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Malice Green Beating Death Trials: 1993-2000

budzyn nevers officers detroit

Defendants: Larry Nevers, Walter Budzyn, Robert Lessnau
Crimes Charged: Nevers and Budzyn: murder; Lessnau: aggravated assault
Chief Defense Lawyers: Carol Stanyar, James Howarth, Michael Batchelor, John Goldpaugh
Chief Prosecutor: Kym Worthy
Judge: Robert W. Crockett Ill
Place: Detroit, Michigan
Dates of Trials: First trial: JuneAugust 1993; Budzyn retrial: April 1998; Nevers retrial: March 2000
Verdict: Nevers and Budzyn: guilty of second-degree murder; Lessnau: not guilty
Sentence: Nevers: 12-25 years imprisonment; Budzyn: 8-18 imprisonment

SIGNIFICANCE: Shortly after the riots in Los Angeles over the Rodney King beating, the nation watched expectantly as three white police officers stood trial for the assault and murder of a black man in Detroit. Unlike what happened in Los Angeles, two of the officers were convicted of murder.

During the evening of November 5, 1992, Malice Wayne Green, a black, unemployed steelworker, stopped his car to drop off a friend at a house in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. He was observed by two white police officers, Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn, who were working under cover and who suspected the location was a drug house. They ordered Green to get out of his car. When he refused, they radioed for backup help; then they dragged him out. Noticing that Green kept one fist clenched, the officers ordered him to open it. When he balked, they started beating his fist with their heavy metal flashlights.

While the policemen were beating Green, five additional officers arrived in response to the backup call. By then, it was later alleged, Nevers and Budzyn were hitting Green on the head with their flashlights. One of the five, a white officer named Robert Lessnau, joined in the beating. Another, Sergeant Freddie Douglas, who was the ranking officer at the scene, and who was black, did not participate in the beating; neither did he intervene to stop it.

Malice Green, 34, died that night. The next day, Detroit Police Chief Stanley Knox suspended Nevers, Budzyn, and the five backup officers from the police force without pay. An autopsy a few days later revealed that Green had died of a torn scalp and as many as 12 to 14 blows to the head, and that he had both cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of his death. On November 16, Wayne County Prosecutor John D. O'Hair charged officers Budzyn and Nevers with second-degree murder. Sergeant Douglas was charged with involuntary manslaughter and willful neglect of duty for failing to stop the beating, and Officer Lessnau was charged with aggravated assault. All four pleaded not guilty. The three other officers were kept on indefinite suspension, but prosecutor O'Hair said he did not have enough evidence to charge them with a crime.

Detroit held its breath. In a city whose population is 75 percent black, most people were probably thinking of the aftermath of the notorious beating of black motorist Rodney G. King by four Los Angeles policemen only the year before: five days of rioting when the accused officers were acquitted on all but one charge. However, Detroit officials were cautious about suggestion an analogy between the King beating, which had been perceived as motivated by racial hatred, and the Green beating. Police Chief Knox said he did not believe that race was a catalyst in this case. Furthermore, when the Detroit officers were charged, the National Director of Special Projects for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Jack Gravely, congratulated the police chief and other officials on their prompt reaction by suspending the officers the very next day after the beating. "What is different in Detroit," said Gravely on November 16, "is the leadership. When we compare what happened in Detroit with what happened [in Los Angeles], it does make a difference. Without it, this city probably would still be burning at its walls today."

Officer Larry Nevers, found guilty of the death of Malice Green. (AP/Wide World Photos) Officer Larry Nevers, found guilty of the death of Malice Green. (AP/Wide World Photos)

On December 23, 1992, Michigan District Court Chief Judge Alex J. Allen, Jr., dismissed the charge of involuntary manslaughter against Sergeant Douglas because the beating of Malice Green had already been under way when Douglas arrived on the scene.

The trials of the three remaining police officers raged simultaneously for three months in the Detroit courtroom of Judge Robert W. Crockett III, who was black, and in the homes of America via cable television's Court TV. The evidence was heard by two separate juries. The Nevers jury comprised ten black and two white members. Budzyn's included 11 blacks and one white. Lessnau, facing the lesser charge of assault, found his fate in the hands of Judge Crockett himself rather than a jury.

The prosecution team was led by 36-year-old Kym Worthy, a black lawyer and a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame Law School, who was already renowned for her skillful use of courtroom dramatics. With her fingernails painted in multiple colors and her long black hair whipping her shoulders as she tossed her head, she had built a solid reputation by winning 90 out of the 100 jury trials she had conducted in nine years with the Wayne County prosecutor's office.

