Dynamic Duo in The D – Eddie & Courtney’s reign

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The first piece of bad fortune Eddie experienced was in June of 1971 when his brother Elijah overdosed on cocaine. Elijah and Eddie were exceptionally tight and the loss hurt Eddie gravely, sending him into a brief, but consuming depression. It got worse.

In September, one of Eddie’s couriers, a woman he dated on the side named Farrah Lee Riggins, arose the suspicion of a security officer at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, when she dropped her purse, revealing several stacks of cash, while in the process of boarding a flight to New York City. Airport security informed the Drug Enforcement Agency and Riggins and her two companions, both Jackson employees, were followed when they arrived on the East coast and traveled to meet their mafia drug connect. When Riggins went to board her flight back to Detroit, she was detained and eventually arrested after DEA officials found 2,000 grams of uncut, high-grade heroin and $5,000 in cash in her luggage.

Although Riggins never cooperated with the government, the DEA was able to track her and one of the men she was traveling with, Big Willie Kilpatrick, as members of the Jackson crew. A case file is immediately opened on Eddie Jackson, with agents in Detroit noting that the Fat Man had branched off from underneath Marzette and Claxton’s wing and gone into business for himself. It didn’t take long before they had found a weak link in the barrier of soldiers separating Jackson and his top proxy, Courtney Brown, from the street.

That weak link ended up being a close associate of Eddie’s named George “The Pimp” Blair. As one might be able to deduct from his nickname, Blair was a former pimp turned drug dealer who Jackson had known for a good deal of time and trusted very much. Blair’s instincts on who to trust in turn proved faulty and that is where the problem arose.

During the opening weeks of the DEA’s investigation into the Jackson organization, in a sheer stroke of good luck for the feds, one of Blair’s lieutenants, Roosevelt Nabors, got arrested on an assault charge. The Detroit Police Department, which had custody of him following the arrest, knew Nabors was a drug runner and soldier in the Fat Man’s army and alerted the DEA of his presence in its custody. Agents from the DEA went directly to the city lock-up, pulled Nabors out and started trying to get him to flip on his boss, George Blair and his boss’ boss and the government’s ultimate target, Eddie Jackson. Far from the definition of strong-minded, Nabors folded like a cheap suit.

Using Nabors to gather highly-sensitive intelligence on Jackson and his operation, the DEA worked the case for three months, getting court-authorized wiretaps and setting up round the clock surveillance on Eddie and his crew. The feds hit pay-dirt when Nabors tipped them off about a shipment of heroin coming from New York to Detroit intended for the Jackson organization.

Swooping in on Eddie, Courtney and Joe and Reggie Weaver, a pair of brothers who were their lieutenants, as they sat around a table in Jackson-run stash house on Hubbell Street in Northwest Detroit, the DEA agents arrested everyone on premises and seized 22 kilos of uncut heroin, over five thousand dollars in cash and several firearms on December 15, 1971. No more than a month later, in mid-January 1972, Eddie Jackson, Courtney Brown and 30 of their underlings were indicted by the federal government.

This was also a time period where the city’s urban underworld was in the process of undergoing a monumental shift in power. The throne to the kingdom was vacated when Henry Marzette finally lost his battle with his failing kidneys on April 4, 1972, dying quietly at his residence in Highland Park surrounded by his family and under indictment himself on tax evasion charges he would never have to face in court. Eddie wanted the brass ring and he took it.

Despite his recent legal setback, the Fat Man was a natural choice to fill the top spot. Him and Courtney had both posted bail following their indictment and retained two of the best criminal defense attorneys in the county in H. Ross Black out of New York City and Milton Henry out of Detroit to fight the case. Counting appellate time, the legal drama could stay tied up within the justice system for close to a decade before a final outcome was established.

John Claxton, expected to get out of prison soon, was considered too much of a wildcard for the job. Plus, both him and Pretty Ricky Wright were facing mounting problems of their own regarding fallout from investigations into their activities while working under Marzette. Severely opposed to going back behind bars, Claxton was out of jail and on the streets for less than six months when he took off and jumped bail after being indicted on more charges. Until this day, he has never been found.

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