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"I've never had a chance to speak. It's always been what they said about me," he says, referring to authorities. "I really want to open people's eyes to their rights, and what they need to be more inquisitive about in dealing with the police and the judicial system."
"Also, I wanted to give you a good story."
For all the villainy they've attributed to Lee, authorities will say little about him. Captain Jeff Emery answered the phone for the KCPD Homicide Unit, and he agreed to ask patrol cops and homicide detectives about Lee. But Emery called back the same day. Plenty of officers were familiar with Lee, Emery said, but none of them would talk. Nor would the federal investigators tracking Lee or the prosecutors trying to convict him.
But stories surfaced anyway. One involves a kid named Porky.
Terry Hutton is Porky's real name, and in 2003, when he was 15, he was convicted of second-degree murder. Porky did some wheeling and dealing with the prosecutor's office to avoid a life sentence. For that, the streets branded him a snitch.
Porky is serving a 10-year sentence at the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. But in the fall of 2009, Porky, then 21, was temporarily sent back to the Jackson County Jail while he faced more charges. He arrived to learn that Lee was also being held there. At Lee's direction, other inmates terrorized Porky, sources say. It got so bad that Porky contacted Kevin Harrell, Jackson County deputy prosecuting attorney, and asked to change his plea to "guilty," hoping to hasten his return to state prison.
Lee denies having the ability to pull such strings. "I've never considered myself a mob boss, none of that. I've always seen myself as weak," he says. If he wielded that sort of power, Lee says, he would "have more control of a lot of the things that go on, and I don't have power and control."
Or, according to prosecutor Harrell, that's what Lee wants people to believe. "I'm not putting him in the same category as these people," Harrell says, "but I'll say this: John Gotti and Al Capone probably said the same thing."
Lee grew up around 24th Street and Norton, in a neighborhood of solidly built single-family homes. Many of them are empty now. Over the last two decades, families have deserted them, fed up with the waves of violence that have washed over the East Side every summer.
Lee moved out of his mom's house at age 12.
"I felt grown," Lee says. "I adored her, but she had a man in her life, and I felt he wasn't right for her. And I gave her an ultimatum: It was either going to be me or him. He wasn't a good dude, so I left, and when I left, I was just out there."
Sometimes he stayed at his grandmother's house in the same neighborhood. She wasn't much of a disciplinarian. Neither was his dad. "We were close as father and son," Lee says. "We respected each other, but also we were close like bros — like, we'd kick it together."
To retain his independence, Lee tried mowing lawns with his best friend, Keith, whose father owned a lawn service. They'd shovel snow, cut down trees, put up sheetrock. "But it wasn't my thing," he says. "Plus, there wasn't money in it."