Kevin Deutsch Biography
Kevin Deutsch is an American criminal justice journalist, author of two books, and host of the crime podcast “A Dark Turn” on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. He is currently a staff writer for the criminal justice nonprofit Bronx Justice News.
The sourcing and veracity of some of his news articles and his book Pill City became the subject of a high-profile dispute in 2017 involving allegations made by members of the media that Deutsch fabricated sources.
Deutsch denied all of the claims and defended his work as accurate, as did his publisher, St. Martins Press. Deutsch was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources. Pill City is an account of how two teens used opioids looted during the 2015 Baltimore riots to sell drugs using an Uber-like app and founded a nationwide criminal syndicate.
Kevin Deutsch Age
Kevin Deutsch is an American criminal justice journalist, author of two books, and host of the crime podcast “A Dark Turn” on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. He is currently a staff writer for the criminal justice nonprofit Bronx Justice News. Kevin Deutsch was born on May 9, 1981, in Brooklyn, New York, NY. He is 38 years old as of 2019
Kevin Deutsch Career
Deutsch’s first book, The Triangle: A Year on the Ground with New York’s Blood and Crips, is an account of the year the author spent covering a Bloods-Crips gang war on Long Island. It received positive reviews from critics, including a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly magazine.
His second book, Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire, chronicles the story of how opiates stolen during the Baltimore riots sparked a wave of inner-city addiction and violence. It received a starred review from Booklist magazine.
Deutsch, born Kevin Shulman, writes under his father’s name. He received a Sunshine State Award for travel writing for a story he wrote about his deceased father, attorney Howard Shulman.
Deutsch has worked on staff at Newsday, The New York Daily News, The Miami Herald, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work as a freelancer has also appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Village Voice, The Forward, Columbia Journalism Review, and The New York Post.
Deutsch has been interviewed about American street gangs and drug trafficking and has received prizes for his writing about crime and national news events, including an Associated Press award for justice beat reporting.
Kevin Deutsch Questions about sources
Deutsch “was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources,” but some journalists made allegations of fabrication following the release of Deutsch’s second book, Pill City. Shortly after the book’s release, reporters from The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper challenged the veracity of the book’s narrative.
On February 10, 2017, The Baltimore Sun published an article quoting government officials that cast doubt on the book, and Deutsch’s practice of changing the names of individuals and places he documented. Core elements of the book could not be substantiated, including “the dates, circumstances, and victims involved in homicides Deutsch describes in detail.”
The City Paper was not able to confirm the existence of almost any person described in the book, including incidental characters not involved in crime who would have no reason to fear exposure.
Despite a detailed explanation of events in the Shock Trauma department at the University of Maryland Medical Center, no record exists of Deutsch visiting it. Of the murders described in the book, several did not appear to match any of Baltimore area’s recorded murders during the year-long time period.
The City Paper, despite inquiring with both the police and other experts on the Baltimore underworld, was unable to verify the existence of characters who might possibly have been analogues for “old-school drug kingpin Jimmy Masters” nor a “nationally famous” Reverend Grier, despite a detailed description of a high-profile and well-attended funeral for Grier in the book.
The Baltimore Sun article also included an extended video interview with Deutsch, in which he defended his work and his use of anonymous sourcing, which he said was needed to protect the safety of interviewees. The “Author’s Note” in Deutsch’s book includes a section detailing his methodology.
It states that “In order to disguise the identities of interviewees, most of their names have been changed. For that same reason, certain locations, physical descriptions, and other identifying details have been altered or obscured.”
Within a week of the Baltimore Sun story, both Newsday and The New York Times announced separate internal reviews of Deutsch’s past writing. Baltimore TV writer/producer David Simon said: “After reading, I think this book is, by and large, a wholesale fabrication.”
On February 24, 2017, The New York Times published an editors’ note on the sole article Deutsch wrote for the paper, detailing its investigation and conclusion:
An article on Dec. 29, 2016, described the rise of deadly fentanyl overdoses on Long Island, based largely on official data and interviews with law-enforcement officials. It was written by a freelance writer, Kevin Deutsch, an author and former staff reporter for The Daily News and Newsday.
Several weeks earlier, The Baltimore Sun had published a report that raised questions about claims in a new book by the reporter about the drug trade in Baltimore.
The Sun reporters had informed The Times that, in the course of researching the claims in Mr. Deutsch’s book, they had reviewed the Times article and had been unable to locate two sources quoted by name in that article. The main facts of the article were upheld, and the story was not retracted.
