Probe of Feds Asked in Sharpton Case: ‘I Don't Have a Problem Saying This Publicly’

January 21, 1988

Here are excerpts from a tape-recorded, two-hour interview with the Rev. Al Sharpton Jr. on Monday in his Bedford-Stuyvesant office.

NYN: When did you find out that Victor Quintana was an undercover agent?

Sharpton: When [reputed Colombo crime family figure Michael] Franzese got in trouble. It comes up in discovery that Quintana is an agent. That's when Quintana and the rest come to me and say we are the FBI and we want you to sit down and work with us on several things. I don't have a problem with saying this publicly. I will work with anybody against what I feel is criminal activity. Prior to this, Victor Quintana offered me — and I will bring you to [U.S. Attorney Rudolph] Giuliani to prove this — he offered me a drug deal.

NYN: And this was at his [Quintana's] apartment?

Sharpton: No, this was at his office.

NYN: Before Franzese got in trouble?

Sharpton: Before Franzese got in trouble. Then he says to me, `Can you introduce me to somebody in drugs?' and I say I don't know anybody who does drugs. I think it is the worst thing that happens in the black community. He says, `Well, there's a guy I know and I'd like you to meet him. ' We finagled around. The guy he thought I knew didn't exist. We finagled around for two or three weeks and then I started talking to him. Then, you know, a month or two later this thing comes up. Now one of these agents comes in and says we got you on tape talking about drugs.

NYN: Was this Joe Spinelli?

Sharpton: No, it was the other guy. He said to me that they got a tape of me talking drugs. I don't know if they were bluffing, to be honest with you. He wrote down how much money I could make, all this crap. They claim that they have all this on tape. And I said, `If you do, you got an entrapment. I never agreed to doing anything like this. ' I told them to indict me. Then the guy comes back after I take this position and says, "Listen, you said that you would work as long as there was something wrong. What are you willing to work with? '

Then they say, `Well, we're trying to do some situations on [boxing promoter Don] King and, uh, the Franzese. ' And I say, `Well, I think if one will look at me you can tell that I am not Italian. I don't know how much Mafia I can give you. ' They say, `Well you know guys who are Mafia. ' I say, `You will have to tell me who they are. ' I say, `Let me explain something to you. The problem I have with the entertainment world is that I represent a lot of blacks at the bottom, and these mobsters have used us. I will work with you. ' I don't mind telling you that I volunteered to work with them.

After a week or two they rested on that about King. Then they said, `Let's deal with the mob side. ' And I said, `What do we want to deal with on the mob side? ' And we went through a litany of mobsters that have been using contracts, have been doing things like intimidating blacks. And they got lucky in the middle of this. This is 1984. I'm threatening to boycott the [Michael] Jackson tour and one of these mobsters threatened to kill me.

NYN: Who is this?

Sharpton: His name is Sal Posillo. So right away I say, `If you guys want something, I got a guy wants to kill me. ' I certainly would love to give this guy up. They get a guy to send to a meeting with me and let me be threatened, see if he would threaten me on behalf of one of the biggest record presidents in the business.

NYN: Were you wired?

Sharpton: It's in the brown valise. So then they go through the litany again. Another guy's name you'd recognize, because he's under investigation now. The booking agent. Norby Walters.

NYN: Norby Walters, the guy that was illegally signing all the kids out of college?

Sharpton: Yes. It was black kids. And I was saying this is something I can help you with. This guy's exploiting and going through his song and dance. They couldn't pin down the way they wanted him, or at least they didn't tell me. Then they go on to King again, with [reputed Genovese crime family member] Danny Pagano, who was a guy that had a record company who I knew. One of my guys worked for him and, uh, the guy and I would try to get the information. I say, `Well, is he doing anything that will hurt any of us? ' This is where I meet this [FBI agent] John Pritchard. They say Pagano might be scalping black artists' tickets, and, uh, they set up a sting for some guys in Jersey that were working for him. This guy in Jersey wants some tickets from me.

* * *

Sharpton: Then about six months after, I went down to meet with the Eastern District. I called from my office and I said I had some information on some election fraud.

NYN: This is Andrew Maloney's people you called?

Sharpton: Yeah, I had information on drugs in the community. I had information with a guy that was coming up to me from the 77th Precinct. It ended up that I didn't work that one. We were reluctant to call the Eastern District because we understood some political enemies of ours were tied into Maloney's office.

So they started to investigate, they said, `OK, we can work together. ' So they started to investigate, and they're still working on the election stuff and some of the drug stuff and, uh, they said fine, we'll work with you. In the middle of this, some state guys come to me and say that they got me selling tickets to friends of Danny Pagano.

NYN: People from the New York State Organized Crime Task Force?

Sharpton: That's who it was? Yeah.

NYN: You were already volunteering to help Maloney with his investigation?

Sharpton: Yeah.

The state guys asked me if I sold some tickets, and I said yeah. Then they asked, `Well did you sell them for purposes of scalping? ' And I said I didn't know what they were after and I called the people at the Eastern District.

