1 MONEY ROCK: A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION HE GOT RICH, THEN HE GOT CAUGHT Belton Lamont Platt was an inner-city Charlotte kid who became a major cocaine dealer. A daylight shootout led to his arrest, but he was sure he would get off. DIEDRA LAIRD - Pastor Belton Platt lays hands on a congregant during a sermon at a church in west Charlotte. In the 1980s, he sold cocaine in the same area of town. The whole transition, my whole life, he says, has been one big miracle. Platt wants to help others avoid his mistakes. Part 1 of 6 By Pam Kelley On many nights, you ll find Pastor Belton Platt at Redeemer in Mission for Christ Church in west Charlotte. There, he stands before worshippers, Bible in hand, preaching with such passion that he s sometimes hoarse by the final amen. Many listening from the pews are hurting, beaten down by heartbreak, hard times and bad decisions. He urges them not to give up. If they want proof of God s redemptive power, he says, they need only look at him. If Belton Lamont Platt can transform himself, anyone can. Thank you for accepting me back in Charlotte, he tells visitors one evening. They wanted me out of Charlotte. In fact, they threw me out of Charlotte, right on the prison bus. Back then, Platt was the cocaine dealer named Money Rock. Raised in public housing, he says he believed drug dealing was his best chance for success. He worked hard, and he became very good at it. Money Rock first made news in a 1985 shootout that marked the start of a violent era in Charlotte s drug crime. He became a major dealer. In poor neighborhoods, people smoked his product. In nightclubs and mansions, they snorted it. He seemed to have it all women, cars, jewelry. Still, the bigger he got, the more damage he did, the more he struggled to live with what he had become. That was the contradiction of Money Rock. He saw himself as a good man, even while trafficking in kilos of cocaine. He d put a gun to your head if you crossed him, but if you were broke, he d pay your rent. He became a rich man, but what made him happiest was handing out cash or buying shoes for kids in Piedmont Courts, the public housing project where he sold his first cocaine. Why is he telling his story? He says he regrets the damage he caused and he wants to mend the city fabric that he helped destroy. He wants to keep other young men from following his path. SEE MONEY ROCK, 4A 1986 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO Platt, dressed for his trial in state court in SLIDESHOWS AND VIDEOS See more photos and watch videos of Platt discussing his past at charlotteobserver.com. The series Today A young man from the inner city turns to cocaine to pursue his fortune. Wednesday Money Rock squanders a fresh start and becomes a bigger dealer. Thursday FBI takes down Money Rock. Friday Belton Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. Saturday Pastor Belton Platt starts a new life. When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced.
2 + 4A, April 14, 2013 FROM PAGE ONE charlotteobserver.com The Charlotte Observer + MONEY ROCK from 1A Part of his motivation is also personal. Three of Platt s sons are dead, a fourth is in prison for murder. If he d been around when they were growing up, if he d been there for them as a father, their fates might have been different. He can t bring them back. But maybe, he says, he can keep someone else s son alive. Money Rock went to prison in When he got out in 2010, he was the Rev. Belton Platt. Since his release, he has focused his talents on his ministry. He leads a church in his home of Conway, S.C., and preaches in Charlotte regularly. Platt is 49 years old. Though he has spent more than a third of his life behind bars, he looks better now than when he went to prison. He s at least 50 pounds lighter than he was when he was shipped to Atlanta s federal penitentiary not slender, but not the rotund fellow who appeared in U.S. District Judge Robert Potter s court. He s a lot more educated, too, thanks to all the community college classes he took in prison. He has been happily married to his second wife for 10 years. His brow furrows with consternation while discussing his past, but he also smiles easily. In many ways, the traits that helped him succeed as a drug dealer serve him as a minister. His warmth has always drawn people to him, even now, when he explains that he s a felon. When he pursues a goal whether it was when he was selling coke or now that he s building a church he is unrelenting. If he has a fault, as dealer or minister, it s a tendency to overcommit, to say yes to everyone who needs his help. EARLY PROMISE Platt s family called him by his middle name, Lamont. Growing up, Lamont knew almost nothing about coke had never even seen it until he started dealing. As a teenager, he didn t smoke cigarettes or do drugs. He wouldn t even sip champagne on New Year s Eve, his mother says. His mother, Carrie Graves, was well-known in Charlotte, an activist who worked for voting rights and social justice issues, speaking out for the poor, hauling her kids to marches in Washington, Birmingham, Atlanta. His father, Alphonso Platt, was mostly absent. But when he was at home, in Platt s early years, Graves says he physically abused her, repeatedly sending her to the hospital. A childhood memory: Platt, about 5 years old, hears his mother screaming. He looks into his parents bedroom and sees his father holding her down on the bed, stabbing her. She managed to escape, fleeing to a neighbor s house. Her wounds required about 50 stitches. Graves divorced his father in By then, she had moved her children from the Cherry neighborhood to Charlotte s newest public housing apartments, Dalton Village, on Clanton Road near West Boulevard. Money was tight after that move. The family relied on public assistance. Kids teased Platt because he wore cheap Converse knock-offs. His response was to fling the shoes onto an apartment roof so he wouldn t have to wear them. He also learned to make his own money. At Myers Park Elementary, he used lunch money to buy candy, turning a profit by reselling his Now & Laters and Blow Pops to wealthier classmates. Platt, the third of five children, became a go-getter, a kid who seemed likely to succeed. He became the family protector, too, says Donna Brown, his oldest sister. The boy who watched his father abuse his mother would fight in a second if he thought someone was being bullied. He was always the type of person, she says, who wanted to take care of everybody. When his mother remarried, Platt joined a Boy Scout troop led by his stepfather. Platt earned enough merit badges to become a Life Scout, one step away from Eagle. He also learned to shoot guns, a skill that would come in handy later. He might have become the county s youngest black Eagle Scout, if only he hadn t discovered basketball and girls OBSERVER FILE PHOTO This is Hollywood Boulevard in Piedmont Courts in December 1985, days after more than 100 bullets flew during Belton Platt s shootout with Louis Big Lou Samuels. By the mid-1980s, drug dealing had become rampant in the public housing project that was once home to many working-class families. The girls, the girls, the girls, says his mother, shaking her head. Long before he was Money Rock, girls were drawn to him, charmed by him. When he was a kid, they d appear at the family s screen door. Is Lamont home? they d ask. He became a father just after his 17th birthday. Eventually, he would have 11 children. Eight were boys, including two named Belton Lamont after their daddy. The 11 children had seven mothers. He met his first wife, Delores, when they were in 10th grade at West Charlotte High. They married after dropping out of high school, and Platt supported them with a janitorial business, mopping floors and cleaning the grease from grill hoods of Hardee s restaurants. He d clean five stores a night, he says, earning about $30 per store. That was good money for a young man, but not enough for Platt. Back then, he says, he believed all it took to be a good father was being a good provider. That s one reason he wanted to earn bigger money. Around this time, the early 1980s, he reconnected with his father, who offered some of the first advice he d ever given his son. He suggested that he sell cocaine OBSERVER FILE PHOTO In 1978, Belton Lamont Platt, top, wearing scarf, belonged to a Boy Scout troop led by his stepfather, Lonnie Graves, bottom left. Story Behind the Story Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. You might say Jay-Z brought us together. I d been reading Decoded, the rapper s memoir, and when I got to the part about Jay-Z s early days as a dealer, I remembered Money Rock. What had become of him? It took Observer researcher Maria David only a few minutes to find out. Platt was living near Myrtle Beach. She even found a phone number. So I called. Platt remembered me. Not only that, he wanted tell his story. There will never be another Money Rock. But with 1 in 10 black men in their 30s now incarcerated, many families in Charlotte and in urban America will find much familiar about the Platt family s story. PAM KELLEY In June 1986, the Observer profiled Platt and Louis Big Lou Samuels following their trials in the Piedmont Courts shootout. OBSERVER FILES Cocaine had grown in popularity in Charlotte for nearly a decade, particularly among affluent white people. The Charlotte News reported in 1977 that cocaine was used socially in the legal and medical community, in retail sales, insurance, real estate and finance. Snorting coke became commonplace among young partyers who danced to disco music at Charlotte s favorite nightclubs, places such as the Scorpio, The Roxy and the futuristically named Yes, it was illegal, but many people saw it as innocuous, a nonaddictive stimulant, as the News called it. In the News story, a 30-something Charlotte professional named Paul dips a straw into a tiny mound of white powder, then lifts it to his nose and inhales. Cocaine, Paul says with a smile, is probably the most sociable drug in the world. YOU LL BE A MILLIONAIRE Alphonso Platt, Lamont Platt s father, bought half an eight ball, a little less than 2 grams, using $150 of his son s savings. In a Piedmont Courts apartment, he taught him how to price it, how to bag it, how to make it go further by adding mannitol, a sugar alcohol. You ll be a millionaire within a year, Platt says his father assured him. Platt examined the white powder in the plastic bag. Nobody s going to pay $25 for that little bit of stuff, he told his father. Alphonso looked his son in the eye. They ll buy it, he said. At first, he made amateur mistakes. He d give some guy cocaine to sell, and the guy would return emptyhanded, claiming he d tossed it when police came after him. But when it came to business, Platt was, as his father suspected, a natural. He began selling the cocaine himself and hired salesmen he trusted. He kept financial records in his head. He switched out cars to keep from being tailed. Platt came from a long line of entrepreneurs. His maternal grandfather, a chauffeur, helped balance the family budget by running numbers out of his house in Cherry. One great-grandfather sold moonshine and ran a barbershop in his backyard, an arrangement that allowed customers to sip bootleg liquor while waiting for haircuts. As a boy, Platt also saw plenty of examples of poor people who used ingenuity to pay the rent. Some, like his stepfather, did it legally, by starting a commercial janitorial business. Others ran liquor houses out of their apartments or sold clothing they d