Officer Nevers testified in his defense that he had been in fear of his life when Malice Green resisted arrest. He admitted that he had hit Green five or six times with his flashlight. Officer Budzyn, on the other hand, denied striking Green and testified that he had not seen officer Nevers or any of the backup policemen club the motorist in the head.

That testimony brought one of the highlights of Prosecutor Worthy's presentation. She pulled a tape measure from her pocket and stretched out two feet of it. "You were this far away from Malice Green and didn't see him being pummeled to death?" she demanded. "You couldn't smell the blood?"

Asked later if such a courtroom stratagem wasn't outside of normal jurisprudence, and if the remark about smelling the blood wasn't inflammatory, Kym Worthy replied, "I don't think it's pushing the lines. I think it's just being thorough. He gave me a story that I didn't think was plausible. I wanted to make sure the jury was able to evaluate it for what it was worth, and I just wanted to show that it wasn't worth too much."

On August 16, Judge Crockett announced that he had reached his decision in the case of Officer Lessnau. August 21 brought the jury's decision in the Budzyn case. Both verdicts, however, were sealed until the end of the Nevers trial. That jury reached agreement on August 23, finding Nevers guilty. Then the Budzyn jury's verdict was also read: guilty. However, the judge found Lessnau not guilty under the charge of assault with intent to cause great bodily harm.

Before they were sentenced, both Nevers and Budzyn apologized to Malice Green's family in the courtroom. Then Judge Crockett pronounced sentence. Larry Nevers, 53, was given 12-25 years in prison, with no parole permitted until he served at least nine years and eight months. Walter Budzyn, 47, was sentenced to 8-18 years, with a minimum of six and a half years. Before they were led from the courtroom, both former police officers asked that they be sent to out-of-state prisons. They said that, as new prisoners, they wanted to dodge any chance of cell block confrontations with prisoners whose incarceration was the result of their work as Detroit policemen. The Michigan Department of Corrections made arrangements for both men to serve their time in Texas.

In the summer of 1997, after serving four and a half years, Walter Budzyn was released from jail after the Michigan State Supreme Court threw out Budzyn's conviction. Among other reasons, the court ruled that the mostly black jury may have been influenced by a showing of the film Malcolm X during a break in their deliberations. (The film opens with the infamous Rodney King beating videotape.) A new trial was subsequently ordered for Budzyn, which was conducted in April 1998.

At the retrial, Budzyn was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Though the lesser conviction carried a possible maximum penalty of 15 years in jail, prosecutors agreed to a sentence of time served and Budzyn was released from custody.

Larry Nevers was also released from prison in 1997 after a federal judge overturned his conviction. After several delays, Nevers' retrial began in March 2000. On April, 18, 2000, after less than a full day of deliberation, the jury found Nevers not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven to 15 years in prison.

Bernard Ryan, Jr. and

Ron Formica

Suggestions for Further Reading

Bacon, John, et. al. "Manslaughter Verdict in Police Officer Trial." USA Today (March 20, 1998): 3.

Dyer, Jim. "Budzyn Gets 4-15 Years in Malice Green Death." Detroit News (April 18, 1998): 1.

Linden, Eugene, et. al. "Milestones." Time (October 1993): 25.

Manuel Noriega Trial: 1991 - Cartel Contacts Revealed, Judge Taken Iii, Suggestions For Further Reading [next] [back] Inc. Madsen v. Women's Health Center - Significance, Standards Of Scrutiny, The Majority Opinion, Stevens Dissents In Part, Scalia Dissents

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about 6 years ago

I am writing a research paper on Police Brutality and to be honest it should be on "citizen" brutality. I dont understand home someone can speak suck awful things about a person that lost his life in such a horrible manner. "andrew" whatever-your-name-is may God have mercy on your soul!



RIP malice green & all the others who have lost their lives to the batons of police!

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almost 8 years ago

i think our judicial system is disgusting in the way it holds race/black/white issues,absolutely disgusting.

