By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Staying in the drug game, Raysor's narrative argues, "was too risky with the warrant on me, but pretty soon I saw that I didn't need to sell drugs to survive. I taught myself that I could get by, even though it was no real life. . . . In a way the charges in 1996 freed me up; I was sick of the whole thing by then and wanted out."
After taking any job he could find demolition, handyman work, garbage clean-up, janitorialhe found what he claims was his salvation.
"Cake baking and icing designs were my main source of income in the last few years I was on the run," Raysor says in the report. "For the first six years I did lots of jobs to earn a little money. But for the last four I baked pretty regularly. For two years I baked maybe two cakes a month, but for the final two years I was selling about two each weekend. They were all for people who heard about my skills or saw my flyer; they used them for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays. I would save up enough money to rent a room for a day, and that would give me access to the communal kitchen. I would bake up a storm and sell my cakes, mostly for about thirty dollars. Everybody said they tasted good and looked great."
To bolster this claim, Raysor's defense team submitted pictures of six cakes with designs featuring the likes of Spider-Man and SpongeBob SquarePants. A flyer for "First Choice Cake's & Bake's," advertising cakes and cookies but with no contact information on it, was also included in the package to the judge.
Did Chaka Raysor borrow this recipe from the movie 16 Blocks? The film was released in March 2006. Five months later, he turned himself in. But the cake photos that Raysor's lawyer submitted to the judge have date stamps on them purporting to show that the pictures were taken between July and September of 2004. There is no proof offered that Chaka made those cakes himself back then or at any other time, or that, if he did, he created any others. The cake-baking business seems a stretch for a guy who's supposed to be broke and homelesswhat with all the ingredients needed, the pots, pans, and kitchen utensils, and the rental of a room to use the communal kitchen.
But that's his storycrack maker turned cake bakerand he's sticking to it.
Chaka Raysor agreed to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to sell drugs, but would admit to none of the murders or mayhem associated with his gang. The government's offer of no more than 19 1/2 years in prison was practically a fire sale. After all, his brother May-May and cousin Rawboth of them his subordinateshad received life-plus sentences.
The passage of time had made the case harder for prosecutors to make: Cops had retired; the original prosecutors, with their storehouse of knowledge and connections in their heads, had all moved on; and witnesses and other peripheral players had scattered.
The probation department, which by its nature has institutional memory, recommended the maximum sentence, 20 years to life, but the judge had flexibility. Vitalianowho acknowledged in a profile last year in the Staten Island Advance, "I don't like motion pictures at all, I never have. I much prefer live theater"nonetheless went for the typical feel-good-movie ending: 17 years in prison, meaning a chance, at the age of 53, to open a bakery. To that end, Vitaliano agreed to put in a word to have Raysor housed in Otisville prison, because it has a culinary arts program. No matter what Chaka really did after he fled prosecution, his decade on the lam has paid off.
In one of the corny scenes in 16 Blocks, detective Jack Mosely and bad-guy-turned-informant Eddie Bunker, while outrunning the bad cops that Bunker's supposed to testify against, get into a debate about whether people can change. "Days change, seasons change, not people," the detective says. "People don't change, Eddie." To prove him wrong, Bunker moves to Seattle, opens up Eddie & Jack's Good Sign Bakery (don't ask), and sends a cake to the cynical Mosely. Written in icing is "Chuck Berry, Barry White, Eddie Bunker and Jack Mosely. People can change. . . . "
Will Louie Savarese someday get a cake signed by Chaka Raysor? That would probably frost the detective.
"Who knows, maybe he turned his life aroundmaybe he found God," Savarese says. "It's possible, I guess. But I don't think so. I think he's full of shit."