NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site

Promoter's a Pal Of Cops and PBA

October 16, 1995

Yes, that was Don King amid the kilted bagpipers at the funeral of police Sgt. Finbar Devine, the Emerald Society drum major who led the St. Patrick's Day Parade for 35 years.

The very same Don King figures in a controversy in the race for president of the Guardians Association of black police officers. At least one contender, Eric Adams, is now under investigation by the department for escorting King's prime boxer, Mike Tyson, out of prison in Indiana. King was at Tyson's side that day.

The NYPD patrol guide forbids cops from hanging out with felons, a group that includes both Tyson and King. King was convicted of second-degree murder in 1967. The charge was later reduced to manslaughter, and he served 4 years in prison.

None of this seems to have troubled the Emerald Society's pipe and drum band or the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association. Escorting the promoter to Devine's funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral was none other than Richie O'Neil, the PBA's second vice president, with whom King has enjoyed a 20-year relationship.

In Manhattan last week, King took a moment out from his trial in federal court for alleged insurance fraud to explain this seeming incongruity. "I love the police. I am close to the PBA, to Richie O'Neil, to [Past President] Phil Caruso." Of the Emerald Society's Pipe and Drum Band, the wild-haired one said, "The Emeralds is my guys."

He said that he has been involved for years with the PBA's Widows and Orphans Fund for families of cops killed in the line of duty, that he contributed $5,000 for bulletproof vests before the department made them mandatory and that he was a "moral" supporter of the boxing matches between The Finest (the cops) and The Bravest (the firefighters) at Madison Square Garden. O'Neil said King also donated $5,000 to Police Officer Steve McDonald when he learned McDonald had been shot and paralyzed.

In an interview at PBA headquarters, O'Neil said that, every Christmas, King donates a turkey to each family of slain cops and attends the union-sponsored Christmas party for them. "Sometimes he spends all day with the kids," O'Neil said.

One year King attended the Christmas party with Muhammad Ali, according to O'Neil. "He [Ali] did magic tricks for the kids." The year before Tyson went to prison for rape, King brought him to the gathering.

"Each year we bring in cops on motorcycles and horses from the Mounted Units for the kids to ride," O'Neil said. "Tyson asked if he could ride one, too. I said, 'Which one do you want to ride, a horse or the motorcycle?' Tyson said, 'Could I do both?' "

McDonald was also at the party, and Tyson and King spent 45 minutes with him, O'Neil said. "It started off somber and wound up with both of them lifting Steve's spirits and Steve lifting theirs."

Printable versionO'Neil took out a photo of Tyson. He's on a horse, holding a slain cop's son. Behind them on another horse is King, beaming.

"Am I wearing rose-colored glasses over this incident?" O'Neil asked. "I have a wife, five sisters and two daughters, and plain and simple, Mike Tyson is no rapist.

"And I've seen only good from Don. I love this guy. I don't use that word lightly. Especially among cops, that's not a word we throw around."

Meanwhile, outside the federal courtroom, King had some words about Devine. "I've known Finbar and his wife, Patricia. I love 'em. Did you know Finbar has gone all around the world with the Emerald Society pipers and drummers? And did you know Mike Tyson is an honorary drummer?"

Payback. Behind Ray Kelly's endorsement of Guy Molinari for Staten Island district attorney lies a sliver of New York City political history. Or at least a footnote.

When Rudolph Giuliani defeated David Dinkins for mayor, Kelly sought to remain police commissioner. Molinari, a key Giuliani backer, arranged a secret meeting between them. The meeting came to naught as Giuliani selected Bill Bratton.

Kelly, who subsequently headed the team of police monitors in Haiti for President Bill Clinton, said he endorsed the Republican Molinari over Democratic incumbent Bill Murphy because, "He supported me in the past. And he's a good man. There's nothing other than that."

Seen on CBS-TV's Sixty Minutes last night: Police Officer "Otto," key informant in the Mollen Commission's investigation of police corruption in the 30th Precinct. The program suggested that Otto, whose real name is Barry Brown, may be indicted by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau for perjury, as a result of a feud between his office and the commission. The program was produced by George Crile, whose documentary on Vietnam led to a libel suit against CBS by Gen. William Westmoreland.

Unseen at One Police Plaza: Commissioner Bratton, his chief of staff Peter LaPorte, deputy commissioner Jack Maple and Internal Affairs Chief Pat Kelleher - who actually took two days off from work. The officials were attending a conference of police chiefs in Miami.

« Back to top

Email Leonard Levitt at llevitt@nypdconfidential.com

© 1995 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission.