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Waterboarded: The Kenny Rogers Saga

Kenny Rogers, after being convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy
Kenny Rogers, after being convicted of attempted murder and conspiracy

The village of Westport is the last outpost before Mendocino County's northern coast disappears into a roadless swath of rugged shoreline and redwood-carpeted hills. It is spread across roughly one mile by one-half mile of coast, and has one store, two gas pumps and 47 registered voters. Retirees are Westport's dominant demographic, and 15 miles of coiling coastal highway separate it from the closest town.

In this very small village, there is one political entity -- the five-member Westport County Water District, which oversees the local volunteer fire department and provides sewage treatment and water to several dozen homes. In this very small district, there have been many fiery debates over the years between board members: Sheriff's deputies were called to intervene at a meeting. Recalls have been organized. And in one now infamous case in 2005, Alan Simon, the board chairman at the time, was nearly killed in the doorway of his home by nine shots from a semi-automatic .22 Ruger pistol.

Shortly after the shooting, Kenneth "Kenny" Rogers, Simon's water board rival, was arrested for soliciting Simon's murder. At the time, Rogers was the chairman of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee; he had also recently been fired from his post as Westport's assistant fire chief and replaced in a recall by Simon as the water board's chairman.

The district attorney's case against Rogers meandered through the courts for years, with continuances and a near no-prison plea deal. But last week, after a two-and-a-half week trial at the Ukiah Superior Court, Rogers, a lanky 51 year old who never failed to greet jurors with a beaming smile and who seemed to own an endless supply of pastel short-sleeve button-ups, was convicted of conspiracy and attempted murder. The former charge carries a sentence of up to 25 to life; the latter carries a life sentence. Sentencing is set for August 14, and Rogers' attorney, J. David Markham, says he's planning an appeal.

As told by Tim Stoen, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the
case, the story of Kenny Rogers was as salacious as they come -- a story without parallel outside the Emerald Triangle: It was a story of a vengeful, pot-growing Republican official who hired a hit man to murder a political enemy -- and offered to pay for the deed with marijuana. It was a story of an ambitious politician with a lethal style of small-town politics who by day was one of the North Coast's few proud conservatives and by night waded in a criminal cesspool.

Defense attorney Markham's strategy was to offer up a more one-sided
version of the defendant -- a Kenny Rogers who was ambitious but
law-abiding; a Kenny Rogers who was indeed furious about the loss of his jobs, but was reasonable and respectable, a man who filed lawsuits when he felt he'd been wronged. Markham described a man of values, a man who wouldn't in a thousand years ask a friend who'd spent much of his life in prison to fire nine bullets into the front door of a political nemesis.

IT WAS ABOUT 10:30 pm on the evening of June 17, 2005, when Alan Simon heard something at the front door of his gray, two-story home on Hillcrest Terrace, one of Westport's few residential streets.

"I was getting ready for bed and brushing my teeth when someone loudly and aggressively started banging on the door, saying 'Kathy -- where's Kathy?'" Simon, 53, recently testified, adding a low, guttural cadence to his impression of the voice coming from the other side of his door. "The hairs on the back of my neck went up. I knew something was wrong."

Simon said he told the man that no Kathy lived there. Then he called the police. The man, Simon told the dispatcher, was a white man with a fu-manchu mustache wearing a baseball cap and a blue windbreaker. "I opened the door and he wasn't there, so I stepped on the threshold and saw a man leaning up against a white sports car with his arms crossed. I held up the phone and said 'The police are on the way.' He walked toward the yard and said, 'Hey man, I don't want any trouble," Simon said. "Then his right arm came up. He had a gun and he fired it. I ran in, shut the door and hit the deck... My front door was exploding around me."

Alan Simon's Westport home
Alan Simon's Westport home

Police would later find eight shell casings from a .22 around Simon's house and nine bullet perforations in his front door. Simon had been grazed in the head and wrist; he was subsequently taken to the hospital. Police searched for the white convertible that night but found nothing. Stoen would later argue the shooter had hid out that night in Rogers' 320-acre property outside Westport.

The following day, a CHP officer who was on duty around Laytonville --
about 25 miles from Westport -- spotted the white car driving east on
Branscomb Road. The officer, Mark McNelly, flicked on his lights and pulled a U-turn; a minor chase followed. While in pursuit, McNelly said he saw the driver -- a man from Citrus Heights named Richard Dean Peacock -- throw a white plastic bag out of the passenger side window.

