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Back row (lr): Author Lora Lusher's paternal grandfather, her father SFPD Inspector Ted Lusher, her mother Claire, her maternal grandmother (who lived with Jack Bokin and his parents) and Bokin's father, Jack Sr. Front row (lr): Lusher's brother, her sister, Lora Lusher at age 2 and her cousin Jack Bokin at age 9.
Jack Bokin was bright and handsome, but his face he used as a mask. He had a natural charm and a knack for making people laugh, although he had no real friends. He ran his own plumbing business, was married and had two children. As a child he had been something of a prodigy: a whiz at chess and the piano. By age 10 he was also a sexual predator. His first victim was his 3-year-old cousin, his last – while he was out on bail after being charged with raping and assaulting three other women –was a 19-year-old he bound, raped repeatedly and beat for five hours before bashing in her skull with a hammer, tying her up in a bag and dumping her into San Francisco Bay.
by Lora Lusher
I'm sitting in the gallery of Courtroom 25 in the San Francisco Hall of Justice. It is Aug. 5, 1999. My 56-year-old cousin, Jack Bokin, is on trial charged with over 40 counts of violent sexual assaults on four different women. Amber, the 19-year-old prostitute who identified Jack as the man who tried to kill her, is on the witness stand. She has just finished describing the night of Oct. 4, 1997 when she was bound, raped and beaten for five hours before her skull was bashed in and she was dumped into San Francisco Bay.
Jack's defense attorney, Michael Gaines, requests a side conference and he and Asst. D.A. Elliott Beckelman huddle at the judge's bench, whispering.
The quiet in the courtroom is an abrupt change from the violence in Amber's words, which although spoken softly, are still ricocheting off the walls. Jack is sitting at the defense table with his back to the gallery; he appears unconcerned. I'm staring at his familiar outline and thinking back on the holiday dinners and birthday parties, camping trips and vacations, and the family members who are now gone. It seems so long ago. I don't know how we got here.
Jack Alexander Bokin, Jr. was born on March 20, 1943 in San Francisco. He was an only child. His parents were decent, law-abiding and decidedly middle-class. They worked in their small Mission District hardware store six days a week and made a comfortable home for Jack and our maternal grandmother who lived with them.
The worst thing that can be said about Jack's parents is that they were simple and unsophisticated. From the beginning Jack seemed unwilling to accept their blue-collar status, refusing to call them "Mommy" and "Daddy" and insisting on "Mother" and "Father" instead. As an adult, he would bitterly complain that they were never his social or intellectual equals and that their lack of refinement had been the cause of all his problems. But the truth is that his parents were no worse than most and considerably better than many. He was a much-loved member of a tightly knit extended family and he was given an abundance of encouragement, acceptance and approval.
Jack's mother, Evelyn, and my mother, Claire, were sisters and best friends. Because our mothers were so close, my siblings and I grew up thinking of "Jackie" as an older brother. As the first-born of our generation, and a boy, he was automatically granted a special status that we all, especially Jack himself, accepted as his birthright. And he did seem rightfully entitled. From the time he started school he was a brilliant student, especially in math and science. He was also a piano prodigy, instantly able to reproduce the most complex classical works entirely by ear. As he grew older he excelled in chess, built his own telescope and became a body builder.
A Secret Life
It seems like Jack always had a secret life. At age 7 he managed to sneak his father's handgun out of the house and take it to school. By the time he was 9 he was stealing bicycles from the nearby park and selling the parts. In 1953, when I was 3 and he was 10, he started molesting me. Even at that young age Jack was already so practiced in stealth that the abuse was never suspected. In the years that followed, not even my father, who was a San Francisco Police Inspector on the Sex Crimes Detail sensed that anything was wrong.
One of the dirtiest secrets about incest is that young children rarely tell, and even when they do, it's too disturbing for family members to hear so the child is often ignored or turned away. I silently endured the molestation for four years. By the time I was 7, I was so desperate for it to stop that I blurted out to my mother that whenever I was alone with Jack, who was then 14, he would take me upstairs to his bedroom or down into the basement or up onto the roof, remove my clothes and push his penis in between my legs. Her response, which stunned me, was that I should tell him "no." I hadn't anticipated that she might hand the responsibility back to me, so I wasn't prepared to have to plead my case for parental intervention. I was in the second grade; I didn't know how to explain that Jack had a scary, secret personality none of them knew about and that I couldn't stop him by myself. I never mentioned the abuse to my mother again and she never asked me about it. I gathered that things like being made to stand naked while someone ejaculated all over me (not knowing any better, I thought he was urinating) were just inescapable parts of childhood like spankings and dentist drills and booster shots.
