DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Investigation

A Million Little Lies

Exposing James Frey's Fiction Addiction

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James Frey Mug Shot Berrien County

James Frey Granville Police Report

James Frey Granville Mug Shot

James Frey Legal Threat Letter

Granville Police Denison Drug Investigation (Frey)

James Frey St. Joseph Reckless Driving

St. Joseph Accident Report (James Frey)

James Frey Letter To Readers

Winfrey clearly recognized the book's appeal to her largely female audience. When he's not banging hookers or having a gal snort cocaine off his penis, Frey shows a deep, and often sweet, reverence for the women with whom he is involved. At turns volatile and vulnerable, chivalrous and brutish, Frey is a true reclamation project, complete with puke- and snot-stained clothing. What's a girl not to love?

Pursuing Frey documents, we were struck by the number of people TSG contacted who were either reading, or had already read, "A Million Little Pieces" as a result of the Winfrey endorsement. When we sent copies of the book to a pair of male cops, the volumes were quickly commandeered by their respective significant others. When a Michigan sheriff's aide sent us an old Frey mug shot, she enclosed a handwritten letter noting, "And by the way, I am reading his 1st book "A Million Little Pieces" & can't put it down." An Ohio police chief told us that his dispatcher had finished the book two weeks before we first called. Friends and relatives, too, were reading Frey, with one acquaintance reporting that she bought the book after seeing three other women reading it in her Metro-North railroad car.

It was after the Oprah show aired that TSG first took a look at Frey. We had simply planned to track down one of his many mug shots and add it to our site's large collection. While Frey offers no specific details about when and where he was collared, the book does mention three states where he ran into trouble: Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina. While nine of Frey's 14 reported arrests would have occurred when he was a minor, there still remained five cases for which a booking photo (not to mention police and court records) should have existed. When we asked Frey if his reporting of the laundry list of juvenile crimes and arrests was accurate, he answered, "Yeah, some of 'em are, some of 'em aren't. I mean I just sorta tried to play off memory for that stuff."

However, repeated dead ends on a county-by-county records search turned our one-off hunt for a mug shot into a more prolonged review of various portions of Frey's book. In an attempt to confirm or disprove his accounts, we examined matters for which there would likely be a paper trail at courthouses, police departments, or motor vehicle agencies.

While the book is brimming with improbable characters--like the colorful mafioso Leonard and the tragic crack whore Lilly, with whom Frey takes up in Hazelden--and equally implausible scenes, we chose to focus on the crime and justice aspect of "A Million Little Pieces." Which wasn't much of a decision since almost every character in Frey's book that could address the remaining topics has either committed suicide, been murdered, died of AIDS, been sentenced to life in prison, gone missing, landed in an institution for the criminally insane, or fell off a fishing boat never to be seen again.

While we do not doubt Frey spent time in rehab, there really isn't anyone left (besides the author himself) to vouch for many of the book's outlandish stories.

                                                  

According to Frey, his juvenile criminal career included the kind of mindless vandalism that many suburban kids might recognize: blowing up mailboxes, breaking a statue on a neighbor's lawn, etc. As with most things Frey, tales of his delinquency can't be verified.

Frey, you see, was a raging young man who hated living in leafy, prosperous St. Joseph, Michigan (his family moved there from a Cleveland suburb when he was 12). He was an outcast who didn't "relate to any of the Kids in the Town...At first I made an effort to fit in, but I couldn't pretend, and after a few weeks, I stopped trying. I am who I am and they could either like me or hate me. They hated me with a fucking vengeance."

Soon, Jimmy Frey was getting "taunted, pushed around and beat up." He matched every aggression with his own taunts and punches. "Within a month or two I had a reputation. Teachers talked about me, Parents talked about me, the local Cops talked about me." He declared "War" on these unnamed tormentors: "I didn't care whether I won or lost, I just wanted to fight. Bring it on, you Motherfuckers, bring everything you've got. I'm ready to go fucking fight."

