At 35, the late Vincent Bugliosi was the tireless prosecutor in the successful Manson family murder trial. He would also become a New York Times bestselling author many times over, including for “Helter Skelter,” the most popular true crime book in history, selling over 7 million copies. Sadly, on June 5, Bugliosi died after a years-long battle with cancer. He was 80 and left behind his wife of 59 years, Gail, and two adult children. For the past 7years I was proud to have known him.
Bugliosi’s talent and ethics were best summed up by legendary defense lawyer and Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz. “If I were on trial and guilty,” Dershowitz said, “there’s no prosecutor I would fear more than Vincent Bugliosi. But if I were innocent, there’s no prosecutor I would welcome more.”
I first crossed paths with Vince in 2008 when I noticed that he had written “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” which was due out soon. Intrigued by the title, I immediately contacted the publisher to review it. Curiously, they seemed surprised by my interest. Only later would I find out why. In the meantime, I soon received a copy of Vince’s book and couldn’t put it down.
Bugliosi contended that Bush intentionally deceived the country into the Iraq War. After copious research, Vince postulated that, assuming a fallen soldier had lived in their jurisdiction, any of the 50 state attorneys general, or any county D.A., had legal grounds to indict Bush for murder: “At this stage of my life, I would not risk my reputation on something I wasn’t 100% sure had legal merit.”
The strongest evidence against Bush, according to Bugliosi, was an Oct.7, 2002, speech claiming that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States. A National Intelligence Estimate a week earlier stated almost the opposite. Bugliosi further claimed the Bush administration purposely deleted sections of the declassified version of the NIE released to Congress.
In the book, Bugliosi also castigates Bush for his cavalier attitude regarding the death and suffering of American soldiers. After eight years as president, Bush is quoted assaying, “Laura and I had the time of our lives,” as though they had been to Disneyworld. Shockingly, Bush also said to Iraqi troops, “Bring it on.” And lastly, Bugliosi points out that “W” spent two and a half years of his presidency on vacation at Camp David and the Crawford ranch.
Shortly after my review appeared, I was told that Vince phoned the Daily Press looking for me. I gulped. “Why?” I instantly assumed I’d made some factual errors: “Tell Bugliosi I never even met Charles Manson.” Finally, I returned his call, albeit nervously.
Bugliosi immediately praised my courage. “You were the only mainstream journalist in America with the guts to review the book.” I tried to explain that it wasn’t “guts” but rather a dislike for Bush, but Vince forever insisted I was courageous.
This was the start of a seven-year mutual admiration. When “Prosecution of George W. Bush” was made into a documentary, “The Prosecution of an American President,” I reviewed it enthusiastically.
Vince and I even shared a passion for tennis. He was a high school state champion and received a tennis scholarship to the University of Miami. Small world: When I was commissioned to write a column about Gardner Mulloy, the 100-year-old former Miamitennis coach, Vince had his home phone number. He referred to Mulloy as “tennis royalty,” which actually became the title of my article.
Now, items Vince would have appreciated my noting:
One, even though no newspaper, including the N.Y. Times, reviewed or even took his ad money, “The Prosecution of George. W. Bush” sold 130,000 copies in the first three months. Two, Vince accepted that, no matter how great his other accomplishments, he would always be remembered as the Manson prosecutor: “Those murders were probably the most bizarre in the recorded annals of American crime, so I understand.”
And lastly, the bestselling “Reclaiming History,” documenting Vince’s view that Oswald was JFK’s lone assassin, was the book of which he was proudest. That said, after numerous discussions he and I agreed to disagree on Oswald’s role.
Because it was so out of character, I can’t forget the time Vince was having coffee when I phoned and what followed. “To what do I owe your call?” he asked warmly. “Nothing,” I said, “I just find it comforting to talk to someone who despises George Bush more than I do.” For those old enough, a la Danny Thomas, Vince laughed so hard he spit out his coffee.
In closing, I’m reminded of what Vincent Bugliosi Jr. said recently: “My father had an unflagging dedication to justice in everything he did.” Amen to that. Vince Bugliosi, R.I.P.
Almost all of Vincent Bugliosi’s 12 books and “The Prosecution of an American President” are available wherever books and DVDs are sold.
Jack Neworth is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hypocrite BUGliosi also 1) misused his office tons talk his milkman because he was convinced the milkman was the true father of Vince Junior 2) Physically assaulted a mistress when he thought she did not get an abortion of his child that he paid for 3) had a mistress and a love child for decades he kept hidden 4) Lied under oath during the Tate LaBianca Trial as to who brougt in copies of the LA Times against an court order (he did) and 5) completely fabricated a motivation in the TLB trial in order to “win” his prosecution and sow fear among the citizens of California. Vince BUGliosi RIH (Rest in Hell)
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