If you juxtapose Jimmy Rosemond to any corporate CEO, he would measure, if not the same, probably better. No matter the background, schooling or training. I saw Jimmy in action at a few meetings that exerting his negotiating skills and ability to interact with the opposing team. Jimmy usually wore a suit or sport jacket to these meetings but at trial, they described him as a thug in a suit or when they describe him being a boss they said he was a CEO of a drug ring.
After Jimmy’s recent overturned conviction, I feel somewhat guilty for not speaking out early for Jimmy and a lot of his peers have expressed the same to me. I found myself reluctant to tell people he was not only my manager but also a friend and saw others whispering when it came to him. Maybe now that the facts are coming to light, we will be more vocal in his defense than agree with a few trolls or accept what the government say about him. Finally, the truth is being unearthed like the zombies in The Walking Dead.
After my role on the HBO’s The Wire, I blurred the lines between Omar and Michael K. Williams, and I spiraled into the abyss of every worldly decadence. Alcohol was my choice of self-abuse. Jimmy would eventually have an exorcism and expel the demons that haunted me in these roles I played. I knew him from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. See, to know Jimmy you would have to have met him, talk to him, and been around him; however, the scurrilous and vitriol rumors in the music business and on the internet ran rampant. Fires were started everywhere about him, more fires than I could dispel. Jimmy Rosemond was characterized as some sort of Darth Vader of the business, dark helmet with amplified breathing.
Photo: Michael K. Williams
The Jimmy I knew was soft-spoken, talked with the wisdom of some ancient sage, and wasn’t intimidating at all. I remember when I first went to his office for a meeting, I thought I would be meeting him in his bat cave, some hidden enclave, and he would be sitting behind a desk in the shadows with two burly men standing behind him while he smoked a cigar.
In contrast, I was greeted by a receptionist and walked to his office and asked if I wanted anything to drink. Jimmy sat there in a button-up shirt, slacks complimented with a pair of Prada shoes, and he was on the phone handling business. Not screaming, threatening someone, or cursing. I looked around and saw a bustling office with worker bees, faxing, emailing, and answering the phone like any other office I’ve been to at Paramount or HBO. Was Jimmy really Bruce Wayne by day and something else by night? I allowed the rumors to permeate my thinking, as I’m sure it did others. No gang members, security at the door, or thugs. I was impressed by all of the plaques of success he had on the wall. He was still Jimmy from off of the block, but just doing serious business now. Jimmy got things done, he made things happen. Being misunderstood I guess made things work untraditionally. He thought outside the box. He knew everyone and everyone knew him and he consulted most of the record companies. He was what everyone called The Finisher, a guy who would get answers.
But none of those names stuck to him like the name Jimmy Henchman.
In some paradoxical way, it seems the music industry needed to make him the villain, just to keep things balanced. He managed or had something to do with many artists we all bobbed our heads to, including the Salt-N-Pepa hit “Shoop” or Toni Braxton smash “You Make Me High.” He managed Mike Tyson, Mario Winans, Akon, Game, and a slew of others. This is why I was going to see him; my career had stalled some and I was desperate to make things happen. By the end of the meeting, the only thing that was pompous or threatening were the music certificates, plaques, and autographed artifacts from legends displayed on his wall. Is Jimmy some saint being crucified? No, but show me a man without sin and let him cast the first stone. So I ask myself, what would cause so much excitement over my friend Jimmy? People are beautifully flawed, make bad decisions, and mistakes. The Hip Hop culture is much like American culture: it glorifies certain negative behavior. It is not uncommon for rappers to take on the monikers of past criminal figures. The mystique of “Jimmy Henchman” became an irresistible force. The Hip Hop community was nourished off the permeating effect of its very own “boogie man.” People from all over, myself included, benefited from the slightest acquaintance with my friend Jimmy. Just the mentioning of his name in your song could get an average skilled rapper noticed. One picture or handshake and your credibility skyrocketed. Despite popular contention, it was my friend Jimmy’s inner brightness, his undeniable aura, and sincere demeanor that made him so popular.
This can be best expressed by the tactics of [the] prosecutor and now New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky. The legend of “Jimmy Henchman” had become so profound, so irresistibly attractive, that even someone of such standing was not immune. I’ve mentioned how entertainers and musicians reaped the benefit of Jimmy’s perceived persona, but here’s a U.S. prosecutor who also sought to gain in this “glorious folklore.” If Jimmy Rosemond was the “Dark Knight” of the music business, then Todd Kaminsky shrouded himself in his own mystique as the “White Knight,” or some sort of modern-day Van Helsing on a mission to defeat the monster. It was all smoke and mirrors. In his mind, every villain needed an opposite and he anointed himself as that person. But there was no big boss smoking a cigar laughing maniacally in the shadows. Kaminsky, however, didn’t allow this revelation to thwart him. He instead chose to fuel this false fairytale, even coercing his witnesses to implicate my friend Jimmy in certain crimes to get out from under his thumb. Trust me, I know how public perception can be inflated into quasi-reality. I was continuously called Omar after The Wire went off the air. This gravitational pull is human nature and Hollywood knows the science well.