The Ohio transplant was radioactive, a friendless outcast, the "worst kid" in St. Joseph. Frey told Winfrey, "I was one of those kids who parents said, 'Stay away from Jimmy Frey. He's trouble.'"

//

Somehow, that message was lost on Paul Santarlas, a high school classmate of Frey's who grew up directly across the street from him on Valley View Drive and called Frey's parents a "very generous" couple. "I don't think he was ever in any more trouble than anyone else," said Santarlas, who, like Frey, was a member of the St. Joseph High School Class of 1988. Frey, he recalled, was a "reasonably popular guy in high school" who "wasn't an outcast." [A large photo in the 1988 yearbook, the "Mazenblue," shows Frey in action on the school's soccer team.]

"I never saw anything that stood out," said Santarlas. Frey was a "normal guy" who didn't get in any more trouble than the average St. Joseph teen--perhaps a little drinking here, some weed there. What about those stern parental warnings to avoid Frey? "I never heard that," said Santarlas, who had not yet read "A Million Little Pieces" when interviewed by TSG.

A thorough review of court and police records in the city and township of St. Joseph, the larger Berrien County, and surrounding counties turned up only one case, which landed Frey in a Michigan District Court around the time of his high school graduation. Here's how he succinctly described that drunk driving bust in "A Million Little Pieces": "Got first DUI. Blew a .36, and set a County Record. Went to Jail for a week."

A report by the St. Joseph Township Police tells a different story. Just after midnight on June 8, 1988, a cop spotted the 18-year-old Frey's car weaving across the center line of Lakeshore Drive. After executing a traffic stop, the officer noticed Frey's eyes were glassy, his breath smelled of booze, and he "appeared dazed." Frey first told the cop he had drunk two beers, but later revised the estimate to four. After failing a series of field sobriety tests, Frey was arrested for drunk driving and for failure to carry his driver's license. He was transported to the Berrien County Sheriff's Office, where he agreed to undergo a Breathalyzer test.

Though he would later write of setting a .36 county record, Frey's blood alcohol level was actually recorded in successive tests at .21 and .20 (about twice the legal limit). As for his claim to have spent a week in jail after the arrest, the report debunks that assertion. After Frey's parents were called, he was allowed to quickly bond out, since the county jail "did not want him in their facility." Because Frey had the chicken pox (which is apparent in his mug shot) and the sheriff did not want him anywhere near other arrestees. Two weeks later, court records show, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving and was fined $305. No jail, no framed certificate for setting the Berrien County Blood Alcohol Content record.

[When we asked Frey why he didn't move to expunge the records from this DUI arrest, as he did with the subsequent Ohio case, he said, "'Cause I didn't think it was that big a deal. It's not as big a deal as it is in the book."]

But these are minor embellishments compared to how Frey has described his next police encounter.

Three months after his Michigan arrest, Frey began his studies at Denison University, a 2100-student liberal arts school in the central Ohio town of Granville. It was here, according to "A Million Little Pieces," that Frey majored in substance abuse. He blacked out and vomited daily, frequently bled from his nose due to cocaine ingestion, and even pissed in his bed for the first time. This abuse of alcohol and drugs exacerbated Frey's rage, anger, and extreme pain, a self-destructive cocktail that he named "the Fury."

His habits were underwritten by a monthly allowance from his wealthy and unwitting folks (dad was a top executive). He supplemented his income by selling dope, which brought him to the attention of the local cops and the FBI, who jointly probed his narcotics operation, Frey claims in the book. Amazingly, though he was reportedly a vomiting drunken addict bleeding from various orifices, Frey was able to graduate from Denison on time in 1992 (talk about managing your addiction!). Maybe it was support from fellow brothers at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity that helped the Michigan high school outcast persevere. Makes you wonder if Frey had shot heroin, perhaps he would have also snagged a master's.

