Where are they now: The people who played a role in Belton Platt’s story

04/20/2013 4:49 PM

04/20/2013 4:51 PM

Charles Locke, the man who fired the first shot in the Piedmont Courts shootout in 1985, was shot and killed in 1989 during an argument. He was 25.

Belton Platt’s father, Alphonso Platt, the man who introduced his son to cocaine, died in 1990 at age 58.

Platt’s younger brother, Gordon Platt, 48, convicted in the same FBI sting operation that caught Platt, got out of prison in 2006. He lives with their mother, Carrie Graves, 77, in Savanna Woods, a Charlotte public housing development. Each week, mother and son collect food donations from a grocery and distribute it to neighbors on their back patio. Graves is still active in politics. She campaigned for President Obama and was recently elected president of her neighborhood organization.

Louis “Big Lou” Samuels, 54, is serving a 45-year sentence on weapons charges in federal prison in Beckley, W.Va. Samuels said in an interview from prison that he holds no grudge against Belton Platt and supports his efforts to keep young people out of drug dealing. “Too many kids getting killed now,” he said. “The drug game is petty now.” He is scheduled to be released in 2017.

Shirley Fulton, 61, the assistant district attorney in the Piedmont Courts shootout trial, was the first black woman elected to North Carolina’s superior court. By the time she left her position as Mecklenburg’s senior resident superior court judge in 2003, she had become frustrated with a judicial system that continued spending to incarcerate young men but refused, in her view, to adequately fund drug treatment, job and education programs that could lower recidivism.

Today, Fulton practices law and chairs the Charlotte School of Law’s Board of Advisors. She says the community needs a prison alternative to house young offenders, providing structure while teaching job skills, life skills and civic responsibility. Offenders would work, save their wages and exit the program with enough money to make a new start.

Robert Potter, the U.S. district court judge who sentenced Platt to 24 years in prison in 1990, retired in 2000 at age 77. He died in 2009 at age 86.

Robert Conrad, who prosecuted Platt in federal court, became a U.S. District Court judge in Charlotte in 2005 and has been chief judge since 2006.

After testifying against Platt in federal court, LaMorris Watson, the government informant, served less than three years for his drug trafficking conviction. Within months of release, he was charged with trafficking cocaine and again cooperated with the government. He is in federal prison in Louisiana with a predicted release date of 2024.

Demolition of Piedmont Courts was completed in 2006. It was replaced by a mixed-income development called Seigle Point. Former Piedmont Courts residents gather for annual reunions. A reunion at Independence Park in September drew several hundred people. Though crime plagued the housing complex during the latter part of its existence, many former residents have fond memories of a community where people looked out for one another and formed lasting friendships.

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