Schumann's Cleveland Pages archives
Jim WHO? (8 January 1999)
While the local media, particularly the Plain Dealer,
observed the death last week of former writer Jim Parker, it seems
that they've all forgotten the story of his biggest story. In the
case of the Dealer itself, the omission is understandable;
editorial politics and a desire to avoid embarrassing then-Mayor
Voinovich had led management to bury what could have been a Pulitzer-class
The story began in the early 1980s with what was later described as a
"reverse sting" drug operation by Cleveland Police officers working under
the direction of Lieutenant Howard Rudolph. The officers allegedly
looked the other way while dealer Art Feckner sold powder cocaine in
an East Side neighborhood around Woodland Avenue. Proceeds from the
ongoing sales were to have funded a major undercover buy in Florida,
presumably on the theory that it was more important to get the upstream
suppliers than to jail someone as unimportant as Feckner.
A series of investigative articles by Parker throughout 1996 brought this
operation to light. As a result, pressure was brought to bear against the
Voinovich administration to prosecute Rudolph's former underlings.
Embarrassingly, though, Howard Rudolph by that time had become Chief of
Police; Voinovich had publicly praised him for agressive and "innovative"
law enforcement techniques, including the Feckner endeavor.
Parker didn't do so well either. Plain Dealer brass didn't
like running stories that put Voinovich in a bad light, but politically
they couldn't fire Parker for doing his job. Parker found himself
transferred to the obituary desk. He stuck around there for a while before
getting fed up, and (if my memory serves since this isn't in my references)
just failed to return from his lunch break one day. On the books, Jim Parker
was canned for going AWOL when his real crime was coming up with an important
In December 1988, charges against the officers were dismissed by Judge
Michael J. Corrigan. Corrigan's ruling was a bit hard to follow but
seemed to be saying that even if the police had committed the overt acts
alleged by prosecutors, their actions would not have constituted crimes.
Rudolph himself was never charged with a crime, but Mike White fired him
upon taking office in 1989. For some reason we haven't heard much from
Feckner himself was convicted and sentenced to five years.
It's true that local police nationwide do perform undercover buys, routinely,
as a way of gathering evidence against drug dealers. Less frequently, they
have executed controlled "reverse sting" sales, busting the buyers on the
spot or soon enough afterwards to avoid having contraband actually distributed
and used on the streets. Rudolph supporters blurred the distinction, but the
Feckner operation actually resulted in at least half a million dollars worth
of cocaine being distributed to actual users on the street.
You couldn't actually say literally that cops were selling drugs. They
weren't. But Rudolph's vice unit was accused--with enough evidence to gain
indictments against cops--of allowing it to happen in order to raise funds
for the Florida bust.
Interestingly, as of 1991 it was reported in the Plain Dealer
that $452,000 Feckner had stated he'd given to police was not accounted
for. Based on my reading of news indexes, the investigations and judicial
appeals seem to have stopped right about then.
The story of Feckner's dope dealing and the alleged involvement of Howard
Rudolph's people is bad enough. It's troubling that none of the major media
in Cleveland thought to mention what could have been Jim Parker's biggest
story ever--the one that got him fired.
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