N.Y. man sold crack to buy false teeth, guide dog

December 29, 1992|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- On July 2, Namon Dansby was arrested on New York street corner and charged with selling crack.

The arrest would have gone unnoticed except Mr. Dansby was 67, and he told police he had turned to selling drugs to buy a guide dog and false teeth.

Mr. Dansby, who says he also has a bad heart, was locked up for two days until he was released on his own recognizance after his arraignment July 4. On Nov. 18, he was given a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to possession of a controlled substance, a misdemeanor.

Mr. Dansby, now 68, still doesn't have false teeth or a guide dog. The only condition of the discharge was to stay out of trouble for a year. So far, he has.

Sitting in a coffee shop near the Upper West Side single-room-occupancy hotel that he calls home, Mr. Dansby recalled recently how he ended up on the street peddling drugs. Most of his teeth are gone and he seems to have a hard time focusing with his watery, reddened eyes.

Pride, he said, came before his fall. Frustrated with the bureaucracy that is supposed to provide him medical care, he admits that he decided to deal drugs rather than seek help from Medicaid or Medicare.

"The roads that I choose are not always right, not always correct, not always the best," he said.

Mr. Dansby, a native of Georgia who came to New York when he was 11, said that he became scared in June when he lost sight in his left eye from what he described as a mild stroke.

Already losing sight in his right eye, Mr. Dansby said that he lay in his bed for two days.

He has regained some vision in his left eye, but Mr. Dansby said that he knows he is going blind and decided to raise enough money to get a guide dog and new teeth.

He served with the Army in North Africa, Sicily and Italy during World War II, and said he has gone to a Veterans Administration hospital seeking help for his eyes but has left disappointed and convinced the doctors are not treating him properly.

After Newsday made inquiries about his case with the Department of Veteran Affairs, Jim Blue, a spokesman for the agency in New York, offered to have officials meet with Mr. Dansby to review his situation.

Mr. Dansby said that he accepted, and Mr. Blue said the VA would coordinate with other agencies to determine what treatment Mr. Dansby can receive.

Mr. Dansby lives on Social Security and a VA pension, but he said that it barely pays his rent and expenses. There's no money left each month.

Selling crack, Mr. Dansby said, was a "means to an end."

"I'm not the type of person to beg or anything like this, even though the path I choose may not be correct," he said.

Police reponding to a radio call of an "elderly man selling drugs" found Mr. Dansby standing on a street corner and arrested him. On him, they found 22 vials of crack and $222 in cash.

Vincent Scala, Mr. Dansby's court-appointed lawyer, said that he found his client's story so compelling that he told prosecutors he would put Mr. Dansby in front of the grand jury. The charge against Mr. Dansby was reduced to a misdemeanor so that was not necessary.

"He's a good man," Mr. Scala said.

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