"This is intimidation, this is Fear. A concrete cell. An unflushable commode that stunk from previous tenants. A sink that spat out water under protest.
"I began to shake in my bunk. It was warm that day and yet I felt I was in Minnesota.... I pulled the sheet—my crude blanket—tighter. I still shook. I looked down at my body. It was having fits. I have never seen anyone receive an electric-shock treatment, but it must look like what I saw. My shoulders, my legs, my toes, even down to my last metatarsal—I was quivering everywhere.
"Then I remembered my 'crime.' Cocaine. That's what they said they'd found.... I overheard someone say it'd get you seven to 12 years....
"I began to add. I'd be able to write again in 1991.... I switched to another fantasy. I wondered if the Raiders would still be playing football in 1991.... The dread increased. I became frightened. What would this do to my parents? God, how could I ever explain?
"I felt like hell. When the cell door opened and the police led me out, I couldn't believe my wristwatch: only five minutes had elapsed."
Recently, Frank McCulloch, the managing editor of the Bee, admitted, "We overwrote the story. It was pretty florid. In retrospect, I think we could have exercised more discretion."
There was other overheated writing about the incident. A team of
reporters wrote the day after the arrest: "Armed with machine guns and shotguns, an eight-man police squad kept Padecky under guard in a dark motel room for 90 minutes.... They told Padecky that reporting what had happened not only might get him killed, but would ruin the investigation.... Padecky said the chief sat beside him on the hurried 40-minute midnight drive to Pensacola in the rented Mercury. 'He was cradling a machine gun in his lap. He told me if any cars should come by, I should stop on the curb. He would pop out and spray them.' There were five officers on the trip. When they said goodby to Padecky at Pensacola airport, they repeated an earlier warning not to write anything...."
Of course, a "machine gun" may exist in the eye of the beholder and a "warning" may be a matter of interpretation. Maples, red-faced and broad-chested, is a tough-looking customer who turns out to be a friendly, even bombastic, sort of salesman bent on singing the glories of Gulf Shores. He said of the reporting, "We don't have a machine gun in the police department. It's very hard to get a permit for one of those and we don't need one. I was carrying a Colt AR-15, which is a sports rifle that uses .223-caliber ammunition. I also had a .357 magnum pistol in my belt. I don't know how he mistook those things for a machine gun.
"As for warning him that he might be killed if he wrote a story, what I did was ask him not to write anything because we figured the guys who pulled this setup on him would eventually brag about it and we'd get them—if there wasn't a lot of publicity about it. But they wrote about it the next day. I was mad at first, but then I figured they just didn't know the harm they were doing by stirring up so much noise. I think we might have solved it already but for the national publicity it got."
As for whether there was intimidation—real or implied—in the way Padecky was taken out of town, Maples said, "No, if we'd wanted to really frighten him, I'd have let him go without any police escort. We didn't know who set him up, and we figured if they went to that much trouble, they might want to black his eyes if they'd found him loose on the street. Padecky drove himself. I was off duty. I didn't have to stay with him. Newsweek said there were five officers riding shotgun to get him out of town. That was wrong. There was one other officer on the trip.... Sergeant Bourne followed in an unmarked car to give me a ride back to Gulf Shores after Padecky dropped off his car at the airport. Anyway, Padecky was nice as he could be the whole time—and I thought we were, too. In fact, in hindsight, the only thing we did wrong in the whole case was to handle that key case and louse up any fingerprints that might have been on it."