Otis Wallace, Florida City's "mayor for life," is corrupt with power
Gayle Marshall limped up to her lemonade-yellow Florida City home, the same low-slung house where she'd grown up and spent most of her 46 years. Life hadn't been kind to her. Police had gunned down her only son three years ago. Her mother had nearly died from a recent stroke. Marshall was poor and unemployed. Her club-like left foot, crippled since birth, dragged across the yard.
When she tried to open the back door, her key caught in the lock. She tried the front entrance, but it too wouldn't budge. Marshall called the only man in town who could be responsible: her older brother, Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace.
"I'm renting out the house," Marshall recalls Wallace saying coldly. "If you don't clear out, I'll sue you. Or send you to jail."
Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace
Marshall jimmied open her front door. Exhausted, she lay down on her bed in the dark. But minutes later, she heard voices and the squawk of radios outside. When she opened her eyes, she could see the red and blue pulse of police cruiser lights on the ceiling. Cops clutching shotguns had surrounded the house. Wallace's giant black Hummer screeched to a halt in the driveway.
"Get her out of here," he ordered the cops. Despite having her mother's permission to live there and a driver's license registered to the address, Marshall was evicted from her family home.
She couldn't argue. Wallace's word is bond in Florida City, a dirt-poor suburb of shotgun shacks and gas stations 35 miles south of Miami, where Florida's Turnpike dissolves into the Keys. When he was elected in 1984, Wallace became one of Florida's first black mayors, a civil rights hero who had helped desegregate his high school and then returned after college to aid his poverty-stricken hometown. After Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, he oversaw Florida City's reconstruction and earned national acclaim.
Twenty years later, Wallace is still in office. But something is now rotten in Florida City. Official documents, interviews, and a two-month investigation by Miami New Times paint the picture of a powerful man corrupted into a millionaire land owner who manipulates elections and abuses his position. Records show the FBI and the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit have repeatedly investigated Wallace, collecting testimony that he illegally sold his vote for a $1 million land deal and orchestrated bribes for city permits. Political opponents, meanwhile, have handed federal investigators evidence that a convicted felon working for the mayor has influenced votes.
Wallace emphatically denies the allegations. He says he has never taken a bribe or sold his vote, and that his personal wealth is from inheritance and hard work. He insists he has never spoken to investigators and wasn't aware of any probe. And he calls his accusers "liars" who are trying to destroy his reputation. "I don't care about testimony before the FBI," he says. "It's bullshit."
But the most damning evidence against Wallace might be his own sister's claim that he considers himself "untouchable."
"He's been living high on the hog for too long," she says. "He's using his political power to railroad me — his own flesh and blood. If he can be that nasty to me, who knows what else he's capable of."
Otis Wallace stares out of the open passenger window of an old Crown Victoria and surveys his kingdom. The 60-year-old has changed since he was first elected city councilman three and a half decades ago. Once a slim teenager, he's now approaching sumo-wrestler size. His hair and mustache are flecked with white. And his brown cheeks are beginning to wrinkle. Florida City has changed too.
"I want to show you the future," the mayor says. Blighted buildings on the edge of town give way to sprawling tomato fields. "Just look at the growth potential."
Both Wallace and Florida City have grown. As his personal wealth has swelled, so have city limits — each driven by the mayor's insatiable hunger for success. Today Wallace wields more power over his personal fiefdom than any other politician in Florida.
Otis T. Wallace was born in Florida City on Halloween in 1951, when blacks weren't allowed south of Palm Drive, let alone in office. His mother Hattie worked back-breaking days picking tomatoes in 100-degree heat. His father was a farm organizer in the sugarcane fields near Lake Okeechobee. When they divorced, Hattie found a job boxing fruit at the local packing house.
Wallace describes his childhood as "happy-go-lucky." His mom and stepdad — a fellow tomato packer — were gone often, following crops up the East Coast. Otis and his six sisters lived in a poor, black Florida City neighborhood near a notorious nightclub called Mom's Place. But his grandparents pampered their only grandson.
"Otis had the softest feet of all of us because Grandma would never allow him to go outside barefoot," says Wallace's older sister, Barbara Jordan, who's now a Miami-Dade commissioner. Even then, Otis had a way of commanding others. "Boys would gather at our place to play softball in the dirt road, and he would pretty much boss them all around."
