Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
April 21, 1966, Vol. XI, No. 27
U.S. Tried to ‘Set Up’ Ginsberg for Dope Run
By Marlene Nadle
Musician Jack William Martin, underground film-maker Jack Smith, and poet Piero Heliczer were convicted last week in Federal court of assaulting narcotics agents. Irene Nolan, a theatre employee, was found not guilty. At the four-day trial the defense described an alleged plot that was intended to “set up” poet Allen Ginsberg for a narcotics arrest.
The scuffle between the avant garde and the agents took place on August 11 at the Broadway Central Hotel. It occurred after agents attempted to arrest Martin, who’d just finished a speech at a benefit in which he stated that the police had promised him a light sentence on a pending marijuana charge if he would cooperate in setting up Ginsberg.
At the trial, testimony was given that Federal narcotics agents in sports shirts had taken Martin off the platform, up the aisle, and into the hallway, where Miss Nolan testified she slapped one of the men. Then, Heliczer, followed by Smith, became involved.
The defendants claimed they were unaware that the men in sports shirts were agents. Government witnesses admitted that only one of the agents was wearing a badge.
The narcotics agents stated that their presence at the hotel on the night of the arrest was prompted by an alleged threat made by Martin against Raymond Cutler, a government witness in the Martin marijuana case. Cutler was also a government witness in the marijuana case against Dr. Timothy Leary. Agent Bruce Jensen said in court that the government has a case pending against Cutler.
Conflicting testimony was given at the trial about the wording and intent of the alleged threat against Cutler. Government witnesses testified that Martin had said to Cutler, “Man, you’re dead,” and meant it as a threat on Cutler’s life. Martin stated in court that he had said to Cutler on July 30, “Man, you’re dead in this town,” and meant it to indicate he was finished with people who used to be his friends.
Both sides agreed that Martin had been picked up for questioning a day or two after the alleged threat was made, and was released.
Defense counsel Stanley Faulkner said in his summation that the narcotics bureau never took Martin’s purported threat seriously or they would have filed a formal complaint before or after the arrest at the hotel on August 11. He concluded that the arrest at the hotel benefit — to aid a man picked up on a marijuana charge — was just a way to try to get Martin to cooperate in setting up Ginsberg for a narcotics charge.
Earlier in the trial one of the agents who had arrested Martin at the Broadway Central testified that he had asked Martin whether he knew if Ginsberg possessed or sold narcotics. The agent, Bruce Jensen, admitted that he had asked Martin to help the narcotics bureau by acting as an informant, but that Martin had never been used in that capacity.
The defense intends to appeal the case, following sentencing on May 26, on the grounds that Martin’s arrest on August 11, which precipitated the scuffle, was illegal. Defense attorney Faulkner will argue that the narcotics agents went beyond the function to which they are limited by law when they arrested Martin without a warrant on the basis of the alleged threat.
Narcotics agents may arrest people without warrants, according to the U.S. Code, only when the agent witnesses a crime himself and for crimes that violate the narcotics law.
Martin, 24, Smith, 33, and Heliczer, 28, can each get sentences of three years in jail and fines up to $10,000.
[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]