shoplifted. None of these jobs came with sick days or pensions. If you didn t hustle, you didn t eat. Platt never forgot his father s admonition: Move, son. If you sleep, you get beat. Before long, Platt was selling larger and larger amounts $50 bags, $100 bags, an eighth ounce, a quarter ounce. The money was flowing. He made hundreds of dollars in a day. And then thousands. About this time, he got his nickname. As a teenage disc jockey at Skate Palace on South Boulevard he d been Monty Rock, a play on Lamont. Now, as he accumulated big cars and women, as he donned gold jewelry and track suits, people called him Money Rock. Why was he so successful? For one thing, he says, he never used. Dealers who used ended up diluting their product to feed their habit. Also, he found a top-quality source. The market for cocaine was expanding in the mid-1980s as crack, a solid, cooked form, gained popularity, especially among poor people. Crack gave those who smoked it a powerful, short-lived high. In 1985, a gram of powder cocaine sold for $100. You could get a crack rock for $10. Cocaine delivers energy and euphoria. But the high is fleeting, and the drug creates a psychological addiction. Crack cocaine produces such a craving that addicts may steal, kill and prostitute themselves to get it. As the list of high-profile cocaine overdose deaths grew, any vestiges of the drug s benign reputation disappeared. But Platt says he found it easy to rationalize his career choice. As he saw it, white people had robbed black people of so many things, he was justified making a living breaking the system s laws. He was an entrepreneur, not a gangster. If he didn t sell the stuff, someone else would. With his new income, he could support his family and help people in his community a family who needed rent paid, a single mom who needed groceries. Money Rock loved being a benefactor. What he didn t consider, not at first, was that by selling in poor neighborhoods, the people he was hurting were his own. The rise of cocaine and crack in Charlotte brought a rise in violent crime. The drugs tore apart families and probably contributed to the DIEDRA LAIRD - Seigle Point Apartment Homes, a mixed-income development, opened in 2008 on the site that had been Piedmont Courts. Seigle Point Apartments ( former Piedmont Courts public housing ) Trade St. Uptown Charlotte Tryon St. McDowell St. 277 E. 10th St. Elizabeth Ave. Seigle Ave. spread of HIV, as cocaine addicts shared needles and crack users engaged in unprotected sex. HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD Piedmont Courts was once home to many working-class families and elderly residents. By the time Money Rock arrived in the early 1980s, its 1,000 residents were mostly unemployed single mothers and their children. Some drug dealing marijuana, heroin had long been part of life in Piedmont Courts. But cocaine brought in more dealers. By 1985, users came from miles away to cruise the complex s main street, nicknamed Hollywood Boulevard. They queued up to dealers like customers at a fastfood drive-thru. The development, at 10th Street and Seigle Avenue, had been around since 1941, when it opened as one of the city s first two public housing projects. At that time, it accepted only white people. That changed in the early 1960s, when Charlotte began bulldozing several black communities as part of the federal urban renewal program aimed at eradicating the nation s worst slums and relocating residents to better housing. Charlotte s first urban renewal project was Brooklyn, the heart of the city s black community. Also known as Second Ward, the neighborhood was a mix of black-owned businesses, churches, middle-class homes and slumlord-owned shanties. It lay to the south and east of Trade and Tryon streets. Today, the area includes the county courthouse, The Blake Hotel and First Baptist Church. Local governments saw urban renewal money as a way to transform their downtowns with commercial and government development. But the slum clearance program also destroyed cohesive neighborhoods, dispersed residents and sometimes left them worse off than before. Despite pleas of black leaders in Charlotte to replace housing in Brooklyn, Charlotte moved out more than 1,000 families without building a single new SEE MONEY ROCK, 5A 74 DAVID PUCKETT STAFF MAP
3 The Charlotte Observer charlotteobserver.com FROM PAGE ONE, April 14, A 1975 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO When Belton Platt was growing up, his mother, Carrie Graves, was an activist for the poor. This 1975 photo describes her as a spokeswoman for welfare mothers. MONEY ROCK from 4A housing unit. Urban renewal helped Charlotte expand its uptown, but it also ended up increasing segregation, racially and economically, says Tom Hanchett, a historian for Charlotte s Levine Museum of the New South. Many middle-class black families who owned homes in Brooklyn opted to buy in new black neighborhoods off Beatties Ford Road in northwest Charlotte. Brooklyn s poorest families were pushed into rentals and public housing, often in working-class white neighborhoods such as Villa Heights and Belmont, where Piedmont Courts was located. When they began moving in, neighborhoods quickly turned from white to black, and poverty became more concentrated. THE SHOOTOUT COURTESY OF BELTON PLATT The late Alphonso Platt, Belton Platt s father, taught him to sell cocaine. The date of this photo is unknown. Multiple dealers worked in Piedmont Courts, but once Money Rock moved in, they struggled to compete with his strategies. Often, he worked midnight to 8 a.m., making sales while other dealers slept. To boost his market share, he offered free samples and saturated the place with high-quality, well-priced drugs. He became the Wal-Mart of cocaine. As his business grew, so did animosity between him and another drug dealer, Louis Big Lou Samuels. On Nov. 29, 1985, Money Rock was told Samuels was threatening to kill him. The next day, he decided to confront Big Lou. About 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30, Money Rock and several of his men, all armed, went looking for Big Lou. They found him on Hollywood Boulevard. There, the two men traded words and shoves. When William December Hamilton, a friend of Money Rock s, tried to break them up, Charles Locke, Big Lou s man, shot December in the thigh. Gunfire exploded from multiple directions. With bullets flying, Money Rock dragged December behind his car, then he shot at Big Lou with the.45 automatic he d pulled from his shoulder holster. It was crazy. It was worse 1986 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO Louis Big Lou Samuels, heading to trial in 1986, was charged for his role in the Piedmont Courts shootout. than a war zone, Bernard Torrence recalls. Torrence, one of Money Rock s men, was standing near Money Rock and Big Lou as they began fighting. When police arrived, Money Rock was trying to hoist December into the back seat of his Cadillac Seville so he could take him to the hospital. Police charged Money Rock with felony riot and five counts of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury. NOBODY SAW ANYTHING Violence in Piedmont Courts usually didn t attract much notice in Charlotte. But a daytime shootout was more lawlessness than the city would tolerate. Mayor Harvey Gantt appointed a task force. Police stepped up patrols. The Observer published days of frontpage stories. How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors, and former drug dealers. Big Lou was among those injured, and Money Rock was pretty certain he d been the shooter. But Big Lou wasn t in a legal position to take the stand and testify against his rival. That was one of many difficulties prosecutors encountered. Assistant District Attorney Shirley Fulton got little cooperation from people in Piedmont Courts. It was like a liquor house murder, she recalls, a room full of people, and nobody saw anything. Numerous witnesses testified, including Sabrina White, who was 14 and pregnant when she was shot in the arm and leg. But none could or would say who shot whom. One afternoon, with the trial recessed, Fulton happened to look out the courthouse window. She spotted Money Rock getting into his car, along with a shooting victim. She couldn t believe it. Her defendant seemed to be giving one of his victims a ride home. Fulton ended up relying mostly on circumstantial evidence, including nearly $13,000 in cash that police found in the trunk of Money Rock s Cadillac. In closing arguments, she told jurors that if they voted for acquittal, they should tell victims such as Sabrina White she would just need to learn to deal with cocaine and street fighting. Money Rock listened closely. He wore a handkerchief in the breast pocket of his suit, a cluster diamond ring on his finger, a diamond stud in his ear. To avoid questions he didn t want asked, he didn t testify. So his attorney offered no evidence in his defense. That was OK with Money Rock. He was certain he d get off. Wednesday: Money Rock is bigger than ever. RESEARCHER MARIA DAVID CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY. GAVIN OFF, CLEVE R. WOOTSON JR. AND GARY L. WRIGHT PROVIDED REPORTING ASSISTANCE. Kelley:
4 MONEY ROCK: A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION Heavy in the weight Money Rock, squandering a fresh start, becomes an even bigger dealer 1986 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO In a 1986 interview with the Observer at Raleigh s Central Prison, Belton Lamont Money Rock Platt claimed he was innocent. The devil has put me here because of all my works and all the stuff I did to help people, " he said then. Part 2 of 6 The story so far: As a jury decides whether to convict cocaine dealer Belton Lamont Money Rock Platt in the Piedmont Courts shootout case, Platt feels sure he ll get off. By Pam Kelley Money Rock s jury took only a few hours to return a verdict: guilty on all charges. Judge Joseph Pachnowski took even less time to decide on a 35-year sentence. Money Rock pleaded for a bond so he could be free while he appealed. He said he wanted to build an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. I m not somebody who would hurt anybody, he told the judge. I d help them before I hurt them. It was a strange statement from a drug dealer. Yet, he says he had always viewed his profits as a way to help his family and community. He had managed, much of the time, to block from his mind the damage he was doing. The judge was unmoved. Money Rock went to prison in April Then, a year later, the N.C. Appeals Court overturned his conviction on a judicial error. He was a free man. Money Rock vowed to make the most of his second chance, to stop dealing cocaine and live a Christian life. This intention was more than a passing thought. Even before his trial, he d begun going to a church his mother attended. In prison, he had continued studying the Bible and witnessed to others about his newfound faith. When he was released, he rejoined his wife and two young sons and started a janitorial service, the same work he d done before. SEE MONEY ROCK, 7D The series A young man from the inner city turns to cocaine to pursue his fortune. Today Money Rock squanders a fresh start and becomes a bigger dealer. Thursday FBI takes down Money Rock. Friday Belton Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. Saturday Pastor Belton Platt starts a new life. When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced. SLIDESHOWS AND VIDEOS See more photos and watch videos of Platt discussing his past at charlotteobserver.com.
