updated 12/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/28/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST


The incident brought home the grotesque savagery of the war in Bosnia. Amid intense shelling by Serbian nationalists last August, 44 orphans who had spent three months living in a Sarajevo cellar were loaded into a bus and strapped to their seats with torn bed sheets. A volunteer driver then stepped on the gas in hopes of speeding to safety through the no-man's land known to locals as Sniper's Alley. A guerrilla opened fire, killing two children. With one tire blown, the driver managed to reach a transfer point outside the city.

From there the children were taken to the port city of Split, then flown to Germany, where they were placed in three orphanages in Saxony-Anhalt under the auspices of the regional government. When the tots arrived, recalls Constanze Wolff, who works in one of the homes, "their eyes were pools of fear."

Four months later that fear has mostly subsided. "Look at them now," says Wolff, as 14-month-old Enida, whose father was shot in front of her, breaks into a fast crawl. Indeed, since their escape, the 42 surviving orphans have become live-wire testimony to human resilience. Mahir, 6, who once trembled if spoken to, now clambers into visitors' laps. Almein, 3, calls out a boisterous hello in his newly learned German when anyone enters the room. "I can see the children blossoming," says Ilyana Zoric, one of the four Bosnian adults who accompanied them. "The difference is like night and day."

Months of hiding in a cellar, subsisting on a diet of pasta and tea, had left the children nutritionally and emotionally bereft. "It is good we are out," says Hrvat Behca, another Bosnian care giver. "For the last months we had no water, no diapers, no electricity."

Preparations for the children's flight to safety began earlier this year when Yelena Rippert, a Bosnian-born German who had adopted a child from the orphanage five years ago, learned of the children's plight. Rippert asked a German legislator for help, and a plan was quickly devised to evacuate the children and house them in former East German day-care centers that had been shuttered since reunification.

Sanctuary at Saxony-Anhalt is sweet, but the future is uncertain. Plans are to repatriate the children once the war has ended, but that could be months or even years away.


When 76-year-old comedian and erstwhile Polident spokeswoman Martha Raye married a man more than 30 years her junior in September 1991, it was a union made in tabloid heaven. The story became even more sensational when it was learned early this year that seven-time bride Raye, who suffered a severe stroke in 1990, had revised her will—leaving her $2.4 million estate to groom Mark Harris, a self-styled promoter. Faster than Polident effervesces, estranged daughter Melodye Condos, 48—who, as in previous wills, was due to receive $1—sued for conservatorship. The matter is still being thrashed out in court. Although she has suffered several more strokes since the wedding, Raye was well enough to celebrate her anniversary this year with a small dinner at her Bel Air home and to press on with a suit against Bette Midler for allegedly co-opting her life story in For the Boys. Says the still feisty Raye: "I think they thought I was a goner after the strokes, but I'm here and I'm not planning on going anywhere."


Last June, three months after rapper Ice-T released his first heavy-metal album, Body Count, he began to hear from harsh critics in high places. Claiming that the album's closing cut, "Cop Killer," encouraged listeners to ape the lyrics and "dust some cops off," police organizations urged a boycott of products from Time Warner, parent company of Ice-T's label (and of PEOPLE). Sixty members of Congress as well as the President and Vice President joined the chorus condemning the album. A mediocre seller until then, Body Count became an instant collector's item and jumped into the Top 30 after Ice-T urged his label to pull the album out of stores. (A second version, minus the offending cut, was released in October and sold 100,000 copies.) Now appearing in Universal's new action film Trespass, he still performs the song in concert despite continuing protests. "All I'm doing," the rapper-actor said about his "Killer" persona, "is playing a character."


While escaping from Ford's Theatre after shooting Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth broke his leg. The man who set it, Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, was later convicted of complicity in the assassination and served four years in prison. For years, Mudd's descendants have fought to clear his name—arguing that he had had no inkling of his patient's crime—and their most dogged member has been grandson Dr. Richard Mudd, 91, who started campaigning 66 years ago and got an Army board to set aside the conviction. But in July, the acting assistant secretary of the Army overturned that recommendation. Predictably, Mudd has appealed and is, once again, waiting and hoping.

