Daoud frequently contrasts his poverty with the wealth of his former friends. "You have Galbut sitting up there smoking his fat cigars," he rants. "Meanwhile I don't have food on my table. Instead of getting any sympathy or any understanding, he comes back to me and says, 'Abel Holtz wouldn't be happy.'
"You know, I'm happy to be alive," he continues. "My whole attitude is different." He sounds entirely unconvincing. "I'm very content in many ways. I know myself better than I ever did. I think there's a catharsis, a cleansing that comes with telling the truth." Daoud soon hopes to make a formal request of U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King to terminate his probation based on good behavior. (Attorney Bruce Rogow says the Galbut lawsuit shouldn't have an effect on Daoud's probationary status. "Whatever allegations were made, allegations are just allegations," he comments.)
Still, in our three years of conversation, which began shortly before his sentencing, Daoud has never once admitted to me that he deserved to go to prison. He concedes having committed plenty of crimes, but he says he suffered enough during the trial. "Not everybody who commits a crime goes to prison!" he says defiantly. "I went to trial. I think by fighting the justice system, you pay the price. I was willing to get in the ring. But I also wanted some corner men. All these people should have said, 'We have a moral obligation to stand by him.' All these people were doing these things with me but they were willing to sacrifice me. And that's the story I want to get out -- that I had misplaced loyalty."
He opens a thick red binder -- a typed draft of his uncompleted memoir, which has now stretched to 934 pages -- and begins reading from the opening section, in which he is being fitted with a wire by federal agents in advance of a meeting with Abel Holtz at the Forge restaurant in Miami Beach. The scene takes place in a room at a Howard Johnson hotel on Miami Beach (see sidebar).
He narrates a few paragraphs, then looks up. "Excellent!" he declares. "You gonna quote that in the article? Now if only I can maintain that level, it would be a Pulitzer Prize-winner, wouldn't it?
"So what are you going to call this?" he asks, referring to this article. "'Miami Beach Corrupted'?" He pauses in thought, then a self-satisfied smile curls across his face. "'Daoud Ascending'?