During these drug-addled Denison days, Frey wrote, "Lying became part of my life. I lied if I needed to lie to get something or get out of something."

While Frey claims to have been arrested several times during college, TSG found evidence of only one bust--and it's the single crime for which he offers any significant details in "A Million Little Pieces." Though Frey provides no dates, the incident occurred in October 1992, about five months after his Denison graduation.

As he tells it, Frey returned to Ohio in a bid to reconcile with a college girlfriend who, it turned out, wanted nothing to do with him. "I was crushed. I went out and I drank as much as I could and smoked as much crack as I could and when I was good and loaded, I decided to go find her and try to talk to her again." He headed to look for her at a local bar. And that's when the trouble began. Here's his account from "A Million Little Pieces":

As I was driving up, I saw her standing out front with a few of her friends. I was staring at her and not paying attention to the road and I drove up onto a sidewalk and hit a Cop who was standing there. I didn't hit him hard because I was only going about five miles an hour, but I hit him. The Cop called for backup and I sat in the car and stared at her and waited. The backup came and they approached the car and asked me to get out and I said you want me out, then get me out, you fucking Pigs. They opened the door, I started swinging, and they beat my ass with billy clubs and arrested me. As they hauled me away kicking and screaming, I tried to get the crowd to attack them and free me, which didn't happen.

After a night in jail, Frey was arraigned the following morning and released after a friend posted his bail with a credit card. He was, the book noted, hit with an imposing set of criminal charges: "Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Assaulting an Officer of the Law, Felony DUI, Disturbing the Peace, Resisting Arrest, Driving Without a License, Driving Without Insurance, Attempted Incitement of a Riot, Possession of a Narcotic with Intent to Distribute, and Felony Mayhem." The only count Frey took issue with was the drug charge (for possession of a "bag of crack cocaine"): "That was bullshit because I intended to use it, not distribute it."

The Ohio arrest--and its related judicial peril--is a crucial part of "A Million Little Pieces." The violent, drug-fueled arrest certifies Frey as a wild man and justifies the capital 'c' in Criminal.

It also leads to tense scenes in Hazelden, when Frey, sitting with his parents, realizes that "The Day of Judgment has arrived." A lawyer for the facility, who had been talking on Frey's behalf with the Ohio authorities, gravely informs him that, "You're in a lot of trouble in Ohio. It's a Small Town and they don't see much like what they saw with you. They say you caused quite a few problems there and made a number of enemies within the Police Department." The attorney, named Randall, adds, "They are incredibly angry, as angry as any Prosecutors that I have ever had to deal with on a case, and they want to make an example out of you."

Randall then relays a prosecution offer: "If you agree to plead guilty to all of the charges, they'll agree to three years in State Prison, followed by five years of Probation. If you violate your Probation, you will be required to serve the full term of the Sentence, which is an additional five years." Randall added that Frey would also have to pay $15,000 in fines and serve 1000 hours of community service upon his prison release.

But if he opted for a trial, prosecutors would press for the "maximum Sentence, which is eight and a half years," Randall warned. And that didn't seem like such a good idea since, Randall explained, prosecutors claimed to have 30 witnesses, a blood alcohol test registering .29, and a bag of crack as evidence.

"The fear is gone, replaced by horror," Frey writes. "I shake my head, think about three years in a State Prison...Three years of savagery, three years of fighting and three years protecting myself every second of every day. Three fucking years."

With his mother in tears, Frey's father asks, "Would you like to mount a defense?"

"It'd be a waste of time."

"Why?"

"Because I'm guilty of all the charges."

Resigned to his fate, Frey announces that he'll take the plea deal, though the three years in prison "is an eternity, and it's likely I'll be put in Maximum Security. I have never been there, but I know people who have been there. They did not come out rehabilitated and they did not come out resembling who they were when they went in. Addicts became Thieves. Thieves became Dealers. Dealers became Killers. Killers killed again."