At night, Otis watched Perry Mason episodes on television with his grandparents. In every episode, the dapper attorney would inevitably save his client's life. Wallace loved Mason's perfect record. "He was a winner," Wallace remembers. "And I liked that."
That determination to win put him on the path to politics. He arrived at South Dade Senior High School in the fall of 1968, a few months after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. His senior class was the first to be integrated at the school, and white students welcomed their black classmates by lynching a black dummy from the flagpole.
Things got worse. Wallace had played the trombone since grade school. But South Dade High's mascot was a Confederate rebel, and Otis was expected to don the gray uniform of the South and play "Dixie." "Even the tubas had Confederate flags on them," he says. "I couldn't stomach that."
Wallace led black students in protest. But school administrators did nothing, and Otis began receiving threats at school and at home. "I knew better than to go to the bathroom or the parking lot by myself," he says. Angry whites would call his house at all hours of the night. Eventually, the school board allowed him and other black students to transfer.
Wallace won a scholarship to Michigan State University, where he excelled. When he returned home four years later to attend the University of Miami law school, he found that racial tensions had dissipated, but inequality hadn't. There were sidewalks and clean streets on the south, white side of town. But public services scarcely existed in black neighborhoods. Wallace began attending city council meetings while studying for the bar.
"It got to the point where I thought the political system could work for me," he says. He decided to challenge then-mayor John Calautti's political machine by visiting every black household in town. It worked. In 1976, Wallace became the first black man elected in Florida City.
Eight years later, he took on Calautti himself. In true Perry Mason style, Wallace pulled out an amazing upset, garnering twice as many votes as Calautti.
Within months, he established a formula that would serve him well for the next 28 years. He coaxed hotel chains to build on the cheap land astride U.S. 1. Then he used the added tax revenue to extend services such as sewer and water hookups to his poor constituents.
From the beginning, however, politics and moneymaking were a volatile mix for Wallace. His full-time mayor's salary was just $23,000 a year at the time, so Wallace purchased 223 low-end apartments in Florida City and Homestead. In 1989 — a year after Wallace was re-elected without opposition — the Miami Herald revealed that many of the mayor's properties were slums. Some were crack houses. Wallace had been slapped with 178 housing violations in the previous two years for everything from cockroaches to exposed high-voltage wiring. Investigators even found children cooling off by playing in septic water from a faulty sewage line.
"It was one of those get-rich-quick, no-money-down things," Wallace told New Times in 1996. "The property was in the same condition the day before I bought it... but the minute I bought it, it was supposed to be instantly transformed with a magic wand into beachfront condos."
Wallace paid several thousand dollars in fines and sold the properties shortly thereafter.
The scandal was quickly forgotten on August 24, 1992, when Hurricane Andrew tore through Florida City. The storm obliterated nearly 400 homes and heavily damaged hundreds more. Entire blocks were gone. City hall was destroyed. So was the mayor's own house. But Wallace kept working, overseeing rescue missions from a trailer. Barbara Jordan drove down to see her brother a few days after the hurricane.
"It looked like a Third-World country," she says. "Otis was walking around just trying to bring in whatever help he could to put the city back together."
Barely two years later, Wallace cut the ribbon on the massive Florida Keys Factory Shops off U.S. 1 to widespread acclaim. "The hurricane hit, and we had to dig in to survive," the mayor says. "Any thought of leaving office and playing lawyer was brushed to the side."
But in the years after the catastrophe, shortly after the $20 million mall opened, county officials discovered that Florida City inspectors had never reviewed the designs. Even worse, they found that plans for an entire neighborhood had never been filed. The shady subdivision was the Village of Palm Bay, where Wallace and his family were living. Suspicion fell on Florida City's director of building and zoning, Robert Barrett, a close friend and real estate partner of Wallace's. Barrett refused to cooperate with the investigation. He resigned a month later, citing heart problems. Neither Barrett nor Wallace was charged.
Wallace was celebrating 23 years in power when another of his top employees was arrested on corruption charges in 2007. Housing director Matthew Price II admitted to pocketing $10,000 for steering a $4 million contract to a friend. He also copped to fraudulently acquiring a mortgage, collecting rent on city property, and flipping city land for a personal profit. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison. Wallace was never charged in the case and indeed points out he fired Price months earlier.
Now released, Price won't discuss the case. "That's not something I'm interested in talking about," he says.
