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'You didn’t See Nothin’' podcast revisits a 1997 Chicago hate crime and its aftermath

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. In 1997, a 13-year-old Black boy named Lenard Clark was beaten into a coma after riding his bike into the predominantly white Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport. Police deemed it a hate crime, and at the time, it was part of a long history of racial strife in the area. And one of the perpetrators was the son of a powerful Chicago union boss with ties to the Mafia. The story is the subject of the investigative podcast "You Didn't See Nothin," which earlier this month won the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for audio. It was written and reported by Yohance Lacour, a Chicago native whose life was forever impacted not only by the attack on Lenard, but the series of events that happened afterward.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "YOU DIDN'T SEE NOTHIN")

YOHANCE LACOUR: The story made national news.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Thirteen-year-old Lenard Clark cannot speak, does not react to his mother and is in serious danger of dying.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: And the vicious act that has gone to the heart of Chicago's deep racial divide.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This kind of savage, senseless assault strikes at the very heart of America's ideals.

LACOUR: Then, almost overnight, the news stories turned to racial reconciliation and forgiveness. This is a podcast about how that happened and how it changed my life. So brace yourself 'cause this s*** is bananas.

MOSLEY: That was an excerpt from the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin," created by our guest today, Yohance Lacour, along with USG Audio and the Chicago-based nonprofit news organization, the Invisible Institute. Lacour was 23 years old in 1997, and the Lenard Clark case was the first story he reported on for a community newspaper called The South Street Journal. Twenty-seven years later, the podcast, which is part investigation and part memoir, delves into details of the crime that weren't heavily reported at the time, and also Yohance Lacour's story after the case, which included a 10-year prison sentence.

LACOUR: I appreciate it. It's just good to be here. Thank you.

MOSLEY: So, Yohance, we're going to go back. March 21, 1997, 13-year-old Lenard Clark and a friend were riding their bikes in search of a gas station to fix a flat tire, and they chose this station in the predominantly white neighborhood of Bridgeport because it offered free air. And I want you to take the story from there. Once those kids were in Bridgeport, what happened next?

LACOUR: So once those kids were in Bridgeport, they got spotted by Frank Caruso Jr. and a couple of his buddies who were riding around their neighborhood. And Frank Caruso Jr. tells his buddies, you know, let's get these N-words out of our neighborhood. And they attack them, and they leave Lenard in a coma.

MOSLEY: And Frank Caruso is an important name because his father was a union leader with well-known ties to the mob. So they were a very influential family in Bridgeport and in Chicago more broadly.

LACOUR: Yeah, Frank Caruso Sr. and his family had mafia ties that dated back to Al Capone. And so they're not just periphery, right? These are mobsters. This is a mob family, and they're from the same neighborhood as the mayor of Chicago and a huge number of police officers in Chicago. So this was the Chicago political machine when we talk about Bridgeport.

MOSLEY: Frank Caruso Jr. was 19 years old at the time. He was convicted of a hate crime, the only one convicted of the three that were accused of this. And Bridgeport, in particular, is an interesting place. It's a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, at the time, predominantly white - Italian and Irish - and it has a history of racial strife. What were your perceptions of Bridgeport growing up?

LACOUR: Oh, Bridgeport was where you knew not to go if you were Black because you knew that could happen to you. You knew that you were subject to not make it out alive or healthy. And it was just understood. It was just a matter of fact that everybody knew. It wasn't a rumor. It wasn't a myth. It was a real thing. So you knew that you don't get caught over there after dark, if at all. It was a sundown town of a neighborhood right there in the middle of the south side of Chicago. And you knew that half the reason that, you know, this could happen to you is because you knew they knew they could get away with it because of their ties to police and the political machine in Chicago.

MOSLEY: The attack left Lenard, not only in a coma, but he recovered, but suffered brain damage. And this case made national news. The president of the United States at the time, Bill Clinton, even spoke about it and called for peace. Who were you back then? And how were you processing what was happening in those days after the attack?

