crusher. In a neighborhood there was impact on the people around where the pressure was place. Some of the rock crusher scenarios, the FBI sent John Christopher to other aldermen to ask if he could set up other rock Crushers in other wards almost always majority black or Latino wards. But Jim Davis is careful to say that because of concerns about third party liability. The bureau never actually set up any rock Crushers anywhere. We never placed actually placed the rock crusher anywhere. Instead, Jim Davis says they would bring politicians to another rock crusher. John Christopher had this one also predated operation silver shovel and was out in Lamont in the western suburbs. Jim Davis called it a half million dollar prob. In other words, an expensive piece of equipment that was meant to be seen, but not used to the grocery opera. Out Lamont in, we would take alderman out to Lamont to see the crusher, right? So they could go out and see the thing in operation. And then once the alderman had seen the rock crusher, we identify a lot in their ward and say, this is where we wanna put it. We would get their support, pay them for their support, and then we'd never put the crusher there in practice. This was extremely confusing for the alderman. Here's what it looked like to Larry bloom, who is then alderman of the fifth ward. He told me that he needed some overflow space because the space that to which he was bringing the cement debris was he needed more space. And would I help them find such a space bloom was the only white politician caught up in the probe. He was known as an independent and a reformer. His southside ward concluded the integrated Hyde Park neighborhood home to the university of Chicago and the Obamas the word all. Also included a majority black neighborhood called grand crossing that had land zoned for industry. Larry bloom says, he, I met John Christopher a decade before when John Christopher was a client of fellow lawyer and his practice, they reconnected in the mid nineties when they ran into each other at the standard club, a fancy downtown members only club where bloom was meeting potential campaign donor. And I think I was putting my coat down and I see across the room, this big smile. Agai eyes get wide open and sees me and comes running over to me and says, how you doing Larry, it was John Christopher and later in his usual push way, he asked Larry bloom to find him a place to set up a rock crusher. So I actually did that and actually drove around. And I found a location that was in the new portion of my ward had known about which was separated. From the rest of the neighborhood by going underneath a tunnel, and then you went to this open area and it was basically a construction related company that used it for storing its vehicles. John Christopher paid, Larry bloom two thousand dollars for his help and after securing the site and supposedly setting up shop there, he came back to alderman bloom, and he said, Larry, I think I missing up the alley when I'm bringing this debris over to the site. Can you have the wards who pretend go out there and clean it up and after the wards Uber intendant checked out the site, he told bloom there's nothing there. No darts, no debris, no rock crusher. And yet John Christopher calls again and again asks Larry bloom to clean up the site, and he is really pushy. So Larry bloom goes and looks at it for himself. There was nothing they only and I think I looked into the yard and. I didn't see any debris in the industrial itself and see any of the stuff that he said he was bringing in this story basically confirms what Jim Davis told us that they never put a rock crusher anywhere, but from what we can tell from our reporting, that's not quite true. During his time as an FBI informant. John Christopher kept dumping at at least two sites, including the ones in north Lonsdale. He also set up at least one rock crusher in a place where there had not been won before John Christopher had been dumping in the fifteenth ward before he was recruited by the FBI. He had help from the alderman. We mentioned earlier, Virgil Jones, the former cop who took four thousand dollars wrapped in newspaper photos of that dump show something similar to what existed in Northland l. an enormous pile of concrete slabs stacked. What looks like two stories high according to court records. John Christopher kept dumping there after he became an FBI informant and in August nineteen Ninety-two one month after operation, silver shovel officially began. He put a rock crusher at the site, an operated it for at least a few months. After we learned about this rock crusher we went back to Jim Davis to ask if he'd been mistaken when he said they'd never actually put any rock rushers anywhere. He reiterated that as far as he could remember, they never had, but he did know about this one at least at one point. During Virgil, Jones's trial, Jim Davis testified under oath that he had gone to visit the site in the fall of nineteen ninety two and saw the crusher and operation. So it's not completely clear, but it seems as if John Christopher initially set up this rock crusher behind the FBI's back in a previous interview, Jim Davis told me that John Christopher would often do this kind of thing behind his back. Couple of times were I went down to to John's office which was down in the I think it was in the seventy six in western areas somewhere down there and walk around his yard. And I'd see some files a dirt building up, right? And I would tell him get rid of those. So that's what he has a tendency to do in. We had to go out there every once in a while, tell him you can't do that. You got to get this dirt your your lot. But that didn't mean the FBI didn't use the rock crusher to its advance. Edge. The payments may diverge Jones for helping with his operation were part of the FBI's case against him. We reached out to virtual Jones, but he never responded at this point. We should take stock of all the politicians targeted by operation silver, shovel Percy, Giles who's black fertile Jones, who's black Ray free s. Latino Jesse Evans black Allan. Streeter black. In fact, every public official indicted during operation. Silver shovel was black or Latino with the exception of Larry bloom who is white and Jewish. Jim Davis says, this disparity bothered him even at the time we were looking for opportunities to to try and branch out racially. But the issue was we could only go where the case took us. We could only go where our subjects were willing to introduces. You know, we, I remember one point having conversations about, you know, is there any way that we could get John say to Allan Streeter? Do you know any white politicians? We can pay? You know. We, we didn't do that just because it would have been ridiculous to do it. You know? I mean, it's not something it's not. It would not have been a conversation that I think would have worked in the enter cover scenario like then the question is will why would you ask me that? Like that's kind of a weird thing for you to ask me, right? That's the concern exactly. We went were the case took us. He says that the path the investigation talk is just evidence of the city's longstanding racial divides. The reality of Chicago is that black politicians Nobu politicians work with black politicians in the white politicians work with the white politicians. I've frankly think that you Kogyo is one of the most segregated cities in the country. You're not alone there. And I think that that's why this case seemed focused on black politicians. That segregation was driving. Actor here makes sense. It's the scaffolding on which you can hang almost every other fact about Chicago. The neighborhoods were John Christopher setup. His dumps and rock Crushers neighborhoods like north Lonsdale were black neighborhoods, but they were also neighborhoods that had gradually seen industry leave. They had a lot of vacant land and the land was not redeveloped quickly because it was not as valuable as land in wealthier white neighborhoods where developers were more interested in building, which meant that when John Christopher was looking around for places he could convincingly put a dump or rock crusher even fake one. He was almost certainly going to be looking in south and west side wards were land was cheap and plentiful, and set up for industry. There just aren't nearly as many undeveloped lots on the north side. So it wasn't just that there weren't any white politicians other than Larry bloom caught up in silver shovel. There weren't any north siders, either. There's one other dimension to this story. We have to talk about as operation silver shovel, broaden it got weirder. Apart from bribes for city contracts and rock Crushers. Silver shovel became a kind of kitchen sink for everything. The FBI thought John Christopher might be able to pull off that included fake legislation about cemeteries aimed to lure lawmakers at the state capital and a scheme that involved green card and the Royal Canadian Mounted police and a drug deal involving two pounds of cocaine and a money laundering operation for the mob. None of it had anything to do with north Lonsdale. The only things these parts of the investigation had in common was John Christopher just point. John is in a little bit of a state of denial. He wants for this investigation to go on forever because he, he knows when it's over. He's going to have to leave. He's going to have to tell his family that he was cooperating with the government. Eventually, this case would go public and John Christopher's targets would have their day in court, and then the FBI would have to contend with the reality of who John Christopher was and all the things done. I asked, Jim Davis, hell the bureau justified working with a man like John Christopher, and he told me something that he'd once heard a lawyer, say in court, something that had stuck with him. Sometimes if you're going to prosecute the devil, he got to go to hell to get your witnesses in January nineteen, Ninety-six operation. Silver shovel would break as front page news, Ray free us, the politician we heard at the beginning of this episode would be acquitted, but Virgil Jones and Percy Giles Alan, Streeter and Larry bloom a dozen. Other politicians were about to go down. That's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today, and it's distributed in partnership with wondering, you can subscribe to the show on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening right now. If you liked the show please rate and review us, Andy short, tell your friends about us. Our show was reported and produced by Wilson Sayer Jenny Koss a knee, Robin, EMA. Our editor is Sam Greenspan Austin is our story consultant. Original music and mixing is by Hannah's Brown additional editing this week by Amy pile additional production by Taylor. Megan is about cockerel Phil Corbett and beyond. The media's Chris Davis is our VP for investigations. Spot Stein is our VP of product. Our executive producer is Liz Nelson. The USA today, networks, president and publisher is Mirabella Wadsworth. Thank you to our sponsors for supporting the show and special. Thanks to our turns Matt topic and Tom Curley. And immediately Yousef and Daniels fed cove. Additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus, and Northwestern University. If you like this show, you may also like WBZ's new podcast on background, which takes you inside the smoke filled back rooms of Chicago, Illinois government to better understand the people places and forces shaping today's politics. I'm rob Aamer. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod or visit our website where you can read transcripts of John Christopher's secret FBI tapes and war. That's the city podcast dot com.
The City Revealed (Rebroadcast)
"Uh. Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, it's Yletsin. And if you love our show, and our brand of high impact journalism. And if you want to hear more of its supporters by becoming a member, you see monthly donations help provide Sadie support support that lets us pursue stories wherever they may lead when you become a member, you invest in our future, ensuring that we can keep bringing you stories that matter, the kind of information that rights wrongs and changes lives. And now is the best time to become a reveal member because through the rest of this month new members who sign up and give at least eight thousand much will get one of our facts shirt imen-, as it looked good. No logo advertising just the word facts in big, bold letters. So this third week of the membership drive, only one more or less, and I'm telling you that we need to finish strong. Just text the word reveal two four seven four seven four seven becoming a member. Is that easy? Just text the word reveal two four seven four. Seven four seven. Thank you. And let's do some good together because there is always more to the story, but it can't be told without you. From the center for investigative reporting in P R, x this is reveal amount. Letting. Daiki Nichols was a kid growing up in Chicago in the early nineties, he knew that lurking near his home was an evil rabbit, the evil rabbit of the grow rabid, use the chase key with Red Eye. There remember that we will looking for what day. But we'd never see that evil rabbit. This evil rabbit roam the hills where Daiki and his friends like to play. We played up there. Everything played Haggos seeing when his snow, we is layers and slat down the summertime. Roger bites up and down the hill, because there was that big of a hill that was fun. They can look down onto the roof of their elementary school. All the basketball's gotten stuck up there over the years, and they could look east towards the horizon and see all the skyscrapers downtown. Now Chicago's built on prairie land. It's pretty flat. So you might be wondering about those hills and how they came to be just six miles from downtown in the west side, neighborhood of Northland deal. There's an explanation Daiki remembers one time in the fourth or fifth grade. He was running up the side of the tallest hills. A mountain on those and its foot dislodge something something big boulder, or piece of concrete. It roll down the mountain towards his brother. I mean rolled over his finger and it was hanging off. I had to hold it together and I had the walk him all in his finger on until we got to the hospital. They hit the reattaching ESPN about two or three days in a hospital. The mountain was actually a giant illegal landfill in a vacant lot, besides grass and wildflowers and even trees, there were six stories of concrete and rebar, plus rusted out. Cars and old matches that the kids used for trampolines today. We're going to tell you how that landfill came to be north Lauderdale and grew to be six store stall, two whole city blocks, wide, and five city blocks long. Now imagine living right next door. This is a story about the strange complicated and crooked ways that power flows in American cities. USA today investigated this gigantic landfill in their podcast series. Call the city I ran it in December of twenty teen and Robin Aamer host and creator of the city told us the story. Hi, al. Right. So we're talking about a dump that is six stories high in Chicago. Yeah. That's right. Six stories, tall, and it was on this huge lot twenty one acres. The size of thirteen football fields. The story of how this huge dump came to be in the middle of a residential neighborhood is one of the most striking stories of corruption and institutional indifference that I've ever come across. It stunned me when I first found out about it about a ruthless. This city can be about how stark the divisions are between black and white rich and poor between the people who hoard power, and the people who have to fight for their fair share. There's one man at the center of the story who sets everything into motion. Here he is. Or all boys at the table on the table. I was the first one basically that started all dumps the I will I made a lot of money over there. No balls about saying it made a lot of money. And you wanna know some started can't warmth city that could haunt you for years to come. This guy sounds like a character straight out of goodfellas. Yeah. He's pretty unapologetic. The can of worms he opened unleashed this chain of events that went way beyond Chicago, eventually, the FBI would be giving him cover as he built the dump. He's not at the very beginning of the story and what we're definitely going to get back to him later. But why don't we rewind a little bit and take it from the very beginning. Richard. I'm being his inaugural