"I'm glad I learned my lesson at a young age so I won't have to make the mistakes other people do." - Jack Bokin, 1966
Jack had a few acquaintances as he was growing up, but he never had any friends. Other children didn't come to his house to play and he was rarely invited anywhere. As a teenager he didn't go to parties or dances or out on dates. He was hopelessly out of touch with the music, fashions and fads of his peers; he didn't dress right, he didn't speak the language and he didn't know the rules. His unsuspecting parents were delighted that their teenage son seemed focused on school and wholesome hobbies. In fact, our entire family praised Jack as a "good boy" who didn't waste his time on girls, cars and teenage mischief.
When Jack was 16, he broke into the electronics shop next door to his parents' hardware store by crawling through the connecting false ceilings. He told his parents he'd been making some repairs to the wiring and had accidentally fallen through the ceiling of the other store. When he was 18, he burglarized a parked car and was arrested for the first time. He told his parents that he was merely standing next to the car and that the police officers were lying.
By this time my family had moved 30 miles north of San Francisco to Marin County and I no longer saw Jack every day. But his family drove out to visit us every Sunday and Jack nearly always found a way to separate me from the group and take me someplace where he would not be seen or heard. Our new home was surrounded by five acres of trees and creeks and meadows. It did not seem suspicious to the adults that Jack, a city boy, would want to spend his visits outdoors, hiking and exploring, or that he would want me to accompany him. As for me, my earlier failed attempt to enlist my mother's protection had convinced me that I had no choice but to go along with him uncomplainingly.
In December 1964, when he was 21, Jack assaulted a 30-year-old woman on a University of California-Berkeley Extension campus in San Francisco. He disabled her car while she was in class and then casually walked by and offered to help her start it. Once inside the car, he wrapped a shoelace around her throat and threatened to choke her if she made any noise. Then he made her strip to the waist and ordered her to remain quiet while he spent two hours kissing and fondling her breasts. She later identified him and he was arrested. The court found Jack to be a "mentally disordered sex offender." He spent the next two years in Atascadero State Psychiatric Hospital in Atascadero, Calif.
Thirty years after the incident, Jack would still angrily repeat the same version he'd given his parents (who believed him); that the police had intentionally misrepresented what was actually an innocent, albeit clumsy, social encounter. He would sneer and sputter over the characterization of a shoelace as a "deadly weapon" and complain that the "sex offender" label was inaccurate and unfair (yet court records show that he admitted to hospital psychiatrists that he had previously committed three other sexual assaults). But in 1966, at least, he seemed to have accepted responsibility for his predicament. He wrote, "I'm glad I learned my lesson at a young age so that I won't have to make the mistakes other people do."
In May 1966, while Jack was still in Atascadero, my parents were killed in a car accident in San Francisco. I was 15 years old and my brothers were 14 and 5. They stayed with our older sister and her husband, and I went to live with Jack's mother and father. When Jack returned home the following year (supposedly cured and rehabilitated) he immediately started in on me again. But my world had been shattered since he'd last seen me and in the process of trying to slowly put it back together I'd begun to learn how to take care of myself, so this time when he tiptoed into my bedroom while I was asleep and shoved his penis into my mouth, I wasn't afraid to tell.
The difference in our ages and levels of sophistication had always given Jack the upper hand and, at 16, I was still no match for his ability to redefine a situation and control how others perceived it. His soft-spoken, gentle manner, often sprinkled with empathy, had always been more powerful than facts or logic. Jack denied everything and told his stunned parents that I was lying. He explained that his stay in the psychiatric hospital had taught him enough about mental illness to know that I had serious emotional problems stemming from the loss of my parents. He told them I was only trying to get attention and that they should feel sorry for me. Then he turned around and privately accused me of betraying him by revealing "our secrets."
Rather than discourage Jack, my going public seemed to titillate and challenge him. He was careful never to touch me again, but the abuse didn't stop; it just changed forms. Orphaned and separated from my siblings and my home, I was dependent on the goodwill of Jack's parents. Always predatory, Jack zeroed in on my vulnerability and calculated, correctly, that having disrupted the household once by complaining about his visits to my bedroom, I would be very reluctant to drop another bomb. But just to be sure I didn't surprise him again, he began varying his tactics enough so that he would be able to easily explain away anything I might report.
Jack's new molestation style was so multifarious that, even if I had been brave enough to speak out again, it would have been nearly impossible for me to describe all that he was doing or how it made me feel (particularly since, true to Jack's nature, he always did things in secret). He began exposing himself to me whenever he found the opportunity. He started monitoring my visits to the bathroom; he would follow me and stand at the door, quietly checking to see if it was locked and then hover there, listening and waiting. He made a point of knowing when I went out with friends or on dates and would wait until I came home and accuse and interrogate me about what sexual activities I'd engaged in. He talked about my late mother, describing the size and shape of her breasts and her mouth and claimed that she'd harbored a secret sexual desire for him. He told me obscene jokes. He constantly critiqued the size and shape of my various body parts. He lectured me about all things sexual: positions, aphrodisiacs, homosexuality, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, masturbation, etc. And once he smeared his own semen on a slide and managed to trick me into looking at it under his microscope. When I realized what I was seeing, I ran from the room gagging.