In response, editors and reporters at The Times conducted a detailed review of the fentanyl article. The main facts and thrust of the article, including the official data and quotes from the authorities, were confirmed.
However, after extensive reporting efforts, The Times also has been unable to locate or confirm the existence of two people who were named and quoted: Jeffrey Sheridan, described as a resident of Oyster Bay, N.Y., who works as an addiction counselor and whose 34-year-old nephew died from a fentanyl overdose on Staten Island in 2015; and Andrew Giordano, described as a 26-year-old resident of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, who overdosed on a fentanyl-heroin mixture.
Mr. Deutsch maintains that the interviews and the descriptions are accurate. But he has not been able to put The Times in contact with either source or to provide any further material to corroborate the account. At this point, editors have concluded that The Times cannot vouch for the accuracy of those sources, and that material has been removed from the online version of the article.
Following these findings, on March 2, 2017, the media watchdog group iMediaEthics confirmed that the New York Daily News was conducting an internal review, examining all 572 stories from Deutsch’s career with the company. The group later shared a statement from Newsweek, confirming that it would review the three stories Deutsch had written there as well.
The New York Daily News review was less extensive than the Newsday review and noted the impossibility of verifying five-to-seven-year-old stories that were often written under multiple bylines after staff turnover, but did not find any obvious “red flags” in its review. Deutsch has stood by all of his reporting, stating that he used the exact names given to him by his interviewees.
On July 12, 2017, Newsday, where Deutsch was on staff for more than four years, released the conclusions of its review of Deutsch’s writing there. Newsday said that review was prompted by the Baltimore article questioning Deutsch’s second book.
Newsday found that in 77 or more than 600 articles written by Deutsch, 109 individuals he quoted could not have their existence confirmed. The editors said the main points of the articles were confirmed and cited many reasons that people might not give a real name to a police reporter.
No corrections were issued, but Newsday appended individual editor’s notes to each of the 77 articles online, detailing which sources it could not locate after approximately four months of effort.
In response, Deutsch issued a statement on his website stating: “For me, journalistic ethics are sacrosanct. They’ve remained so throughout my fifteen-year criminal justice journalism career—a career I’m extremely proud of. I stand behind every word I’ve published.
None of my work has been found to be inaccurate, nor any story I’ve worked on ever retracted. Newsday’s review confirmed the accuracy of the more than 630 stories I wrote for the paper–stories Newsday is standing behind.” Deutsch has also suggested that his competitors are simply jealous of his work.
The Washington Post and Rolling Stone both published articles which noted that Deutsch had worked for news organizations for years before Deutsch’s alleged sourcing problems were brought to light. They both hypothesized that Deutsch’s coverage of marginalized communities meant he faced less accountability.
Such sources are more difficult to track down, and readers are happy to accept information that fits their expectations. David Simon was blunter; he wrote “Nobody is going to fact check poor black people. That’s the bottom line… you can say anything you want about the black underclass.”
Rolling Stone updated its story about Deutsch with a clarification in August 2018, stating that “This story has been changed to clarify that Deutsch was never formally accused by any major news organization of fabricating sources. It was also updated to include a comment from Deutsch.
” That comment read: “Despite the false and baseless accusations made by a handful of competing journalists who targeted some of my work, including the author of this very piece, none of the more than 1,500 news articles, briefs, features, or books I’ve published in my 16-year crime reporting career has ever been retracted, nor a single factual correction or clarification issued, as a result of these attacks.”
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Kevin Deutsch Wife, Married
Kevin Deutsch is an American criminal justice journalist, author of two books, and host of the crime podcast “A Dark Turn” on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. He is currently a staff writer for the criminal justice nonprofit Bronx Justice News. His pieces of information about the wife, marriages are not yet revealed yet but stay ready for the update soon
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Does this true crime book sound true to you?
Assuming that the events depicted in reporter Kevin Deutsch’s new true crime book Pill City actually happened, it’s one of the most astounding pieces of crime reporting in years.
If only Deutsch could prove that the events in the book actually happened.
The book’s remarkable story has earned Deutsch appearances in Vice, C-SPAN, and Newsweek. But, since its release in late January, both Pill City and Deutsch’s previous reporting has been besieged with myriad questions about his truthfulness—and about whether some of the people he claims to have interviewed actually exist at all.