It was a story Hollywood could have conjured up: A respected psychiatrist is charged with malpractice after a former patient commits suicide. To make the tale juicier—and sleazier—the family of the victim, Harvard medical student Paul Lozano, declared that Cambridge therapist Margaret Bean-Bayog, 48, had reduced the 28-year-old Lozano to a dependent state, masturbated in front of him, seduced him and terminated treatment when his insurance ran out. Then there were the pages of steamy fantasies written in Bean-Bayog's hand found in Lozano's apartment. The doctor's claim: The erotic musings were an appropriate attempt (commonly known as countertransference notes) to purge her inappropriate feelings for her patient. The family's claim: They were a romantic invitation to Paul. The truth may never be known. In September, Bean-Bayog gave up her medical license rather than subject herself to a public hearing before a disciplinary board. Still, she asserted in the letter surrendering her license that testimony would have meant vindication. "My attorneys," she wrote, "are prepared to expose the mistaken assumptions on which the prosecution's case is based as well as the lies about my conduct—" Meanwhile the Lozanos have filed a civil suit against the doctor.


John Thompson was doing chores on his family's North Dakota farm last January when his arms got caught in a grain machine and were ripped off below the shoulder. He managed to telephone a cousin for help by clutching a pen in his teeth and soon after underwent grueling reattachment surgery and hundreds of hours of physical therapy (with more to come). Now, Thompson, 19, is a freshman at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.Dak., rooming with buddy Darnell Buckmiller and majoring in music. (He sang the national anthem at a Minnesota Twins game in July.) "College is really great. I love it," says Thompson, whose social life is in tune as well. "Students don't spend all their time studying."

Thompson's surgeon, Dr. Allen Van Beek, says his most famous patient "has good elbow movement on the right side, and he's bending his fingers, though they're still weak." And emotionally? "He's moving through the phases like he should," says Van Beek. "On the other side he'll be even stronger."


To their suburban Chicago neighbors, bookstore owner Jeff Erickson, 33, and his wife, Jill, 27, a lab technician, were a quiet pair who kept a low profile. They also kept an arsenal of smoke grenades, 38 guns and 25 boxes of ammunition in their Hanover Park town house. A latter-day Bonnie and Clyde, they had been suspected of at least eight bank heists before their spree ended last December with Jeffs arrest and Jill's death by her own gun. After seven months in jail and growing increasingly obsessed by Jill's death, Erickson overpowered a marshal while leaving a courtroom on July 20. He grabbed her gun and killed two officers. Then, in an eerie echo of Jill's last act, he put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.

The timing was no accident. In a letter to a reporter postmarked the day before his death, Erickson wrote of missing Jill and of their upcoming 10th anniversary, just a week away. "How I wish," he wrote, "there was some way I could be with her on that day."


The year didn't begin well for J.J. Soderlund, 20, adopted son of talk show host Sally Jessy Raphael. In January, shortly before he was to start college, the car he was driving near his parents' suburban New York home swerved out of control, careening into a tree and landing in a ditch. It took rescuers 45 minutes to pull Soderlund from the wreckage, seven hours for surgeons to put pins in his leg, wire his jaw and sew up his face, six days for him to come out of a coma. In August he underwent further surgery, this time for gangrene in his legs. "And they still don't know the extent of the permanent brain damage," says Raphael, who barely had time to absorb the shock of her son's collision before learning of her 33-year-old daughter Allison's accidental drug-and-alcohol-related death three weeks later. For now, Soderlund's college plans are on hold while his recovery continues. He is currently living in his own New York apartment, working in a shoe store and, despite parental protests, not working at physical therapy. "But," shrugs Raphael, "you can't tell a young man to do those things."


Aye-Ayes, primates that are kin to lemurs, would be insulted if you said they resembled Steven Spielberg's movie gremlins. Better to say gremlins look like infant aye-ayes. Blue Devil, believed to be the first such creature born in captivity—the endangered species is indigenous to Madagascar—weighed just 5 oz. when he was born last April at the Duke University Primate Center. Now a healthy 3-pounder, he has already begun foraging for his favorite food—grubs—and Duke scientists have hopes that he will one day be daddy to some baby aye-ayes of his own.


In 1988, Tracey Gold weighed 133 lbs.—way too much, decided the Growing Pains star. "I took being overweight as a defect in my character," says the 5'3" actress, who gradually dropped to 113, then 100, and then, in the life-threatening grip of anorexia, to 88 lbs. Sent home from the set of the now defunct sitcom on medical leave last Christmas, the actress checked into a hospital, then checked out a week later determined to beat the disease on her own.

