By Albert Samaha
By Darwin BondGraham
By Keegan Hamilton
By Anna Merlan
By Anna Merlan
By Tessa Stuart
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
Lloyd was an unusual prisoner in other ways as well. He spent two hours a day as a literacy volunteer with inmates who couldn't read. He became a fundraiser for charities, hitting up the gangsters for donations for victims of Hurricane Andrew and a domestic violence shelter. The local chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which aids terminally ill children, made Lloyd its 1992 Volunteer of the Year.
"I'm pretty good at talking people out of their money," he told a newspaper reporter who wrote up the award.
He even managed to get a mechanical bull brought to the prison, taught inmates the basics of bull riding, and organized the prison's first rodeo.
When the time finally came for Lloyd to be paroled out of federal custody and into the hands of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the inmates of Lompoc fondly inscribed a huge card addressed to "Cowboy Mike" with a picture of a bull drawn on it.
The reward Pennsylvania, however, had far less use for Lloyd than the FBI had. Despite protests by federal prosecutors and agents, state officials said their hands were tied and that there was no way they could credit him with the extra four years spent in federal custody. Lloyd owed them a sentence of 10-to-20 years and he would have to serve it, with his earliest possible release date in 2007.
Things deteriorated further when word of Lloyd's cooperation suddenly leaked out, quickly filtering through the prison grapevine. Over the next few years, Lloyd bounced in and out of witness-protection units and solitary confinement, the only places that prison officials said they could be sure of his safety.
His situation gnawed at him: While cooperating witnesses with lengthy histories of violent crime, such as Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, who acknowledged 19 murders, were rewarded with their freedom, Lloyd, who had never injured anyone in his life, remained locked up.
As a last resort, Lloyd applied for clemency from the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in 1998. Working with his lawyer and his brother Jeff, a New Jersey auto dealer, Lloyd attempted to round up letters of endorsement from the federal authorities he'd aided.
Some readily agreed while others never responded and some declined.
Jeff Lloyd wrote a brief letter to President Clinton, with information attached, asking for his help. Clinton had recently pardoned 14 FALN members in a controversial move widely seen as beneficial to his wife's Senate campaign.
"I just thought that, given that Mike saved the lives of federal lawmen, the president might want to write a letter or pick up the phone on his behalf," said Jeff Lloyd.
Six months later he received a letter from a Justice Department bureaucrat saying it was a state matter and thus out of the department's hands.
Giuliani, after carefully reviewing the case (and after publication of an article in the Daily News detailing Lloyd's plight), wrote a two-page letter to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons on December 7, 1998.
Lloyd had come forward with his information about Persico's murder plan "on his own initiative, without any solicitation or promises by the Government," wrote Giuliani. In doing so, "Lloyd protected the life of an Assistant United States Attorney and provided important information which was beneficial to the U.S. attorney's office in its investigation of major organized-crime figures."
The FBI's senior resident agent in California said that Lloyd had provided "invaluable intelligence" that was "unobtainable from any other source [and had] saved more than one individual" and aided in 70 arrests and 30 convictions.
Alan Cohen, the former chief of the organized crime unit under Giuliani who had recruited Lloyd in prison, appeared personally before the board when its hearing was held on October 7, 1999.
Cohen explained that it was because the government had asked Lloyd for his help that he had missed his earlier chance at parole.
"The word extraordinarysort of doesn't do it for me," Cohen told the panel. "I wanted him to sit in a jail cell . . . in about the most dangerous prison in America, where a whiff [that] he was cooperating would have been an instant death sentence. . . . What Mike Lloyd was there for was to protect the rest of us, society," said Cohen.
Board members asked Cohen for details about Persico, and the potential danger he posed when Lloyd informed on him. "We would call him a mass murderer if it wasn't in the context of organized crime. He is an absolute stone-cold killer," Cohen said.
A representative of the Manhattan U.S. attorney said that Lloyd faced danger wherever he was housed and was slated to be admitted to the federal witness-protection program if released.
A warden on the five-member panel marveled that Lloyd had made it through 20 years of prison "and never receive[d] one misconduct in the whole 20 years . . . that is just amazing."
After the 45-minute hearing the board went into executive session and then reappeared to unanimously recommend Lloyd's parole.
Nine months later, the board's recommendation still sits on the governor's desk.
A spokesman for Governor Ridge, Tom Charles, would say only that the matter "is still pending. The governor is under no statutory deadline and he approaches all of [the cases] very thoughtfully."