To know my friend Jimmy Rosemond is to understand why I agreed to executive produce the eight-part docuseries rightfully called Unjust Justice: The Jimmy Rosemond Tapes. We will examine the good and the bad of our criminal justice system and how a man can get accused, prosecuted, and sentenced without evidence. But this isn’t a movie set with directors and producers. I sat at Jimmy’s trials and I know the man the government portrayed him to be wasn’t the guy I, nor the music industry, knew. At best, the evidence was frail and mostly based off of testimony from witnesses given sweet deals. I know a lot of the witnesses, they were guys that were benefactors of Jimmy’s magnanimous way, but never made the cut. In the movie business, we called them “extras”. Jimmy was the lead guy for his smarts and ability to organize and close deals like he did for me and many others that needed him, not for running a criminal enterprise. Recently the investigators and reporters of the docuseries uncovered that prosecutor Todd Kaminisky had given favors to Leah Daniels and her husband Henry “Black” Butler in return for their testimony, while Henry remained in jail. Leah Daniels is the sister of Lee Daniels the director and creator of Empire and Star on Fox network. These practices are unethical especially when they aren’t disclosed to the defense attorneys, which can result in another retrial for my friend Jimmy.
Either we cheer him on with subtlety or audibly, there is support building for him and this is the support that should have been there a long time ago. Although were late, were here now. I only know Jimmy as a father, son, brother, uncle and mentor. Jimmy Rosemond is serving a life sentence on a drug conviction.
WHERE IS YOUR STATE OF MIND SINCE YOUR MURDER CONVICTION WAS OVERTURNED?
I feel awesome. However my battle isn’t over, but my faith is stronger. A victory vanquishes a lot of things: rumors, haters, lies and myths. It have given me a clean conscience which in turns gives me strength. I know my God is real and I’ve been able to identify the devil. That’s what victory does, it makes things clear on many levels. It fortifies me also to keep doing the right thing while I’m in here: helping guys get their G.E.D and helping guys learn to read. It’s not a coincident that majority of these young men in here are illiterate and I’ve mobilized a few guys to help eradicate it around us, so that’s us doing a little at a time, you would be surprised how grateful guys are. They don’t have a chance in society without the fundamentals of reading. But one thing that I’m happy about is my children can proudly say their father isn’t a murderer.
DO YOU BELIEVE YOUR LAWYERS DID A GOOD JOB BRINGING OUT THE FACTS?
I must commend my friend Derrick Hamilton who came home after serving 21 years in jail and getting his case overturned for a murder he didn’t commit. He told me not to wait 21 years to prove my innocence and hired his attorney Jonathan Edelstein and I coupled him with Michael Rayfield who argued the case in front of the court of appeals that ultimately got it overturned. Bruce Maffeo also set up the issues for the appeal after seeing I was being railroaded. This was not the focus of Gerald Shargel who represented me for my drug trial and conviction. He was one of the worse attorneys that I ever hired. I had to file malpractice on him which is called ineffective assistance of counsel. That’s one of the issues that’s being litigated now, which happens a lot with lawyer that make major mistakes at trial and just don’t care about their clients. Doctors and lawyers are the same you get different results when a person cares or not.
WHAT ISSUES ARE YOU FIGHTING ON THE DRUG CASE?
I have many legal issues under the ineffective assistance of counsel but let me zero in on one that my lawyers feel strong about. This is called prosecutorial misconduct. This is when a prosecutor does unethical things, like favors, to get a witness to testify against someone. This is just one of the things that prosecutor Todd Kaminsky did with the sister of Lee Daniels, director of Star and Empire, Leah Daniels and her husband Henry “Black” Butler. Both arrested before me with machine guns, cocaine, E pills and cash. Mr. Kaminisky gave both Leah Daniels and her husband favors to testify against me. The way we found out was an interview that Henry Butler did to a reporter confessing on tape about those favors. Leah Daniels received probation and was allowed to have special visits with Henry Butler, while he was in jail, dining on sushi, barbecue and checking up on his son’s football games while using his iPad. None of this was disclosed to my attorneys when I went to trial and when we asked Henry Butler when he testified did he receive favors for his testimony, he replied no. What is troubling is after many attempts to have Leah Daniels and/or Henry Butler to come forward, they are reluctant to do so. We believe they either want to continue assisting the prosecution or just scared. Telling the truth would be the best disinfectant and protection they can have.
