RIKERS ISLAND — Michael Walcott was accused four years ago in a ‘Bloods’ gang conspiracy case that included murder, robbery and drug trafficking among the charges. He said he was stunned when police arrested him outside St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, when he left the overnight shift in the maintenance department.
“When I got to my car, like, officers came out of nowhere,” Walcott, 38, recalled to PIX11 of the scene near Amsterdam Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan.
“I’m really, honestly thinking, cause I know I didn’t do a crime, so I’m thinking ‘Is this for parking tickets or something?’”
It wasn’t about parking tickets.
Walcott, who said he was working to turn his life around after a 2011 prison release, was charged with being a prominent member of the “Mac Balla” faction of the “Bloods” gang. He was rounded up among 64 people accused in the conspiracy, from the Bronx to Binghamton.
“I’m charged with a murder from 2011, a robbery from 2009, drug sales from 2009 to 2015,” Walcott told PIX11 in a section of the West Facility on Rikers where he’s housed.
“I never conspired with anyone to do any of these things.”
Walcott said he learned most of the people arrested in the roundup on April 9, 2014, have taken plea bargains to get less jail time.
“You know, a person might have ‘copped out’ to 14 years when they were facing life,” Walcott said. “They had to give up something. They’re going to lie in order to save themselves.”
Walcott acknowledged to PIX11 that he got into the street life when he was a kid in Brooklyn, impressed by the hustlers who dealt drugs and made lots of money.
He was 15 when he was first arrested for attempted murder, after a shooting in Brooklyn. He went to juvenile detention and then state prison for five years.
At age 20, he got out but his freedom didn’t last long.
“I came home, all I knew was jail and street life,” Walcott said. “I only lasted four or five months and then I came back to jail.”
Walcott was convicted on another weapons charge and pleaded guilty to robbery.
He said his second stint in prison forced him to reflect on his life. Two children—a boy and a girl—were conceived during his brief time on the streets.
“I just decided to educate myself and form a better life,” Walcott said. “The most important thing I did was I read a lot. I read everything I got my hands on.”
Walcott said the first thing he did when he got out of prison in 2011 was attend a parent/teacher conference at his daughter’s school. He told us his mother had died in 2006, when he was in prison, and that the two had been close.
“I was born when she was 16,” Walcott said.
“My father’s a hard-working man,” Walcott said. “He’d never seen the inside of a precinct or jail until I came into one.”
Now, Walcott is waiting for a trial date, nearly four years after he came back into the system.
He survived a slashing and beating last year, after he was jumped by other alleged gang members. He wears a brace on his left forearm and hand.
“The use of my left arm is like 50/50,” Walcott told PIX11.
Walcott said he knows what it’s like to be in solitary confinement, because he spent 18 months alone in a cell when he was 19.
There’s great debate on Rikers about Mayor de Blasio’s recent policy not to put suspects 18 and under in punitive segregation. Four alleged gang members—all of them 18 years old — were indicted this week, charged with cracking a correction officer’s spine during a beat down.
The correction union president wants the city to provide punitive segregation again for violent young people.
Walcott is not certain that would do much good.
“Here, I see a lot of people just being alone, it would drive them crazy; they’d start acting up and yelling,” Walcott said. “So, it’s like, ‘What kind of animal do you want to create to go out into the street.”
“Even though people are accused of crimes, they’re still human beings that have emotions.”
Walcott’s next court date is April 3rd, and he said he’s ready for trial.
“Being put in prison is actually destroying not only my life but also destroying my kids’ lives,” Walcott said.