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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with "Subway Vigilante" Bernhard Goetz
Aired December 17, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NANCY GRACE, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, exclusive Bernhard Goetz, 20 years after Goetz became New York's famous and infamous subway vigilante. Goetz too the law into his own hands, gunning down four men he says were robbing him, an exclusive hour with the subway vigilante, Bernhard Goetz. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Hello, everyone. I'm Nancy Grace in for Larry King tonight. Thank you for being with us. 1984. It was a lawless time in New York. The crime rate was horrific and one man made the headlines when he fought back, Bernhard Goetz. With us tonight, Bernhard Goetz, speaking out, nearly 20 years after the fact. Welcome.
BERNHARD GOETZ, SUBWAY VIGILANTE: Good to be here.
GRACE: Bernhard, I'm going to take you back to that night, to that afternoon.
GOETZ: Afternoon. It was at 1:30 in the afternoon.
GRACE: Yeah. And I want to ask you that now, nearly 20 years later, do you still remember that moment when you pulled the trigger and opened fire?
GOETZ: I don't think about it much. But I can -- I recall the details. If I -- I don't even try to think about it. But I can recall.
GRACE: Why don't you ever think back on it?
GOETZ: I don't find it particularly interesting. There are other things in my life that I'm a lot more interested in now, than that incident or crime.
GRACE: A lot of people are very interested in that and in you. So, let me take you back, 1984. You get on the subway, the number 2 train. What happened?
GOETZ: Train came into the station, only 10 or 15 seconds after I reached the station. The doors opened up on the subway car. I went in.
GRACE: Like you always did.
GOETZ: Yeah. I found a car that had a lot of seats available, which was near where I was standing and I sat down. And as I was sitting down, there was a group of teenagers in the vicinity. And one of them looked at me and said, how are you doing? I said fine. I just kept looking down.
GRACE: Middle of the day?
GOETZ: It was Saturday afternoon, before Christmas about 1:30. There were, perhaps, 15 to 20 other people in the subway car. And they seemed like they were troublemakers. But I knew I was getting off on the next express stop. So, I didn't think there would be any trouble.
GRACE: So you only had to ride the train one stop.
GOETZ: That's correct, one express stop. I was in a rush. I was late for a meeting with some people. We were going to have some drinks before Christmas. I hadn't seen them for a while. And after the doors closed and the train started moving, two of the guys, they were originally sitting down -- they were doing some play fighting with each other but they were generally sitting down. Two of the fellows came over to my left. And one of them just stuck out his hand and casually said, give me $5. And when -- I knew that was -- that was a mugging.
So, I said casually, what did you say? I pretended I didn't know what he was saying. He said give me $5. I said I'll give you $5. I'll give all of you $5. I forget my exact words and I stood up. I had a fast draw gun. And I did a (INAUDIBLE) holster and I did speed shooting. And speed shooting is where you pull the trigger before you aim. And you can get off -- that was a five-shot gun. You can get off five shots -- I figured I got off all five shots in about 1.5 seconds. And --
GRACE: Now, Bernhard. What about their demeanor made you feel threatened?
GOETZ: They were just thugs. They were just typical street thugs. You get to know them. I spent lots of times, lots of time on the streets of New York.
GRACE: Four of them. One of you?
GOETZ: Yeah. That was common at the time. We had, in New York City, we had groups of teenagers who were go around --
GRACE: A pack?
GOETZ: Day and night - yes, threatening people, being loud, intimidating people, doing violence on people and basically, the police couldn't do anything.
GRACE: Or wouldn't or didn't do anything.
GOETZ: There was a police policy. At the time, if you were a cop and you arrested somebody and you brought them into the precinct, the cop would be reprimanded by the superior. The superior would tell them the courts are overcrowded. The prisons and jails are overcrowded.
GRACE: Handle it on the street.
GOETZ: Don't bring in people.
GRACE: What I'm trying to find out is what they did, if anything, to make you feel threatened to the point you had to shoot them.
GOETZ: Very simple. They surrounded me. They were right on top of me. They were acting in concert. They had blocked off my retreat. It was all over with. There was going to be a confrontation at that point. They didn't even have to say anything. It was just by their positions. If people are over in a certain area and then two of them come around and there are two on your left and two on your right, you're surrounded. You're basically --
GRACE: With the wall at your back?