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almost 9 years ago

I THINK THE POLICE SHOULD HAVE GOT THEIR ***** BEAT JUST LIKE THEY BEAT MALICE GREEN!! I DON'T GIVE A **** ABOUT WHO HE STOLE FROM OR WHAT KINDA LIFESTYLE HE HAD, ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE US!! SO **** WHOEVER TALK DOWN ON MALICE GREEN BECAUSE A HUMAN BEING DON'T DESERVE TO GET THAT KIND OF TREATMENT. ALL THESE PREJUDICE *** PEOPLE NEED TO READ THE BIBLE INSTEAD OF THE **** LAW BOOK!! PUT YOURSELVES IN HIS SHOES OR BETTER YET, HIS FAMILY'S SHOES, TELL ME HOW YOU WOULD FEEL!! POLICE ARE SUPPOSE TO BE HERE TO PROTECT US, HOW IN THE **** CAN WE GET PROTECTION FROM CROOKED *** COPS AS THESE?? SOME POLICE THINK JUST BECAUSE THEY WEAR A BADGE THAT THEY CAN TREAT US ANYKIND OF WAY, **** WE GOT RIGHTS TOO. THE ONLY REASON WHY THAT ANDREW DESTEFANO ******* IS TALKING **** IS BECAUSE WE ARE ON COMPUTER, I BET YOU HALF HIS LIFE HE WON'T SAY THAT **** TO NO ONE IN PERSON. SO OF COURSE THE ******* IS GONE KEEP RESPONDING TALKING THAT **** CAUSE THAT'S WHAT COWARD *** POLICE **** SUCKERS DO!!! WHERE I'M FROM, THEY DON'T GIVE A **** ABOUT A COP OR NOTHIN, DESTEFANO *** WOULD HAVE GOT HIS *** ****** UP SAYING ALL THAT **** TO THE PEOPLE DOWN HERE!!! SO **** HIM AND WHAT HE TALKING. HE TALKING BOUT HOW UNEDUATED WE ARE, READ LINE 16, YOU NEED TO CHECK YOUR SPELLING HOMEBOY!! STEP FOOT IN LONGVIEW AND TALK THAT ****!! SINCE YOU SO EDUCATED, FIND OUT WHERE IT'S AT FLAGGIN!! OH YEAH, FILL IN THE BLANKS.

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almost 6 years ago

Budzyn and Nevers are guilty of 1st degree murder and should be in prison for life!

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almost 9 years ago

Folks,



Good morning to all the anonymous cowards out there who insist on thinking so little of their own personal opinions that they don't put their names to their uneducated, high-school dropout rantings. When a comment is anonymous and unverified, it is completely worthless, just like it's author.



Malice Green lived his life like a degenerate. This is a fact. He contributed nothing to society. This is a fact, and obviously a very painful one. Unfortunately for the ignorant people out there who have this need to blame the police for their own personal shortcomings, I do know all about the "MALICE" Green case, more than I'd like to know, and more than all the press it deserved. Look up the word "MALICE" in a dictionary (if you even own one or know what a dictionary is).

Obviously this is the very first time in your life that you've been told the truth; up till now it's always been the fault of the police for everything. The hierarchy in your lovely city Detriot were blathering idiots, and that's why the verdict was rightfully thrown out, TWICE. If you weren't so ignorant, I would suggest you read the legal ruling of the Federal Judge who threw the case out, but then again, if you read it, you may actually learn something, and we just can't have that.



I also know all about Malice Green's parents, or should I say, the woman who gave birth to him, and the man that impregnated the woamn that gave birth to him. How someone could live a degenerate life the way he did is an indication of the way he was raised. "UNEMPLOYED STEEL WORKER" my butt. More like "EMPLOYED STEAL WORKER". He fed his crack cocaine habit by stealing from others, and you are going to defend him? How many vitims were saved because of this man's death? Thank God we'll never know.

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almost 4 years ago

Andrew,

The past of Malice Green is irrelevant. What his parents did or what he did does not change the facts of the case. Police murdered a man that they had no reason or cause to murder. That is the fact of this case. A man lost his life. Whether he was a crack addict, a thief, a billionaire, a star, or an average joe. That doesn't change the fact that these police officers committed murder. Just because a person has a rough life or past it doesn't make it right to kill them. Show me the law book where it says "You may commit murder only if the victim is useless to society." You won't because you can't. That is bullshit ideology. That's like saying if the police officers murdered an elderly person it's all good because, well, they didn't benefit society. Assuming that the people that are offering up these opinions are ignorant high school drop outs is the meaning of ignorant. If you haven't noticed yet I included my name. You're welcome.

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about 4 years ago

All of you that did not know malice you know nothing about him I worked with him for 20 years he was a very happy going guy a lot of fun he lost his job after 25 years and moved back to detroit were he got hooked up with the wrong people. And then those great cops you have killed him you can all go to hell

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over 8 years ago

The white man has been dogging the black man long enough.It is time to take to the streets and put an end to it once and for all.