Unjust Justice – The Jimmy Rosemond Tapes Episode 3
This isn’t the only person that this happen with this is the only one that we found out about. We know the same favors were given to Khalil Abdullah a.k.a. Craig Woodley and Tony Martin. I don’t know neither Henry Butler or his wife Leah Daniels to be cowards so it makes my attorneys feel that they are being threatened by the government not to come forward with the truth. Never have they denied that this haven’t happen but if they confirm it with an affidavit it can make my days in this coffin limited. Why they wouldn’t come forward and reverse the death sentence they participated in giving me is baffling to us. Do you hate the people that testified against you? Hatred is blinding and anger deafening. I will not allow those emotions to guide my actions. Vengeance isn’t mine to give, I sleep well knowing there is a God that punishes traitors. They sold me on the auction block, naked body and all. I was condemned to a slow and frightful death, trying to break my spirit and deprive me of my family, freedom and fortune. I could only pray that their conscience bothers them enough to do the right thing. Some think I lived by the sword, however, it wasn’t the sword that gave me a death sentence – it was the lying tongues of men and women in a tight spot. Some I considered my friends but most were hanger-ons. My old accountant John Dash and my subordinate Tony Martin, lap dogs, pathetic and trained liars. Muhammad Stewart and Winston Harris, serial manipulators and groupies. You must understand the government sent Muhammad Stewart to my mother’s funeral to tape me while I was grieving. This is wickedness unheard of.
Nonetheless, no citizen of American, should be given a life sentence just from the testimony of others without corroborating evidence. I never seen a cocoa plant or poppy seed growing in my urban oasis. When Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is extradited to the United States, he will get the same amount of time I have. I have six life sentences for drugs — he will get the same amount of time and he was caught with drugs and on wiretap, while I wasn’t. What do you feel about the election and Black Lives Matter? Obama had certain bills in motion to change the criminal justice system and his clemency pen was merciful. I hope the Donald Trump doesn’t kill the spirit of giving individuals second chances. But you are hearing Hillary Clinton talking about fake news is what made her lose the election. Well Hillary, I’ve been dealing with fake news against me for over a decade. This is nothing new to me. I’ve dealt with it and kept it pushing. Hillary have Putin to blame and I blame clowns that heart derive from behind a computer. I will not get sidetracked, I will continue my fight with the courts and not the trolls. But after this we will weed them out and sue where we can. Instead of these clowns using their influence for something good for themselves or society they use it for nonsense. what we do see is that racism is real. Whoever thought it went away now sees it for what it is. I have to remind my children this constantly. Just imagine if we had video phones in the 1900’s, to video black boys and men being lassoed and hung as strange fruits. Sometimes because we don’t see things we don’t believe it happens. if you don’t believe if I was a different complexion this wouldn’t happen to me then you still think racism isn’t the push in the criminal justice system. I look around and I know what I see and that’s black and brown.
Photo: Michael K. Williams
Statistically we are not the only ones that break the law. Laws are designed to be harder for us than for them. in 2001 or so, I joined Russell Simmons and other celebrities to change the Rockefeller laws that gave life sentences for drugs in New York City. So Black Lives Matter is on point on the issues and struggles. I think Jessie Williams eloquently vocalized the movement at BET. We all know the agenda we just need to do more action than talking and hold politicians accountable. What is your plan if you are released? I would first and foremost give thanks for any such blessing, then I would visit the grave of my mother and third, go see my family. I am not a young man anymore and my mentality is more clearer to me. I had to search hard to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. The wickedness of men runs very deep, sometimes deeper than the kindness of God. Whoever said that jealousy implies affection is wrong. Jealousy has only implied hatred to me. I would keep my friends far and my enemies further. The experience has traumatized me but I am not broken. I’m sure I will be suffering from PTJD (post traumatic Jail disorder)
However, my new mantra is “The will to be free is tantamount to the will to live” I put too much faith in men before, I will always put God and my family first. You deny me freedom, then God will give it to me. Self-exile is an idea but movies is where my passion was at. You’ve always been philosophical what books are you reading now or would you recommend? I have too many to name but here are five: Written in Blood (the story of Haitian people) by Heinl, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy, Licensed to Lie by Sidney Powell, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I have many more but that’s off the top of my head. Anything else you would like to say? Just thank you and to those that support me, that send me letters of encouragement. My team that handles social media, and to my family I am fighting diligently and thoroughly for a well-deserved reunion.
Michael Kenneth Williams is an Emmy Award-nominated actor who has appeared on several critically acclaimed shows such as The Wire, The Night Of, Boardwalk Empire and critically acclaimed movies such as 12 Years a Slave, Bessie, Gone Baby Gone and more. Catch him in the upcoming docudrama miniseries When We Rise and follow him on Twitter @BKBMG.