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The Fashion Thief


In the late afternoon, Kevahn is finally called before State Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro. He is led out handcuffed in his gray Dior zip-up cardigan. “Happy birthday,” his mom mouths to Kevahn, whose face lights up when he sees her. He gets a sentence of six months, to be served in Rikers and which includes the time he’s already logged there, so he won’t have to stay in much longer. Over the phone, his mother says that she has been thinking about the Judge Hatchett show—on which the judge deals sternly with teenagers who have gone astray—and wondering how she can get in touch with Hatchett and go on the show with Kevahn.

A month later, Kevahn is released. I ask his mother if she’s worried about him stealing again. “Of course the thought crosses my mind,” she says. “That’s what he does.” Less than 24 hours later, Kevahn is arrested for stealing a pair of sneakers at a sample-sale store, where he was spotted slipping a pair of red patent-leather Pradas into a shopping bag. “He knows his stuff, this kid,” says Joel Soren, the owner, with reluctant admiration. “I caught him down the block,” he says, “and dragged him back by the collar.” The sneakers were in his bag. “He begged me, ‘Please don’t call the cops. Please, please, sir.’ ” Kevahn went back to Rikers, and now there’s a Polaroid of him taped to the wall of the store, under a sign reading hall of shame.

Jovahn tells me over the phone that Kevahn called him that day from Rikers and told Jovahn to bring him a pair of Prada sneakers and a J.Crew cashmere sweater. I tell him about the time I saw Kevahn stroll into court carrying a Bergdorf shopping bag and a brand-new iPod and iPhone, then take out a bottle of cologne and spritz himself. Jovahn dissolves in peals of laughter. “Word, that’s him right there, that’s him!” He laughs again. “He steals those perfumes. Everything you see him with, he steals! His glasses, down to the feet.” Does Kevahn ever sell any of it? “Nah, he never did that. He wants all those clothes on him. He wants to be the flyest ever.”

“I experimented and took this Comme des Garçons shirt. I was just testing, like, how easy it is. That was my first high-class shirt.”

In early May, Kevahn is given a stern warning by Judge Carro. He sits before him wearing a light-gray J. Crew cashmere sweater, a gray Gucci polo shirt, and gray Gucci jeans, with a pair of orange Air Patakis adding a discordant note to the ensemble. “I understand your mother’s here,” Carro says. “There are people who care about you. Last time, you left here and committed another crime. You do that again, it’s state prison, with the big guys. It’s up to you. You can still turn it around. This is your last chance.” Kevahn’s handcuffs are unlocked.

Two weeks later, he is arrested at the Soho Apple Store after he takes a $299 set of Bose Quiet Comfort earphones off the shelf, places them in a shopping bag, and tries to leave. He is arraigned and released by a new judge who doesn’t know his history. But Judge Carro is informed, and now, it is safe to say, Kevahn’s problems are about to get much more serious.

It still seems to be a game to him, as if he’s reveling in the risk-taking, calculating the odds—the math skills come in handy—and deciding they’re in his favor. And, amazingly enough, he does get one last chance from Judge Carro. “No more arrests,” Vassallo tells him. “I know,” he says.

Over egg-and-bacon sandwiches with him and Jovahn at Starbucks, I tell Kevahn that I went to the sample-sale store. “What, 36th Street?” he asks, starting to giggle. “You’re on the wall,” I tell him. “You lyin’!” he shouts. “I’m not lying,” I say, and he throws back his head and laughs out loud. Now I find that I’m struggling to maintain my own composure, even though I know very well that this is serious, this isn’t a laughing matter at all. “You’re on the wall,” I tell him, “and over it, it says”—I’m having trouble getting the words out—“hall of shame.” He and his brother fall into a high-pitched, helpless, table-slapping fit of laughter.

Just a few days later, Kevahn is arrested again, with a friend, at the Port Authority Duane Reade, after they try to use a credit card for which they don’t have matching I.D. It’s over.

After spending the summer on Rikers, Kevahn is sentenced by Judge Carro to one-to-three years in state prison. All the time he has spent on Rikers over the past year will count toward the sentence, but he’ll still have to go upstate. “I’m not sure what your problem is,” the judge tells him. “I tried to give you a chance. I certainly don’t get any joy putting someone your age into a state prison. But you backed me into a corner.” Kevahn looks around the courtroom. This time, no family or friends are here for him.

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