Gold, 23, who has put her career on hold, has now edged back to 92 lbs. and meets weekly with a nutritionist and a psychotherapist. "I'll consider myself well when I eat because I know I have to nourish myself," she says, adding, "I've found an inner strength I didn't know I had, and my illness has really pulled my family closer together."


When Frank Fitzpatrick went public last May with charges that his childhood parish priest, Father James R. Porter, had raped him 30 years ago when Fitzpatrick was an altar boy at St. Mary's Catholic Church in North Attleboro, Mass., he did so to exorcise his own demons. Fitzpatrick's charges, eventually prompted scores of other men and women to come forward with tales of abuse by Porter, unleashing a scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

In September, Porter was indicted on 46 counts of sexual molestation against children in Bristol County, Mass. The former cleric, who left the priesthood in 1974 and now lives near St. Paul with his wife and four children, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, including those in civil suits filed by former Catholic schoolchildren.

In October it was revealed that Porter admitted to many of the abuses in a 1973 letter to the Vatican and that Massachusetts church officials had also known and still allowed him to continue his duties.

Fitzpatrick, now a 42-year-old Cranston, R.I., insurance investigator, was on hand to see Porter arraigned in Massachusetts and admits, "I felt a lot of anger." Still, he and other victims are glad the charges have finally come to light. "To frighten me into silence, he used to say, 'God is watching you,' " says Patricia Viens Kozak, 44. "I think God is watching now. Watching him."


On Aug. 24, Hurricane Andrew's 145 m.p.h. winds cut across Florida's tip, flattening Homestead, a blue-collar community south of Miami. Houses, businesses, trailers and trees were demolished; 51 people were killed, and an astonishing 20,000 of Homestead's 26,000 residents were left homeless. Out of the detritus, the town is determinedly pulsing back. "We're past the emergency and into the recovery," says Alex Muxo, 37, Homestead's city manager.

The tent cities are gone, power has been restored, and the new sports complex, severely damaged by the storm, is scheduled to open when the Cleveland Indians show up for exhibition games in March. At city hall the lines of shell-shocked citizens seeking food and shelter have been replaced by lines of contractors seeking building permits. Though the town is still struggling, Muxo, a single dad whose own damaged home has now been repaired, is buoyed by the building boom. "All my hopes for this town are no longer hopes," he says. "They're reality."


When Swiss au pair Olivia Riner, 20, was arrested in December 1991 and charged with the arson death of Kristie Fischer, the 3-month-old child she cared for in Mount Pleasant, N.Y., it was every parent's nightmare. But with her cherubic face and bookish manner, the so-called Killer Nanny seemed anything but.

The jury agreed and in July acquitted Riner of all charges. She has returned to Switzerland and works as a medical assistant. Left behind are the baby's grieving parents, Denise and William Fischer, and questions about whether the police had reasonable grounds to arrest Riner in the first place. State and township authorities will soon begin studying the original investigation.

Riner, who has taken the first steps toward filing a $20 million lawsuit for false arrest, says she is still haunted by the case. "The tragedy, the death of the baby, I am still thinking of it every day," says Riner. "I'll never forget."


He claims he was just trying to help childless couples realize their dream of having a family. But the women who came to Virginia infertility specialist Cecil Jacobson, 56, believed they were being inseminated with their husbands' sperm or that of carefully selected anonymous donors. In fact, in at least 15 cases—and perhaps in as many as 75—the real donor was neither the husband nor anonymous; it was Jacob-son himself. The man nicknamed the Sperminator by the media also used hormones to gull some patients into believing they were pregnant, then billed them for the treatment. Convicted last March on 52 counts of fraud and perjury and sentenced to five years in prison without parole, Jacob-son has been released pending his appeal, maintaining the decision was based on "passion and prejudice." He also insisted that use of his own sperm assured quality control—and likened himself to other scientific visionaries like Galileo, Pasteur and Einstein. Jacob-son and his wife of 31 years, Joyce (who have seven children of their own), are now home in Provo, Utah, awaiting the results of his appeal; he is facing a string of malpractice suits, one for $36 million. Reacting to the case, the American Fertility Society has since hatched new guidelines decreeing that no owner, operator or employee of a facility performing donor inseminations may serve as a donor.


Too often those adorable pups that gaze from pet store windows in search of a good home come from bad homes themselves. According to the Humane Society of the U.S., 90 percent of the 500,000 dogs sold annually in pet stores are born in substandard puppy mills, where abuse, neglect and disease are part of the daily menu. In June, after a PEOPLE story exposed conditions at several puppy mills in Missouri (which has 1,500), that state's legislature passed a law requiring licensing and annual inspections. "Even the puppy mills supported it," says Bob Baker, chief investigator for the Humane Society who lobbied for the bill. "They were embarrassed by the PEOPLE story."


