July 24 , 2010


A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love


Although Busted reads like a thriller, the breathtaking story it tells—of two journalists' quest to unmask corrupt police officers and a warped justice system, the reporting of which culminated in a Pulitzer Prize—is absolutely true. One afternoon in late 2008, a man walks into the offices of the local tabloid the Philadelphia Daily News and asks to speak with reporter Wendy Ruderman. An imminent casualty of the foundering print industry, the paper is on the brink of bankruptcy, and its anxious staff members are plagued with dwindling resources. But what Benny Martinez tells Wendy and her colleague Barbara Laker is too shocking to ignore; his career as a confidential informant for a member of the Philadelphia Police Department's narcotics squad has drawn him into a horrifying web of corruption, and now he is afraid for his life.

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The decision they make that day to believe Benny's saga will lead the two journalists to uncover a truth darker than they could have imagined. Busted is Ruderman and Laker's riveting account of their explosive investigation into the acts committed by rogue members of the narcotics squad. By dint of perseverance, ingenuity, and good old shoe-leather reporting, the women unravel a tapestry of lies almost six years in the making. Starting with a scheme to fabricate search warrants, the scandal soon encompasses the systematic, citywide looting of immigrant-owned businesses and allegations of brutal sexual assault.

The remarkable lengths Ruderman and Laker go to for the story—chasing down witnesses on the city's grimmest streets, sifting through archive boxes and hours of surveillance tape for crucial clues, and coaxing reluctant victims to come forward—put their determination to balance motherhood with the career they love to the ultimate test. But when they produce a devastating series of articles that blows the lid off the scandal—prompting civil lawsuits against the city and the reexamination of hundreds of convictions (although none of the officers have been charged or convicted of any crime)—they not only win the fight for justice; they also win a Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, an unthinkable achievement for two city reporters at a beleaguered regional paper.

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