As disturbing as all this was, it was such a relief to not have Jack touching me anymore that at first it seemed like an improvement. But it wasn't long before I realized that nothing had really changed. I tried to block out my pain and anger and thought I'd succeeded, but as the years passed and the abuse continued it would weigh more and more heavily on me.
"I just won't let myself get bogged down again and revert back to crime as an alternative." - Jack Bokin, 1979
After his release from Atascadero, Jack got his contractor's license, started his plumbing business and bought a house a few blocks from his parents' home. He'd never had a girlfriend or even been on a date, but his charm and clean-cut good looks attracted the attention of an assertive young woman whose family owned a bookshop across the street from his parents' hardware store. Both sets of parents objected to the relationship, but Jack's sexual-assault conviction and his stay in the psychiatric hospital did not dissuade Nancy; they wanted each other and that was that. They were married in 1968.
For a while it seemed that Jack had overcome his problems with the law, but it wasn't long before his secret life caught up with him again. No matter how much money he had, he was always hungry for more. His contracting and plumbing business never seemed to bring in enough cash to satisfy him. He resented having to buy the tools and materials he used on his jobs, so he figured out how to get them for free. He also desperately wanted to appear wealthy and successful, but he didn't want to have to pay for the possessions that would project that image. His greed won out over his desire for social standing: He stole expensive stereo systems, furnishings and appliances, eventually filling his house and basement, most never to be used. Between 1970 and 1990, he would be convicted six times on burglary and stolen-property charges and serve five separate prison terms.
True to form, after each conviction he portrayed himself as repentant and remorseful and promised that this time he'd learned from his mistake and would never do it again. "I just won't let myself get bogged down again and revert back to crime as an alternative," he wrote from Vacaville California Medical Facility in 1979.
Nancy stuck by Jack through three incarcerations and then divorced him. It was a bitter break-up; Jack never forgave her for using his sex-offender status to sever his parental rights to their young adopted daughter. I silently applauded her for risking his wrath to protect her child.
After the divorce, Jack wasn't alone for long. This was the early 1980's and he quickly discovered how easy it was to meet willing women by answering their personal ads. Within a few months he'd met Cheryl, a 36-year-old elementary school teacher who described herself in her ad as "an expert pamperer." Cheryl was eager to find a husband and have children; she saw Jack as strong, sensitive and kind. Jack wanted a family too, and he realized that Cheryl could give him children and much more. She not only had a secure job and a steady income, she also had a trust fund and very wealthy parents who lived in another state and weren't getting any younger. Before their second date Jack was already telling me and his parents how much money Cheryl would inherit and making plans for his retirement. They were married in June 1982 and their first child, a daughter, was born five months later.
Cheryl delighted in showing off her new husband and Jack revelled in the attention. She retired his unstylish clothing and took him shopping for an entirely new wardrobe. She vetoed his old-fashioned hairstyle and gave him a more contemporary look. When her elementary school held a Career Day she brought him in to talk to her fifth grade class about his work as a contractor. She organized dinner parties and get-togethers at their home and proudly introduced him to her friends and co-workers. She enthusiastically accepted every invitation they received and made sure he accompanied her, with bells on.
Jack didn't offer Cheryl much information about his past and she didn't ask. He told her only that he'd been to prison once, on a stolen property charge. She didn't learn the extent of his criminal history until two years into the marriage when the police burst into their home one night and arrested Jack for burglary. Pregnant with their second child, Cheryl threatened divorce but Jack charmed her out of it. He said he was sorry and convinced her that it would never happen again. She agreed to give him another chance. This scene would repeat itself over and over during their 15-year marriage, but each new arrest drove them a little further apart.
As Jack entered his forties, his personality began to darken. He became agitated and paranoid and talked incessantly about 'getting even' with other people. He'd always been somewhat vindictive, but up until then his vengeance had been limited to petty cruelties, like refusing to attend my 24-year-old brother's funeral because he'd never visited Jack in prison. Now Jack seemed dangerously out of control, variously talking about hitting this person or that one "over the head," or killing people and throwing them into the Bay with weights tied to their bodies or threatening to burn down the homes of certain family members because they had more money than he thought they needed and weren't sharing it with him.
In 1985, Jack's fantasies crossed the line into reality. For several years he'd had an ongoing feud with a certain San Francisco building inspector. Jack's plumbing work was notoriously sloppy and the inspector was strict, so Jack's jobs often didn't pass inspection and he wasn't able to get paid. It infuriated Jack when anyone dared to come between him and money, so he hired a work-furlough convict from San Francisco County Jail to follow the building inspector to lunch and hit him over the head with a tire iron. The inspector wasn't permanently injured, but it would be more than 10 years before he learned who had targeted him.
