To tell the story of the "dream team" we must begin by going back to the future. This week we learn why O.J. Simpson fired the man who defended John DeLorean and why a briefcase of cocaine isn’t always a smoking gun. Digressions include Bob’s Big Boy, Margaret Thatcher and the Fonz.
Sarah: Yeah. Instead of MLMs in the early eighties, people just had cocaine.
Mike: Ooh, I have one, I have one, I have one!
Mike: Apologies in advance. Welcome to You’re Wrong About, the podcast, where if the narrative doesn't fit, it ain't legit.
Sarah: Oh, that's nice.
Mike: Is that anything?
Sarah: That's a rhyme that you did there?
Mike: The syllables are wrong. I apologize.
Sarah: Here's to my sweet Satan. He tries his best.
Mike: I am Michael Hobbes. I'm a reporter for the Huffington Post and a poet laureate.
Sarah: Oh yeah, that's true. I'm Sarah Marshall and I'm some other made-up thing.
Mike: And if you want to support the show, we are on email@example.com/yourewrongabout, where we have lots of exclusive bonus episodes. Including one that we just recorded about James Charles, and Tati, and Shane Dawson, and cancellations, more generally.
And today we are talking about, I guess, the Dream Team.
Sarah: We are. Yeah. So we're talking about the Barcelona Olympics. Just kidding. This is a funny thing, right? In the early nineties, the Dream Team referred to the basketball team at the Barcelona Olympics. And it referred to OJ Simpson's defense team, which I think had enough people on it to play basketball.
Mike: I was going to try to make a basketball joke for the tagline, but I couldn't, I couldn't find it.
Sarah: I don't think either of us know how to.
Mike: We can't do that.
Sarah: So today we are talking about the origins of OJ’s dream team. And Mike, you've already spent significant time with some of these people. Who are these people?
Mike: Okay. All I know of any of these people is the actors who are playing them. So I know we have John Travolta with his eyebrow wigs, and that is Bob Shapiro, who's like a celebrity lawyer guy, right?
Sarah: That's right. That's how Marcia Clark describes him. That's how he's seen. This is a really, this is an interesting episode because we're going to talk about kind of layers of celebrity lawyerdom, and like what kind of celebrity lawyer does OJ need. Because I feel like the narrative that emerged was that OJ's lawyer at the time of the murders, Howard Weitzman, is kind of a lightweight and that has moved to Shapiro was based on, Shapiro handles the big cases, he can save the celebrities. But in reality, Howard Weitzman, it doesn't seem that obvious that he would be less substantial than Bob Shapiro. I don't think. I mean, I wasn't shopping for lawyers in LA in 1994, but we're going to talk about Howard Weitzman a little bit in this one, because he's the guy who is representing OJ prior to him becoming basically the prime suspect in what is suddenly the most high-profile crime in the United States. And it's not really a foregone conclusion that he would be sort of quietly forced out as quickly as he was, which I find interesting.
Mike: Who should I imagine in my brain? What does Weitzman look like?
Sarah: Oh, well, I have the perfect thing for you. I have some footage of Weitzman himself.
Mike: Ooh. Ooh.
Sarah: So this is Howard Weitzman talking about what was at the time of the Simpson trial, his most famous case. Do you know what this is?
Mike: Is it going to be Menendez?
Sarah: That's a good guess. It's farther back in time. And to give you a hint, where we're going, we don't need roads.
Mike: What? It's something related to Back to the Future and a clock tower?: Is he an IP lawyer? Now my brain is going in a million directions.
Sarah: I'm going to send you a clip. This is him reminiscing about this case, thinking 2013.
Mike: Okay. It’s funny all these people are still alive.
Sarah: Rich people live a long time.
Mike: I know. Oh my God, John DeLorean? Okay. So I just opened this link and the headline of the clip is, Why John DeLorean Was Not Found Guilty of Coke Dealing.
Sarah: Are you intrigued?
Mike: I didn’t know about any of this.
Sarah: Shall we watch it?
Mike: Okay. Let's do it. Uh, three, two, one, go.
*video clip plays*
“There was a videotape of John DeLorean, standing in a room with suitcase full of cocaine and saying, looking at it and saying, ‘It's better than gold’, and picking it off. He picked up the brick, kilo, of cocaine and he said something about the weight. And he said, ‘Gold, this is better than gold. It weighs less than gold.’ And put it down.”
Mike: So what I'm hearing is we are now embarking on a 15-part series on the John DeLorean cocaine trial.
Sarah: Obviously. So tell us about this man. How would you describe Howard Weitzman?
Mike: So, okay. And I don't mean this in a mean way, but the only comparison that I could think of was Robert Blake. He looks kind of like Robert Blake in Lost Highway.
Sarah: It's funny because my comparison, and I want to emphasize I don't mean this in a mean way, is that he reminds me of Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins.
Mike: Yes. Super-duper Baggins energy. Yes. He has like a very round face and kind of ears that stick out. And I don't know what his stature is, but he has like short King vibes.
Sarah: Yeah. He is a short King.
Mike: I am well-trained in spotting fellow short Kings. For the youths, can you just give a little snapshot of like, who is this John DeLorean guy?