address, live on WB AM from office. In the months to come. Richard m Daley was the son of the beloved and feared mayor Richard J Daley. He presided over Chicago's political mission from the nineteen fifties through the seventies, his son was sworn into office in nineteen Eighty-nine time can leave behind. Time can leave behind all setbacks, disappointments and battles because in the campaign for a better Chicago for all allies, since the nineteen sixties steel mills and other factories had been shutting down all over the midwest. In Chicago, the city lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly a million residents and the new mayor Daley wanted Chicago to, you know, wake up from this post industrial slumber and thrive. As one city or we sit back in watch Chicago decline. So daily began a major push to revamp, Chicago's aging downtown, and he paid special attention to tourist friendly destinations in the loop and along the lakefront. He said about rebuilding crucial parts of the city's infrastructure, including its roads and highways by the spring of nineteen ninety the year after he took office. The city was full of workers and hard hats, and orange vasts breaking down concrete, Jack hammering asphalt loading into dump trucks and hauling it away law abiding, trucking companies card, this debris to distant landfill. But some trucks headed west out of the loop over the Chicago river into the city's neighborhoods until the came to a vacant lot in north Lauderdale. When I visited there a met a woman named Gladys Woodson, she lived in the neighborhood since moving to Chicago from Mississippi in the nineteen sixties, and she told me, how one day in the spring of nineteen ninety a neighbor knocked on her front door. First memory was the president of the forty one hundred block came down, and s miss Whitson and told him what do you want would miss Woodson was the president of the forty three hundred block together? These block clubs kept an eye on the street and made sure the community was safe. He said, did you not know that is a dunk illegal dump over cross the street? And I know he's come on this work done. Yeah. I saw a lot of trucks land blocking the view and Behan trip. There was pal stuff that was accumulated. And so when you saw this line of trucks, and this pile of rubble would as you think I think, oh, no, we can't have over here. This is bad health. If children Beth house, it's just gonna take on neighborhood down. They couldn't figure out who was responsible for all the trucks coming and unloaded rubble in their neighborhood. So they held stakeouts and saw that the trucks kept coming by day, but also in the dead of night. We have come. I hand like one two o'clock at night to wash the trucks go in and take down license. Plates number. One and two o'clock in the morning. In the morning, and we used to meet them up here because we figured if we can get the license plate number we can turn them over to the police. So what we did we start getting license plate number, and what we found he had one set a plate on the front and on different set of plate on the bet. It seemed really suspicious. And that was before they saw the man in charge, then, anytime you see anybody drive over a vacant lot in limbo. You know, is no good. Gosh. What did you think was happening back there when you saw him drive up in a limo out? He was. I don't know game bangel with something other, you know. You know, I didn't know what to think. The man in the limo was a heavy set white guy with a gruff voice and receding hairline eventually MS Woodson, and her neighbors would learn the man's name John Christopher and that he was connected to the mob. What in Chicago, we call the outfit, but that was later. In the meantime, over the next days and weeks, the piles of rubble have getting taller and taller, and the dust blowing off them got worse and worse Woodson and her fellow block club. Captains organized a letter writing campaign. We the south with London. United block club councils are requesting that you into intercede of in protesting the installation they sent a letter to the zoning board and the water department and the department of streets in sanitation. They sent it to the mayor and a member of congress. We rotate. Body, from who's who to who's that I thought most, we can take all of these peoples, and they found out, what was going on that somebody would stop it. Ms Woodson was right. At least at first in June of nineteen ninety about a month after receiving her letters, the city finally sent an inspector to check out the dump by then it was already taller than you are. I as the inspector put it more than six feet tall, Henry Henderson was a lawyer for the city, who specialized in environmental issues. People who were working, as inspectors in the city called me up and said, we've got this huge amount of material building up in this particular side. So we got in cars and went out to visit. And it was this, this gigantic gigantic issue, Henry Henderson had learned. But John Christopher the guy Woodson saw in the limo was actually running the dumps to he called Christopher into his office for a meeting was that the first time that you had not with him. Yes. What did he look like how did he speak? What impression did he leave on you? He's a very, very large person. He had one of these incredibly colorful sweaters on, you know, well, like dad's wetter kinda like that. Yeah. And I was struck by the fact that it looked like he had his nails done going into this meeting, hundreds, and thought that he could demand that John. Christopher stop and that he would. But John Christopher had permits that he'd gotten from the city to operate a rock crusher. A giant machine that pulverizes concrete into gravel which can then be sold back to construction companies to use in their building projects. So is his story about what he was doing is particularly aiming at this is construction debris that can be recycled and I wanna crush it and the material has value. So I'm recycler, and I'm gonna beautify that was his claim as to what, what is actively whereabout, John Christopher was not going to stop dumping in north Mondale? And every day the prairie wind would blow through the piles of debris and cover north Lonsdale in a layer of thick grey dust when the dust will fly, you had a look gloss on your lip gloss will be full of dirt. You could taste it on your lips in your mouth. This is Michelle Ashford in nineteen ninety she was nineteen years old. It will be just a big cushion win. We will have the closure as covering the mouth or whatever. Because once we experienced it we knew. Become the win. We will cover up for when going on mouth. Some meals that it did. Michelle's mother Rita Ashford says the dump may the neighborhoods prostitution problems worse. The guys they could come pull up on the side of the dump. And that's where they did their business at just to be clear. The dump had gotten so big that it cast the side street next to it into darkness with the prostitutes being able to go back there really like high, and it would be down there, turning dates, and everything, right there on the street. The dump had become a magnet, that's actually a term in environmental circles. It was a magnet in that it had attracted other illegal and unsavory stuff and the rats girl, if it wasn't a hundred red sent one, one people were fighting rents. They were getting their homes. I mean some of the vinyl houses on our block. Everybody was dental with rents. But worse than the rats the dump was affecting people's health. Several of MS Ashford's grandchildren had severe asthma and some of his Woodson's elderly neighbors relied on oxygen tanks, the dust from the dumps was making it harder for them to breathe some Woodson and her neighbors decided to confront the dumper, so group of we won't dove it talk to John Christopher and we asked him, you know, could he stop whatever he was doing over there. He told us he could do whatever he, please. And we told him, okay, we'll go to court and he said, if you do go to court when I leave him Aleve, everything just like it is now he was very Erickson. So how did you feel after that confrontation? Let's get him. Let's go to court. And so they did with Henry Henderson's help the city sued. John Christopher in June of nine. Thousand ninety. The story of a mountain in Chicago neighborhood converges with a federal probe was sacred undercover investigation. And so we weren't going to and and there's a takedown teams at wrote to search warrants than accident. Do I need a lawyer, and they told me you might remote, my knees just fell London me? I almost fell to the floor coming up next operation silver shovel. This is reveal from the center for investigative reporting and. P. R X. From the center for investigative reporting in PR X vis is reveal. I'm listen today. We've been talking about a mountain of trouble in Chicago neighborhood. A mountain made up of construction debris greed and deception that six stories, high, and five blocks long, Robin Aamer of USA, today's podcast called the city has been telling us a story, so Robin catch sup little bit. We've got a neighborhood. That's getting tons of construction debris from all over Chicago dumped on them, and they're having trouble getting their voices heard downtown now from what I know about Chicago, politics, when you can't get your trash picked up or your potholes filled. The person you call is your alderman, your neighborhood Representative on the city council was he able to help them. So Bill, Henry was the alderman of the twenty fourth ward which included north Lonsdale and Gladys Woodson's block club wrote to him when they were trying to get rid of the dump to be a hindrance because he was a street person. You know, it was raise the phone. The street. He will let us all know you know, you can't have everything you want. And if you won't something really bad, you figure out how bet you won't that. And you're gonna have to give up something to get something. Bill. Henry was first elected alderman, in nineteen eighty three and he did what alderman often did to build support. They handed out favors like city jobs and contracts. But he was also known as a dealmaker. In fact, he was reportedly, the one who introduced John Christopher to the owner of the vacant lot, where the dump was and leader, people would learn that he had also taken bribes from John Christopher like five thousand dollars a month to ensure that the city didn't interfere with the dumping operation. So the dump took on a nickname. This is Bill Henry son Conrad we was in the car was driving past. And he said, they call that mount Henry, it was not smiling. He was quite subdued about quite sad about a lot of ways. He was like mass nothing. I can do about it. He like he'd been duped like he'd been used to dunk that they're after the dumping started. Bill, Henry was indicted on unrelated federal corruption. Charges. He washed his bid for reelection. He developed lung cancer and died the following year. His case never went to trial. By nineteen Ninety-two. John Christopher had dumped more than thirty one thousand truckloads of stuff in north London. The city had taken him to court and the judge didn't buy his claim that he was some kind of recycler. So John Christopher lost the case. The judge gave him thirty months to clean up the site. But that meant the north Lonzo residents would have to keep living next to the dump for at least two and a half. More years. But rather than cleanup the site. John Christopher disappeared. So the city appealed to the state and federal environmental protection agency's finally, in nineteen ninety four four years after the dumping started. They came out to north Mondale, but they only removed about one hundred and fifty truckloads of stuff. They determined were hazardous, like barrels of chemicals. They left the thirty one thousand truckloads of construction debris behind the six-storey mountain was still there. So that's it. Then I mean and the story, they're just stuck with this mountain. Well, no, not exactly. This is where the story. Takes a really crazy. Turn what happened to John Christopher after John Christopher disappeared. Henry Henderson, who is now the city's environmental Commissioner reached out to one other federal agency that he thought could help in the situation. See because he had a personal connection at the US Justice department to an old friend and he was first assistant that the time Henderson called on Scotland's, our first assistant US attorney in the northern district of Illinois. In other words, Lazar was one of the federal government's top criminal prosecutors in Chicago. So Henry Henderson talks to Scotland, you're, so you know, we're having real hard time and we think that this is a larger criminal endeavor here, and we've really need some help, but Henderson says his old. Friend dismissed him telling him this was a municipal waste problem. I asked Scotla are about this conversation. We knew about the legal dumping going on very well. Probably couldn't tell that Christopher was working undercover at the time. This was sacred undercover investigation. And so we weren't going to. And so I had to rebuff him, wait. Hold on Robin. Do you mean yet? John Christopher was working undercover for the FBI ways. John Christopher who started this illegal dump is actually working for the United States government. Yeah. That's right. How did that happen? All right. So it all started with this investigation into a Bank failure. This local Bank in Chicago went belly-up in nineteen Ninety-one and an FBI special agent named Tony Dangelo started looking at the bad loans. The Bank had made he was an expert in white collar crime, and organized crime. And he discovered that the biggest bad loan spank had made had gone to one man. John Christopher Mr. Christopher had a couple of trucking companies some other businesses, and he had borrowed. I can't remember these act amount. But I believe the total deficit, the Bank was in the millions two point five million. That's what John Christopher would later say, in court through these companies, he borrowed money and was not paying the loans back on time. And they had to ultimately be written off. Tony Dangelo looked up. John Christopher in the FBI's database and learned that he had a prison record and mob ties so Dangelo calls, John Christopher thinking, he can help the FBI boss to the higher ups at the Bank. So I told him I was, you know, I looked at your dealings with cosmopolitan Bank. I've got you dead to right on financial fraud with your loan application, and I found in my career that people. Are very curious. They wanna know what information you have about them. What evidence also mentioned to him know, I know you just gotta jail. You got a couple of kids may, we can help each other. They arranged to meet at a Pizza Hut. I mean, if you wanna know a mob, up guy, take a picture. John Christopher built like a bull about five ten stocky wearing a member's only jacket toxin Dem's and does, and just just a funny guy. I laid out my case against him. I'm fellow talion. You can just listen to me talk. They start meeting regularly and one day during ways meanings. He goes, oh, are you interested in politicians? It's an absolutely what do you have on politicians? Well, little, I know at the time that John Christopher Ben bribing and paying off and every new do with aldermen and various city officials. John Christopher turned out to be a bribing machine. He told the FBI about bribing Bill Henry, the Northland alderman and other Chicago alderman and city inspectors. Keep in bribing public officials his whole adult life. The FBI knew about John Christopher's mob connections and criminal past. Plus, he's what the mob would call a standup guy. He went to prison once and didn't give anyone up guy like him actually talking to the FBI and telling them about his legal activity was incredibly rare. So it occurred to the FBI that he would be the perfect mole. John Christopher was the kind of guy, you'd never suspect of working with the FBI, but it also come out of prison, feeling like the mob, hadn't taken good care of his family while he was away. And so Jon Christopher agreed to wear a wire to cooperate with the FBI to strap tape-recorded to his body and go looking for dirty politicians to bribe the FBI called it operation silver shovel like the thirty pieces of silver Judah Scott for betraying. Jesus like. The bulldozers at John Christopher's dump. He was from here. On what you're hearing are secret recordings John Christopher made, while working for the FBI. I assumed the FBI to get them in this