Like the slum housing scandal, Wallace miraculously emerged untouched. He was re-elected in 2008 and again in 2010.
Today he sits in his corner office in Florida City's futuristic city hall, designed by renowned Miami architect Andres Duany for a cool $5.6 million.
"Not one penny from local taxes," Wallace boasts. Indeed, with every year in office, the mayor gets better at bringing home the bacon. He estimates $7 million of his $18 million city budget last year came from federal, state, or private grants. He even admits to using outdated census information that depicts Florida City as poorer than it truly is to get the grants. But the ends justify the means. "How do you run a city in a terrible economy without raising taxes? That's what keeps my job fresh."
Wallace now earns $150,000 a year to run his 11,000-resident city, where average income is still a paltry $9,337 a year — roughly a third the state average. Four of every ten residents live in poverty. When Wallace retires, though, he'll receive $120,000 until he dies, under a measure he introduced in 2005.
But the mayor shrugs off the suggestion that he and his staff are overpaid. "I will not apologize for something that works," he says firmly.
Darin Baldwin was tired of staying silent. A few days after Thanksgiving in 2009, the 14-year veteran of Florida City government stuffed four envelopes with everything he knew about Otis Wallace. He scrawled the addresses of the FBI, Miami-Dade Police Department, Gov. Charlie Crist, and the county commission. Then he dropped the envelopes into the mail.
For more than two years, only a handful of individuals inside those organizations knew of Baldwin's letter and his later testimony to investigators. But the documents, obtained by New Times, contain explosive allegations against Wallace. In them, Baldwin says the mayor traded his vote for land he later flipped for $1 million. Baldwin also claims that members of Wallace's administration took hundreds of thousands in bribes that were later passed to the mayor. Prosecutors never charged him, but the documents and New Times' own two-month investigation raise troubling questions about Wallace's administration.
On December 11, 2009, Baldwin secretly met with investigators in a warehouse across from Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Doral and spilled his guts. In a sworn statement to the FBI and Miami-Dade Police's Public Corruption Investigations Bureau, Baldwin said he had served as Florida City's public works director for eight years but was fed-up with corruption.
Baldwin began by describing how Wallace had allegedly sold his vote to Steve Torcise Sr., a real estate developer who owned land in Florida City. According to Baldwin, the two made a deal: If Wallace voted to rezone 100 acres of land — and convinced commissioners to do the same — Torcise would sell the mayor a chunk for the cut-rate price of $100,000. Once rezoned, both men would resell the land for a huge profit.
"Torcise gave the mayor ten acres of land in return for [getting] the other hundreds of acres rezoned," Baldwin told investigators. "The mayor, in turn, after he got it rezoned, sold it for a million dollars."
Baldwin's testimony didn't end with accusations over a shady land deal. He also claimed developers and businesses routinely were asked for bribes. When they needed permits or contracts, businesses would approach the community development director, Bill Kiriloff, and he'd refer them to Tomas Mesa, a former building and zoning director. Mesa then demanded anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 to ensure the deal went through. Some of the money was then kicked back to the mayor, Baldwin alleged.
Often, Kiriloff would bypass lower bids to reward companies that paid bribes, Baldwin continued. The corruption was easy to hide, he testified: "For various reasons, if they didn't dot an i or cross a t or they left out a paper, they'll disqualify someone."
Finally, Baldwin told investigators that Mark Ben-Asher, the finance director, was complicit in the scam, falsifying documents to benefit the mayor and funneling illicit funds to Kiriloff and Mesa. "He's the right-hand man to the mayor," Baldwin said.
Wallace fired Baldwin a few months after he went to the feds. New Times was unable to reach Baldwin for comment.
The mayor strongly denies all of his former employee's allegations, dismissing them as "sworn testimony by a liar." He says he fired Baldwin because electrical parts went missing on his watch — not for ratting to the feds. "Just because a guy that I fired wants to connect me to a land deal doesn't mean that I should know anything about it," Wallace says.
Mesa, Torcise, and Ben-Asher also deny their alleged roles in the schemes. Yet the investigation didn't end with Baldwin's claims alone.
Although public records don't show Torcise directly sold Wallace any land, they do show that in 2002, Torcise sold two parcels for $233,100 to a company called Avenue B St, Inc. The land was rezoned for residential in June 2003, just weeks before Avenue B St sold it to another company for $810,000 — a hefty fourfold profit. The vice president of Avenue B St is none other than Mesa, who at the time was still zoning director.
