Paul Skalnik learned about the benefits of being a jailhouse informant when he was in the Harris County Jail in Texas in 1978 for passing bad checks.
Skalnik had drained his wife’s checking account, used her good credit to buy a Lincoln Continental and a customized Dodge van, and opened credit cards in her name, according to a New York Times Magazine investigation with ProPublica.
Skalnik was in jail when police began asking inmates for information on the “Moody Park Three,” anti-police-brutality activists who were charged with inciting a riot. Skalnik called the DA’s office and said he could help.
In court, Skalnik told jurors that one of the defendants had confessed to him in prison that his plan all along was to “incite the Mexican American youngsters.” The defendant and his two co-defendants were convicted.
Skalnik soon learned how his information would benefit him in Florida, where he had been convicted of grand larceny and sentenced for violating probation. Prosecutors recommended he that Skalnik be moved from jail to work release.
Since then, Skalnik’s testimony helped send dozens of people to prison, including four on death row, according to the article. In Pinellas County, Florida, alone, Skalnik testified or supplied information in at least 37 cases from 1981 to 1987.