Inside the bag, police would later learn, was the .22 Ruger used to shoot up Simon's house. Police would learn that Peacock, who would be convicted in 2006 of attempting to kill Simon and sentenced to 71 years in prison, knew Rogers.

A handcuffed Richard Dean Peacock.
Richard Dean Peacock, cuffed

Shortly after Peacock's arrest, cops started asking Rogers questions. So Rogers -- in a preemptive effort to clear the air -- visited his buddy, then-sheriff Tony Craver, in Ukiah, who referred him to a detective.

In a videotaped interview from three days after the shooting, Rogers was the charismatic gladhander Stoen would later describe him as -- even while detailing his loathing for Alan Simon. Rogers called Simon a "Hollywood guy," part of the "new blood" in town who didn't respect him. He called Simon a jerk. He called him arrogant. He called him an asshole. Rogers said he was an old body builder and that he'd love to punch Simon out.

Their beef, he said, could be traced back to politics and the apparently
deep cultural divide that permeated his small coastal village: The fact of
George W. Bush's 2004 re-election and his own unflinching embrace of
Republican politics -- he told detective Andy Alvarado it was his "religion" -- had made Rogers anathema to local liberals. He told the detective that he and Simon had had "harsh words" on the local water board, and that he'd recently called Simon up and told him that if he didn't get water to the district's storage tanks, he'd "hang him -- politically." Simon would later testify that Rogers never used the word "politically" to end the sentence, so at the time, he took the call as a death threat and called the sheriff's office.

Now, a few words on the Westport water board.

Kenny Rogers was appointed to the village board soon after he moved his family from Sacramento to Westport in the late 1990s; he was appointed chairman not long after. Other board members would soon accuse Rogers of running a good ol' boy club -- a system where he'd give favorable water rates to friends and where district money seemed to disappear (a grand jury investigation from 1999 found a number of problems with the district, but didn't mention the above criticisms). At a meeting in 2004, Rogers and Keith Grier, the only black man in Westport at the time, got in an argument at a board meeting; Rogers accused Grier that night of injuring Rogers' wife. Deputies were summoned and Grier was arrested -- though Grier would later tell the DA's office he'd been "falsely accused" by Rogers. (Stoen said nothing ever became of the charges.)

Nevertheless, the seeds of the 2005 recall had been planted.

An anti-Kenny Rogers coalition formed and decided to nominate Grier to
take over as water board director. He declined, so Simon, then a recently retired film scout and relative newcomer to Westport, offered himself as the candidate.

Simon would later testify that once the recall papers had been filed by
Velma Bowen, who'd also been a board member, Rogers began making house calls. He pleaded with the signatories to contact the county registrar and have their names removed. When Rogers visited Simon, and Simon refused, saying the recall was part of the democratic process, Rogers got furious.

In a strange courtroom exchange, Rogers' lawyer asked Simon what happened next. "You want me to tell you what happened next?" Simon asked, visibly uncomfortable with the question. "Yes, that's what I asked," Markham replied. After several moments of silence, Simon responded. "[Rogers] said, 'You want to have a nigger run this town? You want to have a woman -- Velma Bowen -- who's sucked the cock of every man in this town'" run the water board? Simon said he then told Rogers to leave.

As Simon spoke, Rogers shook his head; but at the time, his attorney
didn't challenge Simon's testimony. It wasn't until the next day that
Markham chalked up the exchange to an error on his part -- he said he
shouldn't have asked the question -- and asked Judge Ron Brown to strike the testimony, which the judge agreed to do on the grounds that it wasn't relevant to the case. (Outside the courtroom, Markham declined to discuss the details of the exchange, except to say that Rogers never made the remarks about Bowen or Grier.)

On August 31, following Rogers' alleged unsuccessful effort to quash the
recall, 50 of Westport's 68 registered voters at the time cast ballots.
Twenty-nine voted to recall Ken Rogers; 19 voted against. Twenty-eight voters elected Alan Simon.

Rogers had lost, but in a letter to the county registrar, he denied all
the allegations of misconduct: He said he'd spent countless volunteer hours working for the district; he said he'd obtained grants for improvements and studies, overseen equipment maintenance, handled complaints from dissatisfied customers and only spent funds approved by the board.