Sarah: So yes, I do have a couple of aides for you, Mike, and I'm really happy you asked.
So first we're going to watch a commercial, which is going to illustrate Act One of John DeLorean's career.
Sarah: So he ran Pontiac, he worked for General Motors. And so basically the Pontiac GTO is unusual and it's a weird idea that people originally do not want to get behind because it is a smaller car with a large car’s engine in it. I feel like this is a great example of how just like corporations are just completely allergic to the concept of good ideas until someone somehow forces them through. He was like, people don't necessarily just want to be in really big cars or cars that are as big as possible. Sometimes people want to drive a smaller car that has a lot of power, and they might want to drive not in a stately way, but fast. And also, there's a youth market, if you will. And GM was like, “I don't know, John.” And so here's how they got it through.
So basically they find a loophole where instead of selling this as a brand new standalone car, they say, “We're going to sell you the regular old Pontiac Tempest, but you can for an extra $295 add this bigger engine”. So it's not a new product. It's a custom new tweak to an existing product. So they introduced this in 1964 and they sell 32,000 GTO's in the first year. So let's watch this ad so we can understand like, what a GTO is really. Three, two, one. go.
Sarah: There's a lot going on. Wow. This is like the model of masculinity that most Casey Affleck characters seem to be following. This ad has a lot of cuts. This is a tiny, little film we’re getting.
Mike: Yes. This is the most toxic fucking masculinity I've ever seen in an ad.
Sarah: Remember Mike, it's the humbler.
Mike: So there's like a unique disappointment when you're watching something, when you think it's going to be hella gay, and then it turns out to be hella straight. It's basically a guy pulls into I guess a drive in.
Sarah: Yeah, it's a Bob's Big Boy, I think.
Mike: Those fifties drive-ins, where people were sort of outside of their cars and kind of milling about, like they're not all sitting in their cars. And this extremely attractive dude drives up in a GTO, Humbler, I guess. And it's kind of like, well, like this loud thing. And the first reaction shot that we get is like another hot as breakfast dude noticing the first hot dude, and like looking him up and down. There's like elevator eyes, but it's elevator eyes on his car. It's like, “Mmm, what is that?”
Sarah: Yeah, you're right.
Mike: So it really looks like this is like about to pop off. And then it just becomes like a normal car ad, and then there's like a hot lady who notices, and like a hot couple who notices. And basically the rest of the ad is just this first dude in this dumb car driving around in circles around this like sad strip mall hamburger joint, just like making a lot of noise. But instead of being bothered, like normal people would be, they're all like impressed by loud, smelly car going two miles an hour at them.
Sarah: And then he just leaves, actually. At the end of the ad, he just leaves the parking lot. And it's like, does this your ex-girlfriend hang out there or what? Like, what's the story, morning glory?
It's also implying that this guy's life is really sad, right? It's like, this is the car for if you’re a guy who's still hanging out, trying to like to hang out with high school girls even though he graduated six years ago, and you drive around the Bob's Big Boy parking lot for no reason on a Saturday night. You're not even hungry.
Mike: He doesn’t even get a burger. Also I think there's this like fascinating thing. Has anyone in the history of the world been impressed by somebody else with a loud vehicle?
Sarah: No, they're like annoyed. Especially if you're making a podcast, you're just like, “My God.” But, despite the fact that that ad is unpersuasive to both of us, because we're libs, this is a staggeringly successful car. And because of it, John DeLorean is credited for inventing the muscle car and kind of anticipating the next wave of American automobiles. And so he does extremely well at GM because of this.
Mike: It is weird how we have a social construction of like the oil and gas companies as these evil, you know, they all knew about climate change 50 years ago. Like they are very much built up as evil in the American mind. And I feel like American car companies, it's not like we like them necessarily, but like, they definitely skate by with a less bad reputation than the oil companies. Which I find totally baffling.
Sarah: It is.
Mike: Cars are the number one killer of children in America. Like, cars?
Sarah: No, I think it's witches, Michael. It’s witches.
Mike: Like transportation is the number one contributor to climate change. And yet, like somehow the car companies have escaped blame. And like oil companies are also bad, but like, what are we putting all the oil in guys?
Sarah: Uh, straws. It's straws.
Mike: But so is that the sort of social construction of John DeLorean that he's like this maverick car executive or something?
Sarah: It becomes that, yeah. Because basically after he invents the GTO, he kind of becomes as glamorous as a GM executive, I think can possibly be. Like he starts spending time in California, he dates Ursula Andrus and Joey Heatherton. He resigns from GM in April 1973, because he writes a speech that he wants to deliver about how the company is stagnating and they need basically to be thinking more like John Z DeLorean. And the company is like, “You can't give this speech.” And he's like, “Fine, I guess someone will leak it to the Detroit news.”
And then his idea, which he starts working on after leaving GM, is like an all-American glamorous flashy car for the people that is like as exciting as a Ferrari but is by an American car manufacturer. And also interestingly, his pitch is that it's a car that you won't need to replace. Which is a very rare thing for a manufacturer to even pretend to promise. Fascinating, because he's essentially like if he's successful, he's offering to maybe put himself out of business by doing what he intends to do.