LACOUR: I think at the time, I would've told you that I knew exactly who I was. I would've called myself revolutionary. I would've called myself a gangster. I would've called myself an intellectual, you know, on any given Sunday during that time of my life. I was selling weed in the neighborhood and across the south side of the city, and I smoked weed and, you know, did very well in school smoking weed. And so, you know, I saw weed the way the world sees it today. So I just looked at myself as an entrepreneur.

MOSLEY: You and your friends actually went over to Bridgeport in the days after the attack 'cause you were angry. You wanted to find the guys who did this and beat them up.

LACOUR: Yeah, yeah, we did. So at the time, you know, you know, my friends and I would have long conversations about, like, who we would have been during slavery, right? We had long conversations praising the Nat Turners and the Harriet Tubmans of the world. And we were no stranger to racial strife, and tension, and racists and situations with racists or whatever. And so when this happened, my good friend Rossan Gordon (ph) called me and told me about it. And he and I were on a similar page around all of these things. I mean, his parents were Black Panthers - I mean serious, like, you know, plotting on hijacking planes. And, I mean, they were at that level of the movement. You know, my uncles had been Panthers. My mother was, like, a fierce advocate of Black literature and the struggle. We were trained to believe - like, trying to train ourselves to be kind of community-oriented. So your child is my child.

MOSLEY: Right. This happened to Lenard. This happened to you. Right. Exactly.

LACOUR: Exactly, exactly. And so we were personally attacked when Lenard Clark was left in a coma. It was like, he was a child, right? We know what goes on in Bridgeport, but this was a child beat to a coma by a gang of what we looked at as our white counterparts. Like, these young men were just a little younger than us at the time. And so, yeah, we looked - we wanted to get revenge. But it was very emotional, looking back, when I think about it. Because us going into Bridgeport, we stuck out like sore thumbs. We were run up out of that quick.

MOSLEY: You were run up out of it, and you talk about in the podcast, how, you know, looking back, you're happy that that happened because who knows what could have happened if actually you all had been able to get into conflict with someone or the guys who did this. This podcast really delves also into what you're talking about here and how this story brought up this internal conflict I think many Black youth of every generation grapple with. And that's the peaceful MLK approach versus this eye for an eye Malcolm X approach. And you were especially irritated by the messages that you were hearing from civil rights leaders - in the podcast, I think you say the can't-we-all-just-get-along messages - because you felt like it dismissed the real harm that people were feeling.

LACOUR: Yeah, so it dismissed what people were feeling. That approach starts to feel like surrender. That approach starts to feel like - you know, because we can't all get along if any of us are under attack. You know, that kind of kumbaya approach, yeah, it's too passive. Yeah, it's a give up. And so I felt that, you know, you got to fight back at some point. I mean, I understand the desire to respond peacefully and turn the other the cheek and be Christlike. And I get that deeply. But at some point you realize that, you know, even - it's just about survival. So this boy was a child, and he was left in a coma. He had no power, no control over whether everybody gets along. How do you stop an attacker peacefully? How do you protect yourself? At some point, it just becomes about survival. And, you know, that's the first law of human nature, self-preservation, right?

MOSLEY: A few days after Lenard was beaten - because you were talking about this at the time. You were talking with your father about it, talking about the anger that you were feeling. And he encouraged you to write about it. Had you written before? Were you a writer at the time when your dad was talking to you about using this avenue to be able to voice your frustrations?

LACOUR: Yeah. Yeah, I've been writing since I was a kid. My father - I mean, I've been writing on his typewriter, writing comic books, writing short essays, writing poems that eventually turned to raps as I became a huge fan of rap. And so pops - yeah, pops looked at that as a much better way of reacting and handling and responding to the story.