Jack's behavior toward me was changing too. I'd always been close to his parents and as they grew older I spent more and more time with them. This meant I had to continue seeing Jack and couldn't back away from him the way others in the family had done. By the time I was 35 I'd spent most of my life fending off his advances and I was exhausted. One day, in front of his parents, he made some typically off-color remark to me and I snapped at him, saying that I was tired of all his sick sexual bullshit and I wanted it to stop. It was a comparatively mild rebuke, but it was the first time I'd ever directly, or publicly, confronted him. Jack was shocked and embarrassed; he turned almost purple, but said nothing.
In hindsight, that was the turning point in our relationship. I knew that Jack was getting sicker and losing control, but I felt I was exempt from his anger. I didn't understand that my safety hinged on his need to believe that I found him sexually appealing, and that by destroying that fantasy I would make myself into an enemy.
Jack had always been glad that I was around to relieve him of the responsibility of helping his parents, but after I stood up to him he started imagining that I was plotting to replace him as the heir to their estate. In 1986 his paranoia exploded; he told his mother I deserved to die and that he was going to hire someone to kill me. I continued seeing his parents but we had to develop a complex system for keeping me out Jack's way.
I'd never distanced myself from Jack before and he was furious. He felt I was his personal property and that I had no right to make myself inaccessible to him. When he learned that I'd secretly moved and changed jobs, he reacted like a spurned lover. He demanded that his parents give him my telephone number and address, and, when they refused, he frantically called everyone he could think of trying to locate me. But my friends and our other family members had already been warned about his threat to kill me, so no matter how he cajoled or threatened, he didn't get any information. But he didn't give up; he was determined to find me and prove that I could never escape from him.
In 1991 Jack began pressuring his parents to mortgage their home and "loan" him a large sum of money. His father was willing, but his mother refused. Jack was livid. That fall his mother became ill and I had to admit her to a care home in Greenbrae, Calif. I was still hiding from Jack and now my siblings and I also needed to keep his mother's whereabouts a secret from him because we were concerned that he would harm her. After she'd been in the care home for a few months, she suddenly started complaining that Jack was coming into her room at night and frightening her. She was very distressed, but we felt sure we had her well hidden and that she must be imagining it. Still, I questioned the care home staff, who swore he'd never been there. A couple of weeks after Jack's mother started talking about these visits I received a late-night call from a staff nurse saying my aunt had been discovered dead in her bed, less than an hour after she'd been checked and found to be fine. We were sure Jack was responsible, but we had no hard evidence. Five years later, Jack's wife Cheryl revealed that Jack admitted to her that he had indeed gone to the care home on two occasions and that his mother had screamed in terror. By then it was too late to launch a murder investigation; our only comfort was the homicide officers who knew Jack and agreed that "he probably did it."
Jack didn't miss a beat. Within days after his mother's death he'd convinced his grieving father to give him the money he'd been asking for. Four months after that, he found a way to collect more fast money by forging my signature to a legal document involving the estate of one of our deceased aunts. When I discovered the forgery I reported it to our attorney, Charles A. DeCuir, Jr. a member of Melvin Belli's legal team. DeCuir, who was eager to have the matter closed and collect his substantial fee, told me I had no choice but to abide by the agreement the forgery bound me to. I refused and DeCuir became angry. He knew Jack was dangerous to me; I'd told him about his history and instructed him countless times never to give Jack any personal information about me. So when Jack suddenly called me and boasted that he'd gotten my phone number from DeCuir along with my home address, I knew the attorney had done it intentionally. Jack said that if I didn't cooperate with them I would be "sorry. " Then, like tag-team wrestlers, Jack hung up and DeCuir called me back and demanded that I immediately fax him a statement giving him permission to sign my name to the remaining documents. Betrayed by my attorney and fearing that Jack was lurking around the corner waiting to murder me, I backed down and gave them what they wanted.
(A side note on DeCuir: On June 2, 2000, The California Supreme Court suspended DeCuir from the practice of law in connection with two separate cases in the 1990s involving his misuse of funds his clients had been awarded in settlements. DeCuir pleaded nolo contendere to both charges that he had willfully violated Rule 4-100 (A) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The court said that the "legal effect of such a plea shall be the same as that of an admission of culpability for all purposes." In its ruling the court ordered DeCuir suspended for two years, but stayed the suspension, ordering that as conditions of the stay that "he be actually suspended for 60 days" and "take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within one year.")
Jack was delighted to have the money but I knew it wouldn't end there. Now that he'd won and regained his precious access to me, I knew it would only be a matter of time before he'd start getting even with me for having evaded him for so long. I felt I had no choice but to drop everything and run. I walked away from my job, moved to another Bay Area city, cut off contact with nearly everyone I knew and went into deep hiding. It would be nearly five years before I felt safe enough to reemerge.