The following January, charging gross neglect, the board relieved Rogers
from his assistant fire chief post. Rogers told the board the move was
illegal -- and that he'd see them in court. Soon after, feces was smeared on the door handle of the Westport firehouse and appeared on the front doors of the hotel Grier owned at the time. A note was posted outside the Westport store that referred to Simon as "Lord" and fearfully predicted a fascist takeover of the water district. It ended with a slur of particular insult to Simon, who is Jewish: Heil, Simon, the note said (though the note's writer misspelled "heil").


None of these incidents would ever be connected to Rogers. But the bitter, small-town politics of Westport's water district were about to get a good deal more bitter.

SIX MONTHS LATER, in the sheriff's interview room, Rogers complained to detective Alvarado about his illegal firing. And he told the detective that even though he couldn't stand Simon, he was dealing with the water board fallout with a lawsuit that demanded he be reinstated (which eventually happened, though Rogers retired as soon as he got his job back).

Rogers explained to Alvarado how he'd met Peacock -- along with Peacock's little brother, Michael -- years earlier in Sacramento through his auto shop, Once Again New. He described both brothers as convicts with long criminal records and "bad cards" who he was afraid of, but whom he'd tried to help out. He said he'd gotten Richard a landscaping job in Sacramento, and that he'd seen him there not long before the shooting. He'd later tell police it was the other way around -- that Peacock had driven out to the coast with a girlfriend to visit him. (Stoen, of course, would seize on this seeming about-face as evidence of Rogers' guilt.) Rogers also told the detective that he'd hired Michael to keep people from illegally growing pot on a remote part of his large property.

"I needed a thug out there . . . to keep the Mexican guys from doing a big marijuana grow," he said.

Yet the fact that "three carloads" of cops had shown up to Rogers' property after the shooting seemed front and center in the Republican chairman's mind. Rogers was, after all, on an upward trajectory within the party and angling for Sacramento. The last thing Rogers wanted was bunch of sheriff's deputies lumbering around his property, especially when he'd failed to tell his Republican pals he was growing pot there. So when he visited detective Alvarado that June day, Rogers made sure to tell him he had 54 plants that belonged to his wife and partner -- along with the requisite medical cards. Cops would later discover he had nearly three times that many mature pot plants along with clones and garbage cans filled with shake.

"I'm just a bit paranoid because I don't want it to get out media-wise -- it could jeopardize my position within the party," he said, not knowing then that within days he'd be arrested for attempted murder, conspiracy, solicitation and cultivation of marijuana; that within months he'd resign his chairmanship; and that he'd soon leave Mendocino County altogether for neighboring Lake County.

Toward the end of the interview, in another statement Stoen would offer as evidence against Rogers, Rogers offered his own hypothesis of the shooting. "I think Al [Simon] would set shit up like this," he said. "I wouldn't put it past him."

This theory gained traction among a small cadre of Rogers supporters, including George Lancaster, Westport's former fire chief who was also canned by the water board, and Fort Bragg attorney Tim O'Laughlin. O'Laughlin, who represented Rogers against the water board and who, for a time, represented Rogers in his criminal case, says he has forensic evidence that raises  questions about Simon's story from the night of the shooting -- though Markham presented none of that evidence in the most recent case. (He said
there may have been inconsistencies in Simon's testimony, but those
questions were relevant to Richard Peacock's trial -- not Rogers'.)

The district attorney's office, of course, has offered a very different storyline since the case was first brought to trial in 2006: the DA has claimed all along that Rogers hired Peacock to off a political foe. 

Kenny Rogers, unidentified friend, Michael Peacock and truckload of pot
Kenny Rogers, unidentified friend, Michael Peacock and truckload of pot

Following Richard Peacock's arrest, Peacock's brother, Michael, would contact police and tell them that just before the shooting, Richard had told him about his plan to go to Simon's house. He would tell police that Rogers had offered Richard payment of three to four pounds of marijuana to hurt Simon. Michael Peacock would tell police that Rogers had tried to hire him to beat up Keith Grier after the alleged assault incident -- and that Peacock had told Rogers he'd ask a skinhead acquaintance if he was interested (nothing ever became of the request).

Police would discover that the pistol used to shoot up Alan Simon's house had been reported missing by Velma Bowen, the water board member with whom Kenny Rogers and his family had stayed during the summer of 1999. Rogers, Bowen would tell police, was the only one who'd known where she kept the gun -- though Rogers had denied taking it when she asked him about it after discovering it was missing.