Mike: So he's kind of like H&M. Before H&M there were like attractive clothes, and there were cheap clothes, and they were like completely different stores. And then H&M was like, what if we made cheap clothes that were also attractive? And then the entire industry was like, holy shit.
Sarah: Yeah. So I think that's really the John DeLorean dream in a nutshell. Like normal Americans, you know, because the GTO is a thing of beauty, partly because it is accessible to people who can't get European sports cars necessarily. Then Americans will have the best, safest, most reliable, and most exciting looking car that there is. And then America will make the best car.
Sarah: So this is the original DeLorean ad from 1981. This is from the DeLorean museum, where I would love to go. When it is safe to once again.
Mike: Ooh, delightful. Three, two, one, go.
*video clip plays*
“The DeLorean Gullwing doors rise effortlessly beckoning you. The sleek, stainless steel DeLorean beautifully crafted for long life. The DeLorean is one of the most awaited automobiles in automotive history. Drive the DeLorean, live the dream today.”
Sarah: It looks pretty good.
Mike: It's not an unattractive car.
Sarah: That’s exactly what I would say, “not an unattractive car - Sarah Marshal, Cars Weekly”. And only 6,000 of these cars were ever sold.
Mike: What, it’s that low?
Mike: God that's like The Virtual Boy.
Sarah: And not because of unpopularity, so much as the fact that it became almost impossible to go on manufacturing them. Many people and things came between John DeLorean and his dream. The difficulty of starting a new car company, the fact that ultimately they located their factory in Belfast because they got a very sweet incentive from the government to create jobs there because the unemployment rate was so high, the fact that they needed to train a workforce to make cars, the fact that this car is designed in a way that makes it hard to imagine how you're supposed to park at the mall. But the final nail in the DeLorean coffin was hammered in there by Margaret Thatcher.
Sarah: So this is from a Forbes article by Chuck Tanner. I'm going to read you a summary of the downfall;
“The biggest problem we had was that the first business plan that was developed once the project had come to Northern Ireland, made it quite clear we're going to run out of money. Says Barrie Wills, author of John Z, The DeLorean and Me. We always knew that, and that's why we were constantly under pressure to try and persuade the British government to give us just a bit more money. But that wasn't forthcoming.
Seven months after breaking ground in Belfast, Margaret Thatcher’s conservative party came to power in Britain. She did not approve of the deal the Labour party had struck with the American. Then in January 1981, the first wave of cars had quality control issues, which led to bad press in the U.S.
Critics were thrilled with how the car looked that the car was underpowered, offered so-so handling, and it was neither as groundbreaking safe nor as fuel efficient as DeLorean promised it would be.”
Mike: Is that all?
Sarah: But it looks great, if you like that kind of thing. They don't explode.
“The money crisis grew. A plan emerged to restructure the company and take it public as ‘The DeLorean Motors Holding Company.’ The proposed stock offering would have personally enriched DeLorean, the company's majority stockholder, by around 120 million. But would have left anyone holding only options, like the car dealers who have joined the dealer investor program, with next to nothing. It would be a particularly bad deal for Margaret Thatcher and the British government.
Thatcher cut off any further investment in the American company, placing the Belfast plant in receivership. And the end, only 9,000 DMC-12’s were built, approximately 6,000 of which were sold to customers.”
Mike: Wow. I hate that you put me in a position where I'm agreeing with something Margaret Thatcher did.
Sarah: Yeah. That is weird. How are you feeling?
Mike: Very uncomfortable.
Sarah: Because basically like she's forced to outmaneuver, to like outflank this guy before he screws her first.
Mike: Yes. There's something so cynical about all of this rhetoric around like private sector innovation is so much better than the government. And then you look into any of these people, you zoom in on any of these companies, and they're like on the government teat for like billions of dollars. Which I think is fine. But let's all be honest about it and subsidize the stuff that we want.
Sarah: Yeah. And this is also the American model of innovation, which we are very familiar with which is, promise everything, have a big idea, you just decide that it's someone else's job to figure out how that all comes together. Which is also, that's totally what Elon Musk's thing is. Which is like announce your amazing, big, maverick idea. And then just assume that like the force of your own will and belief... I think it's a basic belief that like the materials of the world are of less significance than your own dreams.
Mike: Right. And also, make sure that no matter how much you fuck up, you get enriched by the bailout plan.
Sarah: And then pass along the loss to everyone else when you inevitably fail.
Mike: So how do we get to the cocaine trafficking chapter of John DeLorean's life after this?
Sarah: So this is very interesting, right? Like how does one get casually involved in cocaine? So we know that at this point, John DeLorean is willing to do anything to suddenly get tens of millions of dollars. And so he has kind of an acquaintance, apparently their sons are friends. And then the past before DeLorean’s woes really began, this acquaintance was like, “Hey, you could get in on some cocaine trafficking with me”, or something. Just casually, you know, have you ever considered the exciting new world of cocaine?
Mike: Yeah. Make a pallet with me.