"He laughed and said I could kick the horn all night and no one would hear me."- Marion
By 1993 Jack and Cheryl were no longer close. They didn't sleep together and spoke only when necessary but they agreed to stay married until their son and daughter were grown. Jack remained involved with the children, driving them to school, helping them with their homework and participating in school functions. But he'd developed a strange new intensity that made them all uncomfortable. He was angry and short-tempered. He lectured and criticized. And he was secretive, disappearing and reappearing at odd hours and staying away from home for long periods of time.
That same year Jack met a woman named Marion in a park near his home. "He sent a gentleman over to find out if I was a prostitute and to say that he wanted to meet me." They began a relationship that was part business and part personal. Marion performed clerical work for Jack in his home office and they engaged in sexual acts, at times in the master bedroom while his wife was at work and his children were in school. Marion was a heroin addict and often purchased her drugs from Jack's next door neighbor, so at first it was a convenient arrangement for them both.
On the evening of Sept. 7, 1993 (ironically, Jack's late mother's birthday) Marion, perhaps not realizing the dangers of asking Jack to part with money or else too badly in need of a fix to care, went to his Bryant Street home to ask to be paid. The family and several guests were eating dinner and Jack's 8-year-old son got up from the children's table and went downstairs and answered the door. Marion asked to see Jack. The boy called his father to the door and then went back upstairs and whispered to his sister that Jack was talking to a strange woman. Then, curious about this provocatively dressed stranger, the boy went out onto an exterior balcony that overlooks the front door and eavesdropped on the conversation. He heard Jack and Marion discuss money for several minutes before they left together in Jack's car.
Jack drove to a nearby industrial area that is deserted at night. Suddenly, he kneed Marion in the ribs and placed his hands around her neck. Terrified, she kicked the car horn with her foot to make noise. "He laughed and said I could kick the horn all night and no one would hear me." Then he ordered her into the back seat. She felt she had no choice, "I was afraid for my life." In the back seat, Jack tied Marion's hands behind her back with pantyhose and grabbed and hit her repeatedly. He sucked and chewed on her tongue and forced her to orally copulate him. Then he choked her until she lost consciousness. Marion's injuries would later show that Jack's final act was to push her, unconscious, out of his car as he drove away.
"She had bright red marks around both wrists and throat area and she had two pieces of nylon hanging from her wrists." - SFPD Officer Marquita Booth
At approximately 11 p.m. plain clothes SFPD Officer Marquita Booth responded to "a call about a person screaming at 16th and Mississippi Streets." When she arrived at the scene, she found a crouching woman wearing only a shirt and underpants. Officer Booth stated in her report, "She was shaking, crying, extremely upset and distraught. She had bright red marks around both wrists and throat area and she had two pieces of nylon hanging from her wrists."
Marion told Booth that her assailant was a man she knew named "Jack." From the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Marion pointed out Jack's house and the next morning SFPD Officers Booth, Cunningham and Smith went there and arrested him. Jack made bail, and a few months later Marion disappeared and the district attorney was forced to drop the charges.
"I told the police but they didn't do anything." - Janie
Every summer, Cheryl and the children left town for a month and went to visit her parents. On July 7, 1996 at approximately 11:15 a.m., Janie, a 30-year-old prostitute, was picked up on So. Van Ness Ave. by a man who drove her to a house on Bryant Street. He held her there for 16 hours while he repeatedly raped and beat her and forced her to orally copulate him. An epileptic, Janie lost consciousness several times and at one point awoke to find a champagne bottle stuffed into her vagina. The man made her shower while he washed her and called her, "Dirty, dirty," and he forced her to let him watch her use the toilet after which he wiped her himself.
Janie was afraid to report the assault because she had an open warrant and didn't want to go to jail. But a week and a half later she was arrested for prostitution and she told the arresting vice officer, Officer Raymond Luk, what had happened.
Officer Luk knew there was a serial suspect victimizing Capp Street prostitutes and he was even familiar with Jack, but he didn't file Janie's complaint or pass her information along to the appropriate department. In fact, he would later testify that he had no recollection of Janie telling him she'd been assaulted. "If she'd reported it I would have generated paperwork. There is no paperwork."
"I thought I was going to die. I thought this man was going to kill me." - Martha
On Jan. 22, 1997 a 34-year-old prostitute named Martha walked into the Mission Police Station and reported she'd been picked up at 7 that morning by a man who held and assaulted her for over eight hours in a house on Bryant Street. The man tied her arms and legs, and repeatedly sucked and chewed on her tongue and forced his fingers into her vagina. She lost track of how many times she was forced to orally copulate him. She finally escaped after attacking him with a pair of scissors. The police went to the address Martha provided and arrested Jack, who still bore the scratches from the scissors attack.