Frey then requested that Randall try to keep him off a "Maximum Security Block." In fact, Frey added, "If there's any sort of choice, which sounds like an incredible longshot, I would rather do more time than go into Max."

It would take 83 more pages of "A Million Little Pieces" to finally learn the disposition of Frey's Ohio case.

He is called into a room at Hazelden where Randall passes on some good--and unexpected--news. The Ohio prosecutor had magically "encountered some problems, that there were some issues with missing evidence, and that he had received a couple of phone calls on your behalf," the lawyer reported. While Frey had, only weeks earlier, agreed to three years in prison (with the specter of eight-plus if convicted at trial), Randall explained that the prosecutor, who goes unnamed, had suddenly turned course. He was now willing, in return for Frey doing three-to-six months in a county jail, to reduce felony counts to misdemeanors and wipe Frey's record if he satisfactorily completed a three-year probation term.

Frey, not surprisingly, was ecstatic, since "three to six months in County is a fucking cakewalk...I'll be in with a bunch of drunk drivers and wife beaters and Pot dealers. I won't have any problems with them. It'll be a cakewalk."

A few pages later, Frey attributes the sudden reversal of fortune (or fix) to the intercession on his behalf by two fellow rehab center residents, the gangster Leonard and Miles, a New Orleans federal appeals court judge. "Thank you both very much," he says after approaching the pair in a Hazelden room. "Consider yourself a very fortunate young man, James," says Miles. "Very fucking fortunate," Leonard adds.

Now, suddenly free from the prospect of three long years in the can, Frey can chart his post-rehab life with Lilly, the Hazelden squeeze he plans on reuniting with in Chicago after his three months in jail. Leaving Hazelden, he tells a crying Lilly, "I have to go to jail in Ohio. It's only a few months. I'm going to write you every day, and I'll call you whenever I can."

As it turned out, however, things didn't go as planned for James and Lilly, according to the opening pages of "My Friend Leonard." With just a day left in jail, Frey speaks by phone with a hysterical Lilly, who is distraught over her grandmother's recent death. "Scared and lonely" and "sobbing and heaving," she begs Frey, "I need you right now, please, please, please, I need you right now." Frey explains, "I'm in jail Lilly, I can't do anything here but talk to you." He tries to console her by promising he'll be out in just 12 hours and would race to her side.

Upon leaving the Ohio jail, Frey sped, 20 red roses in hand, to a Chicago halfway house for a reunion with his crackhead inamorata. Sadly, imprisonment had slowed a timely rescue mission and Frey arrived too late: Lilly had hung herself from the shower faucet, just another one of James Frey's People Who Died. A reader, of course, can only ponder whether fragile Lilly would have perished if James didn't have to do those three months in an Ohio lockup.

                                                  

When TSG read Frey's description of his arrest, the related criminal charges, and the case's strange disposition, we first attempted to find court records related to the incident. We assumed--correctly as it turned out--it might have occurred in Licking County, Ohio, which includes the village of Granville (present pop. 5098, including students) and the Denison campus.

However, indices at the county's Common Pleas Court--where felony cases are handled--contained no records for Frey. At the county's Municipal Court, where misdemeanor and traffic cases are adjudicated, only a single matter turned up, a November 1990 traffic ticket for speeding and driving without a seat belt. Frey paid a small fine and the case was closed out. When we reviewed Mayor's Court dockets in Granville, there was also no record for Frey.

Of course, it was only later that we learned from Frey that the records--once apparently held in Municipal Court--had been expunged as part of his wall building effort. An Ohio defendant is eligible for the expungement, or sealing, of court records if, among several conditions, the case at hand was their first conviction (or if prior convictions involved only minor misdemeanors). An expungement petition, which can only be granted by a judge, can first be made after a year has passed following a defendant's "final discharge." A final discharge refers to a defendant's completion of a jail or probationary term.