5 The Charlotte Observer charlotteobserver.com CAROLINA LIVING Wednesday, April 17, D Back in the game, heavy in the weight MONEY ROCK from 1D Before prison, he drove a Cadillac Seville. Now he carried his mops, buckets and squeegees in an old Ford Escort. But in only a matter of months, old desires returned. Platt says he decided that he d sell just a little cocaine on the side, so he could better provide for his family. By early 1988, he was back in the game. COCAINE BY THE KILO By year s end, he was selling more cocaine than ever. Big dealers buy cocaine by the kilo (2.2 pounds), a brick usually wrapped in plastic and duct tape. Money Rock was moving several kilos weekly, purchasing them for as low as $12,000 each, selling them for nearly three times as much. He had become what dealers called heavy in the weight, a big enough player that he no longer had to travel to Miami to pick up his product and risk smuggling it to Charlotte. His supplier, he says, delivered to him. At the height of his business, he employed 15 to 20 men. He still had men selling to individuals, in essence working in retail, in a number of Charlotte neighborhoods Grier Heights, Clanton Park, Dalton Village, Parker Heights Apartments, Southside Homes, Fairview Homes, Frazier Avenue. Many of these low-income neighborhoods had become even more poverty-ridden following urban renewal projects in the 1960s and 70s. Charlotte s urban renewal projects had demolished blighted communities but pushed residents into other low-income neighborhoods. Over time, as manufacturing jobs disappeared and businesses moved to the suburbs, inner-city residents had an even harder time finding work. In 1960, the average income of residents in Grier Heights, east of the Mint Museum on Randolph Road, was about half the city s median income. By 1990, it had dropped to about a third. The story was the same at Fairview Homes, the city s oldest public housing project. Average income there went from 56 percent of Charlotte s median income to less than a third. Amid this poverty, Money Rock had no trouble finding residents eager to earn $3,000 or more a month by lending their apartments to dealers who needed a base for sales. But it was Money Rock s wholesale business to other dealers where he earned the most. His cocaine ended up all over Charlotte, he says. Poor people often smoked it or shot it up. Rich people doctors, lawyers, entertainers were more likely to snort it. And while Platt says he never sold crack, some dealers who bought from him cooked his cocaine into crack before reselling it. Did he become a millionaire, as his father predicted? I don t know how much I made, but it was over a million, he says. I made enough money that I got tired of counting it. He used multiple locations to prepare his cocaine for sale. Often, he paid people to let him set up shop on their dining room table. There, Money Rock and his men would use rolling pins to break the kilos into powder, then they d sift and weigh the cocaine, adding mannitol to stretch it, wearing masks and plastic gloves so the drug wouldn t get into their nasal membranes or seep into their pores. Ounces would go into quart-sized plastic bags, half-kilos into half-gallon bags. He was a good boss calm, level-headed, generous, three former employees say. He used to take us shopping all the time, says Bernard Torrence. We all had cars to drive because he bought them. Even though selling drugs is wrong, it was a true blessing to hang out with somebody like that. Their product had a sterling reputation, too high quality, good price, the best powder out there, some said. On the street, said one former colleague who asked not to be named, people knew they d get more for their money with Money Rock. The ones who shot it, the ones who smoked it, they d say, Man, it s the best, We locked down the market. BEING MONEY ROCK By all indications, Belton Platt enjoyed even flaunted being Money Rock. He drove a charcoal gray Mercedes with a front plate that said Rock. He had a white Mercedes, too. He owned a club, Money Rock Express, a hole in the wall in a shopping center on West Boulevard at Remount Road. In basketball games with rival drug dealers, you knew which women on the sidelines were his friends. That s because Money Rock s crew was written on their T-shirts. And he loved expensive jewelry. One cop quipped that Money Rock wore enough jewelry to drown him in a swimming pool. He had a Presidential Rolex, 18-karat gold with a ring of diamonds around its face. He had diamond rings, gold chains and a gold bracelet that spelled out Rock in diamonds and rubies. When it came to Money Rock s vices, women not alcohol or drugs were his weakness. Carrie Graves, his mother, says she grew to dread the knock at her door that signaled another woman, baby in arms, eager to introduce Graves to her newest grandchild. By age 26, Money Rock had fathered 11 children. Three were with his wife. On the streets, he says he often doled out cash, buying groceries, paying rent, helping folks when they were broke. Of course, some were broke because they were buying his cocaine. You gave him a sad story, he gave you the shirt off his back, says Jerry Hampton, a friend since childhood. Kim Williams, Money Rock s oldest child, recalls shopping for shoes with her father. He bought one pair for her, lots more for children in the community. A church in north Charlotte also was a regular recipient of Money Rock s largesse. Sometimes, Money Rock would attend services with his entourage, five or 10 men. Sometimes, he d deliver his offering a brown paper bag filled with thousands in cash. One friend who asked not to be named recalls discussing how much to tithe. We need to give, Money Rock would say. $1,000 or $2,000? his friend would propose. That s not enough, Money Rock would reply. At least $5,000 or $10,000. Whatever Money Rock made, he says he always gave away 10 percent. Some people came to revere the man. They acted like my daddy was a god, says Williams, 32. One man got on his knees and bowed to me when I told him who my daddy was. Money Rock s high-profile reputation had put him on law enforcement s radar, too. In the Charlotte Police Department, vice officers were accumulating informants tips as they tried to build a case against him. He had a little entourage around him, like he was president of the United States, says Calvin Kearney, a former Charlotte officer who worked in vice in the 1980s. He was one of those dealers who wanted his name to be out there. He not only wanted the housing projects, he wanted the whole city. He was bold like that. To Kearney, Money Rock s generosity was self-serving, a way of buying residents cooperation. The game is about using people, he says. You can t destroy a community and then give a few dollars and say I m helping the community. A PISTOL UNDER HIS PILLOW Over time, Jamaican and Dominican dealers moved into the city. The game became more dangerous, and Money Rock took more precautions. In late 1988, he moved his wife and their three children into a house on Ravenglass Lane in Mint Hill, in the Charlotte suburbs, miles from where he conducted his business. He carried a.45-caliber pistol in a shoulder holster. He had a panic button on his nightstand. Push it, and it set off the burglar alarm and dialed 911. He went to bed with an AK-47 assault rifle in the corner of his room. He kept his pistol under his pillow. His wife, Delores, repeatedly urged him to get out of the game. I told him I was willing to work. He could work, says Delores Legall, who is now his ex-wife. I felt it wasn t worth him losing his life over. I felt like his life was more important than money. Platt says he never killed anyone. He admits shooting Louis Big Lou Samuels during the 1985 shootout, and he says once he fired at a man to protect his brother, but missed him. He pulled guns on robbers and dealers to defend his territory and protect himself. Some men who sold cocaine for him also committed violence, but he says they acted on their own, not on his orders. Platt won t say how many kilos he sold. Law enforcement officials never knew, and he doesn t want them to know now. He has never identified his suppliers. I m not going to use somebody else to get out of what I caused myself, he says. He will say this: The ships and planes delivering cocaine to America weren t owned by black people. One of his main sources was white. People would be surprised, he says, if they knew some of the upstanding individuals who supplied cocaine in Charlotte. His suppliers never got caught. THE SCENES THAT HAUNTED By l989, his business was booming, but Money Rock was growing disillusioned. Police were out to arrest him. Hustlers wanted to rob him. Rival dealers wanted him dead. When he managed to sleep, he slept badly. He wondered: Had he been followed? Would someone kick in the door? Cocaine was always on his mind. You don t want to hold onto it, so you want to get rid of it, he says. But when you don t have any, you got to get more supply. Increasingly, Money Rock also realized the damage he was causing. Scenes haunted him parents freebasing cocaine while children went unattended, mothers who bought drugs instead of groceries. Once, a young woman knocked on the door of an apartment he kept. She wanted to speak to him alone. They went into the bathroom, the only place that offered privacy. She pulled down her pants and leaned over the sink. She didn t have money, she said, but he could have sex if he gave her some cocaine. Pull up your pants, he says he told her. Don t go selling your body for drugs. He gave her some cocaine, no charge. ONE MORE BUY The realization, he says, came gradually. You can t be a cocaine dealer and a Christian, no matter how much money you give away. One day, he decided he didn t want to do it anymore. He told his men he would stay in the game for six months to give them time to line up new jobs. The six months passed and he stopped dealing, he says. He began looking for ways to invest his money in legitimate businesses. Then, several weeks later, a cousin approached asking a favor. The cousin, facing drug charges in Rock Hill, needed money for a lawyer. He asked Money Rock to buy him a half-kilo of cocaine so he could sell it. Money Rock decided to make one more drug buy. Thursday: Money Rock goes down. Kelley: CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO Belton Lamont Money Rock Platt went to Raleigh s Central Prison in After the N.C. Appeals Court overturned his conviction in 1987, prosecutors decided not to try him again. He says he vowed to go straight, but by early 1988, he was back in the game. COURTESY OF CARRIE GRAVES Platt and his former wife, Delores, in the 1980s. The two met at West Charlotte High and married in He bought her the fur coat at Douglas Furs on Independence Boulevard. Seigle Point Apartments ( former Piedmont Courts public housing ) Trade St. Tryon St. Uptown Charlotte McDowell St. 277 Elizabeth Ave. E. 10th St. Seigle Ave. 74 DAVID PUCKETT STAFF MAP How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors and former drug dealers. Story Behind the Story Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. I wanted to find out what had become of Money Rock. Belton Platt wanted to tell his story. PAM KELLEY + He was one of those dealers who wanted his name to be out there. He not only wanted the housing projects, he wanted the whole city. He was bold like that. CALVIN KEARNEY, FORMER CHARLOTTE VICE OFFICER