Martha and Janie knew each other only in passing, but their boyfriends were friends. When Janie's boyfriend heard about Martha's assault and Jack's arrest, he realized this was the same man who had assaulted Janie six months earlier. Janie contacted the SFPD and again reported the July 7, 1996 assault. This time the police paid attention and Janie's case was added to Jack's growing list of charges.
"On Bokin, I'm looking at a rap sheet that starts from the ceiling and ends up on the floor. This is an extremely low bail." - Susan Breall, SF District Attorney's Violent Crimes Division
Within days after being arrested for assaulting Martha and Janie, Jack was a free man again. Despite his status as a convicted sex offender and the seriousness of the charges in the two assault cases, Municipal Court Judge Perker Meeks inexplicably lowered Jack's bail from $100,000 to $30,000, and Jack was released.
A couple of weeks later, in early February 1997, Marion, the girlfriend Jack assaulted in 1993, suddenly resurfaced and agreed to testify. She explained why she changed her mind, "I initially thought that if I didn't talk about this I'd get over it. I didn't want to come to court and tell people – the jury, the judge, the DA – what had happened. That I was assaulted. That I had to run down the street with no clothes on and beg for someone to help me. Now I feel like I have to testify for myself emotionally so I can go on."
The district attorney re-filed the previously dropped charges and merged Marion's case with Janie and Martha's. Based on the new charges, Judge James McBride set Jack's bail at $500,000. However, at a subsequent bail hearing Judge Perker Meeks once again lowered Jack's bail, this time to $65,000. It began to seem like Jack could fool just about anyone.
"I stood on street corners and cried with women. They knew Bokin and felt they were sitting ducks." - Norma Hotaling, Director of SAGE
Jack's preliminary hearing in the three assaults was held in July 1997. Municipal Court Judge George Choppelas presided. On July 28, during a break in the proceedings, Deputy Sheriff Carl Olson saw Jack make a threatening gesture at Marion. Olson would later testify, "The defendant looked at the victim/witness and made two slashing motions across his neck. The witness then turned away and looked down." When court reconvened, Deputy Olson reported the incident to D.A. Elliott Beckelman. Beckelman argued to Judge Choppelas that it was "a gesture that to any reasonable person would mean 'you're dead.'" and asked him to raise Jack's bail to $1 million. The judge refused and Jack remained free.
Norma Hotaling, director of SAGE, a group that provides services to women both in and out of prostitution reacted, "People were outraged and stunned. I stood on street corners and cried with women. They knew Bokin and felt they were sitting ducks. They felt with judges not protecting them they were going to die."
"He sucked on my tongue so hard I thought he was going to tear it out of my mouth." - Amber
On Oct. 4, 1997 Jack was still out on bail awaiting trial on the three assault cases. At approximately 5:30 p.m. a 19-year-old prostitute named Amber was picked up by a man who told her his name was "Jimmy" and said he worked for the government. He drove her to a remote area off Bayshore Blvd. where he bound her hands behind her. He repeatedly beat and raped her and forced her to orally copulate him. He sucked and chewed on her tongue "like a dog chewing on a piece of meat" and bit her clitoris until she shrieked in pain. He warned her he had a relative in the San Francisco Police Department who would protect him if she tried to report him.
The man alternately hit her and called her a "crybaby" then held her in his arms, wiped her tears and apologized for hurting her. He told her he loved her and asked if she liked him and would go out with him again. "I told him I'd go out with him again, now that I knew what he wanted. At that point I was going to tell him anything he wanted to hear.
"My hands were numb from being tied behind me for so long. I told him if he untied me that I'd give him a really good blow job." The man told Amber to get out of the car so he could untie her hands. Then he grabbed her by her hair, jerked her head down to her knees and began hitting her in the head with an object she thought was a hammer. She could hear her skull cracking, "like an eggshell."
She fell to the ground and lay motionless, hoping he would think she was dead and stop hitting her. She rolled back her eyes and forced herself to remain limp as he lifted her up by her hair and threw her into the trunk. He drove a short distance then stopped to stuff her into a plastic garbage bag and toss her back inside the trunk. He resumed driving. She managed to free her hands and bite an air hole in the bag. Convinced she was going to die, she wiped blood from her head wounds on the inside of the car trunk so that someone would know she'd been there. But then she became afraid that he might open the trunk and see the blood and realize she wasn't dead, so she tried to wipe it off.
The man drove to a car wash where he vacuumed the car and sprayed water inside the trunk. Then he drove off again. Amber felt around in the darkness for something she could use to open the trunk. "I'd heard there was a way to pop open car trunks from the inside." She found some sort of a tool and used it to bang on the trunk latch, but it remained locked. At some point Amber felt the car go into reverse and then stop. The man opened the trunk and this time, he gently lifted her out and cradled her tenderly for a few moments, "like you would hold your child." Then he 'tipped' her out of his arms. She fell for a second or two and then landed in water.