GOETZ: Yes. I had nowhere to go.
GRACE: After the shooting, you stepped off the train and blend blended in.
GOETZ: Well, yes. I talked to a few people on the train, a couple women, the subway conductor. They did the standard procedure in New York City, if there's a shooting on a subway, they will stop the train between stations, whether the train is underground or if it's above ground so the people involved can't get off the train. And I sat there -- after I finished talking to the people, for about 30 seconds. And I was thinking -- if you're going to run, you had better run now. You know, you better not wait because in a few minutes, it will be too late. And so, I got up, climbed down between the cars, ran to the next station, climbed up on the subway tracks and kind of -- I would sometimes walk, sometimes run out of the station. I just started walking on the street. Sirens were going off everywhere.
GRACE: So you are walking down the street, while the sirens were going and cops were converging. And you just kept walking?
GOETZ: That's right. If I had left the train maybe a minute later, the police would have caught me. The police responded very quickly.
GRACE: If you acted in self-defense, why did you leave the scene?
GOETZ: Well I knew I would be in trouble at the time in New York and we still have it. Carrying a gun in New York City, even if it's for self-defense, has a one-year mandatory sentence. It's a felony. I just didn't want to be --
GRACE: So, in you're mind, the irony was, they were robbing you. And you were running from the cops.
GOETZ: Yes. Actually, as a result of that incident, even though they were robbing me, they committed perjury -- the only person who has a criminal record as a result of that incident and you have a assistant district attorney of course suborning perjury -- the only person who has a criminal record is me and that's for carrying a gun.
GRACE: He became known as a subway vigilante, stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome back. I'm Nancy Grace in for Larry King. Nearly 20 years ago, one man's actions spurred either worship or fear throughout the country. Bernhard Goetz became known as the subway vigilante. And with us tonight, he tells his story. Bernhard, after you took out the weapon and you fired on four -- as you call them -- thugs that you believed were robbing you, the reaction of the other train goers -- what did they say? Did they try to apprehend you? Were they afraid of you?
GOETZ: Basically, everyone was fleeing the subway car. There were two women who fainted who I wound up talking to later and perhaps with good reason. One bullet missed, hit the wall of the subway car and broke into two pieces. That came -- that came back. One piece fell on the floor. The other piece came back and either hit me or her but it was moving at a very slow speed. There was another woman who was between the two guys on my left, and so the speed shooting -- all she saw was boom, boom. There was one guy on one side of her, the other guy on the other side of her drop down. She fainted. She was out.
GRACE: As you were walking away with police sirens going and hundreds of police mobbing the subway, what was in your mind as you were walking away, calmly?
GOETZ: I wasn't calmly walking away. It was just to get away. I went to Sixth Avenue or Church Street and flagged down a cab and took a cab home.
GRACE: And became of that wind windbreaker and that gun?
GOETZ: I don't know what happened to the windbreaker or the gun. That evening, I drove up to Vermont and I broke the gun into a few pieces and buried it in the woods. I almost died that night. I got lost in the woods and I almost froze to death. I only had a light jacket on.
GRACE: Did you see the papers and the news accounts of the shooting?
GOETZ: Yes, I was shocked and offended that the system in New York went to a great extent, went to a lot of trouble -- spent a lot of resources trying to catch someone who had shot a bunch of muggers. Everyone who lived in the city at the time knows that if you were a crime victim, the legal system here would basically spend no resources on you.
GRACE: The crime rate in New York city at that time was horrific.
GRACE: Especially on the trains. GOETZ: It was bad on the streets, too. The -- the city at the time, basically, addressed crime by pretending it didn't exist. The political system here in New York addressed crime by pretending it didn't exist. They didn't know how to arrest --
GRACE: So you were watching all the news accounts and reading the papers. But what disturbed you was --
GOETZ: I was offended by --
GRACE: The outpouring of resources.
GOETZ: Yes, I was offended by, yes, exactly, that the government was doing nothing, basically, to protect the public.
GRACE: What made you decide to turn yourself in?
GOETZ: Well, I thought that it would disappear if I explained what happened, that it would basically go away and I was wrong. It wound up becoming a hot, political case.
GRACE: Do you remember the moment you decided -- OK, this is it. I'm going to police?