MOSLEY: You became a freelance writer for the South Street Journal, which was a Black community newspaper with this one goal in mind. And that was to write about the perpetrators, Frank Caruso and his friends. Frank Caruso was then charged and convicted of the hate crime. He was 19 years old at the time. During your reporting in '97, you encountered a police officer who shared some information with you at the time that you weren't able to corroborate. What did she share with you?

LACOUR: She told me that as far as she knew that there was a list going around 47th Street - the low end of Chicago, the area where Lenard was attacked - with the names of the community activists and leaders who were most vocal and had started marching and protesting after his attack. And it was a list of people that were to be contacted and offered money in exchange for their silence or even their support.

MOSLEY: You were never able to corroborate that, but that sent you on a path.

LACOUR: Yes, yes. Absolutely it did. And I contacted everyone that she knew to be on the list, and they all either gave no comment or denied it, right? So, yes, we weren't able to corroborate it. I always believed it to be true.

MOSLEY: One of the things you did substantiate that you found out, that the Caruso family was giving money to Lenard Clark's family. And they also were doing this kind of apology tour in the media, even though they were denying Frank's involvement. And this was before Frank went to court and pleaded not guilty. This is what stuck with you for a long time after the case as well.

LACOUR: It did, and it's funny. We refer to it as an apology tour, but they never apologized. But it was this kind of can't we all get along tour. It was this, you know, we're sorry that this happened to Lenard, but, you know, we love your community, and at the same time it wasn't us yet we're the most vocal ones about, you know, how horrible this was. It was, you know - looking back, it was offensive, you know, especially offensive now that, you know, you just kind of look back with some sense.

Like, you beat this boy into a coma, deny it, but asked to be understood. It was some real abracadabra stuff going on. And so I was offended by that. I was still very mad and upset for Lenard Clark. I felt like justice needed to be done. I felt like, you know, they needed some sort of justice for this boy.

MOSLEY: Let's take a short break. If you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Yohance Lacour. Yohance and his team won a Pulitzer Prize this year for their podcast series "You Didn't See Nothin," which revisits a 1997 hate crime in Chicago. We'll continue our conversation after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF JULIAN LAGE GROUP'S "IOWA TAKEN")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR, and today we're talking to journalist Yohance Lacour, writer and host of the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin." The audio documentary visits the 1997 attack on a 13-year-old Chicago boy named Lenard Clark, who ventured into a predominantly white neighborhood and was beaten into a coma by a group of white teenagers. In the series, Lacour revisits the hate crime, which he covered as a community journalist in 1997, and explores the impact the crime had on him and the City of Chicago.

Yohance, the sound of the podcast - it feels like you're just talking to us. You're just telling us the story. You're just sitting down and just letting us know what happened. Did you end up coming to who you were talking to during the process?

LACOUR: Yeah. Yeah. I realized that I was talking to everybody, but I was talking for Black people. And so the way I could best find my voice was to think about, you know, the environment I had been in just some years earlier, which was prison, where I would talk to, obviously, all of the other inmates who were mostly Black, but I would also speak to the staff on behalf of inmates. So I found myself talking to a lot of white people as an advocate on behalf of Black inmates, and I think that's where I found the voice I was most comfortable with using for the podcast, and it was probably just the most natural for me. It probably still is.

MOSLEY: I want to get into that. And, first, I want to play an example to let people know what we're talking about. So in this clip, you take us to 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. This is 11 years after the Lenard Clark beating. And during that time, you told us how in '97, you were selling weed while also writing. But then over the decade, you started to get into harder drugs and you started to sell heroin. And that is when life for you changed.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "YOU DIDN'T SEE NOTHIN")

LACOUR: It was bittersweet. It was more bitter than sweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARACK OBAMA: Yes, we can.

LACOUR: I'm seeing faces I know in that crowd. And I'm feeling like, damn, I'm supposed to be out there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: But tonight...

LACOUR: I mean, the fact that I'm facing 10 to life while the first Black president is getting elected...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: At this defining moment...