Amber waited until she saw his car's taillights disappear, then she wriggled free of her bindings and the plastic bag and swam through the darkness to a small dock. Weak, exhausted and numb with cold, she paddled around the dock for several minutes before she found a way to pull herself up onto it. Then she climbed a low wall and walked along the top, stepping sideways and clinging to a barbed-wire fence, until she reached the Embarcadero, a fast-moving thoroughfare. Naked except for a pair of socks and dazed from open skull fractures and loss of blood, she stumbled out into traffic. A woman in a passing car stopped and picked her up and called 911.
"This has been a case that shocked law enforcement and citizens as well, and that intensified our effort to make an arrest. This was great police work." - San Francisco Police Chief Fred Lau
At the hospital over the next few days, SFPD officers showed Amber photographs of possible suspects. Jack was well known to the officers, but initially he didn't come to mind as a suspect so they didn't include his picture in the first two groups of photos. After Amber failed to identify anyone in those groups, the officers compiled a third group and, as an afterthought, added Jack's picture. Amber looked through the photos and when she came to Jack's she screamed and threw it across the bed.
The FBI and the SFPD staked out Jack's Bryant Street home and arrested him on Oct. 11 for attempted murder, kidnap, rape and false imprisonment, among other charges. This time he was held without bail.
D.A. Terrence Hallinan blasted the judges who had lowered Jack's bail in the other cases. "This terrible crime wouldn't have happened if our requests for higher bail were not ignored. He is a registered sex offender. He has a prison record. He was accused of raping three prostitutes and still they let him back on the street. He nearly killed this woman."
When I heard about Jack's arrest I called one of my father's former colleagues in the SFPD. He said they'd been trying to locate me to interview me about Jack but hadn't been able to find me. I explained that I'd been hiding out for the past few years. I went in and gave them a five-hour taped statement. Finally, 44 years after the molestation began, I was officially declared the victim of a violent crime.
Two months after his arrest, on Dec. 11, Jack wrote from SF County Jail, "Here it is Christmas. I'm in jail – awaiting trial – this was a terrible year for me."
"Jack Bokin is a victim of an overzealous prosecution. These women were paid for sex and they did their job." - Michael Gaines, Defense Attorney
After nearly two years of delays and legal wrangling, Jack's trial began on Aug. 3, 1999 in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge James L. Warren. From the first day, Michael Gaines, Jack's diminutive and perpetually angry defense attorney, seemed to be on a suicide mission. His opening statement to the jury was confusing and contained bold promises which would later come back to haunt him. As the trial progressed he would repeatedly lose control of his exhibits and even his own witnesses.
"The crimes were so similar it's as if he'd signed his name to them." - Prosecutor Elliott Beckelman
Assistant D. A. Elliott Beckelman is a study in contrasts. One-on-one he can come across as arrogant and ill mannered. (He's quick to explain, "I apologize if I seem rude. I'm from New York.") In front of a jury, however, he becomes a gentleman, gracious, confident, and unflappable. Most importantly, he's very smart and he does his homework. The prosecution team would not find themselves searching for lost paperwork or doing damage control.
I first met Beckelman in the hallway outside of the courtroom on the first day of trial. I have dark brown hair and I've worn it long all my life. When I approached him and introduced myself, he looked at my hair with such a startled expression that I wondered what was wrong. It turned out that all four of Jack's victims had long brown hair as well.
Throughout the prosecution phase of the trial and during his closing argument, Beckelman kept referring the jury to a large chart where he'd graphed all of the similarities between the victims and the assaults. Three of the women were prostitutes. All four had been tied up and forced to orally copulate their assailant. They'd all had their tongues sucked and chewed on. They'd all been held captive for extended periods of time. And they all gave the description of a burly man who had a high-pitched feminine voice and difficulty maintaining an erection.
"I didn't want to believe that a father would betray his home or his children like that." - Cheryl Bokin
In the defense's opening statement, Gaines acknowledged that Jack assaulted Marion but called her a "shakedown artist" who was blackmailing Jack for money by threatening to tell his wife and their two children about the affair.
In one of the worst miscalculations of the trial, Gaines subpoenaed Jack's wife Cheryl and their son and daughter and then opened the door for D.A. Beckelman to question them about Jack's affair with Marion. Cheryl testified that she and Jack "had not been sexually close for years" and that she wasn't hurt by the affair, but their children were. She trembled and sobbed as she told the jury, "I didn't want to believe that a father would betray his home or his children like that." When their 14-year-old son took the witness stand and shyly admitted to Beckelman that he loved his father and wanted to help him, it nearly brought the entire courtroom to tears. Their appearance gave the jury their first clue that Jack might really be the Jekyll & Hyde monster the victims had described.