Torcise admits to selling the land to Mesa but says politics had nothing to do with the deal. "I sold a piece of surplus land to Tom Mesa and he got it zoned," Torcise says. "I had nothing to do with the rezoning."
Mesa, likewise, says the deal was legit. He says Baldwin was a "known drug user" and unreliable witness. "He would come to me on occasion asking me to loan him money," Mesa says. "Now he's making allegations because I stopped talking to him."
Also bolstering Baldwin's claims about the deal: Records show that Wallace purchased a Key Largo mansion — complete with a dock and boat lift — for $1.7 million three years later, in 2006. It's just the tip of a vast real estate holding he has acquired while working as a public servant making only $59,000 as recently as 1996. Wallace now owns at least 15 properties, according to financial statements he filed in 2010. They include two houses in Florida City, two properties in Cutler Bay, three properties and four lots in New Smyrna Beach, an empty plot in Jacksonville, and undeveloped agricultural land in Hawaii. Mesa, meanwhile, owns a $3.4 million home on the opposite end of the island.
Wallace says he paid for the Key Largo mansion with two mortgages, not a shady land deal. He says he inherited property in New Smyrna from his wife's parents and that he purchased the Hawaiian land during an expo at the Miami Beach Convention Center. "It cost $17,000 — not very expensive property," he says. "I can afford that in my sleep. I'm not apologizing for being an entrepreneur."
Baldwin's description of systemic bribery in Florida City, meanwhile, is supported by additional evidence. On January 7, 2011, detectives interviewed Mary Rivera, owner of several rental property management companies in town. She told them that she had applied for permits to remodel her properties in 1998. Mesa — then the director of building and zoning — demanded $25,000 for the permits, she said. Rivera paid and began construction, but Mesa was back a month later asking for another $15,000. This time, she secretly recorded their meeting. She asked if the bribe was for him, Mayor Wallace, and Bill Kiriloff. Mesa replied it's the way things are done.
(Rivera, reached by phone, admits meeting with investigators but now claims she didn't tell them anything. Mesa, meanwhile, says Rivera concocted the story because "she wanted to have a relationship" and "she's unhappy I turned her down.")
Finally, there is also evidence backing up Baldwin's claim that finance director Mark Ben-Asher laundered bribe money flowing into Florida City. According to investigators' records, Ben-Asher's own former payroll manager, Dorothy Henderson, said large sums of city money were inexplicably paid to companies owned by or in partnership with Mesa and Kiriloff.
Henderson declined to comment for this story. Ben-Asher denies any involvement in bribery and says he's named because he was "instrumental" in getting Baldwin fired. "So I can expect some fallout," he says. He also says Henderson was just a "bookkeeper [who] would not have the ability to determine what transfers... were improper."
Wallace, meanwhile, insists he and his administration are clean. Asked what he thinks of Henderson's and Rivera's statements corroborating Baldwin's claims of corruption, the mayor says, "The word bullshit comes to mind. It's a fairy tale."
The evidence wasn't enough for prosecutors. On January 11, 2011, two detectives from Miami-Dade's public corruption unit met with Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Senior to discuss the case. They asked the prosecutor to subpoena Wallace's bank statements, which would "provide the necessary evidence needed to verify the allegations," Det. Ashley Thomas wrote in a memo.
But Senior refused. Instead, he said the statute of limitations had expired on many of the charges and there wasn't enough evidence to proceed. The case was closed February 22, 2011.
There's a bloody coda to Baldwin's accusations. On November 10, two days before his 62nd birthday, Bill Kiriloff was found slumped over the wheel of his black sedan in Florida City's Fasulo Park with a hole in his head. He was wrapped in a blanket. Two silver handguns rested on the city official's lap, and an empty can of Heineken lay on the floor in the back. Police ruled the death a suicide.
Kiriloff had long faced allegations of drug use and corruption before he became a member of Wallace's inner circle. While working as a Charlotte County administrator, his secretary twice found cocaine on his desk. Kiriloff was arrested February 12, 1989, and pleaded no contest to the drug charge.