LACOUR: ...Is really f***ing me up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: ...Change has come to America.

(APPLAUSE)

LACOUR: But that night, we were celebrating, and the hooch worked. We partied till it was time to be locked down. Then we went to our cells.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OBAMA: Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

MOSLEY: That was a clip from the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin," hosted and reported by my guest today, Yohance Lacour. And what this podcast does is take us to 1997, but then takes us to what happened to you, Yohance, in the decades after. And what you're referring to is one of the darkest times of your life. You went to prison for a decade for selling drugs. And you say it was the darkest time, but in that darkness, so much was illuminated. What were some things that were illuminated for you while you were in prison serving that time to make clear to you that you had another shot at life once you got out?

LACOUR: Yeah. You know, I discovered talents I didn't know I had. I think I found myself in prison. I realized where I'm most comfortable. I realized what and who I was most passionate about. You know, so I'm in here stuck with all these other Black men who have been, you know, in prison for crazy long sentences, and I realized that, you know, yeah, this is where my fight is. This is who my fight is for. And it came natural to me to advocate and to fight for us. I remember when when Mandela died. Obama ordered the country - you saw it on the news. He ordered the country to fly the flags at half-mast. And we've known, we've seen, you know, countless times where U.S. soldiers or for whatever reason, flags would be flown at half-mast, and the staff at the prison I was at did not lower the flag. You know, it's like, we can't have this.

So, you know, I took some of the guys over to - we called it control. That's where the staff and the warden's office are, and told him, y'all got to lower that flag. Obama said it. He's the president. But this is a super-racist prison. So while I'm there, I'm having experiences like that. And, you know, in terms of what's being illuminated to me, it's - I'm kind of finding my purpose again. I think the streets and selling dope had kind of - it had become a distraction for me. So you know, there's a lifestyle that comes with it. There's an allure to it. There's an adventure to it. It's also a full-time job. And it distracted me from what I think my purpose was.

MOSLEY: Our guest today is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Yohance Lacour. We're talking about his latest podcast, "You Didn't See Nothin," which won this year's Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting. We'll be right back after a short break. I'm Tonya Mosley, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF DARRELL GRANT'S "FILS DU SOLEIL (FOR TONY WILLIAMS)")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Tonya Mosley. And if you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Yohance Lacour. Yohance and his team won the Pulitzer Prize this year for audio reporting for their podcast series, "You Didn't See Nothin," which revisits a 1997 hate crime in Chicago. The series examines how the crime's ripple effects have shaped Lacour's life over the last 25 years.

Writing and creative self-expression has always been something you were into. You mentioned how you had been writing all of your life. And so when your dad told you to write about the anger that you were feeling about Lenard Clark, that was just natural. Your dad was a professor - your mom, an elementary school teacher. Several of your uncles were lawyers.

But I think it's interesting that I've heard you say you've watched them all struggle. And that did something to you, seeing that. It made you have less faith in the system. It made you question this idea of Black excellence as a route to success. And I'm just wondering how that all played into you being a part of the drug game, because while you knew that marijuana early on was something that you didn't see as, like, criminal, you started to go darker and darker and deeper and deeper into this life, and you knew it was further away from the life that your parents had set out for you.

LACOUR: Yeah. So, you know, people talk about how weed is a gateway drug. That's what they used to say. I guess they probably don't say that anymore. Now that everybody smokes it and sells it legally everywhere. But what weed was a gateway drug to was harder drugs for a weed salesman. You know, I always say that, like, once you start selling weed, it's like now you're in the building, right? Now you are in the underworld. Now you're in this building of the underworld. And so now you're much closer to everybody else in the underworld operating there.

So it happens very easily and very naturally. And it's really that simple and easy. It's not as, you know, as in the dark and nefarious as it's depicted. It's just really a natural occurrence of people networking to do business. Nobody's really trying to hurt anybody.

MOSLEY: Right. You were a businessman, but this choice that you made in part was also in response to something else, if I...