GOETZ: It happened over the course of a day or two. I thought, basically, nothing would happen to me. When I turned myself in to New Hampshire, I thought they would let me drive back to New York City.
GRACE: When you walked into the New Hampshire police station, and said I'm the subway vigilante --
GOETZ: Well, I didn't say that.
GRACE: What did you do?
GOETZ: I said, I walked up to the fellow -- a kid who was sitting there at the counter and I said, I'm presently a fugitive that's being sought by law enforcement in New York. He said, oh. He was a little bit surprised. He said what for? And I said, well, there was a shooting in the city a few days ago you probably heard about. And he looked at me like he didn't believe me. He said, well -- are you armed now? I said no. He said, well, why don't you come and step inside. I came around and I sat down for about 15 minutes. Later, they brought in a police officer, a fellow with a lot of experience. And officer Foote (ph) came and interviewed me for several hours.
GRACE: What happened when you got back to New York City?
GOETZ: New York city was a little bit crazy. They put me through a little bit of a rat race. Like -- they have what they call the perp walk and they didn't let me shave for a few days. I'd never been on camera. In New Hampshire they said we can't let you have a razor so they bring you through with the cameras. It was just a little bit crazy. Then, they -- I was in Riker's (ph) for a few weeks.
GRACE: And thousands of people offered you money to post your bond. But you wouldn't take it.
GOETZ: Yes, I thought -- I thought I could wait them out in Riker's. I was offended, as a matter of fact -- it turns out that some people in the system were trying to work with me. I had a good attorney at the time. I had been assigned an attorney called Frank Brenner and I didn't appreciate how good he was at the time. He was much better than many of the other attorneys I have since had experience with.
GRACE: And that's been quite a few.
GOETZ: Yeah. He asked me, he said how much money do you have in the bank? I said $100,000 and he said OK and then he talked to the judge a little bit. They made my bail $50,000. They were cooperating with me. But at the time I was so hostile to the system I didn't realize that they were trying to cooperate with me. And so, anyway --
GRACE: Everyone, we are taking a break. When we come back, we find out why -- who many people consider to be a mild-mannered strap- hanger went out and bought a gun. Stay with us.
GRACE: He had been described as a mild-mannered hanger. What made Bernhard Goetz go buy a gun before he went back on to a New York subway? With us now, Bernhard Goetz. known around the world as the subway vigilante. What did lead you at that point in your life to feel you had to get a gun?
GOETZ: I was mugged and got a rather brutal beating about a year or a year and a half prior to that. I thought I was a pretty good physical specimen. But there was a teenager from Brooklyn, who basically wiped the floor with me on the street. He gave me a punch that I didn't even feel. All I knew I was looking up at the sky. I tried to fight him and I got a number of injuries after that.
GRACE: So prior to the shooting on the subway, you had taken a brutal beating at the hands of a mugger?
GOETZ: Yeah. I did not feel I had to carry a gun. After that I realized, I do not want to spend time taking karate classes and trying to put on weight and build up muscles and learn how to be a fighter. However, I knew how to shoot a gun very proficiently. As a boy, I used to play cowboys and Indians all the time and I just went to the east village and got a gun and then I was able to get guns in Florida.
GRACE: Just like that?
GOETZ: Sure. Basically, guns --
GRACE: How many times were you mugged in New York before the shooting?
GOETZ: Oh, maybe three times. That was -- which was not -- that wasn't unusual. During my jury selection process we went through over 360 jurors. It took six months, all New York residents. Of the 360 jurors, over half of them had been mugged one time. Quite a number of them, maybe 30 40, 50, had been mugged twice.
GRACE: You remember when you finally went and got the gun. Do you remember that moment you decide to go down to the east village and get the gun?
GOETZ: It was the evening I was mugged. It was the same evening I was mugged. As a matter...
GRACE: That evening.
GOETZ: I was saying in the police station, that's it. I'm carrying a gun.
GRACE: What did they say?
GOETZ: What are they going to say?
GRACE: No, no, no. Don't buy a gun.
GOETZ: Yes. I went to other court appointment there. When I went to a few appointments on that same incident, I would tell the people around there, like there was one guy in his neighborhood, there was some crazy guy threatening to shoot him. I said just go get a gun and shoot the guy. I said the police aren't going to do anything. They won't know who did it. They're not doing anything to help you now.