On Rogers' digital camera, police would find a photo of the façade of Alan Simon's house. In phone calls between Richard Peacock and Rogers after Peacock's arrest, law enforcement found what they considered incriminating statements. For instance, they found that Rogers promised Peacock money while he was in prison, and that he'd promised to "take care of all the business on the outside" until Peacock was released. "Bottom line brother -- I'm looking out for you," Rogers told Peacock. And in a phone call Rogers made from the county jail to Once Again New, he told the man on the other end of the line to "clean things up" at his shop.

But one of the prosecution's strangest pieces of evidence against Rogers wouldn't turn up until later -- until Richard Peacock had begun his journey through the courts and back to the institution where he'll likely spend the rest of his life.

SHORTLY BEFORE RICHARD Peacock's August 4, 2005 preliminary hearing for the attempted murder of Alan Simon, he received a letter at the Mendocino County Jail. It was handwritten, postmarked Yuba City and signed by a woman named Kate.

"Dear Richard, Hope all's going well for you," the letter read. "I heard
about Michael's B.S. and can't believe he's related to you. Anyway, I will get the 'Red Dog' to your kid with some school clothes, money and will keep an eye out for her. Hope to see you soon, but it's tough. I'm sending $40 for your books, more to come. Miss you, your friend Kate. P.S. Who is this Keith guy calling for Michael? I'm not returning his calls. I think he has $ for...?""Red Dog"

On the face of it, the letter seems harmless, and Peacock didn't know what to make of it; he didn't know anyone named Kate in Yuba City. That changed once the hearing began. Rogers was leaving the witness box -- where he'd invoked his right to remain silent -- when, according to sheriff's Lt. J.D. Bushnell, who was guarding Peacock that day in court, Rogers looked at Peacock, flashed a smirk and winked. (Peacock would later tell Bushnell he also saw Rogers pat his side, as if he had a gun.) Shortly after, Rogers' then-attorney, Donald Masuda, delivered a message to Peacock's public defender, Wes Hamilton. Rogers' wife was going to "take care" of Peacock's 13-year-old daughter, Bobbi, said Masuda, who would eventually be ordered off the case for serving as the unwitting courier of a potential threat. Hamilton passed along the message, and Peacock put these seemingly innocuous events together -- the letter, the smirk, the gun pat and the message from Masuda. Then he freaked out.

In open court, even as his lawyer was telling him to zip it, he announced the message was a threat against his daughter. The "red dog" mentioned in the letter referred to the pistol grip of a .45 caliber owned by Rogers -- a pistol grip colored red and adorned with the image of a dog that Rogers had shown Peacock. He told Bushnell during a recess that Rogers made the threat because "he could be the one to put [Rogers] away."

It was, in other words, a classic intimidation move. If Peacock talked,
something bad would happen to his family.

When Peacock was called to testify in the most recent trial, he kept his mouth shut -- about the "red dog letter," as it's come to be called, along with most everything else.

Peacock, 59, looked as if he'd aged a decade in the four years since his arrest. In photos taken shortly after the shooting, he looked thick and broad shouldered. He had a shaved head and was clean-shaven -- minus the fu-manchu. Now, wearing black and white striped jail garb, he appeared shrunken, gaunt and unshaven, and most days he was brought to court in a wheelchair -- the product, he said, of a knife fight in Pelican Bay in which
his spine was injured.

He was by turns forthright, angry and entertaining -- but always gregarious. While the court was in recess, for instance, he gave a tutorial on the Peckerwood prison gang. "You're a peckerwood," he said, looking at Tim Stoen. "I'm a peckerwood. That cop over there -- he's a Peckerwood. You're a white man."

While his court appointed lawyer, Donald Lipmanson, was out moving his car to avoid a ticket, Peacock began offering his thoughts on the case to anyone who would listen -- without the jury present, of course. Without prompting, Peacock, who pleaded not guilty in his 2006 trial and has maintained his innocence since, looked at Kevin Cline, the case's lead detective, and said, "You guys should have solved the crime just like that."

Then, echoing some of O'Laughlin's theories on the case, he said that
Simon's injuries didn't come from the .22 -- they came from glass. And he said that police had never checked the DNA from three drops of blood found outside Simon's front door. (In an October 2005 letter from jail, he said that he'd never touched the .22 Ruger thrown from his car window, and that police never found his prints on it.)