one. It's January nineteen ninety-five. And John Christopher is sitting down to lunch with Chicago alderman, there at a west side soul food restaurant called edna's. That's alderman. Percy Giles ordering the short ribs. He's really hard to hear in this tape because the tape recorder is across the table from him hidden somewhere on John Christopher's body. She'd saw hot dog that was burnt was in polish it. Give me a hard link. Way. Sean Christopher tells the alderman that he has a construction firm small work company in here, Wilkie real small, and John Christopher explains that he wants a contract for a shopping center being built in Percy Giles as ward escalating work at a competitive number. Okay. Any offers Percy Giles ten thousand dollars to guarantee that he gets it. You're going to go what's going to happen, every basically for to be given. Okay. Amendment of trying to get some workers that what we're saying here. Okay. You know what I'm saying? Yeah. John Christopher needs to get the payment on tape. So a few days after that, first one, John Christopher and Percy Giles meet at edna's again. And this time, John Christopher brings the money with him. The first of two Caymans of five thousand dollars each. Jober don't more. Komen. He says to Percy Giles, here's the five thousand it's all there and Giles takes the money. Them put their pocket. The F B I had recruited John Christopher to catch the kind of crooked politicians who let him dump in north Lauderdale, John Christopher found many of them willing, but others less. So here's a tape, he made of a conversation with an Illinois lawmaker named Ray free s. Spilled up. I'm gonna love. Tentative right now also this. I never made any kind of rain like this before, of legislator, John Christopher tries to put him at ease. He basically says, all politicians, take money. You're watching the movie. Thank you. Life's just that's right. Can't make the politicians when you think they get elected. And they don't think Honey. You just got to find the right group. operation silver shovel lasted for three and a half years. Although it started with public eruption, it eventually brought in to include things that had nothing to do with politicians. Let alone the north Lonsdale dumps John Christopher helped the F. B I catch people laundering old mob cash. They even folded in a drug bust along the way. And so in January nineteen ninety six it was finally time for the feds to stage what they called the take down. We set up kind of a command post special agent, Jim Davis was in charge, and from the command post, we issued a execute order. We told him to go to same time, and then we just waited for results more than one hundred federal agents fanned out across the city. The command post was in the federal building downtown. Jim Davis was stationed there with four or five other agents to help man the phones and manage the teams in the field. We have teams that wrote to search warrants, but the most focus was on the actual interview teams guys were going out interviewing subjects the agents interrogated more than forty targets, including seven Chicago alderman, three officials from the water treatment agency and to city inspectors. They questioned everyone at the exact same time that way. No one target could worn any other target to hush up or destroy evidence or get a lawyer. Percy Giles was in his west side, office when the FBI showed up he's the alderman, who met John Christopher EDNA soul food restaurant, and the X me on. No Don Christopher. I I'm told him note because it didn't done on me then later, I do know by them lying about their relationship with John Christopher would show that they know that there's some reason for them to lie about that relationship shows that they have some understanding that it is a corrupt relationship. I'm accident. Do I need a lawyer? And they told me you might when I went home that night. And I remember I was nervous so nervous when I telling my wife about it. I remember my knees just fell. Monday me, I almost fell to the floor, Percy Giles was afraid, but he didn't think he'd done anything wrong, but other aldermen came clean. We hit multiple confessions came that were being reported back to us in the command post, which was really surprising. We didn't expect it, and I. That these guys were so stunned to learn that John was working with us that they just figured they had nowhere to go and alderman named Ambrosi Oma drano had taken thirty one thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher in exchange for helping him with his dumping operations in interviews, after the takedown, Madonna had trouble explaining to the press why he'd succumb to John Christopher's. Charms, you know, I don't think that whenever anybody does anything wrong. The really know why I don't know the honest with that was move operate. It was yes, he was, I can't tell you that from the initial meeting that I had with him, and the first time that I actually met with him and accepted the money had been several months. I mean he had. Called him badgered me calls me and asks asked me to meet with him. I refused the Y I finally gave in. I don't know. That was the mistake. I mean, I did I accept total responsibility for what I did alderman, drano, pled guilty and went to prison for thirty months when he got out here in for office again. But ended up going back to prison a second time on new corruption charges. Over three years. Federal prosecutors indicted a dozen Chicago officials caught up in operation silver shovel, almost all pled guilty or were convicted of corruption, the only politician who was acquitted of all charges was Ray free ass-, the reluctant sounding state legislator, who'd never made an arrangement like that before alderman Percy Giles says he still bewildered as to why the F B I chose him as a target. He argues that the FBI turned, and otherwise loyal public servant into a figure of corruption undis- mine in my business running my war. They send somebody to me, and give me some phony money to manufacture a crime. Then they say, oh, we got him. He committed a trying to me they can do that with anybody they want. I think that was totally unfair. With operation silver shovel over and done with what happened, John Christopher's, vacant lot. I don't think that we had any obligation to clean up Henry, because first of all, it's not what we do. And we didn't create it. That's next on reveal. From the center for investigative reporting in p r x this is reveal. I'm outlet. We've been hearing about a major FBI investigation in Chicago in the mid nineties caused the stirred nationwide in Chicago today. Federal officials announced charges in what they call operation silver shovel a wide ranging probe of public corruption. Operation silver shovel lasted three and a half years that the heart of it all was John, Christopher a man with an extensive criminal record, a man who are working as an FBI informant them, six stories of construction debris in the west side neighborhood of north longdale residents there called the large and unsightly dumpsite, the mountain, and they accused the federal government of allowing Christopher to continue dumping and poor and minority neighborhoods while using him to target public officials US attorney burns tonight is the charge, rob Amer's been our guide and telling this story she's the host of the podcast from. USA today called the city and it looks at how power is wielded in American cities, a Robin Hayao. So I guess the feds were happy with how operation silver shovel went down. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, by the time this wrapped up the feds would refer to operation silver shovel as one of the biggest and most successful corruption probes in Chicago history. They had investigated more than forty targets indicted a dozen politicians on corruption charges. Most of whom went to prison and they had also used John Christopher to launder millions of dollars in old mob, cash really hitting the outfit. The Chicago mafia where it hurt and even folded in a drug bust along the way. So this investigation was by their account very successful. What about the people of Chicago where they happy to see all these politicians get jail time. Yes. And no. The investigation did not play out in Chicago's neighborhoods. The way it played out on the nightly news. I almost all the targets of this. Instigation were black or Latino. There was a lot of criticism abyss and the government justified their results by saying. Well, look, this is just how the operation unfolded one alderman, when introduced us to another to another to another. It was all about their personal connections. And a lot of other people felt the trade not just by their elected officials who take bribes, but by the investigation itself, also well in north Lauderdale John Christopher's mountain was still standing. I mean by the time the takedown actually happened this giant illegal construction debris dump head loomed over the neighborhood for almost six years, and the FBI and the US attorney's office had no intention of removing it, it wasn't part of the investigation or part of the take down. This is what Jim Davis who was the agent in charge of the investigation told me about this. I don't think that we it any obligation to clean up Henry, because first of all, it's not what we do. And we did. Create it. I mean, there are agencies that are responsible for cleaning up stuff like that. That's not our business. What about that? I mean couldn't the EPA brought in to help clean up the dump well in theory, but the EPA looked at the situation and said, you know, there's no hazardous waste here. This is a municipal waste problem. It's not our job to clean this up, and so really the city was left holding the Bill here. Of course. The city had already sued John Christopher and one. But instead of forcing him to clean it up. He had just cleared bankruptcy and had affectively disappeared and the FBI in giving John Christopher cover while he was an informant for them made this problem worse for all the people who had been fighting him. Way they said about him being a mall, does something that we never even -ticipant it on one of my visits to north Lonsdale Rita. And Michelle Ashford told me that they were shocked to suddenly, learn that the man that they've been fighting for six years was working for the FBI. Say all this, why we couldn't get any help. This is why we couldn't get any help with it. They knew all this was going on all alone before we even begin to fight for, in the reason why we couldn't get any Justice for anything because it was all about for me, and they knew it from the very beginning. We've just figured that John Christopher had that concrete, pal there. He was making money off of it. And that's the purpose of it. What civil shovel that was my first thing, what is civil shovel. And they said, oh, you did dumpsite as Chris, John. John Christopher Gladys Woodson the block club president and north Lonsdale told me that she and her neighbors were collateral damage they'd been used. They were never able to get traction fighting John Christopher and now they could see why he had to have begging, you know, 'cause people that we will compacting seem to, you know, was pushing it on the rug or not answering forever. On north Lonsdale, whose children had been hurt, whose property had been damaged whose neighborhood had been disrespected. This was a huge breach of trust this people that don't have asthma attack the people that own own oxygen machines that we have few people to move out of the neighborhood, just moved because they could no longer stand the dust and stuff. The news about operation silver shovel seem to confirm what they'd been saying for years about the government's neglect of their neighborhood. Because this face the fact, they wouldn't put that up in the white community not at all. John didn't have to be allowed to still have that Deng 'cause you had ammunition to use against him. What about John Christopher what happened to him when the whole thing broke when operation silver shovel was revealed? Well, even though John Christopher had agreed to wear wire for the FBI and had become the centerpiece of this major undercover investigation. His participation was not actually like a get out of jail free card. He did not have a deal with the FBI for full immunity. So FBI agent, Jim Davis told me that at the beginning of the investigation he had worn. John Christopher not to do anything illegal that wasn't part of the investigation, and I would just try and reassure them. And say, look, if you're straight with us, you know, if you continue to do what we're asking you to do if you know if you stay out of trouble, you're going to be okay. But John Christopher did not hold up his end of the bargain while the. Investigation was going on while he was cooperating with the FBI. He was still committing other crimes, and he went behind the bureau's back in other ways. So, for example, at the same time operation silver shovel was going on. The FBI was also looking into this illegal gambling operation run by an alleged mob boss, named Tony Centracchio John referred to amid his uncle, Tony, and that was a problem for me because we had aware Tony. The wire was a video camera hidden in the ceiling of Tony Centracchio office. And every time John went into seem we were recording. John in primarily criminal conversations which was adding to the mounting evidence that we're gonna have to present against him at the end of this case. It's not totally clear. What John Christopher was doing there because he was never charged in this illegal gambling case, but him showing up. Another investigations wire meet things really complicated for Jim Davis. And his fellow agents I would've liked to have said John stay away from uncle Tony's office, but I can't tell John that we have a a wire, and uncle Tony's office. John Christopher also neglected to file his federal income tax returns in nineteen ninety two and ninety three I know it seems so mundane. But ultimately, this is why he went to prison. John Christopher was sentenced to thirty nine months in prison. But he was never forced to clean up the dumps or provide restitution to anyone in north Lonsdale. And then after he got out of prison, he disappeared again. Maybe for good this time. You mean he's been going for, like twenty years? And nobody knows where he is. Did you try and track him down? Yeah. I've been looking for John Christopher for almost three years trying to figure out what happened to him after he got out of prison. Because he co-operated with the FBI he could not safely return to his old life or even be in Chicago without FBI protection. So I look for him everywhere I could think of and allied just I found nothing. Eventually, I learned the FBI had set him up with a new name, and new social security number, and a new life. And that there was this FBI agent in Saint Louis who might have all that information. So I asked if he would talk to me, and if not if he would pass John Christopher a message for me, and this was the response, I got from the FBI's public information officer. Hi, it's Rebecca we ESPN think Lewis, I spoke with the ancient. And he says, I appreciate I guess empathy for the force, but not surprisingly she the kinds to participate again. He says that it is his responsibility to protect the source, and that he hopes that you understand that so. Thank you very much. And let me know giving question by. Even after all this time it appears that the FBI is still protecting. John Christopher what about all the trash he left behind the dump itself? What happened to it? Well, when the feds washed their hands of this problem and said by by Chicago, and with all the intense public scrutiny and the national media coverage that operation silver shovel had garnered the city finally stepped in and started awarding contracts to companies who could haul. All this rubble away remember the law or mount Henry once stood spanned twenty one acres, and the mountain itself was six stories tall. So these cleanup contracts, we're going to be really big and really lucrative. The cleanup had just started in January nineteen ninety six when the Reverend Jesse Jackson Stockton Royds, remove the community because of going to be a good, lucrative job for someone to have. Job. So Reverend Jackson the civil rights activist and two time candidate for president had I come to Chicago in the nineteen sixties, his rainbow push coalition is headquartered here. And the way Jackson tells it when he first learned about operation silver shovel he realized that this cleanup presented a unique