GRACE: At that time, in 1984, that was the consensus of the city. Nobody's going to help you.
GOETZ: Yes. We had a revolving door justice system.
GRACE: So when you look back at that moment, you took it upon yourself to go and buy a gun, you'd had it up to here, do you ever regret that moment? Do you rethink it? That was a huge point in your life.
GOETZ: No, you can't let yourself be pushed around. You can't live in fear. I mean, some people do live in fear. You can't live in fear. That's no way to live your life.
GRACE: After you got the gun, how long, from that time, until the shooting on the subway?
GOETZ: I think it was about a year and a half, between a year and a year -- a year to a year and a half.
GRACE: Did you carry it with you every day?
GOETZ: Oh, sure.
GRACE: Or at least every time you went on the subway.
GOETZ: No, any time I'd leave. There was so much trouble on the streets of New York. It was an airweight (ph) Smith & Wesson with a hammer shroud (ph). It weighs very little. It's easy to carry. GRACE: So I want to get back to you turning yourself in in New Hampshire. At first, they didn't believe you. You end up in New York. You said bye-bye to your car, to your apartment, to everything. And you end up behind bars at Riker's.
GRACE: Did it ever strike you as ironic that you were the one that thought you were being robbed. Yet, you were the one sitting in Rikers?
GOETZ: Of course. I was offended by the whole situation.
GRACE: When the trial started, it must have seemed surreal. You sitting there at the table, after having been through what you perceived to be an attempted robbery and you're on trial for attempted murder. Did the guys that you claimed tried to rob you, come in and testify?
GOETZ: Yes, three out of the four.
GRACE: And I guess the story had --
GOETZ: Well, basically, here's what happened. Troy Kante (ph), who was the gang leader, he couldn't remember whether or not they surrounded me prior to the shooting. Supposedly -- he was one of the champagne (ph) witnesses of the district attorney that got me indicted, at the second grand jury.
GRACE: The first grand jury refused to indict you.
GOETZ: Right. But at the second grand jury, Troy Kante testified. And he testified that they didn't surround me. They didn't do anything to me to provoke a shooting. At the time of the trial, when there were witnesses on the subway train, who corroborated my version of events, he basically couldn't remember whether or not they surrounded me. Daryl Cabe (ph) did not testify because of being supposedly brain damaged. Barry Allen (ph) took the Fifth Amendment on everything. He was honorable. I was rather impressed with that. That was out of sight of the jury. And the only person who said that I shot them with no justification was James Ramsor (ph). He was the second champagne witness of the district attorney. He was a convicted rapist by the time. He had been involved with a brutal rape.
GRACE: All four had criminal records.
GOETZ: Yes. At the time I shot them all four had criminal records. There were 14 outstanding warrants on them.
GRACE: At trial time, in front of a jury, their story was that they were just panhandling, that they were just asking for money.
GOETZ: No, no, no.
GRACE: Do you ever look back and think maybe they were just asking for money? Are you still convinced they were robbing you? GOETZ: That was not their story at trial. That was their story at the second grand jury, which took place over a year prior to the trial. At trial, again of the four, one did not testify because of brain damage. The one who said he was panhandling -- said he did not surround me. By the time of the trial, he said he couldn't remember whether or not they surrounded me because he was taking crack at the time. His memory was bad.
GRACE: When you look back on -- did you ever think they were panhandling?
GOETZ: Of course not, no. I was very familiar with the streets of New York. I know a mugging when it's going down.
GRACE: As opposed to panhandling?
GOETZ: Of course. Of course. Again, the only one who said they were panhandling, that they did nothing was James Ramsor, who prior to the trial, he staged a phony kidnapping, for which he was never prosecuted. Two Italian guys in a big, green Cadillac --
GRACE: So there's no doubt in your mind --
GOERTZ: He kidnapped me. They ran away.
GRACE: That this was not panhandling.
GOETZ: It was all fabricated. He --
GRACE: Is there any doubt in your mind that this was not panhandling?
GOETZ: I'll give you 100 to 1 odds that they weren't panhandling.
GRACE: Everyone with us tonight.
GOETZ: Ask them. Barry Allen was --
GRACE: I actually think that some of them are in jail right now. So it's kind of hard to ask them.
GOERTZ: Barry Allen has told a number of people in law enforcement, since then, we were going to take this guy for everything he had.
