DOCUMENT: Celebrity, Crime

Cop Treated Sid Vicious Like A Regular Punk

Sealed transcript features crafty NYPD detective

Sid Vicious

View Document

Thomas Testimony

Sportiello Testimony

West Testimony

AUGUST 7--While The Smoking Gun considers this whole “Throwback Thursday” theme rather dopey, we’re briefly joining the racket this week with the publication of some never-before-seen excerpts from the grand jury presentation that resulted in the indictment of musician Sid Vicious for murder.

The grand jury transcript, which remains under court seal, was obtained recently by TSG. It contains the testimony of police, paramedics, and residents and workers at Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel, where Vicious (real name: John Simon Ritchie) allegedly stabbed Nancy Spungen to death on October 12, 1978.

Vicious, a member of the Sex Pistols, died of a drug overdose in February 1979, before he could be tried for killing his 20-year-old  girlfriend.

In our estimation, the clear highlight of the grand jury transcript is the riveting testimony of NYPD homicide Detective Gerald Thomas. The mustachioed Thomas (along with Sergeant Thomas Kilroy) can be seen in old press photos leading Vicious, 21, through a police precinct following his arrest.

Thomas, who headed the Vicious investigation, was questioned in the grand jury by Kenneth Schachter, an assistant district attorney. The prosecutor posed questions to Thomas, and then stood back and let the veteran detective deliver a virtuoso performance before grand jurors

Pictured below, Thomas first testified about recovering the murder weapon--a folding knife with a 5-1/2-inch blade--and seizing Vicious’s clothing and jewelry, which included a “chain with a lock on it that was around his neck” and a ring “formed in the head of like a serpent or a snake that extended out.”

Then Thomas recounted his two conversations with Vicious inside the Chelsea Hotel. One occurred about 20 feet from the front door of Room 100, where Spungen’s body remained crumpled on the bathroom floor. The second conversation--during which Vicious reportedly confessed to the murder--took place inside a vacant room provided by hotel management.

As detailed in Thomas’s testimony, Vicious initially claimed not to know what happened to Spungen. The performer told Thomas an implausible story about finding Spungen injured when he awoke, adding that she had been “flicking” a knife in bed the prior evening.

“Stop bullshitting me,” Thomas warned Vicious. “Don’t lie to me. You are not doing yourself any good. The only thing you are doing is burying yourself.”

When Vicious admitted that he had taken drugs and fought the prior night with Spungen, the detective bore in on the musician, peppering him with questions, while pointing out inconsistencies and challenging Vicious when he claimed Spungen “must have rolled over on the knife” or “she must have fell on the knife.”

During the later interrogation, Thomas told Vicious he was “full of shit” and “You’re lying. You’re lying to yourself. You’re lying to me. You’re going to turn around and lie to the world.”  At one point, the detective cut off the performer. “Ritchie, stop it, will you. You got to think me a fool if I’m going to buy this story.”

Pressing Vicious to disclose the nature of his argument with Spungen, Thomas demanded, “Why did you stab her? Goddammit, tell me why you stabbed her. You must have had a reason. Was it a result of the fight?”

After being batted around by the cop, Vicious relented, according to Thomas’s grand jury testimony: “And then he finally, he just went like this, exactly what he did he said, ‘I stabbed her, but I didn’t mean to kill her.’ He said, ‘I loved her, but she treated me like shit.’”

As Vicious confessed, Thomas recalled, the musician hung his head and “started to cry a little bit, sort of half cry and you know, shuttering a little bit.” Thomas testified that the second interview concluded with Vicious saying, “My baby. My baby is gone. I’m going to die. I want to be with her.”

“And at that point we terminated the interrogation,” Thomas told the grand jury.

After being handcuffed, Vicious reverted to his prior denials, except to say that Spungen “did treat me like shit…I go out and do all the work and bring the money home to her and all she did was have a good time.”

Among the other witnesses to testify during the nine-day grand jury presentment was NYPD Officer William Sportiello, who, with his partner, initially responded to the crime scene after Spungen was discovered by hotel employees.

Sportiello recalled that Vicious asked his partner to “Kill me. I want a worse death than she.” At one point, Sportiello testified, the punk rocker asked his partner for his service weapon so that he could shoot himself.

Six Chelsea Hotel staffers gave grand jury testimony, ranging from descriptions of discovering Spungen’s body to Vicious’s disruptive behavior at the hotel, where he had been living for seven weeks.

Worker Kenneth West recalled being dispatched to deal with Vicious, who was banging on the door of another room (which was occupied by a woman named Brandy who did not want to be bothered by the Sex Pistol). When West told Vicious to get away from the door, the performer refused. “He told me to get away from him and he started using foul language,” said West.

Vicious, West testified, then “jammed me in the corner” and “asked me if I can take him.” A fight ensued and Vicious was injured. “He was either bleeding from the mouth or the nose, I couldn’t tell,” West added.

Despite the bloody confrontation with a worker, Vicious was not immediately booted from the Chelsea Hotel. Though he did leave the building in handcuffs later that day. (32 pages)