"Desperate men have desperate measures to do desperate things. What did he have to lose?" - Prosecutor Elliott Beckelman
The nine-man, three-woman jury deliberated for more than five days. On Oct. 25, 1999 they found Jack guilty of 25 felonies in the assaults on Amber, Marion and Martha. The guilty verdicts included attempted murder, assault, rape, mayhem, sexual battery and false imprisonment. By a vote of 10-2 the jurors had been unable to reach a verdict in Janie's assault; Judge Warren declared a mistrial in that case.
Jack's sentencing was held on Jan. 14, 2000. Judge Warren advised Jack that he was facing a possible sentence of 60 years to life plus 195 years, then he called a short break. A deputy sheriff escorted Jack, now handcuffed and shackled and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, to a holding cell behind the courtroom. When court reconvened and the deputy returned and opened the holding cell door, Jack, who had somehow managed to unlock and remove his handcuffs and leg chains, slammed the door into the deputy and ran. In the courtroom, the judge, attorneys and spectators saw a flash of orange as Jack streaked past the doorway and bolted down an exterior balcony that led directly to a fire-escape stairway.
Pandemonium erupted in the courtroom. Bailiffs, spectators, activists, reporters and even Judge Warren himself joined the chase, his robes flapping in the wind. Jack's attorney Michael Gaines put his head down on the defense table and didn't budge. Jack made it as far as the stairway door before two deputies tackled him. "I came real close to leaving this jail." he later said. It was not an exaggeration.
After the escape attempt it was revealed that shortly after Jack's conviction three months earlier, a homemade handcuff key, a map of the Hall of Justice and German passport information had been confiscated from his jail cell. Despite this clear indication that Jack was an escape risk, the SF Sheriff's Department did not elect to use the new design handcuffs (which cannot be unlocked with a standard handcuff key) when transporting Jack between the jail and the courtroom.
The Sheriff's Department announced there would be an investigation into how Jack managed to unlock his handcuffs and shackles after being placed in the holding cell, but investigators showed little interest in a TV-news videotape shot moments before that clearly shows Jack awkwardly maneuvering an object around in his mouth.
"This was an important case. It's not often you get such a righteous case, when you know there are so many victims out there and you're doing something good. I hope it sends a message." - Erin Gallagher, District Attorney Investigator
The rescheduled sentencing was held five days later on Jan. 19. The courtroom was standing room only, as if the entire city of San Francisco had turned out in case Jack made another break for it. This time he wouldn't get the chance. In a show of force that was embarrassingly a day late, SF Sheriff Michael Hennessey wasn't about to also be caught a deputy short. He stationed 11 uniformed and armed deputies inside the packed, medium-sized courtroom. Five stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the double doors at the rear, one guarded the single door behind Judge Warren's bench, and the remaining five formed a tight circle around Jack, who was heavily shackled and seated at the defense table. The deputy standing immediately to Jack's left never moved his eyes from Jack's face throughout the two-hour hearing; it was clear that this time they meant business.
Having already been advised of Judge Warren's tentative sentence, Gaines argued for less time on this charge and that one, splitting hairs and trying to chisel off six months here and two years there, as though it would make any meaningful difference to a 200+ year sentence. Beckelman countered each of Gaines' arguments. Judge Warren listened patiently to both then checked and re-checked his math.
Before imposing sentence, Judge Warren addressed the testimony of the four victims, calling it "as chilling as any that has come before this court. The lurid descriptions of sexual assaults, rapes, oral copulation, throwing bodies around, tying people up was simply very difficult to hear." Then helooked directly at Jack and sentenced him to 60 years to life plus 171 years. The courtroom erupted in cheers and applause and the deputies quickly led Jack away. I didn't cheer. As I watched Jack disappear through the doorway for the final time I was thinking about his mother and silently telling her, "This was for you."
Outside the courtroom after the sentencing, I introduced myself to some of the jurors and thanked them for doing what needed to be done. One of the women told me she'd been curious about my connection to the case; she'd noticed me crying when the victims testified and then again when the verdicts were read and it made her wonder which side I was on. Her comments brought home to me another terrible truth about incest: When you grow up caught between one loved and trusted family member who hurts you, and other loved and trusted family members who won't protect you, even you don't always know which side you're on.
Jack will always be part of my family. He bandaged my knees when I fell off my bike and told me jokes until I stopped crying. He taught me how to swim and how to play chess. He introduced me to philosophy, physics and Rachmaninov. He taught me all the constellations in the night sky and showed me how to make mercury dimes. He will never, and should never, have another chance at freedom but I find no joy in that, only relief for myself and deep regret that he wasted his life and shattered so many others.
In June 2000 Jack was installed in Mule Creek State Prison near Sacramento. Because of the notoriety surrounding his trial and his demonstrated potential for escape, he is housed in a "Sensitive Needs" unit reserved for the highest-security prisoners. His first parole hearing is scheduled for January 2148.
Lora Lusher's email address is: Miranda365@aol.com
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