GRACE: Everybody, we are here with Bernhard Goetz, nearly 20 years ago, he became known as the subway vigilante. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Goetz is white and those he shot are black some have always contended that racism was at the heart of the shooting. But Goetz's taped statement claimed he was actually the victim, a victim of his environment. GOETZ: And the truth is ugly. It's disgusting. And I was a monster. I don't deny it. But I wasn't a monster until several years ago in New York. And if you have to become a monster to survive in that city, you can condemn me for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome back. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry King. Thank you for being with us. Here in the studio with us, Bernhard Goetz, a man who became known worldwide as the subway vigilante. When you look back at the trial and you saw these guys that had tried to rob you, taking the witness stand against you, did it seem surreal?
GOETZ: Slightly. The whole trial seemed surreal.
GRACE: Did you ever get a sense from the jury if they were with you or against you?
GOETZ: No. During the trial, I think there were several points where I think the jury, obviously came up in my favor. One of the guys who I shot, James Ramseur went ballistic during the trial. He started shouting, almost threatening people, using the f-word to my attorney...
GRACE: Over what?
GOETZ: Basically antagonized him and was trying to get him to answer the question...
GRACE: And the jury saw?
GOETZ: Yes. He used the f-word to the judge several times.
GRACE: In front of the jury?
GOETZ: Sure. In front of the world press. There were people from 20 or 30 different countries during the trial there. That annoyed the judge quite a bit.
GRACE: Was there ever a time in the trial you thought they would convict you of attempted murder?
GOETZ: No. When the first witness testified, while she was testifying, I was very confused. Turns out that the first witness that the district attorney called was a prostitute called Sally. I won't give her last name. She wasn't even in the subway car.
GRACE: What about the people that in the car with you? What did they say?
GOETZ: Basically all of them who saw what happened prior to the shooting, said I was surrounded prior to the shooting. There was one person in the subway car also, who -- his testimony was not credible. And he gave a version of events that was -- that was inconsistent with the facts. GRACE: What did he say?
GOETZ: He was hostile to me. He said I shot K.B. again another time, shoot him in the front. I did try to shoot K.B. again with an empty gun. Judge Crane (ph) actually directed the jury in the trial that they should not consider a physical impossibility. Meaning if somebody is shot once you cannot say that he was shot twice.
GRACE: The people that were actually in the car with you supported your story?
GRACE: Do you remember when the verdict came in?
GOETZ: It was just reading off the verdict. I was a little bit -- you know, detached from everything. I figured there would be appeals and everything. When the verdict came in, I wasn't really concerned with that. My biggest concern was just be able to get home and get through the press.
GRACE: Are you saying at that time you were in fear that you would spend a substantial amount of time behind bars?
GOETZ: When she started testifying but then (UNINTELLIGIBLE) her demolished on the stand. When we went home that evening as a matter of fact, he realized at that point that he had a won trial. I said how can you know that? Only one witness testified. He said if that's the first witness that the D.A. has, he doesn't have a case. He did not know...
GRACE: Thinking that the most powerful witness would be first.
GOETZ: Well, just from his experience as being a trial lawyer. He -- even though he had known me for a year and a half, he thought that the district attorney knew something he didn't. He didn't know whether or not for sure I was telling him the truth. Until he realized, everything jelled in his mind, the trial, later things developed that -- he did an excellent job.
GRACE: Did you take the stand?
GOETZ: No, I didn't take the stand in the criminal trial.
GRACE: What was it like to sit there and not get in front of a jury and tell your side?
GOETZ: That didn't bother me. The trial was a very tedious, energy-draining process.
GRACE: Didn't you want to tell the jury your side of what happened? GOETZ: I did that -- I did that a year and a half prior in New Hampshire.
GRACE: So, your statement -- the statement you gave police came in to the jury.
GOETZ: Sure. Again, I was -- I would have loved to...
GRACE: Why didn't you take the stand?
GOETZ: Barry Slonik (ph) correctly decided I should not take the stand.
GRACE: That day when you were acquitted on attempted murder, you did get convicted on one count. What was it?
GOETZ: That was on carrying the gun. I didn't really understand that.
GRACE: Did you walk out of the courthouse that day?
