Because of a dropped line, a quotation from former policeman Steve Juna Cox was misattributed to Orange County Sheriff Mel Coleman in Dave Kindred's column yesterday on Rommie Loudd. The quote: "I've never had any second thoughts about the Loudd case."
In January of 1975, Rommie Loudd needed a lot of money to get himself out of big trouble.
He had owned the Florida Blazers of the World Football League. In that, he was bold and unique, for no black man ever had run a pro football team, let alone one in the Deep South city of Orlando, Fla.
Loudd was also broke. His players and coaches had not been paid in weeks. Although the WFL was determined to go on another season. Loudd and the Blazers seemed dead.
So Loudd listened to a man who said he ran an asphalt-paving business and could help Loudd get money.
The man said he knew businessmen who would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars with Loudd.
But first, the man said, they would like to have some fun.
They're like to have a party. Some cocaine would be nice. It would loosen up the money men, the asphalt man said. Could Loudd get some coke for these guys?
Loudd arranged the sale of four ounces of cocaine.
He did not touch the cocaine and did not take the money paid for it. He was not a dealer. What he did was make a telephone call to arrange the sale for a man who was promising to help him out of trouble.
The man was an undercover policeman.
With Loudd's arrest, the local newspaper carried a story of the undercover cop's heroism. "Super Narc," it called him. Anonymous sources painted Loudd as the mastermind of an international drug-smuggling ring. Drugs were arriving in "lobster crates," the newspaper said.
On the policeman's testimony, Loudd was convicted of arranging the coke deal.
He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
That was three years ago.
In about three weeks, Rommie Loudd will leave prison on parole.
But the parole, granted last Thursday, is not the end of the Loudd case.
A politican, lawyer and former newspaperman will see to that.
They believe Loudd is a victim of a criminal justice system that went berserk.
They believe a bad cop lured a black man into a crime and then put him in the hands of a bigoted jury.
They believe the 14-year sentence is horrendously excessive. (Two pro football linemen pleaded guilty to selling 21 ounces of cocaine for their own profit. They were given a one-year sentence and now are back playing in the NFL.)
They believe the state of Florida owes Loudd not a parole but a full exoneration in the form of a pardon.
State Rep. Arnett Girardeau (D-Jacksonville) said, "This case has torn away the fabric of justice and we need to see that it cannot happen again. I am not finished with this case. I am convinced there is more to it."
Loudd's attorney, Ellis Rubin of Miami, said he has prepared appeals on the grounds that (1)Loudd was entrapped and (2) the jury was racially prejudiced.
The former newspaperman, Bill Clark, fired by the Orlando Sentinel during the Loudd affair, said of last week's parole. "They finally did something right - but it's not enough. Rommie deserves a pardon, because a parole just doesn't address the question of a frameup."
An interesting thing has happeneed to the undercover policeman who asked Loudd to buy him some cocaine.
The cop has been fired.
Steve Juna Cox is no longer thought of as "Super Narc."
"He's a glory hunter," said Ray Wood, a policeman who occasionally worked under cover with Cox on the Loudd case. "All he wanted was headlines."
Giving a deposition in another Orlando case involving Cox, Wood spoke of the Loudd-Cox affair. "I said it appeared to me to be an entrapment more than anything else," Wood said.
Cox was fired early this year by Orange County (Orlando) Sheriff Mel Coleman.
"Cox was running amuck in the community," Coleman said. "He was acting on his own frequently and he resented control, supervision and direction. I no longer had any confidence in him, so I tired him."
Coleman said he would not speculate on Cox's credibility as the state's primary witness against Loudd.
"But I think," the sheriff said, "that the face I had no confidence in him, couldn't control him and ultimately tired him speaks for itself."
"I've never had any second thoughts about the Loudd case," he said. "The facts are there. Anybody can see them. Certain points may sound bad, but if you take the whole thing, it's a typical case - typical of the way Steve Cox works a case."
Cox, now working in his family's seafood market in Tampa, said he was glad to hear of Loudd's parole.
"I understand he has straightened up his act," the erstwhile Super Narc said. "I hope he makes it, I really do."
For his part, Rommie Loudd said he is "praising God" for the parole and is considering offers to work in prison ministry.
He still believes he was put away because "we have problems in America with certain people owning certain things - such as a black man owning a business that could be worth millions. I was something they weren't ready for."
But he bears no malice, Loudd said.
"I don't want you to get the wrong idea, that I'm hostile or upset. I'm not. I still love the people of Orlando. My wife has a good job there. My daughter is on scholarship in college. Man might have meant my problems as evil, but God meant them as good. I'm able to forgive."