Fall Guy

Larry Gould was a long-time junkie on the mend in a methadone program until he was lured into a drug sting. Now he's doing five years. But he made a few undercover cops look good in the process, and that was the important thing.

If Larry Gould was the sophisticated heroin dealer they said he was, he would have seen the whole thing coming. Fearing a wire, he would have patted down the man who had piles of cash to burn buying very high quality heroin for his wealthy girlfriend. He would have asked to see his driver's license, or noticed that he never got a glimpse of the guy's car, that the man took a while to figure out that the packets of heroin he was buying were a little too light. He might have seen the white Bronco that tailed him to and from the Tom Thumb where he met his connection. He wouldn't have been the least surprised when his new acquaintance turned out to be an undercover cop.

But Gould wasn't the kind of drug dealer who knew how to spot a police sting. He was just an addict. Had been since he was 12. A small-time hustler who knew just enough scams to feed his habit. He's not the kind of guy who's supposed to be doing hard time under Minnesota's 7-year-old "get-tough" drug law changes, which critics say have clogged prisons with addicts instead of the big-time drug dealers they were supposed to bring down. Last month, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Gould's conviction in a 1993 Bureau of Criminal Apprehension sting and the 68-month sentence it netted him. The case, say appeals attorneys, illustrates a good deal of what's wrong with drug law "reforms."

Gould was the kind of guy narcotics agents refer to as a user-seller. Certainly, back in March of 1993, when he got caught up in a BCA sting, his lifestyle wasn't that of a successful trafficker. He was drawing $500 a month in SSI for drug dependency and living with his girlfriend of 28 years, who was on welfare, and their three kids. A few years before, Gould's mother had given him the down payment for a small North Minneapolis house, and the couple struggled to make the $400 mortgage every month.

It was the same neighborhood where he grew up, attended North High, and came to the cops' attention for skipping school. They sent him to reform school in Glen Lake, and then to the juvy hall at Red Wing. He started his first stint in prison as an adult at the age of 17, when he got arrested along with some friends who had stolen a car and driven to Illinois. He did five years for that joyride. When he got out, it was the '70s, and everyone was doing drugs. He and his girlfriend performed their own "hippie wedding" and flirted with LSD.

By the time anti-drug sentiments hardened in the 1980s, admits Gould, "I was strung out, withdrawn, in a shell. I was only really good at surviving. I'd get one gram of dope and cut it down to pay for my habit. I wasn't harming anyone but myself." He got stopped with drugs a couple of times--once in a motel with a dirty needle and works and the residue from the heroin he'd just put in his arm.

In March 1993, he was finally trying to get clean when Richard Jerosa, an old acquaintance, started coming around, trying to score a fix. The first few times the guy showed up, Gould told him to go away, that he was enrolled in a methadone program. But Jerosa argued that he was sick. He needed a fix and he knew Gould knew where to get some. One morning he even broke into Gould's house, harassing Gould's live-in girlfriend, wailing that he was jonesing and sick. Eventually, Gould caved.

Jerosa said he knew someone who wanted to buy two grams, enough to supply a serious junkie for two days. The man would finance the transaction, pay Gould $50, and let them shave off a dose. So when Jerosa and BCA Special Agent John Tyndall showed up at Gould's house, he got in the front passenger seat of Jerosa's shiny new car and started giving directions to a Tom Thumb in South Minneapolis near the airport.

Gould just wanted to get the deal over and done with and talked very little on the way. From the back seat, Tyndall explained that his girlfriend was an addict and that he was making this deal because he didn't want her on the streets making her own buys. There was no telling what she'd do for a fix. Gould said he'd rather help get her into the methadone program he'd been attending, but Tyndall was interested only in the two grams they were on their way to score. So Gould told him each gram would cost $600, and then turned back around and quit talking.

At the store, Gould took $1,200 from Tyndall, got out of the car, and disappeared for 15 minutes. The baggie he came back with was a little light because Gould had sliced off two doses, one for the snitch and one for himself. Who was he kidding? With the heroin actually in his hands there was no chance he wasn't going to shoot up, too.

Later, back at Gould's place, he and Jerosa melted down the two-tenths of a gram of black tar together. When the heroin hit his bloodstream, Gould forgot how bad he'd wanted to get clean, about how methadone helped stave off the withdrawal pains. He forgot about his promise to his old lady that he and his friends wouldn't treat the basement as a shooting gallery anymore. He was using again. When Jerosa called again a couple of days later, Gould again protested that he "really did not want to do this." But it didn't take much to convince him to make another buy for the cop.

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