6 MONEY ROCK A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION 1989 CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO Belton Money Rock Platt is led from the federal courthouse in September 1989 after a bond revocation hearing. One more sale, as FBI watches When a sting operation nabs him, Platt goes to court and meets Maximum Bob Part 3 of 6 The story so far: Belton Lamont Money Rock Platt decides to get out of the drug-dealing business. But then he plans another sale. By Pam Kelley The buy went without a hitch. Money Rock had stopped dealing weeks earlier. He says he had resolved to become a legitimate businessman. But then a cousin got charged in a drug case and asked repeatedly that Money Rock buy him a half-kilo of cocaine so he could sell it to get money for a lawyer. His resolve melted. If he was going to risk making another deal, why not buy some for himself? He unloaded most of the cocaine and was looking to sell the rest when a man named La- Morris Watson contacted him, asking for half a kilo. Money Rock had never done business with him. Something about Watson made him feel uneasy, he says. But Watson was a friend of a friend, and Money Rock trusted his friends. On a Monday evening in April 1989, according to court transcripts and interviews, Money Rock and his brother, Gordon Platt, met Watson to arrange the sale. Under Watson s shirt, taped to his back, an FBI tape recorder captured the conversation. SEE MONEY ROCK, 6A
7 6A Thursday, April 18, 2013 WORLD/FROM PAGE ONE charlotteobserver.com The Charlotte Observer + + MONEY ROCK from 1A They agreed on a price. And they agreed to a meeting place, where Money Rock would sell Watson the cocaine. But as Money Rock drove to meet Watson, two FBI cars pulled him over on Watson Drive, off West Boulevard. He got out of his gray Mercedes and, in a gesture that would be interpreted as mooning FBI agents, he dropped his powder-blue track suit pants to show he was unarmed. The agents searched the car expecting to find cocaine. They didn t. He had entrusted it with his brother. In the trunk, however, they found $5,766 in cash and about a dozen pieces of jewelry federal officials valued at $102,650. What should the agents do? They had expected cocaine. Because it wasn t there, they let him go. But they seized Money Rock s car, cash and jewelry and drove off, leaving him standing by the side of the road. Money Rock found a friend to drive him to Watson, who was sitting in his car with Gordon. Money Rock jumped from his friend s car, warning Gordon: We ve been set up. Something ain t right. Then he grabbed the arm of Watson s jacket and marched him across West Boulevard. His plan was to get Watson to a secluded area, take Gordon s gun and put a bullet through his head. But Gordon had left the gun behind, hiding it after Money Rock warned of the setup. When Money Rock gave Watson a shove, he felt something solid under his jacket. He ripped the recorder off Watson s back and paid $100 to a man to give him and his brother a ride, leaving Watson behind. The recorder ended up in a creek near Dalton Village off West Boulevard, but FBI agents had the evidence they needed. With Watson as the key witness, the government charged the brothers with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and theft of government property. Seizure of Money Rock s two houses, valued together at about $110,000, came a few months later, on Sept. 1, He was free on bond and spending the night with a girlfriend at one of the houses, on Trescott Court in east Charlotte, when he was awakened around sunrise by law enforcement officers banging on his door. A U.S. marshal was delivering forfeiture papers. At that moment, however, it wasn t the armed agents who most worried him, he says. It was the video camera he saw in one man s hand. An officer was filming to document the house s condition. Money Rock thought it was a TV news camera that might record his girlfriend. Losing the house was one thing. But having the wife discover the girlfriend on the evening news? Even worse. A magistrate canceled Money Rock s bond the next week, in part because he was driving with a revoked license and because Watson had absconded to California. Watson claimed he fled because he feared Money Rock was going to have him killed. Money Rock went to jail in September Amid lies, something true His trial in federal court began in April Watson, cooperating to get a shorter sentence on his own drug trafficking conviction, detailed the sting operation that didn t go down as planned. He testified that the two brothers punched him in the stomach and destroyed the tape recorder. Though Watson was the government s star witness, what juror Ilene Dellinger remembers was the extravagant jewelry the FBI seized from Money Rock s trunk. U.S. Assistant District Attorney Robert Conrad introduced into evidence several photos of jewelry and actual pieces a gold Rolex with diamonds, the ID bracelet with Rock spelled in diamonds and rubies. Then several pieces were passed to jurors. Dellinger recalls hefting each one and noting how heavy it was. The jewelry reminded her of all the bling Mr. T wore on The A-Team. To Dellinger, Platt seemed overconfident. She wondered how he could afford such jewelry when he claimed he didn t make much money. When he took the stand to profess his innocence, she COURTESY OF CARRIE GRAVES In 1989, Platt opened Carrie s Kitchen on 24th Street with his mother, Carrie Graves. He says it was part of his attempt to stop dealing drugs and become a legitimate businessman. didn t buy it. Jurors began deliberating after lunch and were done by dinner. Dellinger, the forewoman, announced the verdict: Guilty. During sentencing, Money Rock s wife, Delores, testified on her husband s behalf. But she found it hard to muster enthusiasm for her often-absent, cheating husband. What kind of husband and father had he been? Money Rock s attorney asked. The best, loving kind, you know, he always provided for us. And he just been a father and husband. She later divorced Platt. She s now Delores Legall. When she testified that day, she still cared about him, she says, but I was about done. Money Rock also took the stand to ask for leniency. Larry Hewitt, his attorney, warned him not to get carried away. But once he got started, he gave Judge Robert Potter an earful. I did not conspire with no LaMorris Watson for no drugs or nothing like that, he told the judge. This was not true. He claimed he d been running a janitorial business. I had five restaurants that I cleaned up every night. Also a lie. And he denied the prosecutor s assertion that he had been a menace to Charlotte since the Piedmont Courts shootout in He didn t even have a gun at that shootout, he told Potter, and I have not been prone to use violence in any other kind of way. When he finished, Money Rock finally told Potter something that was true. I ve not been perfect all my life, he said, but things change. The end of Money Rock When a person is in the process of a religious conversion, says the Rev. Andrew Lockhart, Money Rock s former minister, there s a season of planting. You can t see progress. Nothing has emerged from the soil. And yet a seed is growing. Long before Money Rock s arrest, Lockhart says he had begged him to go straight, warned him he d die if he didn t. Money Rock had begun trying to heed his minister and change his life. In June 1989, he and his mother had opened a restaurant, Carrie s Kitchen, on 24th Street. But he says going straight was hard. Many people family, friends, employees depended on the income he generated. When the FBI finally took Money Rock down, Lockhart was sad but relieved. That arrest, he believes, saved Belton Platt s life. What would have happened if Money Rock had come clean with Potter admitted he was guilty, but that he truly wanted out of the drug game? Maybe if he had admitted to drug-dealing, it would have made other assertions plausible. He planned to get a real estate license. And Carrie s Kitchen, the restaurant he opened in 1989 with his mother, had been a real business. Maybe coming clean wouldn t have mattered. When Money Rock went to Story Behind the Story Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. I wanted to find out what had become of Money Rock. Belton Platt wanted to tell his story. PAM KELLEY Potter trial, crack cocaine was making its destructive mark in Charlotte. Both the crack and powder forms were showing up everywhere in an elementary school, where an 11-year-old boy was arrested with a crack rock, and even in the county courthouse, where three teenagers were caught with cocaine in a restroom stall. In 1990, Charlotte would have 