Just a few years later, Kiriloff was hired in Florida City. Wallace says then-city manager Dick Anderson hired the ex-con. The mayor also claims he learned of Kiriloff's past only in December 2003, when Gov. Jeb Bush pardoned him. By then, Kiriloff had spent "ten to 12 years at the city doing a good job," Wallace says.
Marlene Kiriloff, Bill's ex-wife, says she knew of his cocaine and gambling problems long before he left her in 1980. After their divorce, people began asking her if he had taken bribes. Eventually, she began wondering the same thing herself.
She was shocked by her ex-husband's apparent suicide, but not by news of investigations in Florida City. "After all his problems, there must have been somebody holding a candle for him to get into government again," she says.
James Brady stands on the corner of Lucy Street handing out cards with his name, photo, and "Vote #50" on them. Hip-hop thumps from a nearby car as voters trickle past on their way to the polls. It's January 24, Election Day in Florida City. And Brady, a tall, lanky 29-year-old with dark skin, a shaved head, and a gold cap on one tooth, has a sales pitch that's hard to forget: Elect me and I'll send Otis Wallace to jail.
"People are starting to realize that they shouldn't be scared of this guy anymore," he says of Wallace. "We're going to take him down."
After years of cakewalk elections, Wallace is facing open revolt. Two political opponents including Brady have collected evidence that Wallace uses a convicted felon to manipulate votes. New Times' own interviews with several voters substantiate the candidates' claims. And a year after federal prosecutors shut the corruption case against Wallace, the FBI is once again investigating him.
Wallace denies the allegations and says he isn't aware of any ongoing FBI investigation. "For the past 28 years, I've always had more votes than my opponents in every category," he says. " I don't need to [steal votes]."
Brady began collecting clues to the contrary after the last election in 2010. It was his first attempt at the city commission. He had little money and no experience and was up against two incumbents endorsed by the mayor. Wallace himself was running for re-election against a South Dade High teacher and former commissioner named Israel Andrews. He had run two years before and come closer than anyone to ousting the mayor-for-life.
But when election night 2010 rolled around, Wallace thumped Andrews by 28 percent. Brady also lost, finishing third out of five candidates. Both men were suspicious of the results. More than a dozen people told Andrews that they had requested absentee ballots but never received them. One man, Charles Hodge, showed up at the polls on Election Day and was turned away — someone had already voted under his name.
"That was the first hint that there were votes cast that weren't legal," Andrews says. He filed a lawsuit claiming widespread voter fraud, especially among absentee ballots. In a mayoral election decided by just 256 votes, dozens had voted when they were ineligible, scores of eligible voters had been deprived of their vote, and absentee ballots had even been sent to the homes of people in jail, he argued.
Challenging the results would cost at least $50,000. "I would have emptied out my 401(k) and my kids' college funds to do it if I had been sure that we'd win." Instead, Andrews dropped the suit.
Brady didn't take his loss lying down, either. He requested election records and then went with his father, a local pastor, door-to-door to ask people if they had voted. "People kept telling me: 'I voted, but I don't know who I voted for. Tim voted for me,'" Brady says.
"Tim" is Tim Milton, an electioneer working for Wallace who has been convicted of multiple counts of battery on a police officer, cocaine possession, and trespassing. Brady and his dad say Milton filled out ballots for at least a dozen elderly voters, sometimes in exchange for a Christmas turkey, and that Wallace paid the ex-con $3,500 for his work. Brady says he has handed all the information on Milton to the FBI.
New Times spoke with two Florida City residents who admitted Milton filled out their ballots.
"Tim came by about three weeks ago," elderly voter Mattie Strickland said. "He came by my house and talked to me. He filled it out for me."
"Tim Milton was here in his red truck," Evelena Smith echoed. " He fills it out because I had a stroke and I don't focus too good. He just gives suggestions."
New Times also confirmed the FBI is investigating the alleged fraud. Kevin Mays, who works as a guard at Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, laughed when a reporter knocked on his door. "Seriously? The FBI were just here last week," he said, parroting what several other nearby voters said. "They asked if anybody offered me a bribe for my vote."
Back on the corner of Lucy Street, Brady is still flagging down cars and passing out flyers half an hour before polls close on election night. Ten yards away, Milton stands in the middle of the road campaigning for Brady's two competitors, both Wallace allies.
"You can get away with murder here as long as you're on Wallace's team. But we have people that admit he filled their ballots out," Brady seethes.