opportunity. John Christopher had dumped in a black neighborhood, and he had helped take down black politicians, but someone was gonna get paid to clean up the dumps and Jackson, one of the city to hire black owned trucking firms to do it. Roseling was resistance because those who use a good he's gonna job demand, the right to get them in the we demanded the right to that system. So Reverend Jackson mounted a major protest to back up his demands Roma's trucks, and the land removers on this frigid Saturday in early February nineteen ninety six. Dozens of diesel trucks, and bulldozers plastered with signs that said things like we want our fair share and hire us to clean up the dumps all these trucks, lined up in a convoy and headed for north Lonsdale. Do the full trip across the city of now? We just folks and practice and trailers, and dumpsters. We land up and across the city sub forever for two hours when the convoy arrived in north Lonsdale, the company that had started the cleanup blocked the entrance to the site, but Jackson and the truckers, eventually got into the site, and he gave a speech from on top of a tractor. He threatened to continue the protests into the summer when the democratic national convention was going to be in Chicago in advance of the ninety six election. The Chicago Tribune characterized his threats this way, give us what we want or watch as we wreak havoc on your big important party this summer. It was only then that the mayor agreed to hire black owned firms to clean up the dump those on the protests and it worked, but the residents of north Lonsdale were not impressed when the dumping had I started in their neighborhood. Reverend Jackson was one of the people they'd written to asking for help and was Woodson says they never heard back from him, at least, not until after operation silver shovel with finished and the camera crews arrived, the sewage show story broke. And then the next thing, I saw was just Jackson standing on top of the pal. And yeah, we did this and we send. No, you didn't. The in took credit for a lot of the stuff that had been done, but that was way after the fight. The cleanup continued through the spring of nineteen Ninety-six, one by one dump trucks filed onto the lot and backed up to the mountain bulldozers began slowly chipping away at the tightly packed mass of concrete, and dirt filling up truck after truck after truck residents like Gladys Woodson who'd watched in those early days as John Christopher set up shop. Now watch the process, slowly, rewind goon because I'm saying, wow. Now, we now is gone, it's going to be gone. Can you tell us what that was like? Dusty Bodas with the trucks, coming in to get the stuff. But at least they spray the street down, which, Chris, John never did never did eight years after John Christopher. I showed up north Lonsdale. The cleanup was over, and it was all like a puff of smoke and everything. Shame to miss here are Rita Ashford's daughters. Serena and Michelle just was one thing going to Nick rolling home loan. They will be rolling all night long. Getting it out of that once broke. And when you looked up the power went from, you know, the kids used to run up in fend on the top. They went from being up. That's it. It's just like a horse goal. So Robin, what happened to this vacant lot in the in twenty one years, located right there in the city, it must have been pretty coveted piece of real estate. Oh, yeah. It was basically like a blank canvas just waiting for the right kind of development. The kind could build community ties or bring jobs and money back into the neighborhood and. Especially after the embarrassment of operation silver shovel. This lot offered a chance for then mayor Richard m Daley's so-called renaissance to finally touchdown in Northland deal not to offload unwanted trash, but to build something new, but, like so many other opportunities in this story, this one was also squandered, there have been several attempts to build on the slot over the past twenty years. But so far, none have been successful. And the lot is still empty today. And for many of the north Lonzo residents, I spoke to a prime piece of real estate, this big that has sat empty, for this long indicates a larger problem, a kind of neglect, and abandonment that began long before John Christopher brought the first truckloads of debris to the lot and has continued long after what I want to say is like, I can't believe that this happened in an American city, but the truth is. Achin. What an incredible and frustrating story Robyn. Thank you so much for bringing it to us. Thanks for having me, Al. What did? Been over here, twenty twenty six years. A lot of memories. One day not too long ago. Daiki Nichols, took a walk in the lot with a mountain to loon the home to the evil. Rabbit, terrorized neighborhood kids Daiki was in high school. In the cleanup started. We was protective of it his down that was going to does what we'd be Daiki left to go away to college out of state, and when he came back the hills and the mountain had disappeared lightning heels going. So going back to me being a kid and they took out hills away, but may grow into the man, I am now really appreciate wiz. At now is gorgeous flaws. What a Houston beforehand, but it's still a vacant lot and the big picture problems greed and indifference that created the mountain. Are keeping the lot empty today? Thanks to Robin Amer for bringing us today story and the rest of the crew of USA. Today's the city Wilson Sayer, Jenny CASA's Sam Greenspan, Ben Austin mad dog and my friend, Amy park the city's executive producer is Liz Nelson and his brow. Composed. Original music for the city you can find the city on Facebook and Twitter at the city pot and visit their website, the city podcast dot com support for views provided by the Reeve and David Logan foundation. The John D and Catherine t MacArthur foundation, the Jonathan Logan family foundation. The Ford Foundation, the housing Simon's foundation and the ethics and excellence journalists would foundation reveal is a co production of the center for investigative reporting in P, R X amount letting and remember there is always more to the story. Ex-.
The Takedown | S1 E7
"On January tenth nineteen Ninety-six people around the country turned on the radio and heard a story about a dozen public officials accused of taking bribes in Chicago today, federal officials announced charges in what they call operation, silver, shovel, a wide ranging probe of public corruption reports noted that the three and a half year undercover investigation had I focused on illegal dumping, but had expanded to include a lot of other things. US attorney Jim burns says since that time the FBI's it has grown to include an investigation into cocaine trafficking organized crime and public corruption in Chicago surrounding suburbs. The story also introduced America to the informant at the center of this investigation. John Christopher a man with an extensive criminal record who had bribed Chicago alderman and used his help to dump six stories of debris in the middle of a west. Side neighborhood residents there called the large and unsightly dumpsite the mountain, and they accused the federal government of allowing Christopher to continue dumping and poor and minority neighborhoods while using him to target public officials US attorney burns denies the charge. By the time. It wrapped the FBI would call opperations silver, shovel one of the most successful corruption probes in Chicago history with John Christopher's help the feds had gone after more than forty people and had convicted close to half by using John Christopher to launder millions of dollars in old mob cash. They had hit the outfit the Chicago, mafia where it hurt. They'd even folded in a drug bust along the way. But the investigation did not play out in Chicago's neighborhoods. The way it played out on the nightly news in north London and places where alderman had been targets people felt betrayed not just by their elected officials. But by the investigation itself. Although operation silver, shovel took down corrupt politicians it left. The mountain standing. I'm Robin Aamer and from USA today. This is the city. For decades women have had two options outdated at home hair color or the time and expense of a salon. If you can relate to the struggle. And I know I can Madison Reed is the answer for you. Madison Reed is revolutionizing the way women color their hair, they believe women deserve better than the status quo. So they give you the quality of salon color, and the convenience and affordability of at home hair color with Madison Reed, you'll look like you just came from a salon, and you'll have more meantime to do what you love. So if you want beautiful multidimensional hair-color maiden Italy delivered to your door on your schedule for under twenty five dollars. Then it's time to join the hundreds of thousands of women who've tried and loved Madison Reed. Find your perfect shade at Madison dash Reed dot com. Listen. Of the city. Get ten percent off plus free shipping on their first color kit with promo code the city. That's Madison dash Reed dot com. Promo code the city. Let's rewind a bit to January fifth nineteen Ninety-six before operation, silver, shovel became a national story. The covert part of the investigation was drawing to a close for months, the FBI and the US attorney's office had been planning what they called the take down a highly orchestrated deployment of federal agents into the field. They would interrogate more than forty targets including seven Chicago alderman, three officials from the water treatment agency and to city inspectors. They would question every target at the exact same time this way. No, one subject could worn any other subject to hush up or destroy evidence. Or get a lawyer Scott Lazar was second in command among Chicago's federal prosecutors. The plan was to launch the take down the following week after Lazar boss returned from vacation. But then Scott was our got an unexpected call. She knew every detail about the investigation. The call came from a TV reporter named Carol marine who knew all about their targets and about their mole. John Christopher and she wasn't calling to find out anything. She was just giving us notice. I called the US attorney's office and said or about to break story about an investigation that we know you have completed this is Carol marine. She something of a legend in Chicago. She had previously covered operations gamut and grey Lord. The federal corruption probes that seem to be almost an annual occurrence in Chicago. She'd been tipped off about this story by a reliable source. Somebody whispered in my ear you need to start looking at Jesse Evans Imbros Madryn oh in Larry bloom. All Chicago alderman, the FBI had been investigating because there's this guy. John Christopher who is fly dumping all over the city and paying people off John Christopher had been dumping in north DAL for almost six years. But now that it was tied to a citywide corruption scandal NBC couldn't wait to break. The story. Carrol marine news. Chicago was what the feds like to call target rich environment full of corrupt officials, but she was surprised by who the feds had targeted alderman like Jesse Evans and Imbros Huma drano were not on her radar. There were people in city council. We knew were ones we really wanted to watch. In those two words and Larry bloom, the white south side alderman, we met in the last episode while this news did not swear with his reputation. He was the pillar of rectitude sanctimonious often. But he was the reformer. So she knew this would be a big story. Carol marines. Call south a panic inside the US attorney's office. She said that at five o'clock news that night, she was going to go with the story because the takedown was scheduled for the following week airing the story that same day would have royally messed up their plans. So Scott was our asks he and the head of the criminal division can come over to NBC and meet with Carol marine and her producer like now never before in since his that kind of request ever come from the US attorney's office to me as a reporter. And so what did you think when they made that request? It was it was further confirmation that we knew what we were talking about. They were over at NBC in record time. And they said could you hold it until we raid Larry blume's office in the other alderman's offices. So we could have a chance to send the teams out interview people, and we thought about that. Because they were concerned about the destruction of materials. Carol Marie knew that one of her competitors. At ABC had also been sniffing around this story. She was worried that he would beat her to it. But she took seriously the fear that alderman might destroy evidence. She wanted to report on the investigation, but she did not want to get an its way in. So we sort of carefully agreed and the feds scrambled to do the take down that same day. At this point. Scott was our passes the baton to FBI special agent. Jim Davis he'd been John Christopher's day today. Handler. And now he was affectively running the takedown Lazar office calls Jim Davis and tells him it's go time forget next week. The takedown is on now today pronto so Jim Davis springs into action. We sit up kind of a command post the command post is in a conference room in the federal building. Downtown. The room is full of telephones the walls are lined with butcherblock paper that agents will use to track their targets. Jim Davis is stationed there at the center of things because he knows the case better than anyone four or five other agents are there to to help him in the phones and manage the teams in the field from that command post, we issued a an execute order. We told them all to go to same time. And then we just waited for results. More than one hundred federal agents fan out across the city. One team goes to the southwest side alderman, Ray free s another goes to the west side to alderman, prec- Giles, and so on so we had teams that wrote to search warrants, but the most focus was on the the actual interview teams were going out interviewing subjects each of. These interview teams takes along a photograph of John Christopher we got a copy of it from the US attorney's office. The photo shows John Christopher standing inside a Dunkin donuts he's holding a Cup of coffee, and there's a folder of papers, tucked under his arm. The photo was taken from outside the coffee shop because it's supposed to look like a surveillance photo think that there was a Dunkin donuts Plymouths and Jackson or somewhere right there by the buddy office. I think I think it might have been it. I was like I think that's the Dunkin donuts right across from the federal building. Right. I think that's right. But the photo. Was staged the FBI's interview teams show this voter to their targets and ask them do. You know, this man, of course, the FBI knew the answer was yes, they'd been investigating these guys for years and all of their targets. Definitely new John Christopher. But even if their targets lied and said, no, I don't know this guy, even that was helpful by them lying about their relationship with John Christopher, for example. It would show that they know that there's some reason for them to lie about that relationship shows that that they have some understanding that it is a corrupt relationship. Each team. Also had a video player loaded with audio or video footage of John Christopher and the target. So Phan alderman denied knowing John Christopher the FBI agents would pull out the video player play the footage and ask if you don't know John Christopher, then why are you on this video taking money from him? In the command center. Jim Davis started to hear back from the field teams and it quickly became clear. The from a law enforcement perspective this takedown was going better than anyone head predicted. We hit multiple confessions came that were being reported back to in the command post, which was really surprising. We didn't expect it one of their targets was Tom fuller. An official at the city's water treatment agency, John Christopher had been bribing him for years. Even before the investigation started the FBI agent responsible for questioning fuller with Tony diangelo who we heard from an episode five. Remember, he told us about his meetings with John Christopher at the Pizza Hut in Cicero. Jim Davis says that he was surprised when Tony de ngelo called in right away. He was clearly sitting with Tom fuller when he made the conversation in Isa's, he Jim sitting here with Tom, you know, he'd like to to come in and talk to