93 homicides, more than double just two years earlier. Violent crime was also breaking records, and police attributed much of the surge to cocaine. Police, trying to push back this growing scourge, often found themselves outgunned, their service revolvers no match for the semi-automatic weapons drug dealers carried. Judge Potter, known as Maximum Bob, was renowned for the length of his sentences, especially drug sentences. With Money Rock, Potter lived up to his name. The look in his son s eyes Money Rock faced 12 to 16 years. But Potter could impose a tougher sentence if he found aggravating factors. Factors such as the Piedmont Courts shootout, for instance. And lying on the witness stand. Potter gave him 290 months 24 years in prison. Platt s mother and wife, both sitting in the courtroom, began to cry. What shook him most, though, was looking back and seeing the tear-filled eyes of his oldest son, Lamont Davis, age 8. I would never want to live that out again, to look in that child s eyes, he says today. Money Rock, 26, left Charlotte on a federal prison bus in August He arrived at Atlanta s federal penitentiary in handcuffs and ankle chains and exited the bus at gunpoint. There, his reputation preceded him. Hey, it s Money Rock, inmates would say. But something in him had changed, he says. He realized he had ruined his life, failed his family and hurt many people. He no longer wanted to be part of the legend he had become. Please don t call me Money Rock, he told inmates. My name is Lamont. Friday: Lamont becomes a new man. Kelley: How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much Kelley money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors and former drug dealers. The series A young man from the inner city turns to cocaine to pursue his fortune. Wednesday Money Rock squanders a fresh start and becomes a bigger dealer. Today FBI takes down Money Rock. Friday Belton Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. Saturday The Rev. Belton Platt starts a new life. When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced. GALLERIES AND VIDEOS See more photos and watch videos of Platt discussing his past at charlotteobserver.com. U.S. sends more troops to Jordan Headquarters unit adds scope to military s role By Karen DeYoung Washington Post WASHINGTON Pentagon officials said Wednesday that the Obama administration has ordered additional U.S. troops to Jordan for possible chemical weapons control, humanitarian response or stability operations in Syria. The new troops, a headquarters element of the 1st Armored Division based at Fort Bliss, Texas, will not greatly increase the number of U.S. forces in Jordan. About 150 troops were sent last year to help train Jordanian military and Syrian opposition forces. Some of those troops will remain, and the new arrivals will increase the total to more than 200. But the dispatch of a headquarters unit indicates a higher level of preparation for a possible expanded U.S. military role, including command and control capability for a larger force. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress that he authorized the deployment last week to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios. Both Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made clear in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that President Barack Obama has not ordered any U.S. military intervention in Syria. Numerous lawmakers have pressed the administration to take more aggressive steps to intervene in the two-year-old civil war in Syria. But Hagel said, Military intervention at this point could hinder humanitarian relief operations. It could embroil the United States in a significant, lengthy and uncertain commitment.
8 MONEY ROCK A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION IN PRISON, A NEW MAN EMERGES Part 4 of 6 The story so far: After making it big as a dealer, Belton Money Rock Platt decides to quit. But he goes for one more drug deal and ends up in prison. By Pam Kelley The man who no longer wanted to be Money Rock was 26 years old when he landed in Atlanta s federal prison in His resume, if he had one, would have read like this: Founded a profitable business. Sold a highquality product. In one year, expanded market share dramatically while keeping customer satisfaction high. The problem was, everything he d done was illegal. But with a 24-year sentence, Belton Lamont Platt vowed to Platt learn skills he could actually boast about on a resume. He also was determined to remake himself spiritually, to embrace Christianity and live the kind of principled life that was an impossible ambition when he sold cocaine. From the start of his sentence, Platt spent hours praying and studying the Bible. He found a verse from the book of Jeremiah that gave him the most comfort: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of SEE PLATT, 9A
9 The Charlotte Observer charlotteobserver.com FROM PAGE ONE Friday, April 19, A PLATT from 1A peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. That passage told him God had a plan and purpose for his life. His end would be greater than his beginning. In computer classes, he mastered Word Perfect and practiced using spreadsheets. He got a most improved award for public speaking, studied real estate investment and attended a class on improving his emotional intelligence. He took English grammar, Spanish and African-American history. He earned a community college diploma in carpentry. Before long, he had a stack of glowing reviews for his work and volunteer efforts. Inmate Platt enjoys helping others, wrote one teacher, describing Platt s patience as he taught reading to inmates with learning difficulties. The positive attitude he projects helps set a productive atmosphere for the class. The prison system moved him around over the years. He stayed in cells and dorm rooms and sometimes on a bunk bed in a hallway, as the burgeoning U.S. inmate population filled prisons to overflowing. His days followed a schedule of work, meals, exercise and prisoner counts that rarely varied. In 1991, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. That was the same year his wife divorced him. In 1996, he requested a pardon from President Bill Clinton. He got back a form letter thanking him for his support. Visits from family members were special days. He accumulated photographs in a red album pictures taken when his children visited, a picture of his middle daughter in her prom dress, shots his oldest daughter sent of the new house she bought. But looking at them was painful, a reminder of all he was missing. After about a dozen years, Platt began writing his autobiography. In his free time, he picked up a yellow legal pad and let the words flow, filling up page after page. Like St. Augustine s Confessions, Platt s story included a thorough recounting of his sins. He also described how he saw God working in his life, even when he was moving several kilos of cocaine each week. COURTESY OF BELTON PLATT Belton Platt would marry wife Susan after her husband, a fellow inmate, died. They were an unlikely match. Susan was 14 years older and a legal assistant in Horry County, S.C. Throughout the memoir, he considered his motivations, his habits and, often, his failings. When he arrived in federal prison, for instance, I still had some of the street pride in me, he wrote. Even though I loved the Lord and served him while at Atlanta I still had an attitude that I feared no one. The more he wrote, the more clearly he understood his past. Romance blooming He also tithed, using his prison wages to buy toiletries and other necessities for new inmates. Before long, he was preaching. Platt saw his faith as nondenominational, though many of his beliefs in prophecies and faith healing, for instance had Pentecostal roots. He believed God spoke to him regularly. That s how he knew the Rev. James List was special. In 2002, the two met at a Bible class Platt was teaching at Seymour Johnson Federal Prison in Goldsboro. List, 63, was serving time for a Ponzi scheme involving a ministry investment program in Florida. Soon after, Platt heard the voice of God: I have made him a father to you. List ordained Platt and told his wife, Susan List, he had found the man who would help him launch a new ministry. It wasn t to be. Five months after meeting Platt, James List died of a heart attack. What happened next surprised a Story Behind the Story Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. I wanted to find out what had become of Money Rock. Belton Platt wanted to tell his story. How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors and former drug dealers. lot of people, including Platt and Susan List. They fell in love. They seemed an unlikely match, even to each other. Susan was 14 years older. She worked as a legal assistant in the Horry County, S.C., prosecutor s office. And she was white. In all his dalliances, he had never dated a white woman. But he found himself telephoning Susan, checking to make sure she was doing OK. Susan never, ever imagined returning to the prison after her husband s death. But she found herself making the three-hour drive to Seymour Johnson. Carrie Graves, Platt s mother, saw romance blooming, despite the couple s attempts to keep a low profile. I said, Lord, who do they think they re fooling? The couple married in the prison in April The player who once juggled a wife and multiple girlfriends says he has been faithful ever since. He describes Susan as the hero of his story. She was willing to give up everything, he says. And for that I m forever grateful. Says Susan Platt: I ve just never had anyone love me and care for me like he does. Tragedies at home Marrying Susan became a bright spot for Platt amid years of loss. From prison, Platt had tried to counsel his children especially his sons not to repeat his mistakes. Some were so young when he was convicted in 1990 that they knew him only from prison visits. Lamont Platt was 3 when his father went to prison. He grew up in Charlotte hearing about Money Rock s reputation, though what he heard didn t match the man he saw in the visiting room. The father he knew played spades and joked with him. The father he knew was God-fearing, sincere, never angry. As his sons grew into young men, all found trouble. And then came the tragedies. In 2001, Lamont Davis, the oldest, the one who cried as he watched his father being sentenced, shot and killed a disabled man during a robbery. He was 20. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. In 2002, Demario Pruitt, his thirdoldest son, was killed in the parking lot of a convenience store near New Bern. Police say he and three other men were attempting a robbery when the intended victim shot him. Demario was 18. In 2003, Stephen Platt, grieving for Demario, committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He left a note to his brother: Brah, wish I was with ya. Cause this life is hard. He was 16. Prison officials escorted Platt to his sons funerals. He preached at both. Afterward, he made an addition to his memoir. He called it The Other Side of THE GAME. It is part confession, part caution: Instead of staying home with my little boy and being a father to him, I ran the streets and instead of a father I became only a baby maker. That Rolex looked good on my arm, but the price I paid was a little boy s love. The Mercedes Benz I drove was nice, but what it cost me was two of my sons lives. All the women and money were nice, but what they cost me was my home, the love and respect of my wife, and 24 years of my life. Burying the past In 2005, after being transferred to Manchester, Ky., he had another insight about himself. I realized, he says, that Lamont was some mess, too. Lamont Platt was the man who feared no one. Maybe he never picked a fight, but he never walked away from one either. One morning, during outdoor exercise, he wrote Lamont Platt on a piece of paper along with attributes pride, a quick temper that he wanted to lay to rest. He dug a hole, then buried the paper. Lamont, he said, you ll never live again. That day, he became Belton Platt. Saturday: The Rev. Belton Platt returns to Charlotte. Kelley: The series A young man from the inner city turns to cocaine to pursue his fortune. Wednesday Money Rock squanders a fresh start and becomes a bigger dealer. Thursday FBI takes down Money Rock. Today Belton Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. Saturday The Rev. Belton Platt starts a new life. When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced.
10 Part 5 of 6 The story so far: During more than 20 years in prison, Belton Platt works to deepen his faith and rebuild his life. MONEY ROCK A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION A REBIRTH, A NEW MISSION The Rev. Belton Platt returns to Charlotte, working to heal the community he helped destroy T. ORTEGA GAINES - In May 2012, Belton Platt spoke at an anti-violence rally in Charlotte s Grier Heights neighborhood, where he once sold cocaine. Platt had a lot to say that day. By Pam Kelley Belton Platt s life has come full circle. About a year ago, he returned to the Grier Heights neighborhood, where he once sold cocaine, to speak at an anti-violence rally. Platt had come from his home in Conway, S.C., to join about 200 people who gathered following the shooting deaths of two young men. Nearly two dozen police officers also attended. The last time Platt met a group of law officers on a Charlotte street, in 1989, they were patting him down and seizing his Mercedes-Benz. This time, as the Rev. Platt took the microphone, they were listening. He had a lot to say. He explained that his wrongheaded desire for money cost him more than two decades of his life. He reminded the audience that Christ s Gospel isn t only about Wednesday night Bible study and morning church. It s about ministering to the hungry, the needy, the afflicted. He also had a message for all of Charlotte. SEE REBIRTH, 6A
11 6A Saturday, April 20, 2013 FROM PAGE ONE charlotteobserver.com The Charlotte Observer + REBIRTH from 1A I m sorry, he said. He regrets sowing seeds of destruction that still affect Grier Heights and other neighborhoods. When Platt concluded, Charlotte- Mecklenburg Police Officer Dan Kellough shook his hand. That, he said, was awesome. Kellough has been a Charlotte officer for more than 20 years, long enough to know the name Money Rock and remember Piedmont Courts, the drug-ridden housing project where Platt got his start. Piedmont Courts is gone, replaced with a mixed-income development that doesn t concentrate poverty the way Charlotte s old public housing did. Illegal drugs of choice have changed since Money Rock s day. Marijuana is bigger. So is heroin. But officers are still trying to keep kids out of the game. Kellough knows the antidrug argument carries more weight when a former dealer makes it. I wish he lived here, Kellough says. I would use him. I d do anything to reach young kids. Rebuilding a life Belton Platt went to federal prison in 1990 as a cocky young man. While in prison, his wife divorced him and three of his sons died violent deaths one in a botched robbery, one in a suicide and the third, just a year before his release, in a drive-by shooting. In 2009, son Derrick Dixon, 24, was driving on North Sharon Amity Road when someone in a Toyota Camry shot him in the head. No one has been charged. The world changed during his prison years, too. The nation was rocked by 9/11, went to war, elected its first black president. It also surpassed Russia to claim the world s highest incarceration rate, the result of tougher sentencing laws. In the two decades Platt was locked up, America s prison population more than doubled. In April 2010, he completed his sentence in Bennettsville, S.C. The system gave him 54 days of credit for every year in prison, so he served nearly 21 years of a 24-year sentence. He was 46, a minister matured by years of Bible study and reflection. Susan Platt married him in 2003 and waited seven years. The day Platt walked out, she was there. The two climbed into Susan s car, and he asked for a cellphone so he could call his kids. He looked at it and handed it back. He didn t know how it worked. Platt spent a required four months living in a halfway house. Then he and Susan settled in Conway, where, not long after his release, he felt called to launch a church. He started Rock Ministries Church International out of his home. At first, he and Susan were pleased if a few people attended. But their services grew quickly. They moved to a storefront, then outgrew that space. For the past year, Rock Ministries has met in a 100-year-old country church with a graceful white steeple. The congregation rents the building. Platt, always the savvy businessman, negotiated a good deal. A typical brings 60 to 75 worshippers. They are black and white, middle-class and poor, occasionally homeless. Though the flock is small, outreach efforts are vigorous. Church members distribute food to the needy and have begun ministering to prisoners in the Horry County Jail. As a minister, Platt has focused on problems with which he is well acquainted. After marrying Susan and renouncing his philandering ways, he wrote Ministry of the Husband, a book that aims to teach men to be the husbands God wants them to be. A friend paid to publish it. He has volunteered with A Father s Place, a nonprofit that helps men become involved fathers. He has received training in a program aimed at reducing adolescent pregnancy. The curriculum includes both abstinence and contraception because, as Platt well knows, most teenagers don t abstain from sex before marriage. Often, he speaks to teenagers about PHOTOS BY DIEDRA LAIRD - The Rev. Belton Platt preaches in March at Community Outreach Christian Ministries in Charlotte, in one of the neighborhoods where he used to sell drugs. Platt hugs Ty Quan after a service at Rock Ministries Church International in Conway, S.C. the costs of dealing drugs. Once you get locked up, he tells young men, you re going to see how big a fool you was standing out there. Many weeks, he drives 150 miles to preach at a evening service in Charlotte. He also makes a once-amonth report to his parole officer. His supervised release continues until Leaving the money behind Belton and Susan live off a gravel road across from a soybean field, in a four-bedroom house they rent from friends. It s big, and Platt keeps finding people who need a temporary home, so extra space has come in handy. The Platts live on Susan s salary as a law firm legal assistant and Platt s $1,200-a-month compensation from his church. Platt once made thousands a week. But when he left prison, he had about $300. This raises a question: What happened to his drug money? The answer, he says, is he doesn t know. By the time he entered prison in 1990, federal agents had confiscated two houses, a Mercedes and jewelry worth more than $100,000. But the government never got the substantial amount of cash he had stashed with friends and family and left in bank safety deposit boxes that others had rented for him. He says he doesn t know how much it was. I left everything behind, he says. What happened to it is none of my concern. What I did was wrong. I made that money from selling drugs. You wouldn t believe how many people owed me when I went to prison. And I let it all go. Platt assumes those who were holding his money spent it years ago. If they didn t, he says he would never try to retrieve it, even to use it for good works. To do so, he says, might open him up to a money-laundering charge, for one thing. But more than that, I feel like I would be cheating on God. Some may question whether a man like Belton Platt a man who instigated a shootout, sold cocaine and then lied about these things can change. Platt responds that it took him years to become the man he is today, and that with God, all things are possible. Money Rock is no more, and he would never go back to that life. If a person gave me a billion dollars and said just live this life for five minutes, he says, I wouldn t do it. Larry Hewitt, the Charlotte lawyer