To these at Hot 97, the beloved and influential hip-hop radio station in New York, the person generally known as Paddy Duke was an upbeat and optimistic presence, working largely behind the scenes however incomes frequent on-air shout-outs for greater than 25 years. It was solely in latest days, veterans of the station mentioned, that they realized a couple of disturbing chapter of their co-worker’s previous.
Duke, it turned out, was actually Pasquale Raucci, who, as a youngster, was one among eight younger males charged within the 1989 killing of Yusuf Ok. Hawkins, a Black 16-year-old, in Brooklyn. Hawkins had traveled one summer season evening to the Bensonhurst neighborhood to take a look at a used automotive with three pals, solely to encounter a bat-wielding mob of some 30 white youths, one among whom shot him useless.
Hawkins’s homicide, which, together with the Central Park jogger case, got here to symbolize a brutal interval of racism and violence within the metropolis, is now the topic of a brand new HBO documentary, “Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn,” which led to the revelation.
“When people saw it, they was like, ‘What in the world!?’” mentioned Ebro Darden, the face of Hot 97, on his morning present Monday. “At that moment behind the scenes, corporate started to go to work to figure out who knew what when Paddy was hired and what was going to be the response. Because this wasn’t just going to be allowed to fly.”
Raucci, now 50, was rapidly fired. “After watching HBO’s ‘Storm over Brooklyn,’ Hot97 was shocked and terminated its relationship with Paddy Duke,” the station mentioned in a press release. “Nothing is more important to Hot97 than our role as a trusted community resource. The march for social justice continues.”
The firm, which is owned by Emmis Communications and MediaCo Holding Inc., despatched an electronic mail to staffers that mentioned nobody “was aware of this situation until the airing of the HBO documentary,” and famous the fast “adverse business impact and damage to our reputation.” The memo continued: “Now, more than ever, we serve as both a source of desperately needed information and entertainment, and any conflict in that relationship harms both our stations and the communities we serve.”
Still, many listeners, together with staff previous and current, have been left feeling betrayed and confused by the information, which got here amid a summer season of nationwide uproar relating to unjust killings of Black folks and a wrestle over how greatest to transfer ahead. On social media, many within the Hot 97 orbit expressed dismay and disbelief, although some mentioned that they had realized years in the past about Raucci’s function within the case. “This is so sickening and sad!” wrote Ed Lover, a defining personality on the station in the mid-1990s.
Reached by phone on Monday, Raucci declined to comment.
On the morning show, Darden and his co-hosts, Laura Stylez and Peter Rosenberg, said that Raucci had predated them at the station, having been there for more than 25 years, most recently in the production department, recording and editing commercials. They said they had been unaware of Raucci’s real name, though Darden said he’d discussed the killing once with Raucci.
“He told me he got swept up in the Yusuf Hawkins situation. He also told me he had nothing to do with it,” Darden said, recalling a conversation that he said occurred eight to 10 years ago. “What am I going to say to a guy I’m working with — ‘I don’t believe you’?”
Raucci, who was 19 at the time of the attack on Hawkins, was one of eight young men charged in the crime, and faced trial for second-degree murder, manslaughter, discrimination, assault, rioting and other crimes. Prosecutors argued that the white teenagers mistakenly believed Hawkins had been dating a girl in the largely Italian-American neighborhood. In the documentary footage, Raucci, diminutive in a baseball hat and with the beginnings of a mustache, is seen being questioned by the police, telling them he was near the back of the pack of rampaging kids.
In 1991, Raucci was convicted of rioting, illegal imprisonment, menacing and weapons possession, while being acquitted of murder, manslaughter and discrimination. But a judge threw out the felony convictions, citing insufficient evidence, sentencing him to probation and community service for possession of a bat as a weapon. Joseph Fama, the gunman, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 32 years to life in prison, while others were found guilty of lesser crimes.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said at the time that Hawkins “did not get justice,” calling it “a continuing outrage how this case has dissipated into verdicts that are more compatible with traffic violations than murder.”
It was only a few years later, in 1994, that Raucci landed a producer job at Hot 97 (WQHT-FM, 97.1), which was in the midst of transitioning to hip-hop full-time, according to his LinkedIn page.
Behind now-legendary D.J.s and hosts like Funkmaster Flex and Angie Martinez, the upstart station became inseparable from the commercial rise of East Coast rap, including the careers of the Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. As Paddy Duke, Raucci worked closely with Martinez, even appearing in the music video for her 2001 rap single “Dem Thangs.” Martinez, now a host at the rival station Power 105.1, declined to comment through her representatives.
Executives at Hot 97, Emmis and MediaCo also declined to comment further, citing a policy not to discuss personnel matters.
“It was out of our control, but we apologize,” Darden said on-air following Raucci’s firing, which was announced 31 years to the day after Hawkins’s death. “We inherited something that we have to, as a team, deal with the brunt of. That’s just what it is.”
Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.