Questions Raised on Baltimore Crime Book Accuracy

Journalist Kevin Deutsch wrote “Pill City” about two Baltimore teens who supposedly masterminded a national drug-distribution ring. Writer David Simon called it a “wholesale fabrication.”

Crime reporter Kevin Deutsch’s professional life has become a hash of denials and self-justification, a running argument with his doubters. “The truth is on my side,” he wrote earlier this year, “ but . . . who is willing to seek out that truth?” Deutsch maintains that he was dedicated to doing so, the Washington Post reports. He spent 15 years as a reporter on the criminal-justice beat, reporting on cops, crooks, drugs and thugs. His work occasionally rated acclaim, at such newspapers as the Miami Herald, the New York Daily News and Newsday. Newsday and others began a massive reassessment of Deutsch’s work earlier this year, framed by some troubling questions: Was Deutsch one of journalism’s most prolific frauds? If he was, why did it take the news organizations he worked for so long to notice?

Deutsch’s reckoning began at what should have been a moment of proud accomplishment. In January, St. Martin’s Press published his second nonfiction book: “Pill City: How Two Honor Roll Students Foiled the Feds and Built a Drug Empire.” Deutsch spent a year reporting a startling and untold story about two Baltimore teenagers, both 18. The young men allegedly masterminded a nationwide drug-distribution ring built on opiates looted from pharmacies and stash houses during the riots that engulfed Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death in 2015.  Suspicions about “Pill City” emerged almost as soon as the book did. The Baltimore Sun and Baltimore City Paper couldn’t substantiate major elements of the book, including the dates, circumstances and victims involved in homicides Deutsch describes in detail. Local detectives, health officials and federal drug-enforcement agents had scant evidence of such an elaborate conspiracy. David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun crime reporter who created “The Wire” and other gritty TV series, said, “I think this  book is, by and large, a wholesale fabrication.”