A search by Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp at the county jail also turned up nothing. Frey, he told TSG, had never been an inmate in the jail, a small, low-rise facility off Route 16 in Newark, Ohio.

When we ran Frey's name past Robert Becker, Licking County's Prosecuting Attorney, he could find no record that his office, which deals with felony prosecutions, had ever handled a case against the author. Becker, the county's chief prosecutor since 1984, told TSG that he had reviewed both his office's computer system and an index card catalog that predates the computerized records. He noted that his office would generally maintain a record "on any case that came in whether or not it resulted in felony charges."

Becker raised the possibility that Frey's case may not have risen to the level of either being handled (or reviewed) by his office if the charges were not as severe as Frey claimed. In such an instance, a city or village would sometimes farm the prosecution out to an attorney in private practice who is retained to handle minor misdemeanor cases. Becker, who read Frey's account of the Ohio case after we provided him with pages from "A Million Little Pieces," noted that the author claimed to have been charged with felony DUI, a count that did not exist in Ohio until after 1996. He was also stumped by another count: "There is no such charge as felony mayhem." And as for the threat of such hefty fines and community service terms? "I can't think of any cases where we ever got any kinds of substantial fines in this county, let alone $15,000, my gosh. One thousand hours of community service? Oh, come on."

And when we asked about Frey's case being fixed from afar by two Hazelden cronies, one of whom was a mobster, Becker laughed. "Oh, my gosh, wasn't me," he said. "It wasn't me." He then added, "It does not seem likely to me that any of these events occurred in this county."

Which, as we soon learned, was an accurate appraisal from the veteran lawman.

When we first contacted the Granville Police Department, an initial search also came up empty. But then Sergeant Dave Dudgeon, 45, dug into old mug shot binders and found a photo of Frey snapped in the wee hours of October 25, 1992. That discovery led him to the department's basement, where old police incident reports are stored. While many agencies would have destroyed documents dating back 13 years, Chief Steve Cartnal, 47, explained that the Granville P.D.--which makes between 300-400 arrests annually and employs nine full-time officers--was not pressed for storage space, so there was no need to toss records.

In the basement, Dudgeon located Granville Police Department Official Report 92-300B, which memorialized Frey's now-famous Ohio arrest. As he looked at the report's face page, Dudgeon recognized the name of the arresting officer: "Oh, it was me!"

The Granville report, which you can read here, gave this description of Frey's arrest:

While on foot patrol at about 11 PM on October 24, Dudgeon was standing in front of a knick-knack store called the Tole House when he spotted a 1989 white Mercury pull out of a nearby bank parking lot. The driver then attempted to park in a no parking zone directly across the street from the Granville firehouse and a few doors down from a bar/pizzeria popular with Denison students. The vehicle's right front tire rolled up onto the curb, missing a power pole by just a few inches.

Click here to see a photo of the Ohio crime scene, complete with arrows showing the path of Frey's Mercury. TSG snapped the image last month in Granville.]

 

Dudgeon, then 32 and on the Granville force for 3-1/2 years, approached the car and told Frey that he was in a no parking zone. Dudgeon noticed that Frey was slurring his words, his eyes were bloodshot and glassy, and he smelled of alcohol. There was also a half-full, 12-ounce bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer between the car's bucket seats. After Frey exited the Mercury at Dudgeon's request, the cop administered several field sobriety tests, which Frey failed. Dudgeon then arrested the 23-year-old. Since Dudgeon was on foot, a second cop came and drove Frey the few blocks to police headquarters. There, Patrolman Charles Maneely reported, Frey declined to take a blood alcohol test.

Since headquarters did not have a cell or any kind of secured holding area, Cartnal explained, Frey would have been placed in a paneled room with chairs and a fold-up table upon which sat the department's Breathalyzer machine. And Frey would not have been handcuffed unless he was being unruly, added Cartnal.

