He Ain't Guilty, He's My Partner

Hip-hop mogul David Mays talks about Raymond Scott, journalistic ethics, and Miami Beach cops

It does seem a bit suspect that an artist who has yet to produce a hit album could keep landing on his feet (this time at Motown) and continually attract a bevy of hip-hop's biggest names to lay down cameos on his songs. Indeed to most hip-hop fans these accusations are much more damning than any tangles with police. And the recent Source awards aren't going to soothe suspicions: There was Scott credited as an executive producer right under Mays, as well as performing a song from his forthcoming Benzino solo album for nationwide UPN-TV broadcast.

"You want to talk about conflict of interest, go look at AOL-Time Warner's magazines, not mine," Mays bristles. "People can dredge up whatever they want. We have the credibility of millions of readers around the world, and that's the most important thing to me."

Get at me dog: Ray "Benzino" Scott and producer Teddy Riley hold court at the Source Hip-Hop Awards
Get at me dog: Ray "Benzino" Scott and producer Teddy Riley hold court at the Source Hip-Hop Awards

Which brings us back to the August 21 incident with the speeding Ferrari. Given Scott's past criminal history and his controversial role with the Source, it would be easy to dismiss his accusations of unprovoked police brutality. A thorough review of Ofcr. Robert Silvagni's personnel and internal affairs files reveals no obvious pattern of abuse, though there is the accidental firing of his weapon during a 1994 traffic stop of a suspected stolen car. (According to Chief Barreto, that is one of only two such occurrences in the past seven years.)

Yet Silvagni's own police report of the incident, as well as onsite testimony from several eyewitnesses, raises troubling questions. Silvagni states that after pulling over Scott and passenger Curtis Williams, an angry conversation immediately ensued. As Silvagni stood at the Ferrari's driver's side window, Scott was reportedly uncooperative and began cursing him and issuing threats.

In that situation -- a lone officer facing a hostile driver and his passenger -- logic would suggest caution: Call for backup and wait before making any moves. Instead an outnumbered Silvagni says he opened the car door, grabbed Scott by the wrist and shoulder, and attempted to physically drag him from the car. It was only while the two were subsequently wrestling on the ground that he called for backup. If as Silvagni feared during this struggle he believed Scott or Williams may have been armed, this move wasn't just foolhardy, it was practically suicidal. Witnesses confirm that both Scott and Williams were resisting arrest, though that doesn't excuse Silvagni's initial rash behavior. Those witnesses also verified Williams's dramatic cell-phone call recorded on David Mays's voice mail, and were able to repeat much of its content.

During an extensive interview with Chief Barreto, Kulchur asked if hauling hostile suspects out of their automobiles was standard operating procedure during solo traffic stops. Barreto said it was each officer's judgment call. In Silvagni's case it was a call the chief stood by, though he added he had yet to discuss the incident with the officer.

At this point only Silvagni, Scott, and Williams know what really happened in that parking lot. So if Scott's past is going to be used to prove his guilt prior to a hearing, then perhaps it's worth recalling Silvagni's history as well. "Silvagni has one problem area that interferes with his ability to perform," states an October 1987 evaluation from his police-academy instructor. "Silvagni cannot accept criticism without becoming defensive. He invariably justifies his actions in lieu of accepting constructive criticism."

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