you. Kind of work this thing out. And he was you know, Lou cryptic. And what he was saying. So I said Tony did he confess and he says, oh, yeah. Yeah. We'll bring them in. So so Tom fuller came in with Tony the Angelo in. We took him into one of the interview rooms there in the FBI office in interviewed him about his contact with John Christopher and he confessed again. And I think that these guys were so stunned to learn that John was working with us that they just figured they had nowhere to go. Percy Giles was at his west side office when the FBI showed up. He's the alderman we met in the last episode having lunch at edna's and taking money from John Christopher and the X me divan. No, Don Christopher. I told him note because it didn't dawn on me. Then later do. No. He says it took him a while to realize what was happening that knew. It wasn't good in action them. Do. I need a lawyer. And they told me you might when I went home that night. And I remember I was nervous so nervous. When telling my wife about it. I remember my knees just fell Monday me almost fell to floor with the takedown underway. Federal prosecutor Scott Lazar when over to city hall. He was there to pay mayor Richard m Daley a courtesy call. He wanted to let the mayor know that at this very moment. Seven aldermen and a mess of other city officials were being questioned by the FBI are didn't want the mayor to find out on the ten o'clock news. And according to Lazar, mayor Daley was not interested. He asked no questions, and then he started discussing the the legislature has recently given him power over the Chicago public schools, and he told us about what his plans were for the Chicago public schools. Lazar could not understand how the city's chief executive could be so uninterested in a massive corruption scandal that had happened on his watch. If mayor Daley was afraid of the potential fallout. He didn't show it. He certainly didn't fear federal law enforcement or have personal concerns about five along forest -ment. But I I would have thought it would have asked some questions and he had no interest whatsoever. We reached out to former mayor Daley for comment, but he never responded. Meanwhile, about fifteen miles south of city hall, TV reporter, Carol marine was waiting for the go signal from the feds. Now, I was on the phone with Scott Lazar. I think every hour or every other hour just to make sure that that there wasn't a call coming to them from another competitor. Because. We really were ready to go because Carol marine new that the takedown was happening that day, and because she agreed to hold her story. She could now get everything on tape. I n a camera crew stood outside Larry blume's office and waited for the FBI in sort of v formation to go in and do their rate. Larry bloom had started his day at his south shore law fice when to FBI agents showed up an acid talk to him. They asked him if he knew John Christopher. He said, yes. So they asked him some more questions. Eventually, my tentacles rose up and said, wait a minute. There's something strange going on here. They seem to be wanting to cues me of something. And so I went down the hall and talk to a lawyer in our sweet who did criminal defense work. He came in identified himself and said that I was no longer answering any questions Carol marines crew caught on camera. What happened next? Larry bloom was running from his office looking as though he was about to be sick and saw me in wasn't pleased and ran to the bathroom to admit I really had to go to the bathroom. Because you know, what happens when you're tense. So I was running out the front door and there's co marine with her camera crew. And I remember exactly what I said to her. I said just be professional or something like I expect you to handle this professionally. He's a spectacle, the fed had tipped her off to try to sway public opinion against him. And that made him furious. Someone had told her that the FBI is going to be going to blooms office. And you might wanna be there, which I think is an abuse of the federal prosecutor's power to try to sway the jury or the general public an particular case. They're involved. Anyway, I made it to the bathroom. Finally with this footage in hand. Carol marine has a huge scoop for that night's news and the story explodes over the next few days reporters swarm, the lobby of city hall trying to figure out who else the FBI has been investigating and get them on tape. Most won't answer questions and deny having done anything wrong. Like Percy Giles the alderman who had fallen to his knees when he realized he was under investigation. I haven't been charged with anything. Roane and. Respond to the question at the proper time. And Ray freeze. He's the one who said that being a politician was all about making money with John Christopher. Okay. And John I'm not going to answer. Questions pertaining to the investigation. Virgil Jones who had accepted four thousand dollars wrapped in newspaper admits that yeah, he knows John. Christopher Maher watermelons one to go. What? Grew up with little world of Mullins of of course, students giving them out this. This give a million. Mummified. No comment about the. But one alderman calls a press conference Imbros e o Madryn oh had taken thirty one thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher and had introduced him to other aldermen, Madonna confesses and publicly apologizes and continues to apologize again. And again, you know, I don't think that whenever anybody does anything wrong. Really, no one. I don't know the answer to that. It was just move operate. It wasn't. It was I can't tell you that from the initial meeting that I had with some and the first time that I actually met with him and accepted the money had been several months. I mean, he had. Hauled him. Badgered me calls me and asks asked me to meet with him. I recused. Why I finally gave I don't. And that was the mistake. I mean, I- I- total responsibility for what I did. Jim Davis recalls leaving the office at midnight the night of the takedown pleased with how smoothly everything had gone despite how rush they had been. So if you start out the day with us heaven to to spring this early because it had been compromised somehow by a reporter, and then it ends up with us getting a bunch of confessions that we really didn't expect who's just a it was a good day. Was a really good day. Over the next three years. Federal prosecutors. Indicted, a dozen city officials only Ray free us was fully acquitted. Larry bloom played to a much less serious charge of tax evasion. And was sentenced to just six months in prison. One of the water. Commissioners was also convicted on lesser charges. Ambrosi? Oh madryn. Oh, the one who apologized would go to prison get out run for elected office again. And then go back to prison a second time, a new corruption charges the other officials either pled guilty to corruption charges or convicted of the same. Here's prosecutor Scott Lazar in March of two thousand came back on everything fell fact, this is one of the most successful what are called crops in investigations ever conducted in Chicago. And yet the feds also took a lot of heat for this case even with their explanation about the mechanics of the investigation where one alderman had introduced them to another and another the optics of having pursued almost only black and Latino politicians were very bad for them. The feds were also criticized for using a guy like John Christopher as their informant. A guy who had defrauded the city and the federal government who had been bribing elected officials his whole adult life who was tied to the mob. And who prosecutors say wanted to murder federal witness? It did not endear the feds to the public or to Milton shatter the judge who presided over Larry blooms case during the sentencing hearing judge shatter excoriated the feds saying, quote, it is quite distressing to find in this case the United States having enlisted to its aid the villainous John Christopher having somebody of this. Stripe as a weapon of law enforcement denigrates the system in a material way, it is true of law enforcement agencies as it is of anyone else that if you lie down with dogs, you are likely to get up with fleas. But there was one other gigantic problem with operation silver shovel as the Fed's executed their takedown as they busted elected officials and confronted them with their misdeeds as they prepped for trial and talk to the press. They didn't nothing about the six stories of construction debris in Northland DAL by the day of the takedown. John Christopher's illegal dumps had loomed over the neighborhood for nearly six years, but the FBI and the US attorney's office had no intention of removing with the agency commonly referred to as mount Henry don't think that we had any obligation to clean up Henry or the other one that he had because first of all it's not what we do. And we didn't create it. I mean, there are agencies that are responsible for cleaning up stuff like that. But giving John Christopher cover had made the problem worse for all the people who'd been fighting him. That's after the break. There's a lot to worry about in the world these days, it's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why I'm a big fan of SimpliSafe home security. Simplisafe is ready for anything that gets thrown at it. Which means I have one less thing to worry about. If a storm takes out, my power, simply safe is ready and intruder cuts my phone line. 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His many attempts to stop John Christopher from dumping and north Lonsdale had failed one after another and his good friend federal prosecutor Scotland, Dr had rejected his calls for help Henderson had asked Lazar into the US department of Justice to look into what he believed was a criminal conspiracy to dump in Chicago neighborhoods Lazar had dismissed this. As a municipal waste problem on the day of the takedown. Henry Henderson was at work in his downtown office. He didn't yet know about the federal probe as he walks down the hallway he looks into a conference room and sees one of his field. Inspectors talking to an FBI agent and Henderson seeing this federal law enforcement agent flashes. Back to his conversation with Scotland you're and thanks. Finally, the department of Justice must have sent the FBI to help. I said FBI agent. Thank god. You're here. We really need federal help on this thing. And he goes, do, you know, this person shows me that Sean Christopher have you talked to mister twister. Yes, I've talked to mR Christopher, and I said, I'm so glad you're after him. So I thought they were talking to the inspector in order to get a better fix on. How to stop this problem? But the FBI agent in the conference room was not there to help Henderson's inspector. He was there to interrogate the inspector. I had no idea what he was doing was showing tapes related to him taking money. They had a case of official corruption against somebody who was working in the department. This inspector was one of the targets of operation silver, shovel instead of issuing citations for illegal dumping instead of fighting John. Christopher Henry Henderson's inspector was taking bribes from John Christopher. He was one of two environmental inspectors. Who would eventually be convicted on corruption charges shocked shocked and all this starts to sink in Henry, hundreds and recalls all the conversations he's had with his inspectors ever since the city's civil lawsuit against John. Christopher was resolved in their favor. A judge had ordered John Christopher to clean up the mountain and north Mondale. But according to Henderson's inspectors he had instead disappeared. And so we haven't seen him haven't seen him. But they turns out they had seen him. And I was in the course of when they apparently took some money. So was their failure to cite. These dumps properly because they are being bribed one factor that allowed these dumps to get as bad as they did, obviously. I mean, if you've got people out there who are in the business of enforcing the law, and they are not enforcing the law. This is a big problem. Later that day Henderson learns about the raid. Larry blume's office, and he learned that John Christopher is an FBI mole. Now. He's reeling a conversation. He'd had with bloom the previous year. Suddenly makes sense ahead. A interesting and surprising. Visit from former alderman Larry bloom who came to see me about getting permits for recycling concrete, debris and doing quote rock crushing activity or member bloom was the alderman who had helped John Christopher find a lot for his phantom rock crusher and Henderson it tried to warn bloom. You do not want something like this in your ward. And you know, look at what has happened on west side took the twenty fourth ward with John Christopher site. And what you're describing is remarkably similar to the way John Christopher describes things. And I think it's something you need to be very careful and where and what Larry bloom say when you gave him this advice. So that I would never deal with anybody. Like, John Chris for Larry bloom told us that he does not recall denying that he knew John Christopher. But with the news of the takedown, Henry Henderson finally understood why he could not get the feds to help him. They were protecting their investigation and keeping their star informant in play. The next morning. News of operation, silver, shovel was splashed across the papers and started to reach the resonance in north Lauderdale. All right. So where are we run Costner sixteen Costner sixteen? This is what a news day was our producer Jenny Kaas spoke with lifetime. Northland resident cease will read it his family owned and operated newsstand just four blocks from the dump the newsstand is gone now. But that day was one of the busiest. He can remember we do a lot of sales on that. Because I mean, we get the payments dropped off at four in the morning when that happened by six seven o'clock out of papers talking about a thousand newspapers Sixers o'clock in the morning. A thousand newspapers loan silver, shovel was the talk of the newsstand as politician after politician not swept up in the probe. A lobby was like a lot of people go into jail, and they were talking about. Hey, man, who because they knew some of the individuals that was involved. So they was like man, this is this is did you see him me involvement? He was he was involved in that the dumps less than a mile away had been the talk of the newsstand before they had been there for years. But this time was different for the first time. They were also front page news. So he's going to do the conversation. We be lots was there. You know, how they can just somewhat just neighborhood and get away with it. You know? And and honestly say there's no way that this would happen in the Caucasian running the newsstand over the years cease lorettes father had seen his share of Chicago's corruption scandals. So what did your parents think about up rations visual? But when they heard about it, my dad's it shook his head. And. Say man, you never know who he's money but change in a way that the money change. Northland residents who've been fighting John Christopher for the past six years found it shocking and surreal to suddenly learn that he was working for the FBI. What's shovel? That was my first thing what what is civil show. And they said, oh, you did a dumpsite this Woodson the block club president who had confronted John Christopher at the vacant lot. She realized that in this investigation. She and her neighbors were collateral. They had been used they were never able to get traction fighting John Christopher and now they could see why he had to have begging. Other than you know, people that we will contact in seem to you know, was pushing it on the local not answering for everyone in north Lonsdale whose children had been hurt whose property had been damaged whose neighborhood had been disrespected. This was a huge breach of trust as MS Woodson. Once put it we wrote their body from who's who to who's that? And no level of government. Not the city, not the state, not the feds had ever fixed. The problem. Now, the FBI was crowing over the results of its investigation Chicago in the nation or captivated by the news of the mob, connected guy, turned FBI mole. But in north Lauderdale. The announcement just felt like a punch in the gut last spring. We caught up with Rita and Michelle Ashford. The mother daughter duo who had protested the dumps. Marching in the streets with signs that read down with John. And dumped the dumps all these years