Nine-year-old Shiloh Avery has wanted just one thing in her life: to be like other kids. Born with cystic fibrosis, an incurable, degenerative respiratory disease, she developed severe breathing problems that kept her in and out of hospitals for years and made normal activities impossible. Ultimately her condition progressed to the point where an oxygen tank and breathing tube were her constant companions, prompting doctors to suggest a risky, radical treatment as her last best hope for survival: a double lung transplant. (Such surgery, which has been performed 1,300 times since 1987 and rarely on children, has a 70 to 75 percent survival rate over the first year.)

Last March, after a five-month wait for a suitable donor, Avery was rushed to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where she underwent six hours of surgery. Now back at Blades elementary school in St. Louis, "I play dodge ball, I do sit-ups in P.E., I run halfway around the school," boasts Avery happily. Says her mother, Sharon: "It is the first time in three or four years she has been able to run." And although she is repeating third grade—last year "all her energy was spent concentrating on breathing," says Sharon—she is getting A's and B's.

Despite a half-dozen hospitalizations for high blood pressure, infections and several skirmishes with rejection, "she's doing OK," reports Dr. George Mallory, her physician. "She is handling the uncertainty of life with a lot of courage."


Last June, Romanian teenager Aurelian Beciug began the journey of his life with a few small steps in a Cleveland hospital. Born with severely clubbed hands and feet, the 16-year-old had been warehoused in a Romanian orphanage (his parents couldn't care for him) until 50 Ohio teens raised money to bring him to the Cleveland Clinic for free medical treatment. (They had heard of his plight from a college student who had volunteered at the children's home.)

Beciug, nicknamed Spike because of his thatch of hair, is now able to walk a city block with the help of braces and a walker, an "amazing distance," says Elisabeth Jacobs, who, with husband Ernest, has been his guardian and host.

Remarkably, Spike has progressed while undergoing operations to correct the position of his right wrist and left elbow. "Now that the cast is off, I can write," says Spike. "And I'm doing exercises so I can learn to feed myself."

The changes in Spike haven't been purely physical. He has learned to speak English and fits in better with the teenagers who help him with his physical therapy and homework. In November he went to his first rock concert, and he's taking karate lessons. "Spike's coming out of his shell," says Jacobs. "He talks and laughs a lot. There's a lightness about him now that's wonderful." In the spring, Spike is due to return to Romania, where he hopes to live in a group home near his parents. His pals plan to send him off with a computer, a monthly stipend and a spirit transformed.


As a psychologist's zany receptionist on The Bob Newhart Show in the 1970s, Marcia Wallace handled kooks with comic ease. Off-camera, however, she has had little to laugh at. Late last year her unemployed husband, Dennis Hawley, 47, was found to have inoperable pancreatic cancer. Medical bills, combined with the expense of raising their adopted 4-year-old son and an unexpected demand from the IRS for back taxes, gobbled up the couple's savings and forced them to put their Los Angeles home up for sale. Friends staged a benefit last January that raised $30,000, but more pain was in store in June when Dennis, her husband of six years, died. Though Wallace, 50, still misses him, things are looking up. She won her first Emmy, as the voice of Bart's teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, on The Simpsons, performed in a female version of The Odd Couple and is doing voice-overs for TV commercials. "Now I'm paying my bills," she reports. "If there's one quality that's seen me through, it's tenacity. I never give up."


A good man may be even harder to find than good no-run mascara, at least judging by Tammy Faye Bakker's latest round of love troubles. Earlier this year, after a no-contest divorce from her prison-impaired husband, Jim, it appeared she'd finally found true happiness with his former good friend Roe Messner, chief builder of Heritage USA. Alas, it now looks as if Cupid was shooting blanks.

First, Messner, 56, who is still legally wed to Ruth Ann, his wife of 37 years and mother of his four children, was ordered to pay a $2.5 million claim relating to one of his construction projects. Now Tammy Faye, who friends say may have been willing to overlook the financial shenanigans, apparently can't excuse the delays in his separation proceedings that have followed.

"He's not getting the divorce, and she wanted to get married. I think she's dropping him," says a family friend who believes an eventual rematch with Jim is in the cards.

