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Former Cro-Mags Bassist Harley Flanagan on Court Triumph

American Hardore author Steven Blush has been writing for Papermag about the Harley Flanagan case, in which the former Cro-Mags bassist was accused of sneaking backstage to the band's Webster Hall show and assaulting two of the band's current members, since the story broke this summer. Flanagan later told Blush that he been ambushed after being invited backstage, and had acted in self-defense. Blush interviewed the band for PAPER in 1986, the year of their first album, The Age of Quarrel.

The Harley Flanagan case that made headlines this summer has gone out with a whimper. The strange and sordid tale of the Cro-Mags founding member going on a stabbing spree against his bandmates for playing at Webster Hall without him became one of the biggest rock stories of 2012. Only one problem: It looks like it wasn't true. 

We all know that dropped charges don't always mean innocence. In the beginning there were dozens of eyewitnesses, but as the DA's case unfolded, there was nothing but divergent, even bizarre, statements rife with contradiction. There are even questions as to who was to play bass for the Cro-Mags (Mike Couls or Craig Setari). On Friday, Judge Alexander Tisch dismissed all charges against Flanagan because the prosecution, who were unable to produce witnesses for a grand jury, could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Harley offered: "When I found out I was the so-called perpetrator and they were the so-called victims, I was shocked. They were making it out like I launched myself into the dressing room like a wild man and just started stabbing people -- what a joke. I've known where [Cro-Mags singer] John [Joseph] lives for years. If I wanted to jump him or attack him wouldn't I just go to his apartment and wait for him? Nooo, I would go to a big concert and attack him in a room full of witnesses and all his friends and band members, all by myself. Even a dumbass should be able to figure out that that makes no sense and isn't what happened. All these fake hoods were so quick to point the finger at me to try to cover their own tracks and all the rest of the sheep and the media just went along with it.

My first court date was September 27th. I was nervous, as I should have been, facing four felonies and looking at a good amount of jail time -- possibly 2½ years for defending myself. That night would have amounted to nothing back when I was a kid, but now in 2012, in this soft-ass New York, it's become a big deal, and with all the media attention it was pretty major. But the 20-plus witnesses the DA had were all starting to fall to the wayside. All of the statements they made to the cops and to the press, including John's, were starting to contradict each other, and the DA started having a hard time putting a case together because of it. It was almost as if John was helping me beat the case."

These past six months have cast a pall on New York Hardcore, which was one of the most intense and underrated subcultures ever. Perhaps one day all these guys will just hug and make up, but I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, Harley gets back to his life, teaching Jiu-Jitsu at the Renzo Gracie Academy, writing music and caring for his sons. New York hardcore's "family" may be broken, but, then again, the worst family dysfunction often inspires the best art.

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