Confronted by New Times, Milton denies getting paid by Wallace to fill out absentee ballots.
"Don't come asking me nothing about that shit. I'm volunteering," he says. "The only thing I do for old people is help them."
Then Milton shouts, "They're calling them motherfucking people, telling them: 'Tim be doing this or that.' This is about winning. Accept your ass-whoopin', man."
An hour after the polls close, Brady walks out from beneath city hall's monstrous clock tower. He's just a silhouette, but the results are etched in his slumped shoulders.
"We lost," he says, blinking his eyes in disbelief. "We lost bad."
Gayle Marshall hobbles into her apartment in the Jubilee Courtyards housing project in Florida City and painfully sits on a couch next to a giant, fading TV set. Boxes of candy and jars of pickled eggs are spread on a table. Marshall sighs and says she doesn't know whether her brother is as corrupt as people say, but she surely knows what he did to her.
"I lost my child, and then right after that, he threw me out of my own house," she says, fighting back tears. "I really feel violated."
In a city full of accusations against Wallace, the most serious of all might be his own sister's tale of betrayal.
Marshall and Wallace were never close growing up. He was 13 years older and raised mostly by his grandparents. By the time Marshall was born, their mother had remarried and found more comfortable work as a city clerk. "I think that he resented that my mother raised me," Marshall says. "He was always away at school. I had to be reminded sometimes that I had a brother."
She was 20 and pregnant when Wallace won his first mayoral election. "We were proud of him," she remembers. "People thought that he was a good man back then."
Marshall gave birth to a son, Isiah. But her club foot hurt too much to return to her job as a nurse's aide. She went to her newly empowered brother for help. Instead of giving her a desk job, Wallace assigned his crippled sister to feeding the ducks in Fasulo Park. Twice every day she had to hose avian shit out of the park's pavilion. "It was just something to push me off," she says. She was eventually transferred to another job, but by then her health was failing, so she raised her son on her disability check.
While Wallace grew rich and accrued power, Marshall struggled to get by, and her son began getting into trouble. Isiah Marshall was arrested more than a dozen times and convicted of grand theft auto and obstructing an investigation in 2007.
On July 10, 2008, Gayle picked up Isiah's son for the day to watch her grandchild. Isiah was distracted and worried. "I'm a target," he told her. "If anything happens to me, it'll be the police."
It was the last time she saw him. Two days later, Isiah was shot and killed outside a local nightclub by Fabian Owens, an off-duty Florida City cop who had been fired from the Miami-Dade Police Department the previous year.
A police report says Isiah hit Owens twice with his car, leaving the officer afraid for his life. But internal affairs records show Owens had another potential motive: Isiah had just stolen his car speakers. Owens unloaded five bullets into Isiah at close range — but prosecutors later cleared the officer of any wrongdoing.
At the funeral, Wallace said Isiah was a "good man" and "the apple of Gayle's eye." But Marshall believes that her brother stonewalled her requests for an investigation. "What was [Owens] doing getting hired right after he was suspended from Metro-Dade?" she asks. Marshall thinks Florida City Police Chief Pedro Taylor — Wallace's godson — was doing someone a favor. "But he killed my child," she says.
Marshall didn't initially blame her brother for Isiah's death. But when Wallace suddenly evicted her from her childhood home last August 14, she began to rethink things.
According to police reports, Wallace was the one to call the cops on his sister. He said he had power of attorney over the residence, even though he had never lived there. Marshall says if their ailing mother gave Wallace power of attorney, it was to take care of family properties in Georgia, not to dispossess his own sister.
Marshall was distraught by the eviction, but she has now put her faith in God — and the current FBI investigation.
(Wallace says he has no sympathy for his sister. "I can't believe that Gayle would stoop so low as to talk to you. My sister felt that we should just give her a free house. That's nice work if you can get it.")
As Marshall finishes her tale, there's a knock on her door. A young girl with dirty hair comes in to buy one of Marshall's pickled eggs for 50 cents. Marshall's cousin, Isaac Booker, fishes it out with a slotted spoon.
"He has everything," Marshall says, returning to the subject of her brother and the eviction. "Why did he need my house?"
Even now, she is conflicted over what should happen to Wallace. "I could forgive him," she admits. "But if he's done wrong, then he should be punished. I just want justice. He ain't above the law."
"Yeah, he is," Booker snarls.
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