Confessions of a Snake Oil Salesman
Evil walked into the courtroom today under the guise of an ordained minister. “Brother Frank” Minucci took the stand in the Robert Blake trial.
It was testimony that the press looked forward to, what they had always expected in this trial. The reporters, the die-hards and those who could not be relieved of their assignments, had endured a month of dry cross-examination of witnesses. Minucci was the gift for their patience.
Deputy District Attorney Samuels floated into the courtroom about 9AM, happily chatting to the assembled group about Minucci. “He has his own agenda,” she said. Samuels would not make a good poker player, she glows like a Cheshire cat whenever she thinks things are going to go her way. Conversely, she spits like a mad one when things go Blake’s way.
The court had just finished with Gary McLarty. McLarty said that although he had not believed police were trying to get him, or that Ito was trying to get him, or that his family was conspiring against him, or the undercover police were after him until September 2004, he did say that his car, home and cell phone might have been bugged before that time. And he also said that he always thought he could read minds.
One felt sorry for McLarty. He traded his sanity for cocaine. He believes what he says because there’s no reality for him any more.
Minucci entered wearing a dark suit over a minister’s collar. He’s a big man with a heavy New York accent. At times the accent made him unintelligible. Or maybe he was unintelligible at times on purpose. He said he’d been a “street guy” who ran numbers, had been a loan shark, and did a “lot of bad guy stuff.”
Twenty years ago Minucci said he met his wife, had a baby, and “found God.”
“I gave my life to the Lord,” Minucci said, under oath.
A book has been written about Minucci’s descent into grace called “Brother Frank.” He denied writing it, although his name is on the cover.
As the wolf in sheep’s clothing starts out quietly so as not to frighten the sheep, Minucci started telling his tale of how he knew Robert Blake.
Blake had first contacted Minucci’s publisher, asking if he could contact Minucci. After Minucci consented, Blake called him and they talked on the phone as much as twice a week and as little as once a month, according to Minucci for about a year and a half. At first, they talked about their backgrounds, having both come from abusive homes.
“We told war stories, we talked about our childhoods,” Minucci said, setting up for the kill.
He warmed up slowly, methodically. He said Blake had a lot of problems, that he was depressed, that he hated Hollywood, he hated actors, he hated directors.
“And what did he say about women?” asked Samuels.
The wolf then revealed himself and the flock took note. “They were to be used for filthy reasons,” replied Minucci with disdain when “filthy” came out of his mouth.
Minucci then launched into a barrage about Blake’s behavior. He said Blake would use profanity in every other word he spoke. Sometimes Blake sounded agitated, sometimes docile, as if he was “stoned.” Of course, Brother Frank knew when someone was stoned -- he runs a drug resource program.
Brother Frank next told a story of how Robert Blake complained a woman in New York kept bothering him and that every time he’d get away from her, he’d get back together with her. Blake told Minucci that “I don’t care how you do it, get her to change her phone number.”
It is this story where Minucci’s, not Blake’s, holiness is first discredited. And it is discredited by Minucci himself.
You see, this man of the cloth who had found God claimed to have obliged Robert Blake. He recruited a friend from “the old neighborhood” who was part of the “social club.” They called the woman Blake spoke about from a pay phone in Staten Island. First, the friend told her he was going to do all kinds of sexual things to her and that he was going to rip her clothes off, then handed the phone to Minucci. The friend said the woman had asked him when he was coming over. So Minucci “got a little dirty” with her. When she asked him how large his penis was, Minucci hung up.
On cross, Minucci, man of God, couldn’t remember the friend’s name at first. Then he said it was “Ralphie” from his book. Ralphie had no last name. “There’s a lot of us that don’t ask names,” Minucci said.
“Were you wearing a collar?” Schwartzbach asked, referring to the phone incident.
“Yep,” Minucci said.
The stories unfolded like a 1940s gangster movie. Blake sent Minucci money in the mail, offered him blank signed checks to “annihilate” someone.
Minucci talked about how Blake told him one day that he (Minucci) had “fucked up” and now he (Blake) had to “marry the bitch.” But Minucci also said that Blake invited Minucci and his wife to California after the wedding to discuss a movie script.
Minucci allegedly told Blake, “If you’re looking to whack somebody – I don’t do that any more.” Minucci went so far as to say that Blake wanted to “kill her and the kid.”
But it’s not the stories that show what a liar Minucci is. It’s in the timeline. On cross, Schwartzbach said that Minucci had first been contacted by Blake in 1996, not 1998, although Minucci denied that. And the last time that Robert Blake spoke with Brother Frank was in April 2000. Minucci admitted he didn’t remember the month, but thought it had been in the spring.
Schwartzbach didn’t bother to ask Minucci if he knew when Blake’s wedding occurred or when the baby was born. All he said was that if it was true Minucci had conversations that lasted up to an hour and a half, there would be a phone record of them1. Minucci never answered the question.
Minucci left a feeling of dirtiness behind him, of a man who had not found God, but a way to use God as a scam. The press, hungry for action, worshipped him.
It is an immoral person who will get up on the stand under oath and lie.
It is an unethical prosecutor who will put a liar on the stand in the name of the truth.
There is something much more insidious in this case than murder.
1On February 22, 2005, the defense presented the jury with both Frank Minucci's and Robert Blake's phone records, proving that Minucci lied about the hours and hours of phone conversations. According to those records, from April to September 1999, Blake and Minucci connected 10 times – 7 calls lasted only one minute, two calls lasted three minutes, and one call lasted 17 minutes. In April 2000, the records showed one call lasting one minute. It was the only call made in 2000 and also the last call before Bakley's death in May 2001. That call was made months before the baby was born, before DNA tests proved the baby was Blake's, and before Bakley and Blake were married. None of the heinous testimony Brother Frank gave was true. Schwartzbach also called Alan Smith of the National Enquirer to verify that Minucci sold a story in 2002. He displayed a picture of Minucci from the magazine –- a fat slob in a tee shirt without the holy collar he claimed he never took off.