Money Rock and I first met in 1986 in a room in Raleighs Central Prison. Money Rock, whose real name is Belton Lamont Platt, had just begun serving a 35-year sentence for his involvement in the Piedmont Courts shootout.
We had different agendas. I wanted to see what he knew about the other guy in the shootout, Louis Big Lou Samuels. Platt wanted to profess his innocence. He told me he was a Christian, he had never sold drugs and that he wanted to open a drug rehab center in Charlotte. He also told me Big Lou was a lot like a dinosaur big old body, little old brain.
When I left that day, I pegged Money Rock as a smart guy with a sense of humor. I did not believe for a second, however, that he was innocent.
More than 25 years later, we reconnected. You might say Jay-Z brought us together. Id been reading Decoded, the rappers memoir, and when I got to the part about Jay-Zs early days as a dealer, I remembered Money Rock. What had become of him?
It took Observer researcher Maria David only a few minutes to find out. Platt was living near Myrtle Beach. She even found a phone number. So I called. Platt remembered me. Not only that, he wanted to tell his story.
There will never be another Money Rock. But with 1 in 10 black men in their 30s now incarcerated, many families in Charlotte and in urban America will find much familiar about the Platt familys story.
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