LACOUR: Absolutely.

MOSLEY: ...Understand it correctly. Is you watching your family, your parents who had chosen this straight and narrow way, the one that we are all told is the route to success still struggle, that changed your perception of, like, the ways to be able to be successful?

LACOUR: Yeah. Yeah. I'm watching my Black father, my Black mother, my Black uncles having gone to college, gotten degrees, some of them several degrees. And then working, you know, what felt like day and night, you know, dedicated to their work, come home frustrated about what they can't or don't feel comfortable saying at work, about who they can or can't respond to. You know, they're still working for, you know, generally with or in some kind of shape, form or fashion, white folks who they don't feel free to speak their minds to. And they taught me to speak my mind. They taught me to be honest and to be a truth-teller. And here they are, you know, having worked so hard, and they can't tell their truths. I saw frustration, and I also saw struggle, right? My mother was a grammar school teacher. She was a second grade teacher.

Chicago public school system ain't making nobody rich, but she is dedicating her life to children. Bringing children home for the weekend because these kids ain't got nowhere to stay. And, you know, and in the ghettos on the West Side of Chicago and - you know, I look up, and they've become my friends. You know, we walked the Plaza Chicago, and to this day, you know, grown women are talking about how she changed their lives, and she was never properly compensated for that. So I'm watching people do good work that they're passionate about and still struggle to make ends meet. And, yeah, that's, like, you know, why - I kind of - why would I do that? is kind of what I thought to myself coming up. Why would I go to school and spend all of this time?

And it was frustrating to see folks work that hard and honestly and still not be able to make it like the people they're working for, who weren't working as hard, but seemed to be in much more control and seemed to be, you know, gaining much, much larger profit. And so, at that point, you know, again, it just felt like smart business to me to work for myself, and yeah, that the drug game was very accessible.

MOSLEY: Going back to that time in '97, when you were working for the community newspaper and also selling drugs, selling weed, at that time - I thought it was an interesting note. Did selling drugs actually allow you then to be able to spend the time to do the journalism? - 'cause you weren't really being paid that much to work for a community newspaper.

LACOUR: Yeah, it absolutely did. Look. I remember Ron Carter was the editor, founder, publisher, owner, operator of the South Street Journal. A guy from the projects who, you know, in his younger years, like me in mine, had something to say and wanted to tell Black people's stories and wanted to get them out to the world. So he started this newspaper. And so, you know, obviously, that's where I did the Lenard Clark reporting in '97. In '07 or '08, when I got indicted, I needed to prove that I had legal income in order to remain out on bond.

And so I went to Ron Carter to ask him for a job, and I let him know, like, you know, what I was doing, why I needed a job, and he, you know, started giving me assignments. And so - but I remember him telling me, like, man, now it all makes sense, you know, like - because back in the day when he had needed money to keep the paper going and he was going to need money to go to print and I would give it to him. And I would tell him stuff like, you know, my father's donating this or something like that.

MOSLEY: You would give money to keep the paper afloat.

LACOUR: Yeah. Yeah.

MOSLEY: And it was your drug money.

LACOUR: It was absolutely drug money. And so yeah. So drug money and my lifestyle absolutely allowed materially and, in terms of my own time, me the space to report and work on that story. It definitely did.

MOSLEY: That's so interesting, Yohance, because there is discourse about the industry and especially the ability for people to make a living and afford doing it. And so what often happens is many people who work in journalism are privileged enough to be able to be paid little to nothing because it allows them the ability to do the work.

LACOUR: Look. I'm starting to reflect on some of the things right now. So, you know, this Pulitzer Prize-winning, Peabody-winning podcast - you know, it didn't - it's not like it paid me a boatload of money. I still live with my sister that I was released to when I came home from prison. My life is super-modest. And - you know, and right now, I think that's why I'm, you know, always - I'm still a hustler. I'm still an entrepreneur. It's just, you know, I just only pursue legal endeavors now, legitimate. I'm not going back to jail. But, yeah, journalism - truth-telling doesn't pay. It's not - no, it's not lucrative. These are passion projects.