His refusal to testify stemmed from his apparent belief that he got screwed by his court-appointed lawyer Jan Cole-Wilson during his attempted murder trial. He's filed a state habeas corpus suit -- which was denied -- along with an appeal, which was also denied, and he said he's in the process of filing suit in federal district court. (When the judge learned Peacock had a habeas suit and appointed Jan Cole-Wilson to represent him again, he replied: "I'm not talking to that broad for all the tea in China.") The judge didn't find Peacock's claim compelling enough to keep him from testifying -- as there was no evidence he'd filed anything yet -- so he ordered him to talk. When Peacock didn't, Brown, in a somewhat feeble reproach, found Peacock in contempt, then sent him on his to way finishing what is essentially a life sentence.

Rogers' answer to the red dog letter was simple. His wife, Christine, testified that the red dog was exactly that -- a massive stuffed Clifford toy that her husband had won in the mid-90s at Marine World in Vallejo (the dog, about three feet tall, was lugged into court as evidence). Her husband, she said, had already discussed giving the dog to Peacock's daughter before he was arrested.

As for the letter, O'Laughlin said it did indeed come from the Rogers family -- and that it had been signed "Kate" because Rogers didn't want to jeopardize his political future. "He was a big deal in the Republican Party. [The Central Committee] was grooming him for state senate," he said. "But here's the other thing: they didn't know what the fuck was going on... So he was trying to keep out of it."

THE TRIAL THAT ended this week was the third time the district attorney's office had attempted to prosecute Kenny Rogers. In 2006, the judge granted a continuance after two key witnesses, Richard Peacock and Velma Bowen, were hospitalized. In 2007, during another round of court proceedings, the DA's office offered Rogers a deal: If he pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive, they'd let him off with a few years in the state pen. At first, Rogers accepted, thinking he'd get away with an ankle bracelet and some quality home time, O'Laughlin said. In response, an angry group of Westport residents began a letter-writing campaign and held a press conference outside the Ukiah Superior Court. When the judge subsequently said Rogers deserved three years in state prison, Rogers withdrew his plea. In the most recent trial, he faced conspiracy and attempted murder charges; Stoen said he dropped the other charges for "strategic" reasons.

"Proof problems" were the key reason the DA's office offered Rogers the
deal in 2007. Chief among those problems was Michael Peacock: He was nowhere to be seen the day he'd been subpoenaed to testify about the conversation he said he'd had with his brother. This time, it seemed there might be a repeat.

Like his brother, Michael Peacock has a fu-manchu and fully tattooed
arms. He'd shown up to court on a Monday with his sister and brother-in-law -- but he wasn't called to testify. When that time came, the following day, he was gone, back to Sacramento, ("We boogied," said Ed Harke, his brother-in-law, adding that no one had told them to stick around.) Peacock finally did return, but his testimony was hardly the smoking gun the DA's office might have expected it to be.

For starters, Michael Peacock, who's a long-time drug user and the baby in a family of nine, according to his sister, was hardly able to articulate himself without stammering into a nerve-wracked stupor (at least when being questioned by Stoen). He was slippery on nearly everything except how much time he'd spent in prison ("over a lifetime"), though after much repetition and rephrasing, Stoen was able to pin him down on some of the statements he'd made to the cops after the shooting. After much parsing, for instance,
he confirmed that Rogers had offered him marijuana to beat up a black guy, and had offered the same -- one pound up front, three to four pounds total -- if his brother "put hands" on the guy who'd gotten him kicked off the water board.

Yet most of his confirmations were undermined with a few simple questions from Markham. For whatever reason, Peacock responded far better to him than Stoen -- particularly when Markham began pressing him on his statements to the cops. In one exchange, he got Peacock to say basically he'd made much of his story up.

Markham: "Did the police tell you they could get a deal from the DA [for
your brother]?"

Peacock: "I think so."

Markham: "Did they tell you they needed you to testify to help your

Peacock: "...I'd do anything to help my brother."

Markham: "Did they tell you what they needed from you?"

Peacock: "...They said Kenny Rogers is gonna' walk and your brother's
gonna' go down."

Markham: "Did you tell them what they wanted to hear?"

Peacock: "I don't know how much of it was true and how much of it was
false...It was a bunch of getbacks [at Kenny Rogers]."

Markham: "Were you mad at Kenny?"

Peacock: "Yes."