later, they still remember where they were when they heard the news about operation silver shovel. Here's Michelle home broke on news that we started calling everybody. This is about the dump right here. And all this her. Mom rita. Ashford was also stunned. John Christopher had turned her block into a mountain of hazardous, debris, her grandchildren and her neighbors. Kids had suffered from severe asthma made worse by the dust from the dumps. And now it turned out that John Christopher had actually been working for the FBI. We they said about him being a mole. I was shocked. Because that's something that we never even intense depicted. We've just figured that John Christopher had that see that concrete pal there. He was making money off of it. And that's the purpose of it. And that's what we thought we knew it wasn't healthy. But at that point, that's all we ever thought like miss Woodson. They came to believe that this was why no one in government had ever effectively dealt with the dumps this why we couldn't get any help. Why within get any help would because everything's also they knew all this was going on all alone before we even begin to fight for. And and the reason why we couldn't get any Justice for anything because it was all about for men, and they knew it from the very beginning. The news seem to confirm what they'd been saying for years about the government's neglect of their neighborhood angry health because once again, we'd underdog and the sad thing about it was it was a serious thing where it affected people's health. John have to be allowed to still have that Deng 'cause you had ammunition to use against. There was also the question of what would happen to John Christopher now. Would he ever be held accountable for what he'd done in north Mondale? That's after the break. Even though John Christopher had agreed to wear a wire and had agreed to cooperate with the FBI and become the centerpiece of a major undercover investigation. His participation in operation, silver, shovel was not a get out of jail free card. He did not have a deal for full immunity, so FBI agent. Jim Davis warned John Christopher not to do anything illegal. That wasn't part of the investigation is trying and reassure them and say, look, if you're straight with us, you know, if you continue to do what we're asking you to do, you know, if you stay out of trouble, you're going to be okay, John Christopher did not hold up his end of the bargain, even while cooperating he committed crimes and went behind the bureau's back in other ways. A silver shovel was underway. The FBI's organized crime squad was also looking into an illegal gambling operation in Chicago's western suburbs. Run by an alleged mob. Boss named Tony Centracchio John referred to his uncle, Tony. And that was a problem for me because we had a wire Tony the wire was a video camera hidden in the ceiling of Tony Centracchio office. And every time John went into him. You know, we were recording. It's not totally clear. What John Christopher was doing there. He was never charged in the legal gambling case, but him showing up on another investigations wire make things complicated for Jim Davis and his fellow agents. I would've liked to have said John stay away from Tony's office. But I can't tell John that we have a a wire Tony's office. In addition to that, John Christopher also neglected to file his federal income tax returns in one thousand nine hundred eighty two and nineteen Ninety-three. I know it seems so Monday, but he also committed bankruptcy fraud through one of the sham construction companies. He'd set up during silver shovel, and ultimately, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. Or what sent him back to prison not illegal dumping or any of the other things he'd done before he started cooperating like bribing Bill. Henry we got. Copy of his plea deal and the federal government chose not to charge him for any of that. Ultimately, John Christopher is sentenced to thirty nine months in federal prison at sentencing, he told the judge, quote, I'm sorry for the things I did in my past life, but he would never be forced to clean up the dumps or provide restitution to anyone in north Lauderdale. And then after he got out of prison. He really would disappear maybe for good this time. I've been looking for John Christopher for almost three years trying to figure out what happened to him after he got out of prison in his plea deal. The feds explained that because he had cooperated with the FBI and worn a wire against the mob. He could not safely return to his old life or even be in Chicago without F B I protection. So I looked for John Christopher everywhere. I could think of every public database every government agency that might have a lead I found nothing. Then in March, our reporter Wilson Sayer got a phone call. So I was reading Illinois PA remediation reports. And I get a call from random number which is not unusual, and I pick it up and on the other line is somebody asking me why we're reporting on silver shuttle, again, the man on the phone was a lawyer calling on behalf of his client. Angelo, Christopher John Christopher's older, brother? I have contacted nobody within the John Christopher family. And so it takes a while to figure out that somebody has called Angelo. And said there are these reporters they're doing something about silver shovel you need to maybe call this person. But gave Angela my number Angelo calls his lawyer. He essentially was like, I sort of respect. Your desire to look into the story. But know that there are consequences for the people who are involved like this is garbage in. Why are you digging up old garbage and Junkers, I other ngelo does not want to talk and it sounded like he was pretty emphatic on that point can yes, very emphatic. Absolutely. Not as what he said, eventually, I learn that when John Christopher got out of prison, the FBI set him up with a new name, a new social security number and a new life, and that there's an FBI agent in Saint Louis who might have that information. I ask if we'll talk to me or if not if he'll pass a message to John Christopher. This was the response. I got from the FBI's public information officer. Hi, it's Rebecca ESPN Saint Louis. I spoke with the agent, and he says, I can t she I guess empathy for the force that not surprisingly declined to participate. Again, he says it is his responsibility to protect his source that he hopes that lender. Thank you very much and. Even after all this time. It seems the FBI is still protecting John Christopher. Over the last seven episodes. We've told you a story about Chicago a city infamous for corruption and racial divides. But this problem is not unique to this city. Our story in Chicago is not over yet. But to understand what happened here after John Christopher disappeared. Again, we have to take a side trip to Houston. A city were black neighborhoods have been fighting their own battles against their own mountains for a very long time. And I would tell my students if you see a mountain in Houston. Houston is flat below sea level see a mountain using be suspicious landfill. That's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today, and is distributed in partnership with wondering you can subscribe to the show on apple podcasts or wherever you're listening right now, if you like the show, please rate and review us and be sure to tell your friends about us. Our show is reported and produced by Wilson Sayer, Jenny Kaas and me, Robin EMA our editor is Sam Greenspan. Ben Austin is our story consultant, original music, and mixing is by Hannah's Brown, additional editing this week by Amy pile and mattdoyle legal review is by Tom Curley additional production by Taylor making Phil Corbett, Isabel cockerel and Bianca media. Chris Davis is our VP for investigations, Scott Stein is our VP of product our executive producer is Liz Nelson and the USA today networks president and publisher is Meribel Wadsworth. Thank you to our sponsors for supporting the show and special. Thanks this week to Kevin Blair, Don Moseley, Michel Yussef and Daniels fat cove archival audio courtesy of NPR and WBZ NewsRadio seven eighty and one oh five point nine FM. Additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus at Northwestern University. If you like this show, you may also like WBZ's new podcast on background, which takes you inside the smoke filled back rooms of Chicago, Illinois government to better understand the people places and forces shaping today's politics. I'm rob Aamer. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod or visit our website. Where you can see the staged surveillance photo of John Christopher at the Dunkin donuts and more. That's the city podcast dot com.
Celebrating Celibacy | Ajahn Brahmavamso
"Today I have a number of suggestions for talks. So I'm going to try and we've been together at all possible. Pets earlier this week on Tuesday and the supposed to be very tweet. Still Stadium on Costa. Always have many things to do. That's why recorded the rest time. Time means when the rest of the monks could have a good time and I have to do the work. But on Tuesday is very interesting and appointment, which I had was to Go to the archbishops of Perth. Watch your house. For Morning Tea with the Archbishop of York that such on sentiment. Who's feeling town the last week? And when you have these invitations, sometimes, you don't know how interesting they can obey or how boring they're going to be, but this was a good one. It was only about my fifty eight of us around the table like religious leaders of Perth. And, having a child with the the number, two in the Anglican Church worldwide the Archbishop of York, very interesting fellow. But when he sort of gave his little speech, obviously into social action because. apparently the you British prime. Minister which is Gordon. Brown happened to be in New York that morning. And He was having a meeting with other litters about the I. Think the seven Millennium Goals. They're trying to arrange to help alleviate many things which are needing alleviating in this world poverty global warming CETERA. And? Having announced that he asked each one of us what we were doing about the Millennium Goals first of all. Did you know what they are? Obviously be put in a spot. Because how good any clue what the Millennium Goals are specifically, but now just roughly know what they are and asked. What am I doing about the Millennium Goals. I said well Archbishop I am celebrate so my carbon footprint is much less than yours. Because I've got no kids. the archbishop. He laughed, but entrepreneur said to me it was quite embarrassed because. I made a point. Because that's one of the great things. Monks and nuns went doing a lot for the problem of global warming by having children. Sir, you can offset your global carbon footprint on us. But that got me into thinking your out so the celibacy staying by yourself, not having a wife or husband being single, not having children because that was the part of the talk for this is this evening? Somebody was saying well. There's a lot of pressure on people to have. Partners in this and sometimes if you are single, sometimes, you don't like your weird. And if you think you're weird, having a partner, have think about what monks alike in this world. Really, are with not only months to not have girlfriends. We actually dress like girls. Look at us. I remember wonderful occasion where. Again, it's not just going to visit these interesting people Archbishop John Sent. But also that about a year or two ago I was invited to the Gay Pride Breakfast at Curtin University. And of course when you get these infamous invitations as a marketing. Wow, this is it. Yeah, I mean for that one. So what up to walked up to the Gay Pride? Breakfast and I think that she gives speech there, but I was speaking to a lot of people in my line was the Gay Pride Breakfast? Because one of the speeches they had was the gay community in Perth quite obviously quite lightly now accepted into the community and a few them. What she lamenting the fact that they are not subversive anymore. Because it was. You. Know what it's like sometimes being subversive being different now this is sort of a little bit of joy docker spice in that, but of course accepted their mainstream now and a few of them like you know the senators, Watson I think. She was lamenting the old days when it was more radical to be guy. That I came up and said we used to be like me. Setup it because you can't be more deviant these. Big Set of it, which is a point there? Because you know, celebrate, you are sort of. A way out. Of the way that people usually live their lives in these days. Because if you look at these papers, magazines movies, TV. I remember just even years ago. When I was a student at Cambridge we used to have an I feel crops. You know just in local common room. Would hire some films interest. Show it for the students and the head of the film club. This semester like I have the program for the next semesters by eight movies just show. To the college kids. Had when they have to write up what the movies are! They had something like what was it called Sulu. Sex Violence in Africa. And they had somebody gags to movie, Sex and violence in New York and some other movie like if the war sex and violence in war torn. London. And there's always like sex and violence and the fellow who actually wrote this? I it was humorous, but it was funny because he made a point. Because basically that that's what the movies are all about. The Sex and violence and finance and sex. Basically. Go Man's, but that's basically what it was all about. When you are setup you actually going in an opposite direction now only set up your gentle. And that is interesting. because. It is challenging. To understand what I mean by challenging, and why is if you're single? You haven't got a pot now. If you're set apart and you just not interested in these things, or if you like deliberately poor by our MAXA, we don't have a sent. To, Our Name. Doesn't mean we haven't gotten any sense. We haven't got any said. The first time I after being a monk for about seven years I went to visit my family in England. I though it was very friendly, except for my brother. And I couldn't realize couldn't understand why. He was so cold towards me because we have good fans. Okay, you know it's brothers. We used to fight every now and again, but now that's just too young men growing up together in the same house. Make Up. We're good friends. Before was Mike. We're good friends. I was the best man at his wedding so much obviously must have been quite good friends, but what's up became a monk in seven is when I came back to visit. Very hard to get close to him. And when I went back to Thailand afterwards I, thought was going wrong with relationship. Why is That's the. Distance. I worked out was that I was Selah. And even though there was no meaning to challenge his lifestyle very fat of who I was. Was actually confronting him. I was saying here. There's something more to life than just. Getting married having kids getting a house getting on in life. And the conventional way I was actually challenging. Basically having to make him think or even actually look at his lifestyle. And this is one the problems with the different types of lifestyle, which we see other mainstream, but those types of lies to which is sort of on the edge. Because sometimes that you know I go down sometimes the street in Perth and sometimes you might see a woman in a burqa. You think is that challenging. And if it is why. Because what is actually doing challenges to see things in a different way, it's not mainstream is outside of our comfort zone. Whether it's right or wrong, it's challenging. And that's one of the problems with being setup it or being single. And not wanting a partner. Because, what's actually happening for the other person? Maybe not realize this. Challenging their lifestyle challenging who they are. And say well, you know. Maybe you should think a bit deeper than maybe other turn. It is in life. and. I think that's a useful thing to be a challenger. ECORSE people don't like that they'd rather not see you. They rather like everybody looked the same address to save a be the same. have. Maybe it's because that I come from. England England is a well known. Home of ECCENTRICS. Maybe that's what are the reasons. I like to become a monk. At least an England, you look eccentric. However when you go to by tire, then he just fit in with everybody else. So that story I stay of when I was trying to be radical young man. When I was about seventeen I bought my first pair