Sarah: And John DeLorean was like, “No, that's fine”. And then I can really easily imagine if my car company is going under, Maggie's just pulled the plug on my first technically legal, but wildly on ethical scheme. I got to start getting creative. And I'm like, what about that guy with the cocaine?
Mike: It's funny because it sounds like the kind of plan that you would come up with while on cocaine, right? Like late at night with your random neighbor who happens to have a hookup.
Sarah: You're like, “Oh man, this cocaine is great. People would love this. People would love this.” Yeah.
And so what John DeLorean doesn't know is that this acquaintance of his has already been tapped as an informant by the FBI.
Mike: I am not wild about this thing where law enforcement authorities make up crimes and then prosecute them.
Sarah: Neither am I, Mike.
Mike: There's been a bunch of infamous terrorism cases where FBI informants will spend years cultivating sources and basically talking them into planning a terrorist attack, and then be like, “How dare you plan a terrorist attack?”
Sarah: And then, spoiler alert, that's what happens with DeLorean. We have this very damning videotape of John DeLorean looking at this briefcase full of cocaine and saying it's better than gold. It weighs less than gold. And whose briefcase was that? It wasn't John DeLorean's briefcase. It was brought in to be on video on that meeting and to impress the jury with the fact that like, here's a man who's got a briefcase of cocaine in front of him. But it was actually cocaine that they had seized from a smuggler and were like essentially using as a prop.
Mike: The whole thing is so counterfeit because we know from consistent findings in criminology, that crime is very situational. It's not like people are either criminals or non-criminals, regardless of the situation. It's exactly the opposite. And so for law enforcement to create situations that encourage people to commit crimes, is like totally illiterate about the nature of crime.
There's been these things, to take a total tangent that I've been mad about for months,
there's been these “stings” in Seattle where they will leave a bicycle in a parking lot unlocked. And when a homeless person comes by and starts riding it around, oftentimes they're looking for the owner. They’ll sort of ride on the bike and be like, “Hey, does anybody know whose bike this belongs to?” The cops will come up and arrest them for stealing a bike.
Sarah: I have a Vittorio De Sica film that the Seattle police should try.
Mike: And I know John DeLorean is not marginalized population like homeless people are.
Sarah: And people don't leave briefcases of cocaine on the sidewalk when they don't want them anymore. And yet…
Mike: You can't like just entice people that need money into money-making schemes and then be like, “How dare you participate in this money-making scheme?”
Sarah: I feel as if maybe it speaks to the difficulty of prosecuting white-collar crime. Because I can imagine looking at John DeLorean and being like, “This guy is shady as hell.” And then you're like, “Well, we can't take him down for any of his shady business stuff because it's impossible. But you know what we can take people down for? Drugs.”
There was a lot of parallels between this trial and what eventually becomes OJ’s trial. And one of them is that, like, this is huge, and this also takes a long time to actually reach the trial stage. Like I think they're in pretrial hearings and stuff for 17 months. So this shit has the time to loom very large in people's minds.
So, this is from Judith Cummings’s coverage of the trial for the New York Times. And we're going to talk about James Timothy Hoffman, who's the DeLorean acquaintance who got him started down this path.
“While James Timothy Hoffman, an informer, was helping the government put its cocaine trafficking case together against John Z. DeLorean, the government spent more than $32,000 to protect and support him, a federal agent testified today. Mr. Hoffman also knew that he could be prosecuted for a past heroin violation anytime his work failed to please investigators. ‘Mr. Hoffman’, Mr. Waters testified, ‘Was paid a total of $111,643.43 cents by the government from January 1982, when he began working as an informer to date. That's some included expenses for five narcotics investigations. The money also covered living costs for Mr. Hoffman, his wife, and the three of their four children who were living at home. Howard L. Weitzman and Donald Ray, Mr. DeLorean's attorneys, said today that they construed what the government called expenses for Mr. Hoffman to be equivalent to a salary. Out of those expenses they said Mr. Hoffman's rent, utilities, clothing, and other bills were paid just as anyone else would cover them from their paycheck. Mr. Ray said, Hoffman thought he had a good job, that it was worth keeping.”
Mike: So he’s earning a literal salary to keep entrapping DeLorean.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s the Weitzman argument. Interestingly, or ironically or something, my understanding is that the way you get people involved in a criminal enterprise is you don't just make it appealing for them to help you, you also make it dangerous for them to not help you. And this guy, Hoffman, is in that situation where he has strong financial incentive to keep putting together, you know, these entrapment or borderline entrapment deals. He's got a heroin charge over his head. If he stops going along with the government, he's screwed, and they're paying him pretty well. That's basically the case that the DeLorean defense team is making.
Mike: This terrible way to detect crimes. We're going to pay dirt bags a monthly sum so that they can go out and entice people into drug trafficking, people who would not necessarily be trafficking drugs otherwise.
