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Nicky Barnes: Who Was Mister Untouchable

Photography Credit: The New York Time


Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, a notorious figure in the underworld of New York City, rose to infamy in the 1970s as a prominent figure in the drug trade. However, it was a single magazine cover that ultimately sealed his fate and led to his downfall.

In 1977, Barnes found himself on the front cover of The New York Times Magazine, a seemingly innocuous event that would have profound consequences. The decision to feature Barnes on the cover was not made lightly; his lawyer was approached by higher-ups who made it clear that if Barnes did not agree to the photograph, they would use a mugshot instead.


In an attempt to present himself in a favorable light, Barnes chose to wear a red, white, and blue tie, perhaps in a bid to appear patriotic. However, the cover caught the attention of then-President Jimmy Carter, who was reportedly outraged by Barnes' brazen display. Subsequently, Barnes found himself under increased scrutiny from law enforcement.


By January of 1978, Barnes was charged, tried, and sentenced to life without parole. Despite his initial attempts to maintain his standing within the criminal underworld, Barnes' loyalty was called into question when he learned that his protege, Guy Fisher, was involved with his mistress, Shamecca.

Facing betrayal from within his own ranks, Barnes made the fateful decision to cooperate with authorities and testify against his former associates. In exchange for his cooperation, Barnes was given a reduced sentence and entered into witness protection.


For the remainder of his life, Barnes lived under a new identity, far removed from the glitz and glamour of his former life. He passed away in 2012, leaving behind a legacy of crime and betrayal that continues to fascinate and captivate to this day. Leroy "Nicky" Barnes may have once been a kingpin of the streets, but in the end, it was a single magazine cover that brought about his downfall.

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