If the accusations are true, Pill City is shaking up instead to be an outrageous journalism scandal.
What the reporting on Pill City has neglected to mention so far, though, is that if you read the book’s actual text, it’s very difficult to believe the events described happened. At one point, a gang associate is stabbed with a knife because he won’t put down his BlackBerry!
At best, Pill City comes off like a rejected spec script for The Wire, at worst like a hastily produced straight-to-DVD movie. As I worked my way through Pill City’s nearly 300 pages, I often would read passages to whoever was nearby: to their delight, and then surprise, that something this outlandish would be published with so little proof it actually happened.
A drug dealer watching his underlings work compares it to an episode of Undercover Boss. Beloved anti-drug pastor whistles “Amazing Grace” seconds before he’s killed — and his murderer picks up the tune as he leaves the crime scene. At one point, Pill City’s organizers even swill wine and cut a deal with associates of “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel.
I’ve included some particularly hard-to-believe passages from Pill City below. But first, some background on the challenges to Deutsch’s reporting.
The story so far
Deutsch, a New York-based freelancer who’s worked for Newsweek, the New York Times, and Newsday, claims to have had intimate access to law enforcement and both sides of a brutal gang war provoked after the 2015 riots following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.
Most of the violence centered around, of all things, an app created by two high school honor students that Deutsch calls “the Uber of drug trafficking”: the titular “Pill City.” The name also describes the alliance between the two students — “Brick” and “Wax” — and the Black Guerrilla Family gang, a powerful combination that Deutsch claims manage to corner the drug trade in Baltimore and several other cities with pills and heroin looted during the riots.
Deutsch’s supposed level of access is really astonishing. He recounts gangland repartee exchanged seconds before a murder. In another part of the book, one character reveals that he has lied to his brother for decades about their father’s dying wish for him, completely skewing his brother’s life towards crime. But he’s willing to finally reveal this secret to Deutsch.
Many, in Baltimore and elsewhere, aren’t buying it. Since the book’s release in late January, Deutsch has been challenged nearly every week with new questions about either Pill City or his other work.
Proving details in Pill City are wrong is difficult, because nearly every character in the book, including doctors, addiction counselors, or murder victims who typically wouldn’t need anonymity, have had their names changed.
Deutsch claims he’s protecting his sources; coincidentally or not, that also makes his tale of a massive gang war difficult to verify.
Still, the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper have both published stories punching significant holes in Pill City. Law enforcement and crime figures say they’ve never heard of anything like the events described, dates for murders described in the book don’t match with actual murders recorded in Baltimore, and a Baltimore shock trauma unit whose operations Deutsch describes has no record of his visits.
The murder of the anti-drug pastor, described as a tragedy that sends a good part of the city into mourning, appears to have no analog in the real world.
David Simon, the creator of The Wire and a former Baltimore crime reporter himself, has turned challenging Pill City into his latest Twitter crusade.
The Baltimore Police Department said in a statement to me that they have “no evidence or information that corroborates the claims made in the book.”Curiously, a section of the book is named “Jimmy’s World”—also the title of a fabricated, Pulitzer-winning 1980 Washington Post story about a nonexistent 8-year-old heroin addict that was later entirely debunked.
Meanwhile, Deutsch’s freelance reporting has also been slammed. The Times pulled several quotes in a story he wrote after they failed to find evidence the people quoted actually existed, and both Newsday and Newsweek are reviewing his stories.
The media site iMediaEthics has launched an investigation into Deutsch’s work outside of Pill City that, to my mind, conclusively proves that several people he’s quoted don’t exist. Deutsch counters that he’s been the victim of sources who lied about their names.
Deutsch has strenuously pushed back on the attacks, albeit not by proving that the claims in his articles actually happened. Instead, he’s written several fuming blog posts and one op-ed for the New York Observer claiming that his critics are just jealous of his scoop.
And then there’s this: a mysterious Twitter account, created amidst the debate about Pill City, that claims that it’s all real.“DonVITO89″ later tweeted that he would answer questions about the book’s accuracy, but didn’t respond to requests for comment. Deutsch called a question from iMediaEthics about whether he made up the account to defend his book “absurd.”
Deutsch didn’t respond to my requests for comment. As of February, publisher St. Martin’s Press told me in emails that they were sticking by the book. They reiterated their commitment to the book in a March 14 email to me.
“We have every reason to believe, and no reason to doubt, the author’s veracity and the accuracy of his book,” the statement reads.
