The fast-talking, no-nonsense U.S. attorney leading the prosecution team in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial may seem severe in the courtroom, but R. Michael Bullotta has a softer side.
The 45-year-old federal agent is no stranger to corruption cases, with 15 years as a federal prosecutor under his belt and many additional years of law enforcement experience before that. In the courtroom he is aggressive, quick to object when the defense brings up something he feels is inappropriate.
But behind his rectangular wire-framed glasses, his dark suits and a direct tone, Bullotta is actually a creative writer with a knack for charities and a streak of empathy for young criminals.
In fact, he wrote the book Hard Core, fast-paced crime thriller gangs in L.A that was published last fall.
The novel is heavily based on Bullotta’s experiences as a gang prosecutor in the Hard Core Gang Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
Online reader reviews have been mostly positive so far on sites like Amazon.com where his works been compared to that of John Grisham, Joseph Wambaugh and Mary Higgins Clark.
On Bullotta’s Facebook fan page (yes, he has one) Bullotta he says he pledged a generous donation of the proceeds from book sales to The Forgotten Harvest, a non-profit with a mission torelieve hunger in metro Detroit by rescuing surplus, prepared and perishable food and donating it to emergency food providers.
In the Amazon.com book preview, the tone of the novel seems like a campy, crime trhriller novel version of the HBO series The Wire. An excerpt from the book’s opening chapter shows Bulotta seeking to empathize with a young Latino gangbanger in L.A.
“He wished that his mother had hit him, or at least battered his soul. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel like this. He’d be just another young Latino fallen victim to L.A.’s violent culture. He too could claim that he had resorted to gang banging in order to survive in a jungle of lovelessness and death.”
Bullotta also writes in a postive way about witness cooperation, a hot topic recently as witnesses with immunity deals take the stand in the Kilpatrick trial this week.
“It was clear to him as he looked straight through the grassy canyon that is was time to make it up to her. He was going to “flip and cooperate” as his friend and detective put it. His homies would call him “buster,” or coward and it would be a matter of neighborhood pride to smoke him for disrespecting his set. But he truly believed that going legit was the only thing that would make her proud.”
In court, it’s nearly impossible to picture Bullotta using the word, “homie” or “busta” but this is one instance where we can’t judge a book by its cover.
After attending the Kilpatrick jury selection last week I can’t get affirmative action out of my head. I can’t get the racially geared questions out of my head, either. Last week I must have heard the same question asked 50 different ways: “Do you know what affirmative action is? Based on historical events do you understand why African American people would speak in an angry, frustrated way about white people?
If that’s in my head, I can only imagine how these questions have been branded into those who have been sitting in that courtroom for the past two weeks.
But I can’t help but ask myself those questions, over and over. Of course, I understand why black people are frustrated. Of course, I understand what affirmative action is.
But somehow it seems as though there have been so many tidy, sterile ways language has formed around race. Words like affirmative action, African American.
We go about our days and don’t talk about it’s. It’s a taboo topic, an emotional one. But race relations are still strained. Detroit in 2012 is certainly not Jackson Mississippi in the sixties, but it’s not exactly Sesame Street, either.
The worst part is that it seems impossible to pin down exactly what’s wrong. Race-based Discrimination is elusive, hidden and if you talk about it, you’re playing some sort of “race card.”
The fact is, there is no updated language to communicate about race. We’re stuck with terms from a civil rights movement long past.
Activist Jesse Jackson was on to something when he spoke in Detroit last week:
“This is the early morning of a new phase of our struggle. Freedom without equality is freedom to starve. In the business world, we are not playing on an even playing field,” he said.
Jackson is right, in the business world and outside of it, minorities are not playing on an even playing field. But today it’s not as obvious, there’s no easy way to describe what exactly tilts this proverbial playing field. It’s tangled in years of history, in culture, woven discretely into the fabric of society, in laws and knee-jerk thought patters.
The first step to changing is for people of all backgrounds be willing to talk about race first without emotions getting out of hand. There has to be some avenue to disscus race openly and often, and not in an accusitory way, but in one that seeks to truly understand what we mean when we say we aren't on a level playing field. Books have been written about this, great books, but it will have to be through everyday that change comes about.
“This is a very different dimension of our struggle,” Jackson said at a press conference last Thursday. He’s right.
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