Tammy Faye, 50, who is also coping with the recent death of her mother, has repaired to her rented Palm Springs condo, where she reportedly has been weighing TV offers ("some secular," friend and real estate agent Emma Howard says) and attending church. Now "she can be ministered to," notes Howard, "instead of having to minister."


Fame isn't always where you expect to find it. William Figueroa, 12, of Trenton, N.J., made headlines last June when Dan Quayle, during a campaign stop at a spelling bee, mistakenly encouraged him to add an to the word potato. Quayle's gaffe made the seventh grader an instant hero to Democrats; he landed on Late Night with David Letterman and led the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic Convention. Quayle has since been fired and Figueroa hired—as the spokesman for a video spelling game called Wordtris. (He'll use his $4,000 fee for college.) But he has also taken some friendly flak—from his social studies teacher. Explains Figueroa: "He's a Republican."


Manatees, the half-ton sea mammals that float in Florida's warm waterways, are so lovable that earlier this year they had two environmental groups feuding over the right to save them. The once plentiful sea cows, which love to loll near the surface of the Sunshine State's canals and bayous, have dwindled to a mere thousand in a losing battle with powerboat propellers. To make matters worse, the droopy-finned creatures became caught in a power squabble between the Save the Manatee Club chaired by Florida troubadour Jimmy Buffett and the club's parent organization, the Florida Audubon Society. In June, after Buffet, 46, squawked that the society had fired the club's director and commandeered its offices, a judge issued a temporary injunction restoring the group's director and freeing them from Audubon control. The singer says he is delighted to be out of the courtroom and "back working for manatees."


In the shocking lull after the unrest, there seemed a chance the riots might compel much needed changes. But eight months later, burned-out, boarded-over South Central L.A. seems bleaker than ever.

According to one school of thought, the Los Angeles riots were triggered by a high-speed car chase 13 months before the first store was looted. If plumber George Holliday hadn't been trying out his new videocam early on the morning of March 3, 1991, the world might never have seen 56 blows from police nightsticks rain down on the head and back of Rodney King, 27, a part-time laborer at Dodger Stadium. But the world did see and, more important, so did the half million residents of South Central Los Angeles. On April 29, after the four white police officers charged in King's beating were acquitted of brutality charges, South Central erupted in the worst rioting in recent U.S. history, leaving 53 dead, 2,383 injured, and 17,000 arrested. Damages totaled nearly $1 billion.

Despite such devastation, there was optimism in the immediate aftermath of the riots. People of all colors and ethnicities—blacks, whites, Koreans, Latinos—joined together to sweep the streets. Peter Ueberroth, 55, the man who brought Los Angeles together for the 1984 Olympics, was chosen to cochair a quasi-public agency, Rebuild Los Angeles, to bring corporate America to the inner city. The old leadership—Mayor Tom Bradley, Police Chief Daryl Gates, District Attorney Ira Reiner—either left office or announced plans to retire. And federal authorities stepped in and charged the four police officers with violating Rodney King's civil rights.

But now, eight months later, the City of Angels seems to be losing hope that a new, more equitable, more enlightened L.A. will arise from the ashes. Few buildings have been rebuilt, and federal disaster relief has become mired in bureaucratic red tape, "Disappointment has begun to set in because nothing has happened," says Rep. Maxine Waters, who toured her congressional district in South Central on Election Day. "People were begging me, 'Can you please help me find a job?' I just wanted to go out to my car and hide."

Waters, South Central's outspoken advocate, is critical of Ueberroth and Rebuild L.A. "Right now it's a PR effort," she says, "and it's not even good at that." Not unexpectedly, Rebuild L.A. sees things differently. "We are working as hard as we know how," says one of Ueberroth's cochairmen, Bernard Kinsey. "These problems don't lend themselves to a quick solution."

No one symbolizes the hopes and fears of postriot Los Angeles better than Reginald Denny, 36. Three hours after the King verdict, he drove his sand-and-gravel truck into the heart of the riot, the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. His radio had been tuned to an all-music station; he had no idea of the hell that was awaiting him.

At least seven men dragged Denny from his truck, in full view of a live television camera in a helicopter circling low overhead. Denny insists he did nothing to provoke the men; he slowed down only to avoid the mayhem in the intersection. "It's not in me to do things like that," he said. "I'm not that kind of person."