who defended Platt in 1990, has kept Story Behind the Story Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. I wanted to find out what had become of Money Rock. Belton Platt wanted to tell his story. PAM KELLEY How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors and former drug dealers. in touch with him. Over the years, Hewitt has seen countless defendants turn to religion. Some probably do it because they think it could help in court. Others backslide when their crisis abates. Platt, he believes, is one person who has changed: I think Belton Platt said it and lives the life. Accepting God s forgiveness When Platt was selling drugs, what made him happiest, he says, was helping people paying rent, buying groceries, giving them money. Helping people is still what makes him happiest. He just does it differently now. In November, for instance, he and other church volunteers spent an afternoon handing out meals to people on North Tryon Street near the men s homeless shelter. One woman wasn t looking for a free meal, but she needed someone to listen to her problems. I want you to just pray for me, she said, tears filling her eyes, because, to be honest with you, I don t even like myself. You ve got to accept God s forgiveness, Platt counseled. You forgive yourself because God saw fit to forgive you. Stop beating yourself up. Because if you don t It s going to kill me. It s going to kill you, he said. She smiled, nodded and wiped a tear with the back of her hand. Platt gave her his card and invited her to a church service. If you need a ride, call us, Platt called to her as she left. We ll come get you. Moving forward Like the woman on Tryon Street, Platt has had to forgive himself, as he believes God has forgiven him. While he was in prison, three sons died violent deaths, his oldest son pleaded guilty to murder charges and his remaining seven children grew up without him. The tragedies would not have happened, he believes, had he been in their lives. That is a heavy burden to carry. He says he has not visited his sons graves. He is not ready. Platt says he can t change history or make up lost years. What s done is done, he says. He can only move forward. His is not a conventional family, but it is a family. And Belton Platt, long absent, wants to be a good father now. : Belton Platt s legacy as a father. Kelley: The series A young man from the inner city turns to cocaine to pursue his fortune. Wednesday Money Rock squanders a fresh start and becomes a bigger dealer. Thursday FBI takes down Money Rock. Friday Belton Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. + Saturday The Rev. Belton Platt starts a new life. When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced. Above top, Platt preaches at his church in Conway, S.C. Above, he prays with a woman on North Tryon Street, where he gave away meals. Platt gives out meals with other church members on North Tryon Street last November. Platt says he can t change history or make up for lost years. What s done is done, he says. He can only move forward.
12 MONEY ROCK A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION DIEDRA LAIRD - Belton Platt and son Lamont Platt, right, organize basketball for children at a Conway, S.C., public housing project in April Belton Platt says the Bible showed him true fatherhood. Admitting failure, moving forward With 3 sons dead and 2 in prison, Platt works to be a father to his grown children Last of 6 parts The story so far: After being released from prison, Belton Platt launches a ministry in Conway, S.C., and a new life. By Pam Kelley Pastor Belton Platt is a hugger. At an evening service last year, he hugged one visitor after another at Charlotte s Redeemer in Mission for Christ Church. Then he hugged his son, Lamont Platt, who had come to hear his father preach. Lamont, then 26, had baggy jeans, tattoos and a criminal record he was ready to put behind him. He carried his Bible in a worn leather case. Boy, you looking good, Platt said, rubbing the top of his son s head. I m proud of you. I m trying to make a change, his son replied. Belton Platt s family is not what anyone would call traditional. He fathered 11 children with seven women. And then, when they were still small, he went to prison. Today, Platt acknowledges SLIDESHOWS AND VIDEOS See more photos and watch videos of Platt discussing his past at charlotteobserver.com. his failures as a father. He knows nearly 21 years in prison punished his children as surely as it punished him. Now, as he works to build his ministry, he strives to do right by his grown children. But some feel their minister father needs to spend more time ministering to them. As a young cocaine dealer, Platt thought he was a good dad because he loved his children and bought them lots of things. He was a good provider. Though he often didn t come home nights and was usually cheating on his wife, he considered himself better than his own father, who had been abusive and mostly absent. For his children, he was an important presence. Platt s two oldest remember the day in 1990 that Judge Robert SEE PLATT, 4A
13 4A, April 21, 2013 MONEY ROCK: A COCAINE DEALER S REDEMPTION charlotteobserver.com The Charlotte Observer + Where are they now? The people who played a role in Belton Platt s story By Pam Kelley Belton Platt s father, Alphonso Platt, the man who introduced his son to cocaine, died in 1990 at age 58. A. Platt Gordon Platt and Carrie Graves + Platt s younger brother, Gordon Platt, 48, convicted in the same FBI sting that caught Platt, got out of prison in He lives with their mother, Carrie Graves, 77, in Savanna Woods, a Charlotte public housing development. Each week, mother and son collect food donations from a grocery and distribute it to neighbors on their patio. Graves, a lifelong political activist, campaigned for President Barack Obama and was recently elected president of her neighborhood organization. Charles Locke, the man who fired the first shot in the Piedmont Courts shootout in 1985, was shot and killed in 1989 during a dispute. He was 25. Louis Big Lou Samuels, 54, is serving a 45-year sentence on weapons charges in federal prison in Beckley, W.Va. Samuels said in an interview from prison that he holds no grudge against Belton Platt and supports his efforts to keep young people out of drug dealing. Too many kids getting killed now, he said. The drug game is petty now. He is scheduled to be released in Shirley Fulton, 61, the assistant district attorney in the Piedmont Courts shootout trial, was the first black woman elected to North Carolina s Superior Court. By the time she left the bench in 2003, she had become frustrated with a judicial system that continued spending to incarcerate young men but refused, in her view, to adequately fund programs for drug treatment, jobs and education that could lower recidivism. Today, Fulton practices law and chairs the Charlotte School of Law s Board of Advisors. She says the community needs a prison alternative to house young offenders, providing structure while teaching job skills, life skills and civic responsibility. Offenders would work, save their wages and exit the program with enough money to make a new start. Robert Potter, the U.S. judge who sentenced Platt to 24 years in prison in 1990, retired in 2000 at age 77. He died in 2009 at age 86. Robert Conrad, who prosecuted Platt in federal court, became a U.S. District Court judge in Charlotte in 2005 and has been chief judge since After testifying against Platt in federal court in 1990, LaMorris Watson, the government informant, served less than three years for his drug trafficking conviction. Within months of release, he was charged with trafficking cocaine and again cooperated with the government. He is in federal prison in Louisiana with a predicted release date of Demolition of Piedmont Courts was completed in It was replaced by a mixed-income development, Seigle Point. Former Piedmont Courts residents gather for annual reunions. A reunion at Independence Park in September drew several hundred people. Though crime plagued the housing complex during its last years, many former residents have fond memories of a community where people looked out for one another and formed lasting friendships. Kelley: Samuels Fulton DIEDRA LAIRD - At a church-sponsored cookout in Conway, S.C., last year, Lamont Platt helped his father, Belton Platt, care for the youngsters in attendance. Here, he ties several shoelaces. Lamont Platt said then that he was trying to shed a temper and attitude that had landed him in trouble in the past. PLATT from 1A Potter sentenced him to prison for conspiring to sell cocaine. Lamont Davis, then 8, was in the courtroom. He cried. Kim Williams, who was 9, saw the news on television. I feel like the judge didn t only give him a sentence, she says. When I was little, that s what I used to remember. The judge gave me a sentence when he gave my dad a sentence. The absent father Platt s children came to know each other as they grew up. And most became close. No one ever referred to half-brothers or half-sisters. They were sisters and brothers, period. They were connected by half their DNA, and by the father who was not there. In prison, as Platt studied the Bible, he says, he finally discovered what a father was supposed to be a caretaker and nurturer, a living example of the love of Christ. What really taught me about fatherhood is when I realized God was my father, he says. I began to learn from Scriptures what type of father he was loving, merciful. Even when he corrects, he does it in love. When one of the children s mothers took some of them to see Platt in prison, he usually began visits with a Bible reading. He counseled his children, he says, to avoid his mistakes. Sometimes, the prison provided a photographer, and children went home with photos of themselves with their dad. As his children reached their teenage years, however, Platt s attempts at long-distance parenting weren t enough. His three daughters turned out to be resilient. Today, Kim Williams, 32, works as a bank