Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Drug Dealer Needs to Promote His New, Legitimate Ways

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Former Drug Dealer Needs to Promote His New, Legitimate Ways

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

One of the most enduring photos from the drug wars of the late 1980s was that of Henry Manns.

Smiling, weighed down with gold chains and wads of cash, he looked like a guy who was pleased with himself; a black man who had grown obscenely rich by defying an economic system that many believe offer few legitimate channels for men like him to show off their acumen.

But when it came to defying the justice system, Manns wasn't quite as lucky.

Whatever acumen he used, or rather wasted, to build a $10 million-a-year crack cocaine distribution empire in Jacksonville did little for him when he was busted in 1988 at age 25 - and sent to prison for life. A sentencing technicality and the assistance he provided in other drug busts helped whittle his sentence to 20 years.

Still, that's an eternity to be out of the reach of gold chains, foreign cars and all the other perks of criminality.

Last week, in various spots in Northwest Jacksonville and on the Westside, Manns was posing again. Except this time he was posing on fliers for a "coming home" party for him at Club Rain.

On one, he is simply clad in a long shirt, sneakers and shin-skimming pants. On another, he shows a bit more attitude - with a cap worn to the side, a white undershirt and a gun-pointing hand gesture.

And one gold chain.

This is the Manns to be feared. Not the drug kingpin. For him, there's no getting his old job back; no golden parachute. The police are watching too closely. They were probably even mingling with his party guests last Sunday.

Still, something is terribly wrong when a party for someone like Manns is billed as a celebration for an entire community. The fact that Manns still has the power to inspire that kind of a celebration is scary.

Last week, however, Manns told the Times-Union that he doesn't plan to go back to that life. Said he's now a landscaper, and plans to open a business. And like anyone else who serves their time, Manns deserves a chance to start over.

But you have to wonder: How does a guy like Manns create a new image for himself if people will still turn out for a party in memory of the old one? …

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