No, no, wait, I told the people in Pritchard's office about the call, because it was their situation. They were the ones who had set the thing up. Maybe they went to [Task Force chief Ronald] Goldstock and said this is our case, back off, because they knew I sold it for them.

NYN: And what did Goldstock's people do?

Sharpton: I never heard any more from them again. I never sat in on the negotiating with them or anything. They came asking questions. I replied. I never heard anything else from them.

NYN: You told Pritchard's people to extricate you from Goldstock's investigation and continued to work with Maloney.

Sharpton: Yes. But Pritchard's office did not know I had went to Maloney's office. This is a whole different thing I was dealing in. Maloney's office was elections, drugs and something else. The elections were Brooklyn elections, and this is some stuff that I can prove that there's been a ring that involves [Assemb. Al] Vann and [Rep. Major] Owens misusing 2,000 votes. I felt Maloney was the route to go. Major Owens once offered me a bribe.

NYN: What was the bribe?

Sharpton: Owens offered me a job not to run against him in 1978.

NYN: Who did you report that to?

Sharpton: [Former Brooklyn District Attorney] Eugene Gold, who didn't process it.

* * *

Sharpton: [Boxing promoter Butch] Lewis introduced this guy Quintana all over boxing. He introduced him to Bob Lee, who's now at IBM, but who was on the Jersey boxing commission at the time. I'm not saying Butch was working for him, right. But when you called Butch last week asking about me, he called me a half—hour later. He called me, he said, `Man, they're trying to create something, you know how the white folk are. ' Butch hasn't called me since him and Don fell out and me and Butch had an argument. I said, `What are you talking about Butch? ' So then the next day, when I talked to him, I said, `You know something Butch? If someone tries to distort what I'm doing, you're the guy that told me that Quintana and these guys were all right. I know you brought them in the bar and I know for a fact that you've been to Franzese's house. ' Then he says to me, `Yeah, brother, we can't let them split us. ' I mean I have nothing to hide.

* * *

NYN: What information are you giving to Maloney's people on drug dealers?

Sharpton: We're in the middle of finishing one thing right now on the drug side.

NYN: Who does that involve?

Sharpton: It involves two guys and some big dealers in this area.

NYN: Donny Smallwood? [Indicted in Brooklyn in July, 1987, in a narcotics—related killing.]

Sharpton: Yeah.

NYN: That it?

Sharpton: Just about, yeah.

* * *

NYN: During all this time, have you talked to any prosecutors?

Sharpton: No. I haven't talked to a prosecutor. I've talked to an investigative squad in Maloney's office.

NYN: Do you have a name?

Sharpton: I don't know them off the top of my head because the guys call me using code names in case somebody in my office listens.

NYN: Did you ever wear a microphone?

Sharpton: No. One time I think we used a brief case. But mostly they would have a guy go with me. They would be wired.

NYN: Did they pay you?

Sharpton: No.

NYN: Did they offer to pay you?

Sharpton: On the mob case they asked me if I needed expenses, and I told them no. I told them I was doing this as a citizen.

NYN:: This was Maloney's people in the Eastern District?

Sharpton: This was, uh . . .

NYN: Spinelli and Pritchard, the FBI agents?

Sharpton: Right.

NYN: Did they ever put a wiretap on a friend's phone?

Sharpton: No, I don't think so.

NYN: Did they ever install any extra phones here in your office?

Sharpton: No. In Maloney's office, yes. That's when they installed a phone in my house, on the drug case.

NYN: Did they?

Sharpton: Yes.

NYN: And what would happen if like somebody that you didn't want recorded, like the civil rights activists, called you in your house.

Sharpton: They would never call me on that phone.

NYN: So this was a separate phone they installed?

Sharpton: Absolutely.

NYN: So if somebody calls you up on that line?

Sharpton: Nobody calls me, I didn't give the number to anybody. I would call certain guys on this phone.

NYN: Is the phone still there?

Sharpton: It's there, but it's not on. It's gonna be back on tomorrow cause we gotta finish up, we got, you know, a little shipment the Colombians are coming in.

* * *

NYN: Do you expect any backlash from people when they find out that you been working with the FBI?

Sharpton: From organized crime, yeah.

NYN: Do you know what some people are going to say? There's an element out there that's going to say that if you're working out there with the mob and with drugs why, if he sees somebody dirty in civil rights, why isn't he giving them up, too?

Sharpton: If it's painted the way you're telling me, that somebody got me in trouble and that I turned around and did these things . . . then that's one thing. If it is painted that there are some guys in the civil rights movement that are willing to work with the government to get rid of drugs and election fraud in their neighborhood, well, anybody that doesn't like that, I don't care if they don't. The only thing I ask is when I give the whole story to you guys, I want to prove that I'm not doing it because somebody had me.

NYN: How are we going to prove that? Are you going to have people call us?

