Still hung up on the unsolved murder of Damion Lucas, FBI agent Herm Groman devises an elaborate sting to ensnare the corrupt cops of the Detroit Police Department. Will it bring down Mayor Coleman Young, too?
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NOT ONE CONCRETE CHARGE
The FBI monitored Coleman Young for decades — from his early years as a labor organizer in the late 1940s, through the end of his 20-year tenure as mayor of Detroit. Excerpts from Young’s FBI file are published here for the first time:
The YOUNg MILITANT
Although Young was always evasive about his Communist ties — he refused to denounce the Party, insisting that it was a valuable ally in the fight against racism — his FBI file includes what appears to be a Communist Party registration card in his name from the 1940s. Federal agents also suspected that he was using the alias “Alexander Washington” in some of his political activities, so the FBI conducted a handwriting comparison between Young’s Communist Party registration card and Alexander Washington’s membership card.
TRACKING COLEMAN YOUNG
THE STATE SENATOR FROM MICHIGAN
After Coleman Young was elected to the Michigan State Senate, the FBI noted that he only attended one meeting of the Freedom Forum Club of the Michigan District Communist Party. The FBI office in Detroit eventually decided it would conduct no further investigation of Coleman Young’s communist activities, since he seemed to have drifted away from the Party.
The Vista Investigation
Even after the FBI ceased the investigation of Coleman Young’s communist activities, other FBI investigations of Coleman Young continued well into his tenure as mayor of Detroit. One such investigation surrounded a bid rigging scheme for a city sludge hauling contract.
THE POLICE ESCORT
In an undercover recording of the meeting on the yacht, Sergeant Harris offers to use his police radio to direct any interfering cops away from the cocaine shipments.
THE STOREHOUSE OF INFORMATION
In 2004, Sergeant Harris began to communicate with Martin Torgler, one of the FBI agents who worked on Operation Backbone. In this letter, attorney James Craven outlines Harris’s claims that Gil Hill did indeed provide investigative information to Cathy Volsan regarding the murder of Damion Lucas. Courtesy of Jimmy Harris.
Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify. This episode was produced by Rob Szypko, Ryan Murdock, John White, Soraya Shockley, Samantha Lee, and Austin Mitchell. The senior producer is Drew Nelles. Editing by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. Fact-checking by Jennifer Blackman. This episode was mixed, sound designed, and scored by Kenny Kusiak. We’ve added a Crimetown companion playlist on Spotify. We’ll add songs on Mondays to complement each new episode. There’ll be Detroit classics from Motown to hip hop, tracks we used in the episodes, and other songs about the Motor City. Head over to crimetownmusic.com to check it out. Original music this season composed by Homer Steinweiss. We recorded some original music at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit in partnership with Detroit Sound Conservancy.
Special thanks to Carleton Gholz and Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd. Additional music by Kenny Kusiak, John Kusiak, Jon Ivans, and Benny Reid, and additional mixing by Bobby Lord. Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death. Our credit music this week is “Cash Flow” by Detroit Soul Ambassador Melvin Davis. Archival research by Brennan Rees. Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven. Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Jim Schaeffer, Mary Schroeder, Mary Wallace, the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, Melissa Samson, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, the Detroit Historical Society, Brendan Roney, Kevin Dietz, Zak Rosen, Martin Torgler, Ralph Musilli, Evan Hughes, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit is an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.