Sarah: And it's also this weird thing where like in sort of one of these government informant cases, and you see this on Law & Order. It's really weird, where these episodes where the original person who you as a viewer are like, “Get him, get that guy”. They're like, “We can't prosecute the Larry Miller character. We have to find out some sort of weird backdoor way, because now we have all this audience momentum and you guys want to watch someone go to trial, right?” And we’re like, “Yeah!” “We're going to charge some random drug manufacturer with wrongful endangerment.” And I feel like this is the kind of momentum that you get these kinds of, you know, the public accepting these kinds of versions of police work. Do we not want to go after this Hoffman guy? Like, he seems like he got into drug trafficking all by himself. And it's just because of the fact that he was chosen as the informant, that his crimes become less relevant.
Mike: Right. I mean, one of the things that we've seen as a thread through a lot of the moral panics that we've seen around street gangs and street crime and stranger danger on this show, there's this weird warping of the idea of detective work. Because this isn't detective work in any meaningful sense. They're not finding like, okay, this guy is selling drugs, here's his supplier. Here's his supplier’s supplier. Investigations like this come at the cost of investigating crimes that are actually happening.
Sarah: Do you think somebody on this team, like John DeLorean stole his girlfriend back when he was, you know, on the town? Because this feels personal. And I get that it might be advantageous legally to take this guy down, but like, once again, you can't just invent crimes in place of the real ones.
Mike: Oh, but I think this is totally though Wesley Snipes effect where agencies of the government, because they're doing so little enforcement and they're getting so few positive headlines, they deliberately look for celebrity defendants, because they know that's going to be in the papers for months and it's going to make them look like these heroic cops that are doing bus like this routinely. If you're an informant and you can dangle a celebrity defendant in front of law enforcement, that's going to be really enticing to them because it feeds a narrative that they're super-duper competent, even when the case itself is evidence of how incompetent they are.
Sarah: Which is another one of the reasons why, when you skip ahead to, you know, the beginning of OJ’s trial or the beginning of people hearing the news of him being a suspect, you can use pattern recognition and be like, “What if this is the LAPD trying to look good by taking down someone prominent.” In the scheme of American police stuff, it's a believable story. It's just in the details that it breaks down.
Mike: Yeah, exactly. Because this is not the story of a high-level celebrity drug trafficker. This is a story of a desperate rich dude who turns to some really dumb ideas ultimately, but this guy is not a criminal mastermind for the drugs. He's probably a criminal mastermind for like wage theft and like union busting.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. Let me show you footage of these clips. It's really great.
Mike: Oh, this is the clips of him talking about the cocaine.
Sarah: Yes. This is the clip. We're going to see him with the cocaine. And by the way, as someone who's watched a lot of Oxygen over the years, like I get really annoyed when people act like its proof that you're a ruthless criminal if you get excited about seeing a lot of cocaine, or if you want to like lie in a pile of money like a lady on a Snapped I watched one time did. They were like, “It was proof that she would do anything for money”. And I was like, “Excuse me, if I were more comfortable about how clean money is, I would get up the gumption to do that any old time. It sounds fun, just get small bills.”
Mike: That's like the entire American ethos is that we should all be doing things for money at all times.
Sarah: Lie in a pile of money.
Mike: Yeah. Three, two, one,
*video clip plays*
“The surveillance tapes obtained by the CBS News broadcast, 60 Minutes, from Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flint, are only part of the evidence. But they do show four key meetings during September of 1982, between DeLorean and the agents.
September 4th, 1982 in a Washington DC hotel room. DeLorean discusses is a vague business deal with an FBI undercover operative who offers to let DeLorean out of the deal.
September 9th at a bank in San Carlos, California. An undercover agent introduces DeLorean to a phony bank who says he can provide cash for the deal.
September 20th, the Bel Air Sands Hotel in Los Angeles, the phony banker seated on the left and DeLorean meet a suspected big time drug smuggler, the real target of the undercover investigation, who says he won't get involved and less DeLorean was involved.
During the first three weeks of October, DeLorean assigned half of the stock of his company to the undercover agents, allegedly as payment for the drugs. And Hetrick imported 220 pounds of cocaine from South America. Hettrick was arrested and pleaded guilty, cocaine was seized, and on October 19th in a hotel room in Los Angeles, the trap was sprung on John DeLorean. A suitcase full of cocaine was put before him and he called it ‘better than gold’.
‘Gold. Gold weighs more than that.’ A few minutes later, the FBI arrived, and John DeLorean was put under arrest.
Sarah: What do you think of that?
Mike: So I mean, it's clear that they wanted to get enough interactions and enough logistics between him and the undercover guy and the banker and the foreign drug dealer, whatever, to sort of establish that like this was not just something that he was dabbling in. Right. It's not just like they spoke once and he's like, “Yeah, cocaine sounds fun”, and that the cops rush in. They’re on some level doing that to cover up the fact that they're inventing this crime out of nothing.
Sarah: Right. I often think of Clarence Darrow's closing argument in the Leopold and Loeb trial, and specifically his point…what he does that I love, in that is basically like force the judge to look at the implications of just sort of the popular rhetoric around this trial. And one of the things that people were saying at the time and what they still say now is like, these boys have committed the most brutal, terrible, thoughtless, senseless, terrible murder that has ever happened in the history of Cook County, or maybe Illinois, or maybe America. And for that reason, the state has to be as merciless to them as they were to their victim, Bobby Franks. And Clarence Darrow gets up and is like, “So you're telling me that the government is supposed to emulate my crazy teenage murderer clients? Are you sure you want to be doing that?”