Comments (12)

Being in recovery, I'm always looking for material on the subject. I found this book @ a yardsale @ 2 years ago & began reading it. I thought at 1st it was fascinating to read such detail of his exploits, yet something bothered me. How did he recall, w/ such detail, all these events? I recall SOME things I've done while under the influence. But not to the degree he did. It was as if he kept a journal. Believe me, NO drunk/dope fiend keeps a journal! It just seemed too implausible. Then a fellow recovery friend pointed out to me that the book HAD been exposed as fraudulant, along w/ it being on the Oprah list, then off. I ended up reselling the book, at a loss of @ .50! Nice try...at failure. That's what addicts do.
This is a very blatant example of someone else, "O", leading the masses blindly. Instead of allowing our own common sense to persevere, which she did not either, there is now a massive pile of lemmings at the bottom of the cliff. The emperor has no clothes.
I would ask that the book was published in the Hungarian language? I've been to several shops in the area, but still could not find it anywhere. Online stores also have looked at but could not find it there either. Planned to prepare the Hungarian-language translation? If so, then what is the timetable?
besides, why is everyone so worked up over this NOW??? The book was exposed for a work of fiction shortly after it came out. All he had to do was put a disclaimer in the front saying that the book was loosely based on a true story, names & dates have been changed, etc. Oh well, it made for good publicity -I didn't buy the book, but I did borrow it so I coud read it myself - c'mon, who goes through a root canal with no anesthesia???
julimonster's comment is a shining example of the reactionary mindset that continues to afford Frey a writing career. Small details, like the original publishing date of the article and the fact that Frey is a lying sack of shiat, don't bother the likes of julimonster because, hey, it is old news after all. And in unrelated news, I had to shake my head in disbelief at what came up through one of the older links to Oprah's website that appears in this story: Instead of a typical gushing Oprah article about James Frey I was treated to a typical gushing Oprah article about Jennifer Hudson accompanied by comments from heartbroken and/or furious Oprah viewers who didn't get to see the entire show because of the Egyptians and their damn political strife. If I remember correctly, Julimonster was one of the commenters voicing her anguish that a silly little war, that may change the face of the Middle East and global relations as we know them, interrupted the time that is usually reserved for her and Oprah to share their girlfriend confidences about how, "...that's what junkies do...". Disclaimer: I, like James Frey, took artistic license with that last paragraph but the GIST of it is true and I will have my lawyers write the equivalent of a Cease and Desist letter to back up my claim, if need be.
Allow me to explain. The article you just read IS the exposure of this book as a work of fiction. Note how it is dated January 2006 and was published on The Smoking Gun, a web site known for exposing things. BTW the whole POINT of this article is that he MISREPRESENTED the book as factual. Your comment "all he had to do" is put a disclaimer on the book is tantamount to saying, all he had to do is not commit fraud and then people wouldn't have made such a big deal out of the fact that he committed fraud. Gee, really?
well, yeah, that's what junkies do.....
Honestly I blame the readers for making his trite piece o' crap famous. Read better novels people!
My favorite is the LEGAL THREAT letter where Singer BEGS for TSG not to publish it on this website. Of course, TSG does it anyway, LMAO.
Bum!
After reading "A Million Little Pieces", I thought that Frey's writing was, though sometimes implausible, very raw and powerful. After finishing the book, I not only wanted to meet the man who survived these mind blowing experiences, but I would have loved to get a chance to chat with him. After reading this incredible article, I will never be able to look at James Frey's work in the same way again. TSG brings to my attention the fact that his book has no real sources except his own words; whereas this article has proof to back up every criticism. Though this doesn't detract from Frey's writing ability, it blurs the line between fact and fiction in his writing, and brings readers back to reality. I was considering reading the sequel - "My Friend Leonard" - but now, I realize that I have no reason to waste my time on more fiction that calls itself fact. To the brilliant writers at TSG, kudos!
wow, this is beyond terrible. get some respect and let james frey write. either way, he is an amazing writer.