GOETZ: I was thrown out of the courthouse that day. I was telling the guard, that I'm not going to leave here until the media goes away. They said, we got to close this place. And they physically threw me out. You could see pictures -- there were pictures of that. Me basically being thrown out of the courthouse.
GRACE: Did you do jail time for carrying a weapon?
GOETZ: Yes. The jury ruled I had the right to use the gun. But I did not have the right to carry the gun. I served eight months in jail on that.
GRACE: What happened to your life while you were behind bars? Your apartment? Your stuff?
GOETZ: I was fortunate. I paid the rent on my apartment in advance. I had enough money for that. Even though you should not that there were -- jail is much easier on people who have nothing -- people who do have something. For example if they're in jail eight months, for a year and not paying rent on their apartment, everything's gone. Their personal possessions, their furniture, someone else is living in their apartment. For me in jail, I made friends with an inmate. I'll call him Joe. He had or claimed he had the record for the most number of documented assaults on other inmates in the New York prison system. He'd been in 18 years at the time. He had 85 documented assaults on other inmates. We became friends. He was quite intelligent. He liked talking about astronomy. And he liked playing chess.
GRACE: I was talking about your life on the outside...
GOETZ: In jail. I spent a lot of time stone. I was protected by Joe. So, jail time was OK.
GRACE: Everybody, Bernhard Goetz. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOETZ: I started shooting, it was just -- it was attempted cold- blooded murder. I do not deny that. And if you're going to pass judgment on that, good. I accept that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. Thank you for being with us.
Nearly 20 years ago this month, Bernard Goetz became known as the subway vigilante, when he fought back, he says, against thugs riding the rails. Bernard, when you look back on everything that happened, do you have any regrets ever pulling the trigger that day?
GOETZ: No. I -- I don't regret pulling the trigger. I regret -- I should have been more careful with many of the things I said afterwards. That was a big regret. I also while had my time in the limelight. I regret that I didn't use it more to push vegetarianism. I support vegetarian options in the school lunch program.
GRACE: What about the four people you shot? Do you ever regret that moment when you opened fire?
GOETZ: Well, I guess feeling guilty isn't one of my strong points. I just -- what is there to feel guilty about?
GRACE: Do you feel justify in what you did?
GOETZ: They could have or probably would have beaten the crap out of me. And I would rather shoot all four of them than even have them get a little -- the people should not take crap from other people. Also, I don't think people should give animals crap. And animals shouldn't give people crap. And stuff like that. People shouldn't put up with certain things. I would not get a beating again. I would without any hesitation, shoot a violent criminal again.
GRACE: Do you carry a gun today?
GOETZ: I don't discuss whether or not I carry a gun. Sorry.
GRACE: So, you're taking the fifth.
GOETZ: I don't discuss it.
GRACE: Do you still ride the subways?
GOETZ: Of course. New York City is a much safer place. The policy of revolving door justice changed under Mayor Dinkins. The police commissioner who we now have, at the time they would release people all the time, because the courts were overcrowded and whatever. Kiley informed the police, he said our job is to arrest wrongdoers, we don't care if the prisons are overcrowded, if the courts were overcrowded, if people do crime, arrest them. Bring them in.
GRACE: As you look back, when do you look back, do think there's any possibility that you were wrong? That you shot four innocent people? Is there any possibility?
GOETZ: I don't look back. There many things in my life that I regret and I wish I had taken a different path on. But that is not one of them.
GRACE: Do you know what became of the guys that you think were robbing you?
GOETZ: Not really.
GRACE: Would you be surprised to learn that they continued on in a life of crime after that?
GOETZ: Some of them did. I remember reading a little here and there.
GRACE: Reading what?
GOETZ: You hear things in the media that one of them is in jail or came out of jail. I don't pay much attention to it.
GRACE: Are you surprised?
GOETZ: No, not at all. That's part of my life. That was a long time ago.
GRACE: You say you're not surprised that some of them have landed back in jail.
GOETZ: Well, of course not. You know, if you -- the guys who I shot, in some ways, they represented the failures of New York -- of the New York system. Even though a lot of the media called them kids, three of them were 19 1/2 at the time I shot them. One had just turned 18. They were functionally illiterate, even though they were 19 1/2. I saw some of the forms that they had filled out in their handwriting. It was pathetic. They represented the failures of society.
GRACE: Do you ever wish you had given them the $5?