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over 7 years ago

To Cory wAss...Do your homework. Malice Green was not beaten to death. 3 of 4 pathologists agreed that the blows Green received were superficial wounds and could not have caused death. The same 3 pathologists agreed that cocaine abuse, combined with the struggle Green put up while resisting a lawful arrest, is what killed him. The one descending pathologist has since had his medical license revoked and had only 3 yrs of pathology experience at the time.

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about 8 years ago

No matter how degenerate or "useless" a person may be, do they really deserve to have their heads beat in or hands smashed by someone trying to get at their own property. I don't care if it was drugs or not. And I guarantee you those two "degenerate police" officers didnt know for certain either. the fact is if he was that anebriated, he should've had medical attention. Not a harsh battery. "to SERVE and PROTECT"...Remember

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about 8 years ago

Brinette says Malice Green is her Uncle. Really? Well then your uncle was a piece of human garbage. Read the autopsy. The drugs killed him. The Federal Judge who threw out the conviction, clearly stated that these cops were railroaded. This Judge in the Gren case was a blathering idiot and a good example of the quality of human being in Detroit.



Keep blaming others for what your yourself have done.

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about 8 years ago

How can you call yourselves american? "He had it coming" or "he was garbage". Are you kidding me? This is not a country that kills people for having problems. maybe china, or russia, or even afghanistan but not the United States of America. You could say you didnt approve of his life style, the way he dressed or even the color of his skin(which I'm sure is at root of your problems). But the fact is Malice Green was a vicim of his environment, the same way that animals born in darkness have poor vision. The fact is he was caught in a blizard, and got beat to death for being cold.

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over 7 years ago

The comments I have read here on the matter are deplorable!! I don't care what harm a human being has done to themselves that is not cause for police officers to take their lives!

For those hiding behind their computers, saying otherwise, when the Karma that you are putting out there in the universe revisits YOU and yours...do not act surprised!

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about 8 years ago

I just got done reading Larry Nevers book entitled "Good Cop, Bad Verdict". Whether you think he and Budzyn were racist/rogue cops or not, the book will really bring to light alot of injustice that was commited throughout the entire ordeal. All 7 of the officers involved with the Malice Green arrest were RAILROADED, no question about it. From the mayor and police chief all the way throught he media and trial.

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about 9 years ago

Amazing how you refer to "Malice" Green as an "unemployed steelworker". The guy was a degenerate piece of human garbage, whose entire life was focused on taking away from society and hurting people. What kind of person is named "Malice", anyway? His parents, if he even knew who they were, I'm sure were in and out of prison their whole lives. Like father, like son.



Malice Green died from a cocaine overdose.



Kym Worthy is useless and covered up key evidence. On the "60 Minutes" program, she made a complete fool of herself.



Mrs. Green should have saved society a lot of money and should have had herself an abortion.



The hierarchy in Detriot are a bunch of blathering idiots. Dumb, Dumber and dumbest.



This is my constitutionally protected opinion.

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almost 6 years ago

THEM cops were guilty, but not of second degree murder

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about 8 years ago

Injustice in the state of michigan is as guaranteed as snow, and a lot more frequent. Being a Michigan citizen I've seen more than I can stomach. More times than not, the regular people get the short end of the stick. Like that night instead of seeing Malice got medical attention. These "hero" cops were thinking about getting another arrest. and making their quota. Which is all 90% of the police do. No, if the police were held accountable for more of they're actions instead of believing that since they enforce the law, they're some how above it. there might be a little less injustice in the country. As for prosecuting attourneys, or Persecuting attourneys. they are no better. Any one who prides them selves on how badly they can ruin a persons life with the least amount of evidence, truely deserves a fate similar to those two murderers.

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over 5 years ago

All you people that are talking down on this man can go to hell because no one deserves to die like that. PERIOD! if you feel like that then you are the "garbage" Those officers should be in jail.

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over 5 years ago

Sharon, you are an idiot. 1st degree murder involves premeditation. Do a little research before you make such outrageous statements. At the most, this was a manslaughter case, and that's a stretch. Budzyn never even struck Green, and Nevers did so to get Green's hand off his pistol. The man did not die from blunt force trauma, but from heart failure due to his drug use.

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about 8 years ago

Not true. Malice Green was a complete waste of human life, and he contributed nothing to society. These two hero cops spent their entire careers helping people; MALICE, on the other hand, did nothing but destroy. God bless budzyn and nevers.