And in this I'm like, how would we be treating the FBI if they were, rather than a government entity, a person. This would be someone who would be, you know, they would be the originator of this entire scheme. They're the one who set this up. They're the one who's like John DeLorean seems, like the kind of guy who traffics some cocaine. Let's get him in on this. Like they are the party that has the most responsibility. If this is a crime that individual actors are conspiring to commit to together, rather than one of the actors is secretly a government entity that doesn't really want to commit a crime at the end of the day.
Mike; There's also a weird thing that they're treating this sort of, “it's worth more than gold”, statement as some sort of smoking gun. When, like, that's just a statement of fact.
Sarah: Yes, it is.
Mike: Like, if you show me a bag of diamonds, I would probably be like, “Wow, it's worth more than gold.” Like, yes, it is.
Sarah: Abd I’d be like, “They so sparkly. And that doesn't mean that I came up with this idea to sell hot diamonds. I'm just appreciating the essence.”
Mike: It doesn't mean anything. Like, I don't know why this is supposed to be this like moment on the video that sort of makes him look so guilty. It's like, he's just saying stuff.
Sarah: It’s because they’re seeing if he goes for the cocaine. Like, you know, which owner will Ribsy choose?
Mike: It's Mama Mia, all three.
Sarah: Yeah. And that he's appreciating the cocaine as an aesthetic object. And it's like, you guys are the ones who have all this cocaine that you can use as profs all the time. I don't know.
Sarah: So, okay. Let's get to some Weitzman. So this is from the Forbes article again;
“During the trial that followed, DeLorean's attorney Howard Weitzman argued that the FBI had been able to entrap the desperate automaker because they knew he would do anything to save his business. And the evidence suggested Weitzman had a point according to multiple reports at the time, the deal was presented to DeLorean by a paid FBI informant.
Mandalorian said he didn't have the cash to pay for the drugs up front. The informant promised to arrange the financing as long as he would put up his company as collateral. And although he showed intent, he never took possession of the drugs. It seems he never planned to pay for them either. The cocaine deal was yet another business venture into which DeLorean was not putting a dime of his own money.
The government believed his agreement to hand over control of his company, constituted proof of his willingness to participate. But DeLorean did not give them control of DeLorean Motor Cars Limited, or the DeLorean Motor Company. Instead he agreed to provide them with control of DMC, Inc., a dormant shell company that had no assets. DeLorean was conning the con men.
Mike: This is why you don't prosecute cases like this, because you get wrapped up in these weird hypotheticals.
Sarah: Yes. And I also love that Howard Weitzman's team is able to be like, “Excuse me, he is innocent of this cocaine charge because he was being crooked in this other way that makes it a moot point. Thank you”.
Mike: Well, this is the whole thing. If you prosecute people that actually traffic drugs, you don't need to do this. Like, what were his intentions? What was he going to do after we arrested him, type shit.
Sarah: So, after 30 hours of deliberation, DeLorean is acquitted of all charges.
Mike: Oooh! I mean, he still seems like kind of a dirt bag, but it's good that this didn't work.
Sarah: But this is the point of American law. Dirt bags deserve justice, too. However, after that, he went to trial for embezzlement and fraud, and he was investigated by the Brits, and he was tried by federal prosecutors. And he still kept coming through. He was never convicted of anything, but he basically lost his empire.
Mike: So that's what took it all down?
Sarah: I mean, he was already financially fucked going into this cocaine thing. That's why he was doing it. So I think he took himself down and then the government just sort of helped. Like when you have a fraying sweater. And this is also from the Forbes article;
“He was never convicted, but accountants did recover almost a hundred million dollars for the creditors of DeLorean Motor Company in civil court over the course of nearly two decades driven.”
And this is, to me, this is the saddest part. Okay. “Driven into bankruptcy, DeLorean had to sell his home in New Jersey where his nearly 500-acre estate was eventually purchased by Donald Trump and converted into a Trump National Golf Club, which he frequently visits as President.”
Mike: Oh, that's like the darkest epilogue.
Sarah: It is. That's like the part in Wolf of Wall Street, where he gets taken down by the Benihana guy.
A final thought on John DeLorean. This just caused me to empathize with him. At one point in his adult life, he got chin implants for himself. And someone who is very self-conscious about having a weak chin, I guess, to appreciate that concession to male vanity.
Mike: How tall is he though?
Sarah: Oh, he was like 6’5” actually.
Mike: Oh, see, I only get solidarity under 5’7”. Sorry, John.
Sarah: We'll find a short, entrapped guy for you next.
Mike: Thank you. So is your contention that Howard Weitzman was like a good lawyer who probably would have been good for OJ, ultimately?
Sarah: Weitzman did a great job. And here's some more coverage of that;
“DeLorean interviewed other well-known defense attorneys here, but Weitzman and Ray had handled some early motions and were willing to give DeLorean 100% of their time. In return, DeLorean signed over to Weitzman whatever interest he has left in a San Diego ranch and in the New York apartment worth $6.5 million. Weitzman said he and Ray had paid more than $300,000 of their own expenses while the properties are tied up in legal challenges. Asked why he is extending himself so far for DeLorean, Weitzman discards his usual jokes and rehearses a speech she will someday make to the jury, ‘If the government can do what it did to John, then God help us all because we're all next.’”