Our Heroes: Brick and Wax
Pill City’s honor student protagonists are two teens, Brick—so-called because he bashed in the head of a man who was molesting him with a brick as a boy—and Wax, who earned his nickname because a poster on a hacking forum said that he had “waxed” a hacking challenge as a boy.
Brick and Wax meet around middle school age and bond over a shared love of Iceberg Slim’s cult classic book Pimp, encountering each other as their mothers take them to a drug den to score.
Deutsch describes the encounter, which occurred several years before he ever met the two teens, down to their clothes: one wears “bleach-spotted khakis” and “paint-spattered Terps cap”, another is dressed in a “Chef Boyardee stained fleece.”
This is a good example of Deutsch’s method of reporting events he couldn’t possibly have witnessed, or even expect his subjects to remember accurately.
Wax and Brick soon become interested in technology, but they decide to ditch college educations or Silicon Valley for a vague intention to use their technical know-how to create a drug operation.
Their opportunity presents itself when they team up with the Black Guerrilla Family to raid pharmacies for pills and rival dealers for pills, a confluence of the regulated and underground opiate markets that, incidentally, allows Deutsch to avoid addressing the fact that not all that many pills were stolen in the riots.
The teens set up their technology, which is described as an elaborate encrypted software that evades law enforcement surveillance and allows BGF chapters to “receive encrypted drug orders, make doorstep deliveries, and organize re-ups in at least 110 economically depressed neighborhoods.”
Soon, though, the teens are also deploying “algorithmic” technologies to tell dealers across the country where to go to avoid cops and push their wares.
Through it all, Brick and Wax are devoted to Silicon Valley cliches that would look a bit try-hard in an Oakland coder flophouse: Eventually, Wax escapes the lifestyle for a Silicon Valley tech job, where he literally drives off into the sunset with a “twenty-something, Asian” coworker from Princeton named Lisa Wu.
Brick doesn’t have such good luck. After murdering a drug customer and his wife over unpaid debts, Brick is killed at a gas station by a one-time drug ally as he attempts to head to Silicon Valley himself.
If Pill City turns out to be fake, some of the greatest accidental humor will have come from “The Masters Organization”—an old-time drug outfit that fails to grapple with the techie challenge presented by Pill City and is roughly analogous to drug lord Proposition Joe in The Wire struggling to deal with upstart Marlo Stanfield. Leader Jimmy Masters even tries to combine the other drug gangs into a cartel, a la Prop Joe.
Masters hate technology. Consider this passage, in which a young man refuses to put down his Blackberry when talking to Masters and gets killed for it! Emphasis mine: But Masters is trying to learn. He summons his would-be gangster allies and explains the Silicon Valley concept of disruption.
Reminder: this book is non-fiction.Everything Else
Describing all of the mind-boggling scenes in Pill City would take nearly as long as the book itself. Pill City allies murder one Masters brother with a gold revolver taken from an Iraqi militant named “Crazy Kasim.” A drugged-up Florida man popping Pill City opiates dreams of seeing his girlfriend in her new bikini—and quickly plows his car into a utility pole.
A hero cop returns to his teenage hangout, a now-ruined pharmacy where he once devoured candy. “Mr. M&M!” says the proprietor, only for the detective to take an interest in the owner’s daughter—who promptly dies of an overdose on oxycodone.
Deutsch describes in detail a variety of heroin users getting high, with their lives regularly intersecting like Crash. Former jazz guitarist turned heroin user and police informant Derek Curry wears an eye patch after losing an eye in a fight with a friend who gave his wife the drugs that killed her. Both men later reconcile, with the man Derek fought with enrolling him in rehab.
One pregnant user shoots up, oblivious to the threat to her unborn child, only to kill them both with an overdose. Another woman gets so high in front of her child that he wanders away unnoticed, first to an encounter with an opiate-hungry Derek—what a coincidence!—and then into the foster care system.
So Pill City purports to be the product of exhaustive reporting about a gang war that convulsed Baltimore—and it’s been impossible so far for Deutsch or anyone else to prove its biggest claims about the Pill City cartel or its smallest claims about individual murders. The connection to El Chapo, of course, also remains completely unproven.
At one point, a former gang member explains to Deutsch why he’s giving him the crime scoop of the year and sending him to the Pill City crew.
“I can’t snitch to no Five-O,” he says. “But talking to you, it’s different.”Updated with St. Martin’s Press statement