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"We went to see...Maples in his office.
" 'Chief, listen to what he's got to say,' said Long. 'I think he's been set up.'
"I completed my story. Long turned to Maples and said, 'Chief, I'm no expert, but this is a setup if I ever saw one.' "
Five minutes after Padecky had been locked up, he was released and told that everyone had concluded he was the victim of a setup and that no charges would be filed against him.
While Padecky was in jail, the phone in the police station rang. The caller identified himself as a bail bondsman and asked if bail had been set on Padecky. Maples said bond had not yet been set—and the caller hung up.
Chief Maples then suggested that Padecky might help catch those who had set him up if he would cooperate by parking his car in the lot of the Holiday Inn, where he was staying. The police would stake out the car in the hope that whoever had planted the white substance (presumed, at that point, to be cocaine) might return to see if it was still under the fender. Padecky agreed, and spent an hour and a half waiting in Room 114 of the Holiday Inn with Maples. No one approached the car, and that evening Maples escorted Padecky to the airport in Pensacola. They shook hands and parted warmly.
Those are the bare facts. From this point on, matters become confused.
For one thing, it was intimated that perhaps the police were involved in the setup of the writer. This suggestion was so offensive to Maples that he and the mayor of Gulf Shores, Mixon Jones, a real-estate man (as are three of the five members of the city council), asked the state attorney general's office to send in investigators to be sure there was no such wrongdoing. The resulting report stated that the police were not implicated.
But then how did they know it was a setup so quickly? Says Maples, "Sergeant Long took the call that gave us the tip-off on Padecky. It sounded like an open-and-shut case, but that made us suspicious. You never get a tip that perfect.... So we were pretty sure it was a setup as soon as we completed the arrest."
Who arranged the setup, then, and was Stabler involved? Maples says, "I don't even have a suspect whose name I can mention. I have never said I suspected Kenny was a part of it. It has been reported that Kenny and I are real close drinkin' buddies, but that's not true. He's a friend, but we don't hang around each other that much. He never gives us any trouble. He's real low-key around here. Kenny might have done it, he might not have done it. I'd be a fool to say for sure."