of green velvet trousers. They went like ordinary and they were like fluorescent green. And I thought that was really big radical. You know none of my friends had anything so so loud and five hundred and stand out his those Mike Green velvet trousers until I went to one of these rock concerts and found another ten thousand people had to save grief over trousers, and this is another uniform. That's what it was. But sometimes where we see something different, it has challenged us. And I think that's one of the problems with set up a see. With being single, maybe not having kids. Because, there's an inherent challenge for those people who have got the wife and two children's a Nice House car. The good job and the superannuation well-paid up. Sort of challenges us to think outside the normal way of doing things. However the. Certainly that spirituality or religion has to challenge. And sometimes I always say that if you come here and you hear what you want to hear. Or you know exactly what's being said here. There's no point in coming. You WanNa come in here and then leave seeing things in a slightly different way having been challenged having been moved forward in your understanding of yourself and life in general. Because really what's wrong with being single? was when we Sullivan. Fat Sometimes that you can see Greta voltages in being singled out being celebrate. Whatever it is. He's one of cement pointed out some time ago each one of us. PRACTICES THAT RESTRAINT! Of our sexual urges restraining of our anger urges restraining fire, which is we all have to to some sort of restraint to a greater or lesser degree. to bail to live in a civilized life. It is a native human beings. No goes and boys to be attracted, or if you're get attracted to the same sex. Is the nature of human beings sometimes get upset and angry. Maybe being so frustrated he wants to become violent to prove your point or to stand your ground, or whatever other excuses you have. Sometimes, you can see those. Movements within your own mind, but you stop. Why do you stop? Why is it? You might see that boy that girl. You really liked. You say no. I'm going to stay with one. I've car. Why is it that you know you get upset? Sometimes you'd want to punch somebody, but you don't. Why? What's actually happening there those? Energies which are in that human being. But there's another part of the human being which we call the ability to restrain to be able to see the consequences of our actions in to realize yes that. Just going with our searches gives like momentary satisfaction, but long-term harm and pain and difficulty. Is that aspect of a human being to sort of assess the consequences of their actions. Stops one. And that's something which we develop. Especially in the practice of meditation, the Buddha actually gave it words accord it here, iota. The fear of the consequences of your action and also sense of conscience O'Shea shame. I want to do this even if no one else finds out I couldn't live with myself. Done something wrong I know it's wrong I've heard someone I've hurt myself or the KARMIC consequences, even more important. Each one of you live long enough now. You've seen so the consequences of some actions. No. You don't get away with things. You think you might get away with it. But you know you see yourself doing that. Story I haven't told us for long time. It's a story of this. Indian teacher a long time ago, and he had a number of students. and. It was customer thousand two thousand years ago, two and a half thousand years ago on the time. We're like one wise teacher would have just the number of students, maybe about ten or twelve antique some everything they want to know about life. And also about sort of morality and religion, and counting English, and everything else or Sanskrit in those days. And this teacher had one daughter. And this daughter was very very pure case a bit sex is. Five hundred years ago okay. A, very beautiful daughter and all the students wanted to marry her. So one day the teacher all the students get and said look. I know you all want to marry my favorite beautiful daughter and according to our custom. Twenty five hundred years ago I have to marry her to one of my students, but I kinda think which wants to marry her, too. So, we're going to give you a test. Test of a PDF. But, it's also. It solves another problem I have. Because being a teacher very very poor and I know that whoever marriage my daughter will need like a house needs some cooking stuff and all the stuff to set up in life and I. Haven't got that much money. So what are what are you to do? Each student I wanted to go to the nearest villages. I, want you to steal things from the village. The test of Europeans. And whoever steals the most? We'll be able to marry my daughter. Because I know that for your hard working and resourceful. But also whatever you all, still with all put together. And whoever sort steals most is my daughter will get older loot, and that will be able to set you up, okay? But the big carefully said because we have to be careful donor anyone see stealing. After. Remember that. Don't anyone see you stealing? Who might not what might happen? So, all the students were quite surprised. because. Their teacher was using a very very honest, very upset in a mobile person. And they wonder what was going on, but they. The girl and they were obedient, so okay off, they went. Back in the houses at nighttime, they still list. They stole that. And after a week. The teacher a horrible together. Say Okay. Good stops stop stealing now. Because we've already so much stuff? It's enough here to set up anybody any couple happily in the first months of marriage. Now wants to announce sort of who stole the most before announcing stolen the most. There's one of my students who hasn't stolen anything. You painted young man. Why didn't you follow my instructions? He said this porter to student. Understood, said but master I did. Follow your instructions. Well, why didn't you stand anything then? Said this master. I went into the houses nighttime. I waited for the occupants to fall asleep ought to go out and then I snuck. And I snuck in and I was out sort of grab hold. US, money, awesome story. Then I noticed that somebody was watching. And you told me don't steal if somebody is looking. For I thought you said all the people are gone out of the House. WHO's watching? And the student said I was watching. I was watching me still. And you told me don't take anything else looking. I'm looking, he said. And that the bosses said are thank goodness the I, at least I have one student who is smart unwise. And he said you win my daughter. All, your other students take all those goods from the houses where you stole them from. You don't need to worry because I told all the villages to expect you a long time ago. A setup a test to see if you understand what morality and virtue is because whenever you take something just as this student understood, use the yourself stealing. That's why if you have any sexual impropriety. Your wife may not see. Your husband might not see you. You see you doing that. That's why you cannot hide. Any sort of bad axe of buddy or speech. That's why we have to be restrained because whatever you do. You See yourself doing that? And that has a huge imprint on your mind. On your happiness and well-being. Comment by the conscience and the comet, consequences of these things imprinted on the mind of the one who does it. So we all have to have some type of restraint. In life and the reason we have that restraint because we feel that in our situation are circumstances better. For us, some people, maybe the comma from the past. Sort of meet someone. Fall in love and I stick together, but it's tough. Sticking together. Relationship is not easy as many of you know. And there is a lot of strain which is required from both parties. Even though you think it might be nice might be fun. It's exciting, we say. We say no, because we realize it's better in the long run for our own happiness and well-being on also partners will be, kids will be. We restrain ourselves. The same, we want to be angry. Sure that you consider be Biden's, so maybe you. Can you get away with it but you? You feel terrible. But not just physical violence. Sometimes it's speech sometimes the way we speak to each other. I know that many sort relationships people speak in this terrible way to each other. Sometimes I've listened to the way they speak. and. I've also noticed that when a person does that. They feel terrible the way they speak to the wife to the husband. To their parents kids. You feel bad about it. If he can only realize focus on the results of those city. Stupid Actions Mood. Never do it again. We understand the comet causes so the comic, House or whatever we do. And if you really WanNa live free and happy. Understand that low Ofcom Yutong escape from it. And it's not something which will come from somebody else a lot of time. It comes from within you. You don't feel good about yourself. Doubtful. Happy don't feel at peace. And that's something you can prove for yourself, you understand. What would you had enough experiences? Of what you've done. You also have the other part of Karma because too often. People think calm. The negative things I do something bad. Science is GonNa Happen to me. We should also think about with semi-good kind. Something Nice is going to happen to me. Please remember that as well when you have frustration when you have said sorry when you have been tempted, but said No. You feel happy. You feel good about that. Is that positive cover. And that probably is more of an incentive than anything else right for the sake of not to avoid suffering for the sake of happiness. Sometimes why you look at your life and sometimes. There isn't a sort of a partner there, so you're go. Why are you seeing a lot of happiness in being single? So you don't have to look the other people and saying Oh, I wish I had a partner as I said last week. If you have a partner, you have partner suffering. We are seeing you have single person suffering. We also have single person's happiness as well and you also have partner happiness as well. And really. Sometimes, we always think. The if we had something else that difference will be somehow better. That's why the I remember another story years ago. About this farmer who had all this? Hey? which was going moldy? And Be. Very stingy farm, he would not throw it away. He insisted on feeding it to his cows. Before? They could get any good hey. And of course the cows, if another going hungry would not eat the moldy. And, so the farmers thought well. Maybe I should mix in with good. Hey, when you mix it altogether, the cows being stupid wrote now the difference, another eight, the mody. Hey, when it's mixed in with a good hey. But again the cows were smart enough, and they separated the good. Hey from voters. Hey, they are all the good. Hey, and he's still with the moldy. And the way the farmers got rid of the MODY Hayim. All of the. cows to eat it. was to take all that Moldy Hay and put a outside the paddock fence. But not that far outside the Kawkab pushes head through the fence wires and just reached that Moti Hey. When it was just outside the feds outside the allowed area when it was prohibited. Hey, the eighty all out the first day. and that's cows, psychology and that applies to human beings as well. It's forbidden. Even I might be moldy. It is sometimes much more interesting and tasty. That's one of the problems when we have. Forbidden Parts of of. Moral Code because it's forbidden. That must be interesting and you taste it. And that's one of the problems with trying to sort of keep in these boundaries, moral boundaries, because just because it's disallowed, sometimes makes it more interesting, which is sometimes why the liberal philosophies of life just letting people have the freedom to choose. Not Sort of making too many things prohibited sometimes is actually better because people are tempted to try things just because they're prohibited. However, going back to thirties relationships. Again one of the biggest relationships it's like celibacy and a lot of times in our modern, especially Western world they are. Monks. Nuns not have to be seller to become enlightened. Why do we have monks non? So? Why are we sitting up here? You guys sitting down. There is some important inspection. Put us in be setup. Why have someone like myself silver? For thirty three years now. Another sunny very important about this because part of puts them I. Think many of you understood this being here long enough. To learn about the simplicity. Contentment with little. Being easily satisfied. Unburdened which duties. I'm just quoting from the Meta Ceuta which you probably chanted before I came in here. Than eight and teaching of the Buddha. Is All about way to be happy. You understand is the most stuff you have. In Your House. The burden is more cramped. You're. More attachments you have in life. To some all things you have to worry about. Sometimes more people. You have around you. The more people you have to worry about. Now. OUR MONASTERIES! Many of the monks suspending time completely by themselves. You, WanNa talk about being single. You can't more single than say among con retreat. Remember what is six months in absolute solitude never saw another human being. was spoke to them for six months. One of monk's is doing a three month retreat in over three. He also wants another human being for three months. Now that's taking solitude to another level. Why? When I did that six months retreat is one of the most beautiful fistful wonderful times of my life. Because, it was so simple. So easy. So. Still. Seems a more things which one gets involved in. Just the turmoil that creates in your mind. And Agitation you have it tastes you away from the beautiful singleness of simplicity. Do such complicated lives. That complicated life this coming in from Serpentine softening. this paceman stopped somebody on the freeway down by Barrington road or someone whole fear. It was jam packed almost up to the. Mount Henry break. So many cars. It was so complicated lives these days. It's the same with modern technology. Is So complicated when things always go on. Just I don't know what it is. What was supposed to start it? Rains retreat on Sunday. And the last week. Everything's been going wrong in our monastery. I don't know what it is I think it's because of too much. Donna too many gifts which you port. To what toilets on Sunday the whole thing blocked up? Talk about donations. That's not the sort of issues we were looking for. And, the whole thing block top of the toilet started overfly they backing up and Paul Agenda to spend days taking off until he finally found out what was going on, and it flooded our sewage system. It just have it pumped out yesterday for couple of thousand dollars at cost, not only that. But our sound system filed for recording the talks on Wednesday night, and even the microphone won't work and the gas heater outside the kitchen, which wants the water for washing. The dishes broke down and our car, the second collar Suzuki which we have to run around in that sort of had an oil leak, and there's no water. Come into my heart. Everything was going wrong. Thinking some demon must have realized these monks getting too close to enlightenment stop them quick. Why these things happen, but Of course now they're they are. They happened, but even in a monastery and get so complicated. That's why most by their hearts. It just got to push toilets. They'll holes in the ground. They never back up. They never go. There's a wonderful just to keep it simple. And you don't have so many problems. Which one of the reasons why people do choose to have to be single? There's a lot of simplicity in that. And that is actually ended attraction of the single lifestyle. If you can do it. Some other per-, people they can't do that. They do need sort of a partner in life. But don't think you're doing something wrong or your person for being single. Now I'm set of at myself obviously, and I understand the beauty of that simplicity. Spending time by oneself, but when you spend time by oneself, please don't get married to the TV or the computer. Because many people have got partners. The screen partners. They spent so much time in communion with a throw the the screens you wanted. I can understand that not really alone. Just married to the computer married to the TV or married to the ipod. For if you read understand just how wonderful is is being very simple and peaceful. After why you can really get into it. There's nothing to