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over 8 years ago

sorry js, everyone cannot be a racist. A racist is someone who is of the majority group and think that their race is the better one. The majority just happens to be white people. They are the only ones who can be racists. The others are considered

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over 8 years ago

You all who say this was not justified need to spend a week out on the Detroit street as a police officer, you wouldn't last a minute. Green had the officers gun, the officer took action to prevent the suspect from taking his gun, why wouldn't that be justified...? Idiots!

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over 8 years ago

First of all let me start by saying

racism exsist rather the constitution says it does or not... because its not in the doctrine of our conutry it is in the citizens and those who are in power...it is so unfortunate that man had to die reguardless of his lifestyle, and noone should have the nerve to say otherwise!

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over 8 years ago

I cant beleive what Im reading all you ignorant people need to really get some help.Regardless of what the man did he was a human being he had a mother and family and for some of you to just talk about him like he was a piece of trash is completely wrong. Like none of you never had someone in your family suffer from an addiction it pains me to see that this is where our society is going. No one can imagine what this mans family went through yet all some of you have to say is negative things about him. As for the cops that murdered him they should have gotten life they knew what they were doing, the antics and tactics they took were very harmful and went against everything they were taught in the acedemy. how can murdering a guy in cold blood be justified it cant Ill bet if he was an white drug addict your whole perception would be different. My apologies to the green family for all the racist people in our city. There is no way possible anyone can say these cops were right it just goes to show you that racism still exist and ablack life isnt worth nothing.

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over 8 years ago

Malice Green is my uncle and reguardless to the fact he lost his life for no reason. my family lost a man that to us as kids, was our everything. I feel as though no one is perfect. everyone makes mistakes. his mistake was his addiction. but his addiction didn't kill him, the detroit police did. so everyone that has something bad to say about my uncle can shut the hell up because i lost someone that meant the world to me. if it was your family you would want justice too. we didn't care about the money. all we cared about was him, we would give the money back if we could just see him for one more time. thank you for your time.

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over 8 years ago

I just want to say that im glad those cops got out. They served time that did not need to be spent in jail. They were defending themselves from a known drug addict. Plus all of the witnesses that were not cops happened to be known drug addicts and friends of Green. I personally thing this was racially motivated, not on the side of the cops however. The mayor at the time as well as many high ranking officials wanted to throw them in jail to protect themselves. Kym Worthy also was out to make a name for herself. She did not care about the city, she was there to make a name for herself, and it worked. Perosnally, I also think that the people who accuse this as being racially motivated by the police believe that the "white man is out to get them." Come on people...lets move on. Under the constitution we are all equal and in Michigan, I do not see racism as often then it is seen down south. Just remember that blacks, white, latinos, asians, arabs, and anyone else can be a racist. So lets get along, its not just the whites that are racists anymore.

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over 8 years ago

FOR THE PEOPLE WHO HAD SOMETHING TO SAY NEGATIVE ABOUT MALICE GREEN THAT WAS SO UNNECESSARY. REGARDLESS OF THE LIFESTYLE HE MAY HAVE LIVED AND WHAT NOT EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO LIFE; AND HIS WAS TAKEN BY TWO JERKS. WELL IM NOT GOING TO SAY THAT BECAUSE MALICE DID KIND OF RESIST ARREST, BUT THEY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHEN ENOUGH WAS EHOUGH.. LIKE WHEN HE COULDN'T FIGHT BACK ANYMORE BUT I BET YOU THEY CONTINUED TO BEAT THIS MAN SENSELESSLY.. WHAT A SHAME.. "WHEN YOU TAKE A LIFE YOU FORFEIT YOUR OWN"

R.I.P MALICE GREEN

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almost 9 years ago

Hey "anonymous" I agree with you and I second the emotion of your suggestion of "DeStefano's" locality of his last name.... If it looks like a goat, walks like a goat and smells like a goat - then it must be a goat. He's has not inclination of what Malice Greens name means nor does he know the MANs parents. And that's just it; I think that's the whole problem in a nut shell - DeStefano was created and not born. He was made out of the stuff that comes from Garbage!

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almost 9 years ago

For you Stefano to even speak of someone in that way, not knowing nothing about him and his family. You show society the ignorance of you and your family or associates as a being. You dont speak negligent of anyone you know nothing about. Maybe your family has been in and out of jail. Look up the history of your name DeStefano.. Sounds like the italian mafia to me....

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about 9 years ago

Yup, your constitutionally protected idiotic opinion. Among other things, you know nothing about Mr. Green's parents. Go back under your rock Andy.

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about 9 years ago

destefano, you complain like the liberal you are