In his 2013 debut as a jailhouse novelist, drug kingpin Darryl “God” Whiting followed a rule preached by creative writing teachers everywhere: Write what you know.
He did, and that decision is costing him dearly, as the events in federal court Thursday showed.
After 25 years in federal prison, the onetime overlord of the Orchard Park housing development was in court seeking a reduction in his life sentence.
But as he stood before Judge Patti B. Saris, it was readily apparent that Whiting faced a major hurdle: Saris had read his novel. The one where he describes a guy leaving prison and then torturing and killing people who testified against him. The one in which he discussed those future victims by name — real names, of real people in Boston.
Saris described sitting with Whiting’s fiction on one side of her and his pre-sentencing report on the other, matching up the names. It was easy to do, she said. “That worries me,” the judge said.
The potential release of Whiting worries a lot of people who remember his reign of terror in the development now known as Orchard Gardens. He commanded an army of at least 100 drug dealers and ruled a whole neighborhood through fear and intimidation. Women were frequent targets — or, to quote prosecutor Nathaniel Mendell, “He targeted female addicts.”
It’s often jarring to see major criminals years after their misdeeds, and Whiting was no exception. At 61, he looks fit and trim, but not especially menacing. He had a significant support team in the courtroom, led by his son, Darryl Jr., and a co-defendant, John James, who was freed after 10 years behind bars.
Whiting spoke on his own behalf. That might not have been a good idea. He chuckled as he insisted that he would never really harm the two women he describes torturing in his fiction, drawing an icy stare from Saris. The women in question, who were not named in court for their safety, have submitted statements in support of Whiting’s release. Whiting insisted that he had no plans to hurt anyone. He said he wants to work with youth, if he is released.
Hundreds of drug dealers who got stiff sentences in the 1990s are now eligible for reduced sentences, Whiting among them.
Few would dispute that many drug dealers who have been imprisoned for two decades or more were sentenced too harshly; indeed, it’s an issue that has drawn bipartisan agreement. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of them were black and brown, either.
But the rationale that many of those criminals were nonviolent offenders doesn’t apply to Whiting. He wasn’t some garden-variety drug dealer swept up in a politically motivated drug war. He was a crime lord who has now spent years plotting revenge on the “snitches” who put him away.
Who in their right mind would take his word that his book is only fiction, that he was only kidding? Who would risk anyone’s life on that? Of course Darryl Whiting shouldn’t be released from prison.
I was surprised that Whiting has supporters, but I shouldn’t have been. So many lives were ruined by the War on Drugs that the sentiment for second chances runs deep in the black community. And of course, Whiting was a legendary charismatic figure. So some perfectly decent people want to believe he has changed, that he could be some kind of youth counselor.
I can’t buy it. I don’t know Whiting personally, but I know what he did. He laid waste to countless lives with a venom and cruelty that is hard to fathom even years later. Now he wants the mercy he callously denied so many others. Putting Whiting away forever is as just as sentencing gets.
I’ll be saving my sympathy for the people who give thanks every day that Darryl Whiting can’t get to them.Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.