do. So the mind can be silent and still. See the what one is doing is one is. Going out from the world and going inside the mind and signed to a place of peace and stillness. Sometimes people when they out by themselves. Again. They just instead of looking at the right price. They actually go out searching for things to disturb themselves. Often noticed. Monkey don't. Watch. TV I, remember, one TV show which was on when I last watch. TV was the first soap opera soapy was coronation street, and apparently that's still going on. All the other TV series mostly finished for whether it's these days, eastenders or neighbors. How long this has been going on. And People Still Watch it. Why do they watch those things? A lot of times is always problems and difficulties. Which happened in those those dysfunctional households? It's one of the reasons they will never be a soap opera about voting Yana Monastry Domicile nuns, monastery. Sibley because not enough. Things happen there. It's all just to peaceful, nice and easy, except for maybe the septic systems sort of bagging. Or whatever but I often wonder why people like to watch those things because they like to worry about things. To haven't got enough worries already with their partner with their kids so with the job with the health. They want to worry about somebody else's partner or job or health. Because we know how to be simple. Without how to enjoy simplicity even on the weekend because I come from Serpentine you see all these cars going down south for the weekend. To get away from it all so they can go be with everybody else. And when I go home usually on Sunday, see other cars coming back again. I really love going in the opposite direction to everybody else. Remains you have much more spice on the freeway. But what do people do that? They've got these beautiful houses. Why is it you spend all this money in a beautiful house of apartment and the first thought you have you leave it on holiday? Why don't you enjoy the house? We don't like simplicity. And when you start to understand what Buddhism was celebrating that simplicity. We're enjoying it. We findings a lot of peace. The rest things you have. Even sometimes people you have around you. When you've only got yourself. If your friend yourself, you're never lonely. That's one of the things which I had insights. Have you spent so many hours so many days? Sometimes in solitude is among. People would ask me. Aren't you love me? There's a monk. Thirty Miss. People being around. No of course. Then you get lonely. I say I'm not lonely because just in that story. There's always somebody watching me. Wherever I go. There's always somebody there. ME. And, the important thing of being single. Or being by yourself. is to like yourself. To be. Your very best friend. That's why whenever I'm by myself I never feel lonely I? Never Cray for somebody else because I'm very happy with me. Now. This is what we call in contentment. Or if you're like, you know the opening the door of your heart yourself. If you don't love, yourself. You'll always be running away to somebody else thinking that there. You can get your fulfillment. Unfortunately what happens if you don't love and accept at peace with yourself? You'll never be able to build a relationship with somebody else which hasn't got fear. To disrupt it and to stop it really growing. If you can't laugh and be at peace with yourself, and you know that definition to open a door of your heart yourself whoever you are. Whatever you've done with all of your false, not trying to change yourself, make yourself different with all of your pass all the stupidity or the city jokes you tell. The joke now. I'll tell this just before had I was testing out to a company of people to make sure it was far enough. This is actually this fits in here. Because in a relationship, you have to be patient. Patience is so important in life. And this is a story about patients. There was this English girl. She came from a very good family. You know they're very sloppy snooty families. They sometimes have in England. Very stiff up very straight, so she got pregnant I. was nine months pregnant and she still had to. Come to ten months still haven't given birth. Cater eleven months. Usually you go, see the doctor, but you know these English people are so sort of stuffed up so now too embarrassed to go and see the doctor. KANTER twelve months. You just forgot about it. Many many years later. In actually went into the hawk. Is it Joe Copy? Many many years later. She had to go to the hospital with that whole lady by now had to go to hospital for some sort of procedure, and they just haven't give an incision. They looked inside. and. They found out why she given birth because opened up on his side, but this two grown men. Englishmen Bowler hats and a nice shop suits and they're code umbrellas little ties. I say to the other after you. Know after you. Know I insist after year Percy bow to you. That's Stinky Jack. Even though I tell stupid, so I forgive myself, but peace with myself I love myself for WHO I. That's why stop tops I tried to check us out myself when I laugh mice around show. Sometimes it might kate us up. You hear laughter coming out of there. It'd be laughing by jokes. Why not? So if you're a peace with yourself if you love yourself if you put yourself. In every field army. Content with little. You're not demanding. You happy by yourself fine. Someone else comes along fine. You can do for them. They go fine. You can go. You understand this means that. You're happy, no matter what. That's one reason why we call this like attachment letting. Attachment means you have to have this person. You have to have that person. You have to have this in order to be happy. In other words, your happiness always becomes dependent. Dependent, on, that partner around. Depending on having those people to support you depending on having those kids who love you. Remember happiness is dependent is very fragile. Announce certain. Because people leave things go. You can't stop it. Sometimes. You know this is what happens. That's what happens. Ascetic system. Say they start up. That's where they have plumbers for. They did put stuff up. We wouldn't have any plumbers getting any work. So relationship sometimes they begin, there must stand. People go to different parts of the world. Sometimes they die. This is our nature. Your happiness is dependent upon having that personal those people around. You know you're asking for suffering. Per, can behind another type of happiness put said yes, you can. A hapless could enjoy that person around. Enjoy the moment. But when they depart, you don't lingo on the past you let it. So you can face and enjoy the next thing which comes. This is not being cold. It's not being disinterested in life. Is being interested passionate about the present. But this passionate towards the past. The gave his famous seventy of the console which are used for funeral services. Why is it that you never cry after a great concert? Or. You might see them wonderful. Sometimes you do cry off to a movie because it might be one of those. We piece where some but. Why is it when you go to an entertainment place? You never look. Why is it? You never cry at the end of one of these Dharma talks on a Friday night. Even though it's. Now an all, we're not going to be able to see Adama talk for another week or so sad or what happens in another weeks time last Avatar for three bonds. That so sad. Why don't you see? Maybe it made me feel good. If you so few people. Hopefully you never cry because you go away in spied opera lifted and enjoy to this evening at number, lurker center. Like a great concert, you feel so wonderful. You're there at the time you enjoy it. It was great fun wonderful. That's how you should live life. That person's around. You enjoy every moment when they're there. When they leave. Wow, what a wonderful time! We had together! Never feel sad about the ending of things. Because the ending show that you had something together. Otherwise. You would have nothing. So when people disappear. While it's wonderful time, thank you so much. There's never sadness. There's a passion for the life of the joy, but not to hold onto it to control it an ask for. Some it can never give you have all these people around all the time for you. Can't happen so understanding. Really understanding wisdom. Helps you that, guy? He said of being attacked with just Chris more pain. You should know that by now. Deep understanding contemplated looking at different ways different perspectives, different frameworks means you candidate. So when you have a nice relationship. Wonderful, enjoy it when it goes. had a wonderful time together. Thank you so much. And there's no bad feelings now you're single. Wow! Isn't this a wonderful? A new concert? Different topic music because stood, enjoy it. That way find whatever happens to you in life wherever you go single. Selah put whatever you can really enjoy everything. Which is why I got? Being a setup month for thirty three years such a simple lifestyle. You go back to your heart, and you just get so peaceful is not the you are afraid of relationships now that sometimes stupid people say oh, we know about you monster ninety, just afraid of committing to a relationship. G COME ON. Benny relationships before before I was a monk. So much more peaceful, not done through fear. Is Done. For the simplicity and the piece of singleness. That singleness we go back to your heart and there's nothing. Those of you! Who went to visit my cave last week because it was open for visitors. Now it's closed for another three months because I'm hibernating in their dislike, bez hibernate in caves, Brahms, such a hibernate in caves rather retreat. So meditating in there too so peaceful, and still does he went in there? That's not S- Tidied up just visitors as you saw it. That's how it always. And this nothing there. It's great going not K. sitting so still hot around closing arise even everything you see around, you disappears. The Mall singleness an emptiness you feel. The moat piece you become. This is one of the great teaching, so put us. You don't get happiness through things. In fact, the more things you have around you, the more complicated is, it takes you outside of that. Single abiding inside. But through that wonderful setup. Assi that singleness. Often say monastery is a community of hermits. That's why we have a heart's in separate locations. You go to get together. We go to and tiny see with deliberately separated from each other. The hearts is supposed to be. Far enough apart. You're not supposed to be able to see anybody from your heart. Sometimes you camp the long distance away, but we try make appear like your own your. TI DELIGHTED NOT A lot. So, peaceful sister. You go into your hot CONSI. Anybody cut even see your own body. So still so peaceful. For those of you who made it taste? You know that's one of the highest joyce. So it's not out of negativity. The you get into setup, Assi. Is Out of this love of the peace simplicity. Am I get so statue. Sometimes, you wonder. Why did you want to engage in these sticky relationships? Martin now go heaps offense. He's one of us, my friend. So you all my family. But rather than having like a family where your committee together to be together all the time, come coming. Meet you on a Friday night. Maybe sadly Saudi, see the monastery at lunchtime and the rest of the day I disappear. Beautiful lifestyle. When you're with people you enjoy them to the Max. When you learn you enjoy solitude to the Max. And those of you who become put this is a wonderful path which celebrate set solitude. says. That now is good as if not even better. than the partnerships and relationships life. Knows, you've been on retreats. You realize is so wonderful just to be still be by yourself. After a while you get so used to it, it becomes. Not abiding. When you're sitting down with your eyes Christ. It's not what to engage in Percy. Don't engage even with thoughts with parcel future. Even married to your history. Alone seeking fulfillment in your future. Can See artists tastes engaging. Recall the. First step of marriage engagement. The first step of stillness meditations disengagement. Separating Being alone? Being single. With a single mind. You start to develop that. We find that single gives you more peace and happiness and fulfillment you can have. You can ever imagine. That's why people start us. Monks or nuns and they stay for many many years. Those of you have no missile. You dummy for many many years. You know that I'm happy monk. I, don't I'm not among because I've got nothing else to do in life. It's not like I said last week. I, was it here somewhere? About all someone once asked me at bribe. Teach you become a monk because of PLO can heart. Was that the reason? Why you? gave up the world because the worst it in love. You among to forget. Answered no I didn't. And they said yes, I was right, you forgotten. Which is logical? That last week. and. That's not why you become a month. He become a monk or or you're by yourself because you're happy to be lightly. And after a while you don't need to why what the people say about you. Or what other people think of you it may be. Your mother might be getting on your back door to your thirty six years old. You still haven't got a guy. I'M GONNA get any grandchildren. Tend to get a cat. Much quieter than screaming kids. Doggy all subsidy, and they can love that just much. But anyhow. Just stand your ground. Because if that's how you want to live your life, a good life, and that is true to come back from where I started. Our world is overpopulated. That isn't a joke. We know there's too many people in this world which is one of the reasons why I have problem with water with. traffic jams with. Global warming. Small Planet growing population. So it's wonderful actually to be single. If you really want to look after a kid. Maybe gone adult, one or something once already been born. Because otherwise we're. We're GONNA go in this this planet. We can't keep on expanding the number of human beings. Possibility, I, WANNA think important possibility. is to celebrate more singleness. Learn how to be at peace with oneself, and not always being defining what self? In the family in the society in which one lives. It's not the family which is the fundamental unit of society like some people like to think. It's a human being is a fundamental of human society. So don't be thinking. You're second class because you're not part of a big family. Because, you're not married. Thing that you're doing something wonderful for the future of our world. and. Married suffering, single suffering, suffering non suffering. To what you do with what you've got the way you deal with the situations which you faced in life. That is most important doesn't matter whether you're single buried. Whatever it's how you deal with that. And if you don't have to deal with it wonderfully well, Gee, being single is great. Especially, being set of being alone spending time by yourself, but please please please don't waste it in front of a TV or The video screen or an ipod or a computer. If, you have the good common to be single. Enjoy it. Spend more time to big in the garden communing with nature if you like. Being still at nature taught here. The birds rather than the, babies. Just big still inside. and not having anywhere to go for anything to. Save. Just West Still Apiece. Why not. So that's toll this evening. CELEBRATING CELIBACY Any comments questions because that's what people asked me to talk on setup a sink on relationships, being single and letting go of especially kids. If they sometimes get taken, so what else you can the Catholic? Value, singleness and silence. What you found you. Helps you to let go the other? Okay Tacoma, so questions about this evening's walk. Questions. Yes thank you. So much to think about. You have any questions, but that was the question. Comment! Comment, okay very good so much the think about great. That's wonderful, because if we remember everything which was said, it's always available on the CD and also on the Internet, courtesy of the two wonderful people in front of me here who've been video lists and making sure. August record second always this to it at home on the Internet. Okay, see here so what you can't understand here. You can actually listen again. And after a while you can go to those two pieces of the hot. The cave inside of you. Where going to be hanging out for the next week? See you there. Go. down. By one. Be? Day. Car Toward. Doug All. Mine nearby. Sue Patty normal go tos. Our. Solid! CARD NAMA