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April 2018


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Defense in Gov. Greitens Case Spending Considerable Time Attacking Ex-FBI Agent

Vince Wade is a former investigative TV reporter in Detroit and author and documentary producer in the Los Angeles area. His book, “Prisoner of War: The Story of White Boy Rick and the War on Drugs,” will be released on June 25. This column is being reposted with permission.

By Vince Wade

William Don Tisaby

In the Gov. Eric Greitens affair, the defense is spending considerable time attacking William Don Tisaby, a private investigator assisting St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. A casual observer might conclude it is Tisaby who is facing charges, not the governor.

The Greitens defense team has attacked Tisaby as a tarnished former FBI agent who once engaged in bigamy and has since moved on to lying under oath in the Greitens case.

The Tisaby portrayed by the Greitens camp is not the one I know. I am a former TV news investigative reporter in Detroit. My work garnered three Emmys and the first place prize for Best Local Documentary in the New York Film Festival. I knew Tisaby as a special agent in the Detroit FBI. He is an important figure in an upcoming book I have written. It tells the story of a street-wise 14-year-old Detroit white kid, recruited by the FBI to spy on a ruthless black drug gang with City Hall connections. The boy’s bizarre tale is an example of why the War on Drugs has been a trillion-dollar policy failure. “White Boy Rick,” a film inspired by the boy’s story, will star Matthew McConaughey. It will be released in September.

Among First Black Agents

 Tisaby was among the first black agents hired when the FBI sought to shed its image as a mostly male, all-white police organization. To this day, some white male agents resent the inclusion of minorities and women in the special agent ranks.

When the FBI was given concurrent narcotics jurisdiction with the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1982, Tisaby was one of the first FBI agents to work drug investigations and he excelled at it. He made one of the first major FBI multidefendant drug conspiracy cases. In the 1980s, Tisaby worked undercover, gaining valuable intelligence about Detroit’s burgeoning narcotics underworld.

Tisaby also made enemies — in the FBI. Several white FBI supervisors and managers were miffed when Tisaby refused a command to enter an apartment to look for drugs without a proper search warrant. White agents did the “black bag job,” but the tainted search caused internal FBI problems. Tisaby was viewed by some white agents and managers as “difficult.”

Yet his accomplishments were such that New York Gov. Mario Cuomo personally hired him as the deputy state inspector general of substance abuse services. During this time, black FBI agents and support staff called Tisaby periodically for advice on discrimination complaints against the FBI. This didn’t win him friends among some whites in the bureau.

Helped DEA 

In the early ’90s, Tisaby returned to the FBI, where he helped found the National Drug Intelligence Center. Later, he was assigned to help the DEA remodel its “kingpin” program to mirror the protocols of the FBI’s major case program.

Agent Tisaby continued his advancement in the FBI and continued to provide guidance and counsel to FBI blacks on discrimination issues.

 I’m trying to reconcile the Tisaby I know, the one who made enemies inside the FBI for refusing to do an illegal drug search ordered by white agents, with the Tisaby who is now accused of lying about withholding notes related to a partially botched videotape interview with the alleged victim in the Greitens case.

I don’t know the gory details of Tisaby’s bitter, messy divorce, but it appears he wasn’t totally candid with FBI’s internal investigators about some related issues. That’s what got him in trouble in the FBI, not bigamy. He was disciplined but not fired.

The lightning and thunder the Greitens camp is hurling at Tisaby smacks of “Hey! Look over here!”

The poet Carl Sandburg once said of court cases, “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

The Greitens camp is yelling a lot.


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