research analyst and attends college part time. She has a teenage son. LaToya Robinson, 28, is a benefits verification specialist at a pharmaceutical company. Genesis Platt, 25, is raising her 4-year-old daughter. Platt s eight sons were a different story. By their late teens, all had been charged with crimes. All but one had a misdemeanor conviction. This comes as no surprise to Donald Braman, author of Doing Time on the Outside: Incarceration and Family Life in Urban America. The best predictor we have of whether a child will be involved in the criminal justice system, he says, is whether one of the parents is incarcerated. My father was my idol It was 2001 when Platt s family experienced its first tragedy. Lamont Davis, Platt s oldest son, shot and killed a disabled Charlotte man while trying to rob him. He was 21 when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. Davis, speaking recently by telephone from Scotland Correctional Institution in Laurinburg, said he has some happy memories of his father. Like the day his dad stopped an ice cream truck so he could treat the neighborhood children. Or the time his dad tricked him on his birthday, telling him he was in trouble and was going to get a whooping. Instead, he got a new bike. My father was my idol, really, says Davis, 31. I wanted to have the money he had. I wanted to have all the respect he had. Belton Platt says his heart broke when Davis was charged with murder. Over the next decade, his heart would break three more times. His son Demario Pruitt, 18, was COURTESY OF CARRIE GRAVES Many photos of Platt and his children were taken in prison. In this one from the 1990s, he poses with Genesis Platt, in his arm, Kim Williams, Stephen Platt, front, and Lamont Davis. Platt s family is not what anyone would call traditional. He fathered 11 children with seven women. killed in 2002 in the parking lot of a convenience store near New Bern. Police say he and three other men were attempting a robbery when the intended victim shot him. Less than a year later, Stephen Platt, 16, committed suicide, shooting himself in his bedroom. He had been close to Demario and was devastated by his death. His grandmother, Carrie Graves, found a note he d written saying he wished he was with Demario. In 2009, son Derrick Dixon, 24, was driving on North Sharon Amity Road when someone in a Toyota Camry shot him in the head. No one has been charged. These were things that really broke me as a man, Platt says. He knows, he says, that some of his sons, who grew up hearing about Money Rock s money and respect on the street, sought to emulate him. SEE PLATT, 5A Story behind the story Money Rock and I met in 1986 in a room in Raleigh s Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout. We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain. When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent. More than 25 years later, we reconnected. You might say Jay-Z brought us together. I d been reading Decoded, the rapper s memoir, and when I got to the part about Jay-Z s early days as a dealer, I remembered Money Rock. What had become of him? It took Observer researcher Maria David only a few minutes to find out. Platt was living near Myrtle Beach. She even found a phone number. So I called. Platt remembered me. Not only that, he wanted to tell his story. There will never be another Money Rock. But with 1 in 10 black men in their 30s now incarcerated, many families in Charlotte and in urban America will find much familiar about the Platt family s story. PAM KELLEY DIEDRA LAIRD - Family surrounds Platt as he preaches in Charlotte. From left are brother Gordon; mother, Carrie Graves; daughter Kim Williams; grandson, Daterio Williams; and daughter LaToya Robinson, who s holding Jada King, her fiance s daughter.
14 PHOTOS BY DIEDRA LAIRD - Belton Platt, right, and son Lamont Platt watch 5-year-old Samuel Williams take a shot during a cookout last year at Huckabee Heights, a housing project in Conway, S.C. PLATT from 4A They tried to live their lives based on that ignorance. Trying to be a dad When Platt got out in 2010, he settled with his wife, Susan, in Conway, S.C., near her job. The decision disappointed several of his eight children, most of whom are in Charlotte. They are now between ages 23 and 32. Most have listened to their father preach. They have talked on the phone and visited with him. Several have spent time at his home in Conway. But some want more from the father they ve been missing most of their lives. I do have a little resentment, says Robinson, who was 4 when her dad went to prison. When he got out, she envisioned new traditions the first photo of the whole family, their first Christmas together. That hasn t happened. She works. Her father works. And he lives more than three hours away. Genesis Platt also wants more of her dad. As a child, she says, she had dreams about him coming home. She loves her father, but it was just a long time coming for nothing, I feel like. Platt says he can t make up for the years he missed. He treasures his children, he says, but they now have their own families and relationships. And there are a lot of them. All of them know their dad loves them very, very much, he says. If they call me, they need me, I m there. He says he has visited Davis in prison at least 10 times. They talk about Davis teenage daughter and his plans for finding a job when he s released, perhaps in On each visit, before leaving, Platt says he tells his son he loves him. Davis says his dad remains his role model. Anything he teaches me to do, I ll try to follow in his footsteps. Davis says he wants to become a truck driver. He also wants to be involved in his daughter s life. That s a must, he says. That s something I got to do. A year ago at Easter, Lamont Platt, the seventh of Platt s eight sons, spent a week with his dad in Conway. Platt put his son to work, teaching him to use a pressure washer and drive a riding lawn mower, skills that could help him find a job. When Belton Platt s church members organized a cookout for children in a public housing project, Lamont Platt played basketball with the kids and tied shoestrings that had come undone. When a child needed to find a bathroom, Lamont asked his dad for his car keys to drive the boy to a restroom. Belton Platt reminded his son he didn t have a driver s license, and it would be stupid to take a chance that could get him into trouble. Lamont paused, smiled and agreed. They found someone else to drive. The week was a good one. Lamont said then in an interview that he was trying to become more like his dad, to shed the quick temper and bad attitude that got him in trouble. Whatever he needs me to do, I m trying to do it, Lamont Platt said. I m not perfect. I m trying to get where he is now. The right choices At Charlotte s Redeemer in Mission for Christ Church last year, Lamont Platt listened as his dad s voice filled the room, thundering then dropping to nearly a whisper as he assured the crowd that God hasn t forgotten them, no matter what they ve been through. Starting a new life, Platt likes to preach, is more than asking for forgiveness. It s also work. Shun drugs and alcohol, work hard in school, set goals. If you want your life better, he often reminds his congregation, it s going to take making better choices. The service was stretching into its third hour when Platt called worshippers forward to dedicate their lives to Christ. As gospel music swelled, Lamont Platt rose from his pew, walked to the front and stood, hands in pockets, with more than 20 others. Platt made his way down the line of worshippers, laying on hands, praying for each one. When he reached his son, he placed both hands on the top of Lamont s head. His gold wedding band flashed as it caught the light. They stood like that for a moment, the father s hands gentle on the son s head. Belton Platt with his eyes closed. Lamont Platt with his head bowed. Becoming a new man isn t easy. Sometimes, it takes years and multiple attempts. But as a cocaine dealer named Money Rock once told a federal judge, it s possible to make mistakes, to not be perfect all your life. And then, eventually, something changes. Belton Platt prays as he prepares to preach in Charlotte. He drives from Conway, S.C., to preach most nights. The series A young man pursues his fortune in cocaine. Wednesday A fresh start squandered. Thursday Money Rock taken down. Friday Belmont Lamont Platt remakes himself in prison. Saturday Pastor Platt starts new life. Today When Platt went to prison, his children also were sentenced. LIVE ONLINE CHAT Belton Platt will be a guest on charlotteobserver.com at noon Monday. The public can ask questions. Anybody can change, right? About two months after Platt prayed for his son at that service, police arrested Lamont in the Cherry neighborhood for possessing cocaine with intent to sell. They found 0.12 of a gram of cocaine in his pocket. In November, he became one of nearly 38,000 inmates in North Carolina s prison system. He s in Harnett County in Eastern North Carolina, the same prison where his dad served time for the Piedmont Courts shootout. He s likely to be released in May. Lamont Platt, 27, said in a recent telephone interview that he hopes to find a job doing landscaping work when he s released. He s determined to make this incarceration his last. My daddy said anybody can change, right? In order to change, you got to make the choice to change. I m going to make the right choices when I get out. Kelley: How we reported the story Over the past 15 months, Pam Kelley has interviewed Belton Platt, on the phone and in person, more than 25 times. He also has shared a memoir he wrote while in prison. He declines to discuss two subjects how much cocaine he sold and how much money he made. But Platt has revealed many details about his drug operation and criminal life. To tell his story, Kelley also relied on court transcripts, public records, newspaper articles and interviews with more than 50 people, including family, police, lawyers, prosecutors and former drug dealers.