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Tony Ricco Sleeps Very Well, Thank You.


Now he's got Sean's attention.

"He wrote me a letter," Ricco says. "He's on the Island."

"Word?" Sean says, sounding slightly rattled. "Dag." He promises to visit Ricco, then ambles back to the rainy corner.

Ricco pulls away and spots another pair of idling kids. He tries to cajole them into dropping by tomorrow, too, but gets shrugs in response. For the first time, the upbeat Ricco seems depressed. "These kids here, we been tryin' to do stuff with them since they been 8 and 9. And we're losing. We are losing," he says. "They growing up, hat on sideways, standing on the corner. We done took 'em on canoe trips, rafting trips, this, that. It's good to do it, but they need more than somebody who's occasionally saying let's go do something. They need fathers. That's why, when we got involved in the thing with Corey, it was so clear, man, what Corey was missing. And the irony of it is, the guy was trying to help the kid. You can't help but respect and admire what Mr. Levin was trying to do for young people. And the tragedy of the loss of his life is, to some people, it will sort of be like, 'See, this is what happens -- don't help these people.' "

He doesn't dispute that what Corey Arthur did was wrong. Yet Ricco believes Levin crossed a dangerous line: Treating Arthur as an equal. For all the years Levin spent teaching poor kids at Taft, Ricco says, he was naïve; he could never really know what it meant for Arthur to live in the ghetto. Levin reached out in trust, but he didn't fully understand what and whom he was grabbing hold of.

Tony Ricco believes he understands the two disparate worlds, the streets and the mainstream, but even he's not sure how to reconcile them. "You have children, I have children, they're gonna inherit this world," he says. "Hopefully our kids will be like us. But there's a lot of people who are not like us, and our kids are gonna come into contact with them. And we need to know more about what it is we're coming in contact with. Maybe some of that will come out of this tragedy. Maybe not. I don't know." He sighs. "I'm not a predictor of the future. I'm just a lawyer."


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