Richard Peacock was, as you might expect, furious with his brother after
he learned he had, in Richard's words, told a "sermon" of "half-truths and
lies" to the police. But in a series of letters he wrote from jail to
friends and family after his arrest, his sentiments were more complex than
simple anger. Take the following passage from a letter he wrote to his
brother in October 2005:

"I must admit Michael, you really fuck-up [sic]. Not just [with] me but for you as well," he wrote. "I can't even guess why you did this and said those nasty lies about me. I understand you're mad because of what happened at my trailer with that piece of garbage bitch. My God Michael, that gave you no cause [to] . . . cause so much trouble and pain for so many. But fuck that. You're still my kid brother and my mother's son, we have the same blood in our vain [sic]. We all make mistakes, including me as well, I made a lot of them. I wish I could turn the clock back and undo some of the things I did that cause not only me trouble and pain but you as well and other loved ones. I can only say I'm sorry so many times."

THE COURTROOM WAS packed as the attorneys prepared their closing  arguments last Monday. On one side, more than a dozen people from Westport had made the slog down the coast and over the hill. On the other side was Rogers' family. Outside, someone was handing out a flyer -- called Snoopy's Spotlight Street Sheet -- which contained, along with verse about pedophiles and the CIA's once secret MK Ultra program, vague, convoluted references to the case, including a mention of Tim Stoen's previous life at the People's Temple.

Stoen, who has an understated style -- and a habit of closing his eyes
and bowing his head slightly whenever jurors enter the room, making him look a bit monkish -- appeared to have guzzled a few Red Bulls during a break in his three hour-plus closing statement; in its highly caffeinated final hour,
Stoen referred to his witnesses with alternating superlatives: they were
"first-rate," "class acts," "terrific," "upright" -- or, in the case of Wes
Hamilton, "good and folksy." And, of course, he lobbed a few hyperbole bombs
at Rogers, who was "grandiose, brazen," and a "legend in his own mind."
Stoen emphasized his evidence and played for the first time the dramatic 911
call Simon made to the police the night of the shooting. Then he turned the
theatrics up a notch with a quote from famous author and Christian scholar
CS Lewis.

"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that
Dickens loved to paint," Stoen said. "It is not done even in concentration
and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and
ordered ... in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet
men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do
not need to raise their voices."

Kenny Rogers, Stoen said, was that quiet man with the white collar -- "he
was the office man who sat in the office and ordered a street criminal to
his bidding."

Markham didn't bother trying to top Stoen's presentation. He plodded
through a power point presentation, offered an unmemorable quote from Buddha and recapped the weaknesses in Stoen's entirely circumstantial case. He stressed that the red dog was really the giant stuffed Clifford toy plopped
in the corner next to the judge's clerk; that the cops had never found a gun
with a red handle on it when they searched Rogers' properties; that not a
word from the Brothers Peacock could be trusted. And the gun that Rogers
allegedly stole from Velma Bowen? It was, in fact, in the Rogers' home,
buried in a tool box -- never mind that Rogers had denied taking the gun in
the first place. It had gotten from the Rogers' home to Richard via Michael,
Markham said, reminding jurors that Michael had been seen with the gun at
Rogers' property "while keeping the Mexicans out." The photo of the house
found in Rogers' camera was for a friend from Sacramento, a man named Eric
Beren, who was house shopping at the time and who testified that Rogers
occasionally sent him photos from Westport (Simon's house was up for sale at
the time the photo was taken). And the jailhouse phone call between Rogers
and Peacock? They were just good buddies, and Peacock was checking in on his pal. Lastly, the call Rogers made to his shop was strictly pot-related -- it
was a phone call from an ambitious politician anxious about the media
malaise just over the horizon.

Peacock, Markham argued, had been a loyal, loose cannon of a friend, a
man whose values had been crystallized not by the principles that informed
reasonable, respectable Kenny Rogers, but by the many, many years he'd spent in prison. And when Peacock heard his pal was ticked off at Simon -- well, he did what any man who'd spent his whole life in prison would do.
"He wanted to surprise a friend," Markham said. "But Ken Rogers had no
idea what he'd planned."

The verdict, which came after nearly two days of deliberation, was met
with sobs from the Rogers family and hugs from Westport folk. As soon as the
first guilty charge was announced, Rogers' head dropped to the defense
table. A few moments later, he looked sternly at the jury, shook his head
and mouthed the words, "I didn't do it."

Then the bailiff escorted him out.

Outside the courtroom, with tears streaming down his face, Rogers' son
Norman repeatedly told detective Kevin Cline he was a "sick motherfucker."
For Simon, that post-trial exchange with Cline was just as frank -- but
profoundly different.

"I shook hands with Kevin Cline and he said just one word to me," Simon
said. "Justice."

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