The men hit and kicked him and smashed him in the head with both a hammer and a rock. One man picked his pocket, another spat at him, a third fired a shotgun blast that missed. Denny's doctor, Paul Toffel, chief of head and neck surgery at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital, later testified that Denny's skull was crushed on the right side and broken in 100 other places. He suffered blood clots in his lungs and swelling in his head and neck. Several times during the next few months, he nearly died.

But somehow Denny survived. "He lived because of his spirit," Toffel said in a television interview. "Whether it was images of his family or his daughter that were driving him, he had a will that brought him back from the brink."

He also had some incredible luck. Four individuals, watching the beating on television, separately rushed to Florence and Normandie to rescue Denny and get him to a hospital.

Virtue may be its own reward, but for the four—Lei Yuille, 37, Bobby Green Jr., 30, Terri Barnett, 29, and Titus Murphy, 31—there have been some other benefits as well. A film company, De Passe Entertainment, is making a TV movie about their heroism. Murphy, who was unemployed, now works as a production assistant for Crossroads Films. And Green has changed jobs. He now drives a truck for Transit Mixed Concrete, the same company for which Denny worked.

Life has not changed as dramatically for the two women. Yuille still works as a nutritionist. Barnett, who was also unemployed at the time, received some job offers but nothing that worked out. Meanwhile, police arrested five of the men who beat Denny (their cases are still pending). And Denny is now out of the hospital but has permanent head injuries, and it is unclear if he will ever return to work. His four saviors have seen him in group settings from time to time, but they haven't had a chance to talk to him one-on-one. "Hopefully," says Murphy, "it will get to the point where we can all be friends."

George Holliday, 33, who made the video of the King beating, has not fared as well. He believes the turmoil of day-and-night press queries and police interviews contributed to his separation from his wife, Eugenia, 26, who has returned to her native Argentina. "The tape changed everything," says Holliday, a local manager for a national plumbing company. "It interrupted the regular life I was leading." Despite that, he adds, he would not hesitate to do it all again.

So far his earnings from the video have been limited. He received only $500 from KTLA, the local station that first aired the tape, and just a bit more from both NBC and a Japanese TV station. So he filed a $100 million lawsuit for copyright violations against several stations, which could have a far-reaching impact on amateur video operators. He also sued director Spike Lee, who used a portion of the tape in his mega-hit Malcolm X without permission, but they settled out of court for an undisclosed but "large" amount. "I feel the broadcast media exploited me," he says. "The tape has been shown all over the world. Every station in the U.S. has it."

Despite the lawsuits, Holliday says he is not out to make money. He will contribute his profits to Social Reform, an organization he created to fund educational projects and fledgling businesses in South Central.

Other leading figures in the riots have done better for themselves financially. L.A. police chief Daryl Gates, 66, was forced to retire from the post he had held for 14 years, but he landed on his feet. He has a talk show on KFI-AM 640 radio, and his book, Chief, became a national best-seller. Sales were no doubt stimulated by his sarcastic retorts to various critics.

Also peddling a book is Stacey Koon, 42, one of the four officers charged with beating Rodney King. Koon, who has been on a forced leave without pay for the past 20 months, says he wrote Presumed Guilty: The Tragedy of the Rodney King Affair to educate the public about the case and to try to persuade the LAPD to change its policies about the use of force. He argues that King should have been arrested and prosecuted. "I think he is a mockery to the criminal-justice system," Koon says. "He is portrayed as a hero and a role model for black youths, which I think is an absolute sham. There are many decent black role models, but he's not one of them."

King himself has not had an easy time since the riots. In June he was arrested following a domestic dispute with his wife, Crystal Lynette, 23. No charges were filed after she said the fight was a minor, mostly verbal argument. Then in July he was arrested in Orange County for drunk driving and his license was suspended. The following month the charges were dropped for insufficient evidence, but his driver's license was not reinstated until November. Meanwhile, his civil lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles has bogged down. In June the city council considered a record $5.9 million settlement, but members could not reach an agreement. They finally offered $1.75 million, which King rejected on his former lawyer's advice. Negotiations continue.

In October, King changed lawyers, switching to Orange County attorney Milton Grimes, who has begun to allow King to make public appearances. Just before Thanksgiving, King made an unannounced speech to an African-American student group at Tustin High School in Orange County. King was as emotional as he was when he exhorted Angelinos following the riots with the simple but eloquent question, "Can we all just get along?" This time he talked about his feelings when he heard the verdict. "I've been trying to get my trust back in the police, but it's hard," he told the students. "That'll take a while."

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