GOETZ: I think that would have been the better thing for me, in my life, if I had just given them all my money. Even though they might have pushed me around and beat me up for a second -- that's correct. But I think it was good for New York City. What happened was very good for New York City.
GRACE: Because. GOETZ: Because it forced the city to address crime. What was going to lead to -- if the city was not going to protect the public, which it wasn't, and some of the public was going to protect themselves. Whether this -- whether the city government liked it or not.
GRACE: Did it sink into you that thousands of people supported you? Of course, others thought that you had shot four defenseless guys that were just panhandling. But a huge amount of people supported you. Didn't that sink in at the time?
GOETZ: Yes. What happened, though, afterwards, there were a number of people who were against me. We had, at the time, the case became very political. Talk radio is always generally fair. Television was fair. But three out of the four New York newspapers took sides against me. They were politically connected.
GRACE: How did that feel every day to see that on the headlines?
GOETZ: That was pretty bad. The "New York Times," for example, they wrote an editorial that I should be indicted. I should be convicted. That was prior to the second grand jury. It was that editorial, I feel, is what got me indicted.
Now since then, the New York Times likes me, a lot. And they'll give me a lot of leeway, probably because I promote vegetarian options in the school lunch program.
GARCE: Then, after a criminal jury basically acquitted you on everything but a gun charge, you went to a civil trial. You were sued but these -- for what? $50 million?
GOETZ: I was sued by three out of the four. And we won on two of the lawsuits. We lost with Darell Cabey. I was trying to get the trial out of the Bronx. We couldn't.
GRACE: So, you lost one.
GOETZ: The judge ruled in the that if I made any more motions to get out of the Bronx, that he was going to hit me with contempt. So we, basically, after we saw the jury, we threw in the towel. And my attorney and I, we were praying that if we got a verdict against us, which we thought -- anything over $5 million we'd be happy with, we really be happy if it was 15. And when the jury in the Bronx, I think, came back with a $43 million verdict against me. We celebrated that night.
GOETZ: Because a verdict like that reflects more on the jury and the court system in the Bronx than it does on me.
GRACE: You're the first guy I've ever seen that has got a $43 million judgment hanging over his head and you celebrated.
GOETZ: I didn't pay any attention -- that judgment was meaningless.
GRACE: Is that still hanging over your head? Are you paying on it?
GOETZ: I refer -- I don't think i've paid a penny on that. I refer all questions to that verdict to my attorney. Anyone who wants to know about that can contact my attorney in the case.
GRACE: Were you surprised at the verdict? The civil verdict?
GOETZ: No, we were happy with the verdict when it came through. We figured we were going to lose. If there was a verdict against me for half a million, I couldn't afford to pay it anyway. So, I would rather have a verdict that makes the system look bad.
You know, we had jurors after the trial in the Bronx -- it was such a mess. We should have done a better job. We had jurors saying that -- on television, that one of the reasons they did the verdict answer, one of the reasons that I shot Darell Cabey twice. I testified I shot him one time. The only two doctors that testified on the trial said he was shot one time. The only 2 doctors who testified at the trial said Cabey was shot one time. Then on one of the television show, one of the jurors said the reason they chose $43 million as a verdict is because they figured that was half of the money I would get on a book deal.
GRACE: And did you get a book deal?
GOETZ: Oh, no. I have never done a book deal. I have no intention to get a book deal.
GRACE: Goetz is going to jail. OK. Everybody, stay with us.
GRACE: Welcome to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Nancy Grace from Court TV in for Larry tonight. And tonight, with us, Bernhard Goetz once known throughout the world as the "Subway Vigilante." Nearly 20 years later, this had to have had a profound impact on your life. It affected so many other people. What are you doing with your life now?
GOETZ: For a living I buy and sell industrial electronics on the Internet. I have a number of causes I believe in. I run for mayor occasionally. I don't want to be mayor, but the only reason I'm doing that is to raise the issue of getting vegetarian options in the public schools. If people want to know more about that or me, I have a website called Bernieformayor.com. There's no numbers in that. It's all one word. Bernieformayor.com. By the "New York Times" said that that was the best website of any mayoral candidate in the last election.
GRACE: You're very, very devoted to your causes. I'm wondering if before the shooting, you were devoted to causes, things you held dear.
