Bowie: 'Not Guilty, Sir'
John Stewart | Democrat and Chronicle | 26 March
After silently walking through a crush of fans,
police and reporters, English rock star David Bowie pleaded innocent
to a felony drug charge yesterday in Rochester City Court.
Bowie, 28, entered the Public Safety Building through
the Plymouth Avenue doorway at 9:25am, just five minutes before
court convened, with an entourage of about seven persons, including
his attorneys and the three other persons charged with him.
He was ushered into a side corridor by police and
was arraigned within 10 minutes, as a crowd of about 200 police,
fans and reporters looked on.
Bowie and his group ignored reporters' shouted
questions and fans' yells as he walked in except for
one teenager who got his autograph as he stepped off the escalator.
His biggest greeting was the screams of about a half-dozen
suspected prostitutes awaiting arraignment in the rear of the corridor
outside the courtroom.
Asked for a plea by City Court Judge Alphonse Cassetti
to the charge of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled
substance, Bowie said, "not guilty, sir." The court used
his real name David Jones.
He stood demurely in front of the bench with his
attorneys. He wore a gray three-piece leisure suit and a pale brown
shirt. He was holding a matching hat. His two companions were arraigned
on the same charge.
Bowie was represented by Rochester lawyer Anthony
F. Leonardo, who also represented his companions, James J. Osterberg,
28 of Ypsilanti, Mich., and Dwain A. Vaughn, 22, of Brooklyn. Osterberg,
described as a friend and Vaughn, described as a bodyguard, also
pleaded innocent to the drug charge.
Osterberg also is a rock musician and performs under
the name of Iggy Stooge. Bowie has produced at least one of Osterberg's
album in the past. Judge Cassetti set April 20 for he preliminary
hearing for the three men. He also agreed to set the same date for
the Rochester woman charged with the same offence, Chi Wah Soo, 20,
of 9 Owen St., who was also in the courtroom.
Cassetti allowed Bowie to remain free on $2000 bail,
as well as continuing the $2,000 bond on the other three persons
Bowie and the other three were arrested by city vice
squad detectives and state police Sunday in the Americana Rochester
hotel, charged with possession of 182 grams, about half a pound,
of marijuana in his room there. Bowie was in Rochester of a concert
Bowie's arrangement was witnessed by his fans, some
of whom had waited two hours to catch a glimpse of him. All remained
quiet in the courtroom and scrambled after his arraignment to watch
his exit from the building.
But fans and reporters were disappointed as city
uniformed and plain-clothes police slipped him out unnoticed.
Using a maze of elevators and stairwells, police
took Bowie and his entourage out a side exit, across the Civic Center
Plaza and into Leonardo's office on the Times Square building's
Only about 30 fans were on had to yell goodbye as
Bowie and his friends left from Leonardo's office at 12.30pm. Bowie,
for the first time, waved to the crowd as his limousine pulled out
from a parking space on West Broad Street, made a U-turn and headed
for the expressway and the drive back to New York City.
The blue-and-black Lincoln Continental limousine
had been ticketed for overtime parking, but a plainclothes policeman
took the ticket, and put it in his pocket.
Bowie had remained silent throughout the morning
but granted a five-minute interview to newspaper reporters in Leonardo's
office. Leonardo, however, wouldn't allow any questions directly
concerning the arrest, saying it was the first criminal charge he'd
ever faced. He complimented city police, though, for the protection
they provided him yesterday.
"They (city police) were very courteous and very
gentle," Bowie said. "They've been just super."
Quiet and reserved, Bowie answered most of the reporters'
questions with short answers, shaking hands with them when they
entered and left.
Asked if the arrest would sour him on returning to
Rochester, Bowie said "certainly not, absolutely not." He also said
he was "very flattered" by the fans who turned out for this arraignment.
"I felt very honored," he said.
Bowie and his entourage arrived in Rochester about
4am after performing a concert in the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island
Wednesday night, Leonardo said, he will appear tonight at Madison
Square Garden, his final concert of his America tour, Pat Gibbons,
Gibbons, 25, who described himself as Bowie's 'right-arm'
man, said after tonight's concert, Bowie will return by boat to
England, starting a new European tour April 7 in Munich, Germany.
Bowie's entourage stayed at the Downtowner hotel yesterday
morning. Before the arraignment, he had a conference with his attorneys
in Leonardo's office.
Leonardo said he and Thomas G. Presutti had been
asked to handle the case by Bowie's business attorney, Stanley Diamond
of Los Angeles, who also was there yesterday. Diamond had no criminal
trial experience and wanted local trial lawyers for the case, Leonardo
Bowie won't appear at the April 20 hearing for any
defense motions or possible grand jury action, Leonardo said.
"We're talking about millions of dollars he could
lose in concert commitments (if he appeared for such proceedings),"
Bowie would have to appear for another arraignment
and subsequent trial if he is indicted by a County Grand Jury on
a felony drug charge, Leonardo said. But grand jury action isn't
expected until June, and Bowie should be vacationing in Switzerland
then, Gibbons said.
District Attorney's office officials said Bowie and
the others can't plea bargain on any of the charges until an official
grand jury indictment if there is one.
Bowie talked with immigration officials here yesterday
before his arraignment, Leonardo said. The officials wanted to know
his itinerary abroad for the next few months, Leonardo said. There
are no problems now with his entering or leaving the United States,
Bowie faces a minimum of 15 years' imprisonment on
the drug charge but could get as little as five years' probation