MOSLEY: Let's take a short break. If you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Yohance Lacour. Yohance and his team won the Pulitzer Prize this year for audio reporting for their podcast series "You Didn't See Nothin," which revisits a 1997 hate crime in Chicago. We'll continue our conversation after a short break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLIE HAGEN'S "EL CIEGO (THE BLIND")

MOSLEY: This is FRESH AIR. And today we're talking to journalist Yohance Lacour, writer and host of the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin." The audio documentary revisits the '97 attack on a 13-year-old Chicago boy named Lenard Clark who ventured into a predominantly white neighborhood and was beaten into a coma by a group of white teenagers. In the series, Lacour revisits the hate crime, which he covered as a community journalist in in '97, and explores the impact the crime had on him and the city of Chicago. Lacour produced this series in collaboration with the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit news organization made up of 13 people who examine race, housing and criminal justice.

Lenard Clark was 13 years old when he was beaten into a coma. Today, he's a man. You vividly describe him in this podcast, who he is - has salt and pepper in his hair, has dreadlocks. He's the father of six kids. And I'm not spoiling anything to say that Lenard spoke for this podcast but not to you. Can you share briefly how that came to be?

LACOUR: Yeah. So when I was locked up, I met a brother named Rodney Phillips. We call him Hot Rod - incredible dude. And we used to walk the yard in the joint and talk about, you know, all the things we wanted to do when we got out. But initially, you know, we introduced each other. I never forget. He came to the pound after I'd been there for some time. And so it was kind of standard to figure out where people are from. So if you're from Minnesota, you can tell him, OK, there go your guys over there. If you from - right?

So you meet people from Chicago. So it's like, man, where you from in Chicago? He told me. So he was from Stateway Gardens, which was the same project that Lenard Clark was from. And I knew some guys and I had even done some business with some guys in the streets from Stateway. One of them happened to be a guy who was Rodney's, Hot Rod's, best friend, who wound up being killed later. And so, you know, we had - like, you know, we had this intersection. We had this point of connection through knowing mutual people. And so we talked about the Lenard Clark story countless times. I told him a million times to different levels of detail what I had experienced and come to find out he knew Lenard Clark and his family and all that.

Now, at the time, I'm not knowing that I'll ever do a podcast or we'll ever tell this story again. We're just talking about our future and all the things we want to do. So when I get out and I got the opportunity to tell this story and I wound up talking to Lenard Clark myself in person early on in the process - and a cool young man, honest. But once I started reaching out to him to be recorded, after a while, I just realized, oh, he doesn't want to talk to me.

MOSLEY: Talk to you. But he did agree to talk to Hot Rod. And I want to play a clip of Hot Rod talking to Lenard Clark as an adult, speaking about why he didn't want to talk to you and why he hasn't really spoken to anyone in the press about what happened to him. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "YOU DIDN'T SEE NOTHIN")

RODNEY PHILLIPS: Tell me this. Why you been reluctant to tell your story, and why did you choose now to tell your story? - because I know, like you said, you didn't want to tell your story. But because of your past experience of people just trying to benefit off you...

LENARD CLARK: Facts.

PHILLIPS: ...You didn't you didn't want to share your story. So talk to me about that now.

CLARK: It's to the point where a lot of folks be trying to get me to talk and conversate and come out of my shell about any and everything, but at this point, I don't trust people. I don't even really like people, to be really honest, as far as when it comes to trying to obtain information. Now, at this point, why I'm coming out now - 'cause it's, like - it's pretty much a situation as far as comfortability, you know, trust relationship-wise, you know? You come from where I come from. You know?