GOETZ: Neighborhood improvement, I was one of a handful of neighborhood activists, down on 14th Street. For example, I was pushing for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) building which at the time, there was a lot of opposition to it. Since then people recognize the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) building on Union Square was a key to improving that building.
GRACE: People recognize you as Bernhard Goetz?
GOETZ: All the time.
GRACE: Do they ask you about it? What do they say?
GOETZ: All kinds of different things. Generally 98 percent of it was supportive. A huge amount of it is supportive. I get very little hostility.
GRACE: To this day? Still supportive?
GOETZ: Yes. It varies with -- from time to time. Years ago, negative things about me would come out in the media. Then, reporting was hostile. Remember for a while out there in the media, it was out there that I had shot Daryl Cabey two times. We didn't know that Daryl Cabey was shot once until about ten days prior to trial. We found that Daryl Cabey was shot one time. We were flabbergasted. I had to reanalyze...
GRACE: I know you don't -- you say you don't think back on it very much. But you remember the details so incredibly well. Specifically the details of what the press said.
GOETZ: Well, here's what happens -- when you get older, everything comes back to you. Unfortunately, it's true. The good, the bad and whatever.
GRACE: Would you consider this good or bad?
GOETZ: Consider what?
GRACE: This whole incident? The shooting? Everything that came out of the shooting?
GOETZ: It was just what the doctor ordered for New York City. Not for me but for New York City.
GRACE: But what about for Bernhard Goetz?
GOETZ: Well, if it hadn't happened to me, I probably would have led a comfortable life. Probably would have gotten married, had a few kids, moved to the country and been the average consumer. What can I say? Does that mean a lot? Is that much of a life? Yes, on a personal level.
GRACE: 95 percent of America would probably tell you that's a great life.
GOETZ: Oh! If you have love in your life, they say -- if you have life, there's only two main things important are love and death. If you have those things, life becomes -- well, if you have -- it's more meaningful. However, in terms of doing something with your life, having impact, change on society -- the incident itself was good for New York. On a personal level, it might not have been too good for me. But, you know. That's the way the chips fall.
GRACE: As opposed to having that family and that house out in the suburbs you're describing, what do you have?
GOETZ: What do I have?
GOETZ: I have my values. I do things that I think are right. I think it is crucial for mankind to go vegetarian. In fact, I think if the United States and one other major power becomes basically vegetarian, the whole world will become vegetarian, eventually. Right now we take it for granted.
GRACE: What do you say to people who would point out you are so kind to animals. Yet, you gunned down four people on the subway?
GOETZ: There's no inconsistency there. I remember, you know -- if I walk in the woods, I feel much more comfortable carrying a gun. What if you meet a bear in the woods that's going to attack you? You shoot it.
GRACE: Do you feel or believe that because of the subway shooting that somehow that dream of a family, and love in your life, escaped you? Do you think that fundamentally changed your future?
GOETZ: It threw a monkey wrench in everything. I never had the personality that would adjust to being a public figure. Many people, if you work in the media, or entertainment, a lot of those people want recognition. I dislike it. But it's just something that came. And so, it did throw a monkey wrench into things. At the same time, I could have done a lot of things better in my life. And a lot of the media attention that -- if anything, it made me more timid. I was not very timid prior to this. Prior to the event.
GRACE: Have you ever been -- since the incident on the subway, the shooting -- have you ever been mugged again in this city?
GOETZ: Twice. Guys came to try to shoot me. I will not say what happened in those incidents. However, that was many years ago. Once -- just some stranger surprised me with a gun. But someone pointed out, hey, this guy's going to try to draw a gun on you. I just stared them down. I said let them go.
GRACE: Do you walk the streets now without fear here in the city?
GOETZ: Basically. I basically do not carry a gun. The public can walk the streets of this city, basically, almost all the boroughs and take the subways out fear. Times are completely different. Things are much better. GRACE: Everyone being with us tonight is Bernhard Goetz. He became recognized around the world as the subway vigilante. His story, he fought back when he was being robbed and stood up for the rights of others. Thank you for being with us. I'm Nancy Grace signing off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you say on videotape that your intention was to make them suffer as much as possible?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's fair to say that you were being vicious. Is that right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's fair to say that you were trying to do anything that you could to hurt them, is that right?
GOETZ: I was trying to get as many...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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