Sharpton: It would have to be a U.S. attorney or something.

* * *

NYN: Under whose orders did you sell the tickets to Pagano's crew?

Sharpton: Pritchard's people. I say, `All right, I'm going to sell them the tickets. ' They say, `Just let us know when and where you're gonna sell them. ' So I'm assuming they were surveilling that. I heard nothing else about it. A year later, some guys come from the state [Goldstock's office] come and ask if I sold some tickets to scalpers.

NYN: So they had no idea that you were already working with the FBI on this case when you sold the tickets?

Sharpton: No, that's what I'm saying.

NYN: So you just walked into Goldstock's surveillance?

Sharpton: You're telling me they had a surveillance, I don't know that, to this day, that they had a surveillance. They questioned me, I says, `I never scalped any tickets. ' They said, `Did you sell these tickets to these guys? ' I said, `Well I could try to check the record. ' I did. And I think I met with them the next day. And I said I sold them.

NYN: This is after you started to work with Maloney?

Sharpton: I already had been in touch with Maloney.

NYN: On election fraud, drugs and the mob?

Sharpton: We're finishing the drugs and election thing now. 2,000 fraudulent votes.

* * *

NYN: Who is your contact in Maloney's office?

Sharpton: The investigators use a code thing, so I don't know his last name.

* * *

NYN: We have all covered enough rallies where you denounce the government.

Sharpton: I still denounce it . . . I don't think the government is willing to cooperate with us. Please put that in your story, we can't get full cooperation. There are alot of people out here that would work with all levels of government if they knew the government would go ahead and prosecute crooks. They won't. They want to select which crooks, and when they want them, and how they want them . . . People [hear] that I'm working with the government, people have that perception that if you're talking about that, the perception that I'm a paid agent of the government . . .

NYN: You worried about that?

Sharpton: You know what's gonna be my biggest problem? The biggest problem is that you got guys in Bensonhurst and Howard Beach that want to kill me. They will see this and say, `We can kill him now and make it look like organized crime killed him.'

* * *

NYN: You never offered anything on [City Councilman Wendell] Foster and Wedtech?

Sharpton: Foster? Foster's got something to do with Wedtech? You tell me something I don't know. Wendell? Wendell tells me he's broke . . . I know Wendell well. But nobody's actually involved Wendell and Wedtech.

NYN: And they never asked anything about Sonny Carson?

Sharpton: They have never asked me about Sonny. Sonny and I, you know, have been good friends. So they probably would feel I would consider that a civil rights question.

NYN: Which you don't allow them to do?

Sharpton: I do not allow them to raise questions about that. I don't talk to them about anything but what I brought to them. The only thing they ask me about that came from them was King. I brought all this other stuff to them.

* * *

NYN: When you were talking about Quintana and the drug sting, he brought the subject of drugs up?

Sharpton: Yeah.

NYN: He took out a piece of paper?

Sharpton: Yes.

NYN: And did what?

Sharpton: He says, `Let me explain to you how much money you can make out of this. ' He says, `I know you're against them but you need money, Reverend, like anybody else, and listen all you got to do is introduce me to the guy and we can move and start. ' I remember it was boxes that he was using as a symbol, it was you know what the measurements were per box.

NYN: Keys?

Sharpton: I don't remember, but I know he used boxes and he kept drawing boxes and going through these shenanigans and finally he says, `Your money could make this over here.' — whatever the figure was. I says I'm not interested in getting involved in drugs.

NYN: Was that figure like fifty thousand bucks, a hundred thousand bucks? He was talking about big amounts?

Sharpton: Yes, he wasn't talking about two or three thousand.

* * *

Sharpton: They said, `Let's sit down, maybe we can work something out. ' I think that was Joe Spinelli. I'm sure that was Spinelli. Then he sits down and says, `We think you can help us and we won't have to hurt you. ' I said, `Indict me. ' He really insulted me. He talked to me like I was some little kid off the street and I knew that I had not agreed to this. So he says `Don King. ' And I says, `Don King as far as I'm concerned is not doing anything wrong and you guys are spending a million dollars to frame him. ' And I still believe that. And they said, `Well what about, uh, organized—crime guys? You and Michael Franzese? ' I said, `I just met him but there are mob guys in the record industry I would be willing to work with you on. I'd be willing to work withthat.'

* * *

NYN: Spinelli, part of the government is spending millions of dollars trying to frame King. Why would you turn around and say to Spinelli, `I won't work with you on King, who you're trying to frame but I will work with you on guys in the record industry? '

Sharpton: Because I felt that at the same time that these guys were moving on King they were spending a lot of Giuliani's money trying to get mob guys. And I thought he would go after the mob in the record industry.

NYN: Did you met with Giuliani?

Sharpton: I met with Giuliani on drugs and everything else.

NYN: But with the knowledge that he knew that you were talking to the FBI?

Sharpton: On drugs, yeah.

©1988 Newsday, Inc.Reprinted with permission.