Sarah: I feel based on this, that it's very interesting that Howard Weitzman, like regardless of what he was handling in the intervening 10 years between this and OJ going to trial, like had been successful in exactly the kind of trial that OJ is facing. Right? This is someone who is extremely well-known, kind of a beloved American figure, a symbol almost of sixties masculinity, and who falls from grace in a spectacular and highly shocking fashion. And then needs someone who will drop every other task, every other client, and dedicate all of their time and their own money to protecting and defending them. Like this is exactly what he needs. And I just find it, I don't know, before I kind of started looking at Weitzman's performance in this case and like how he describes it and how he talks about it years later. I was like, okay, yeah, whatever. Like, I don't know anything about this guy. It makes sense you’d want Bob Shapiro. He's the shiny new guy or something.
But then I was like, this is folly. To have the ideal lawyer for this based on previous victories and get rid of him. So the question is, “why?”
Mike: Do we know?
Sarah: We have some thoughts? So we are now turning to Lawrence Schiller’s, American Tragedy, which is the book basically from the perspective of the defense team. And this is where we have the infamous and very short gentle questioning of OJ Simpson.
Mike: Yes, 32 minutes.
Sarah: What is one of the notable things about that session? What isn't there?
Mike: A lawyer.
Sarah: Apparently what happens is that Vannatter is like, “Hang back Weitzman, we don't need you in here. And we're only going to talk to OJ if he doesn't have you present.” Schiller writes, “Weitzman knew Vannatter was bluffing, but OJ insisted he could handle this himself. No problem. Nothing to hide. That was the trouble with superstars, ego, image.”
So they have their conversation. OJ and Kardashian go back to Rockingham. OJ Is convinced that they've stolen some money he had in his closet that he won playing golf. So he's just like, he's kind of focused on random stuff that doesn't really involve the case being built against him.
In the midst of all this, his assistant Cathy Randa, gets a call from a guy named Roger King, who's just a random guy who among other things owns Inside Edition and knows OJ kind of. But he's calling and he's like, “We got to hire Bob Shapiro. He's the best.” And OJ’s like, okay, I don't know you. And Roger King tracks down Bob Shapiro, where he's hanging out at the house of blues that night. And Bob Shapiro is like, “Okay, I don't know you, but sure. Maybe.”
Mike: So this whole thing comes down to like a random person calling and just giving a name.
Sarah: Our friend from Inside Edition, you know, Roger.
Mike: That's so weird.
Sarah: It is so weird. Right? It's so weird. He's got the guy who freed DeLorean. I find this really interesting that like some person he barely knows from Adam is like, “I'm going to hire a lawyer for you”. And he basically just goes with it.
Mike: Yeah. It's like a really monumental decision, too. If you're like maybe, kind of, sort of, being accused of murder, who your lawyer is, is like a really big deal.
Sarah: By the way, don't feel too sad for Weitzman because he's representing Justin Bieber now. He's doing fine. That kid is always getting in trouble with exotic animals.
Mike: Yeah, that's true.
Sarah: So Bob Kardashians sleeps fitfully that night, and on the morning of June 14th, he drives back to OJ’s house from his home in Encino and shows up just as Howard Weitzman is leaving. And Kardashian goes up to OJ’s bedroom where he's having some oatmeal, and OJ is still in the same place he was last night of his sort of continual verbal disbelief and denial. Schiller writes, “That his voice rose as the words cascaded out, “You know, they're treating me like I'm a suspect. They're treating me as if I did it.” Now OJ moved to something more specific, Howard Weitzman at the police station yesterday. The lawyer had been wearing a suit. After all, his role was obvious. The cops had asked some tough questions. They were looking hard at him. You go downtown to the lawyer and people think something happened. Howard kept saying things would work out it's normal that they want to question you, but they searched the house all day long.”
Is this what you do when you are used to handling people with huge egos? Like you develop a habit of just kind of going with their grain to make things easier.
Mike: I guess.
Sarah: But yeah, I feel as if Weitzman in that basically was like, chose to let his client do the thing that would be worse for him. But I also feel like he's then like he's blaming Weitzman for things, for his house getting searched. Like he feels that sense of violation of the cops have been through my house, which like, I don't even like it when TSA goes through my bag.
Mike: So basically Howard becomes a vessel for all of OJ’s irritation about how this case is going.
Sarah: I think so. There's the fact that like Howard Weitzman was around and he was the only lawyer who OJ had when this happened. And so like, it has to be his fault. Like whose else's fault can it be? It can't be OJ’s fault.
Mike: Right. It's also an extension of all of the abuse dynamics we've seen, with both Nicole and with Paula, that this is the mindset of an abuser. That however I'm feeling, is the reality, and I'm going to take that out on whoever's around me and whoever made me feel that way.