MOSLEY: That was a clip from the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin." And that was Lenard Clark as an adult, speaking to a mutual friend, Hot Rod, who was interviewing him about why he hadn't spoke about what happened to him in all these years. He trusted Hot Rod because he had a relationship with him, as he said in the interview. This gives us a lens, this conversation, into really how Lenard has been impacted over the last 27 years. What insights did you learn about how he's doing now in processing what happened to him back then.

LACOUR: I think it's a type of experience for him that will always be the one that most influences and shapes how he looks at the world. It's not like he got beat up, healed and went about his life. You know, he was the center of a firestorm. And so I think - but however, I also think he struggles to some degree to reconcile the fact that his attackers and the family of his attacker have also been friendly in the years since.

MOSLEY: Right, because they have a relationship. What was their relationship? You mentioned in the podcast and earlier how the Caruso family reached out to Lenard's family, and they gave them money. And there's still a relationship, specifically with the senior. What has been the relationship with them over the last 25 years?

LACOUR: So I can only speak to that to a certain degree, right? But from what I understand, the family has looked out for him and his mother financially when, you know - here and there. However, you know, he wanted it to be understood that in no way did he think what he experienced was worth it. But he still can't deny the fact that these folks have come to aid and assist him in times of need. He hasn't, you know - in terms of forgiveness, I can't say where his heart lies.

MOSLEY: Yeah.

LACOUR: But, yes, it's still a process for him and it probably will be for the rest of his life.

MOSLEY: It's been reported that Lenard had lasting brain damage from that attack. Do you know of any other lasting physical challenges or pain for him?

LACOUR: I can't tell whether or not he had lasting cognitive effects from the attack, but I know that he suffered some emotional trauma that will affect how he just socializes for the rest of his life. Like, you even heard in the clip he doesn't even trust people anymore. And that's a huge statement for a man to make. And so clearly, yeah, he's suffered some emotional trauma that'll last him the rest of his days.

MOSLEY: You've thought about for a long time what reconciliation really looks like, what it could look like. What have you come to?

LACOUR: So, unfortunately, I don't think it's possible because I don't think that white folks at large are going to do what they would have to do for reconciliation to be real. Reconciliation is a weird word to even use when we're talking about what's going on between Black folks and white folks in America because to reconcile means, like, you're looking past some differences, means, like, you know - it kind of suggests that you've got two parties, both of whom have some sort of responsibility in the divide, in the split, right? And that's not the case here.

You beat me to a pulp, and you want me to forgive you, but you never acknowledge what you've done. You never try to repair any of what you've done. You kind of continue doing it in new ways. You pay other people to do it for you in my face and let them off for doing it, and I'm supposed to forgive you and embrace you? Where's the reconciliation there, especially if the assault is ongoing? And so, yeah, I feel like reconciliation ain't a real thing, ain't going to be a real thing in America.

MOSLEY: As part of your reporting, you explore how the Caruso family might have worked to rechange the narrative, including possibly buying off activists in the community to silence them. What kind of reaction overall have you gotten since this podcast has been out?

LACOUR: So I've gotten nothing but amazing feedback from folks who've listened to the podcast. I've gotten a few pieces of hate mail from folks in Bridgeport who are like, are you going to cover this story about this Black guy beating up this white girl in this side of the city that happened on this date? You know, it's kind of like that, you know? Well, you know, you point out police brutality and it's like, well, you know, what about Black-on-Black crime? So I get a little bit of that. But for the most part, I've gotten amazing feedback.

MOSLEY: Yohance Lacour, thank you so much for this conversation.

LACOUR: I appreciate it. Thank you. You more than welcome.

MOSLEY: Yohance Lacour is the host and writer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast "You Didn't See Nothin." Coming up, critic-at-large John Powers reviews the new Italian film "Kidnapped." This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEBO VALDES TRIO'S "LAMENTO CUBANO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tonya Mosley is the LA-based co-host of Here & Now, a midday radio show co-produced by NPR and WBUR. She's also the host of the podcast Truth Be Told.