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These days, you just can’t hook up with President George Bush’s hookup.
The single silliest prisoner of President George Bush’s War on Drugs now lives the American Dreamor so it seems, anywayin a pea-soup-colored two-story house with white shutters, a foreign car in the driveway, and a picketwell, chain-linkfence in a close-in Washington suburb.
The house is home to Keith Timothy Jackson.
Jackson hasn’t received any visits from former Bush drug czar William Bennett. But he does get quite a few unsolicited calls from reporters like myself. And he and members of his family give the Fourth Estate the same treatment most homeowners give Jehovah’s Witnesses selling the Watchtower: They politely but swiftly shut the door.
The cold shoulder comes thanks to a chapter of Jackson’s life that just won’t close. On Sept.1, 1989, Jackson, then 18, got entangled in D.C.’s second most notorious drug bust. Lured to Lafayette Park, directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Jackson unwittingly sold $2,400 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover federal agent.
Four days later, 3 ounces of that crack cocaine ended up in Bush’s hands for a national television audience: “This is crack cocaine seized a few days ago by Drug Enforcement Administration agents across the street from the White House,” Bush lectured, holding up a plastic bag containing crack for the cameras.
The Sept. 5, 1989, speech was Bush’s most high-profile volley in the ongoing spectacle known as the War on Drugs. Before that week, according to the Washington Post, not one drug-related arrest had taken place in Lafayette Park. Indeed, when the undercover federal agents called Jackson to persuade him to move the sale to Bush’s ‘hood, Jackson didn’t even know where or even what the White House was, according to newspaper reports.
Needless to say, the staged arrest did little to address the underlying causes of drug use: poor education, unemployment, and despair. But the farce had serious implications for both the Spingarn High School senior and the city. In the eyes of the American public, the nation’s capitalarguably the most powerful city in the worldhad turned into a lawless, drug-infested cesspool.
Three weeks after the president’s address, police arrested Jackson for the Lafayette Park sale as well as drug sales to federal agents on three prior occasions. In total, Jackson faced five indictments. After his first trial ended in a mistrial, he appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Sporkin again. The media were camped outside the courthouse, but not for Jackson: At the same time, D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. was also facing a jury of his peers for an even more infamous crack-cocaine arrest.
Jackson was convicted on three countshe was acquitted on the White House countand received a 121-month sentence. “I still get a couple calls a year [about Jackson],” says Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. Carroll, who served as the government prosecutor in U.S. vs. Jackson. “They just want to know what happened to him.”
Like many District inmates in the federal system, Jackson bounced around from Petersburg, Va., to Ashland, Ky., to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., and finally to Lewisburg, Pa. He was released from Lewisburg on Aug. 5, 1998. Today, no one’s saying what he’s up to. But it’s a pretty safe bet that he now knows where the White House is.
“If it wasn’t for the White House sale, who would have cared?” says Carroll. “It’s just a mid-level dealer, after all.” CP