Sarah: Yeah. And also the way that we push away the people that are capable of loving us. Especially as narcissists, it's like, okay, above almost anyone else. This man professed to love and stood by and spent a lot of money on John DeLorean. Do you think you are going to find someone better suited to your needs?
So on June 14, OJ and Kardashians arranged OJ’s escape from Rockingham. They go once again to OJ's offices, and this is where they have their first meeting with Bob Shapiro. And so this is the Kardashian as told to Schiller description;
“He had a cool, polite, precise manner, like a therapist, Kardashian thought. He's here to help. Simpson seemed to emerge from his lethargy. You have to hire the best investigators, criminalist, forensic people. Right now Shapiro said he must bring them in immediately to get an independent review of the evidence. Kardashian asked if Howard should be brought into this conversation. Shapiro said, ‘No’. Next he asked Kardashian to leave.”
So I love how Bob Shapiro, according to this telling, is like, “Shhh, just let it happen, just let me be your lawyer.”
Mike: He moved on him like the driver of a Pontiac GTO at a hamburger drive-in.
Sarah: Nice! He's like, “I rumble loudest”. I get why this would appeal to OJ, and probably would appeal to like any client, right? Because he comes in and he's like, we have to get the best people, the best forensics, the best crime scene, the best experts, the best of everything for you. Because this case and your innocence are so important, we need the best of everything for it. It's kind of appealing.
Mike: It's very like masculine. It's like this whole thing where the performance of confidence and competence is more important than demonstrating actual competence.
Sarah: Yes. And I feel like this is like, of course, okay, an acquaintance of an acquaintance. This is also why he would relentlessly have affairs if you're married because like a new person doesn't know what you're like.
Mike: It's funny to me how easy it is to scam people like OJ. Like people with this kind of worldview that sort of go fast and act on their emotions without realizing that they're acting on their emotions. It's like, it's so easy to do some razzle dazzle with these people and convince them of basically anything. Like I've seen this working in international development, I've seen this with billionaire philanthropists, too. That they'll meet somebody like at the coffee break table at fucking Davos, and after five minutes they're giving them millions of dollars for their asinine development idea. And it's like, do you not realize how easy it is to convince you of this bullshit? Like it's incredible to me that they don't see their own patterns.
Sarah: Rich people can afford to be impulsive. This is not mastermind behavior. This is someone who has like, failed to progress past the most elementary emotional stages and is maybe trapped there.
Okay. So they have this meeting. OJ likes him. And basically it like starts to happen. They're all just like, let's just kind of let this happen. You know, it's like he's moving in, Howard Weitzman is lighting up all of the possible phone lines that could get him to OJ, and no one is taking his calls. He's calling Bob Kardashian as well. And Lawrence Schiller writes;
“It made Kardashians squirm. He'd known Howard nearly 40 years and he hated seeing a friend treated this way, but he said nothing. Something was happening here that took precedence over a valued friendship. Kardashian realized he had crossed some threshold, whether he had planned to or not. So the next day, June 15, Bob Kardashian gets another call from Howard Weitzman. Because finally Skip Taft, OJ’s business advisor - whose name I love - has called Howard Weitzman and let him go. Schiller summarizes the call as, “Okay, wanted to make a change. He was hiring Robert Shapiro. Why hadn't his old friend protected him from embarrassment or at least warned him so he could protect himself? It was very unpleasant.
Personally as someone who constructs my entire life to avoid getting yelled at, like, I really feel like I'm getting Bob Kardashian in this moment.
Mike: What do you mean?
Sarah: You know, he's like, “Sorry, it just kind of happened around me and I could have said something, but I didn't.” You know, it's like his hedging everything basically, and doing everything within your power to avoid being the bearer of bad news. Which I feel like if you have weathered the decades as one of OJ Simpson's best friends, like, you know, this is another thing he has and - well, this might be the only thing - that Bob Kardashian has in common with Kato Kaelin, but they both seem to be people pleasers.
Mike: Yeah. And that very afternoon, Howard Weitzman goes on YouTube and wonders. “Is there a Canadian singing sensation who will later on illegal representation?
Sarah: And that man was Michael Bublé. So, next time we're going to continue to talk about the Dream Team. We are now, I realized that this is like the really fun part of the most fun kind of movie - which has a heist movie - which is where you assemble your crew.
Mike: Yeah. You get the team together.
Sarah: And so now that Bob Shapiro has hatched first and consumed all the other larva, he's going to assemble the crew. And we're going to talk about who these people are, where they came from, what their deal is, what kind of shady shit they've been up to, and what they're bringing to the team.
Mike: I am going to need some montages.
Sarah: Oh yeah. Also, do you want to hear a celebrity cameo that I didn't get to?
Sarah: So this is from a profile of Weitzman around the DeLorean trial. “Weitzman lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife Margaret, 29, who sits with DeLorean's wife Christina every day in court.
Weitzman's 12-year-old son, Jed, lives with his first wife who is now married to actor Henry Winkler”.
So I guess, and you know, in conclusion, OJ, why did you make this all so hard for yourself when your original lawyer had you one person away from the guy who could come in and slam the jury with his elbow and make it all go away.
Mike: And could keep his entire defense from jumping the shark.