30 Jun 2004
THE TOAST OF THE TOWN
The Man in the Yellow Cab: Sam Sloan
By DAN ACKMAN
Maybe Mr. Sloan will tell you about the time he was in prison in Afghanistan - or Virginia. Maybe he'll tell you about the time he - a non-lawyer - argued a case on his own behalf in the United States Supreme Court, and won. Or maybe you can ask Mr. Sloan about his days palling around the city with a fellow teenage chess player named Bobby Fischer. Or perhaps hefll tell you about his current project, a run for the U.S. Congress in Brooklyn.
Right now,though,there is substantial doubt as to whether this ride will ever happen. It's not because Mr. Sloan, 58, has no such stories to tell; it's ecause he has been unable to secure a hack license from the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission. For more than two years Mr. Sloan has been locked in what he calls a "death struggle" with the TLC. Right now, it seems no more likely than he'll win it than he'll be elected to Congress. But hefs trying.
Mr. Sloan is a Don Quixote-esque battler against the multiple slights and myriad injustices that he says have been perpetrated against him over the years. In the course of discussing his battles, Mr. Sloan alludes to past wars, such as the time he argued in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case having to do with Mr. Sloan's career on Wall Street. Somewhere in there he mentions that he dabbles in 15 languages, wrote the dictionary for a Pakistani dialect, can program a computer, and is a tournament-level chess player.
None of these activities have been very lucrative of late,so Mr.Sloan, gray and bedraggled, still wants to revive the taxi driverfs license he held a few years earlier. Informed he was too late to renew, Mr. Sloan took the taxi driverfs course and passed the test. But the commission refused to issue a license, insisting that Mr. Sloan had unsettled violations on his record. Mr. Sloan tried every which way to appeal, claiming that the summons in question was never issued, at least not to him.
He proved his point - a minor victory that sustains him. Still, "as surely as the night follows the day, petitioner's attempts to resume his career as a taxi driver met with difficulty after difficulty," wrote Justice Diane Lebedeff in a February 27, 2002, ruling in Mr. Sloanfs favor. As the Byzantine legal process continued, Mr. Sloanfs standing with the TLC just kept getting worse.But with two years of his life invested in the struggle, Mr. Sloan refuses to give in. The case is currently on appeal, but Mr. Sloan hasnft pressed it,distracted as he is by his political ambitions.
Today he is a candidate for Congress in the 10th Congressional District of Brooklyn, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie, and East New York. He thought he had a spot on the Republican ticket, though party leaders think otherwise and insist he wonft get the nomination. If he doesnft get it, hefll run as a Libertarian. (He ran as a Libertarian before in a race for the state assembly and lost by just 2,000 votes, which sounds great until you realize the winner got 2,010 votes, the turnout being quite low for a special election.) In the general election, his opponent will be Edolphus Towns, a veteran Democrat, who in 2002 won 98% of the vote.
Mr.Sloan admits hefs a long shot.But says he can win if, as he expects, the Kerry campaign implodes and President Bush sweeps to a landslide victory, even in Brooklyn. Plus he is counting on dominating the Muslim vote. Meanwhile, Mr. Sloan ekes out a living selling movie stills on e-Bay and teaching chess. He remains a known figure in the chess world and several times has stood for election to the board of the U.S. Chess Federation. He lost.
Mr. Sloan was born and raised in Virginia. He attended college at Berkeley starting in 1962, majoring in mathematics. Though involved in campus politics - Mr. Sloan was president of the Campus Sexual Rights Forum - he was working for a semester in New York when the Free Speech Movement was at its zenith. Mr. Sloan returned to the city in 1967 and found his way into a job on Wall Street. In 1970, he started his own one-man broker-dealer.
Within a year or so, a Securities and Exchange Commission inspector asked to examine his customer records. Mr. Sloan told the man, "I donft have any customer records; I have no customers." That inspector left, but others followed in his wake. By 1975, a federal judge found him guilty of mostly technical SEC rules. Though Mr. Sloan now says, "Really none of them were actually violations," he was ordered out of the securities business.
On his way out, though, Mr. Sloan exacted a measure of revenge. He sued the SEC over it policy of suspending the trading of penny stocks - the same stocks Mr. Sloan traded -over and over.The case wound up in the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Sloan arguing on his own behalf. Arguing the other side was the SECfs young general counsel, Harvey Pitt. By the time the high court decided the case, Mr. Sloan was in jail in Afghanistan.
Convinced that his jailers were planning to shoot him, Mr. Sloan decided to escape. He did, choosing a Thursday evening for his getaway because the underpaid and ill-trained guards tended to leave work early for the Muslim Sabbath. He made his way via a camel trail in the desert to a road, where he boarded the first of several buses, ending up in Kabul. He found his way to the U.S. Embassy, whose officers were oblivious to the revolution in the countryside, he says. They were, however,able to tell him the outcome of his Supreme Court case. Mr. Sloan had won 9-0.
On his way out of Afghanistan, Mr. Sloan was jailed briefly again. A CIA agent bailed him out, and eventually his car and even most of the $2,000 in cash he had when he was arrested the first time was returned to him. The agent was Warren Marik, who in the 1990s led CIA operations in Iraq.
On the way out of Afghanistan, Mr. Sloan sojourned in Chitral, Pakistan, in the same wild territory where some believe Osama bin Laden is still hiding. His stay there led to Mr. Sloan's second marriage to a girl named Honzagool and to the third of his eight children, Shamena, who was born in October 1981, back in New York. Until recently, Shamena was a United States Marine. During the Iraq invasion she was stationed at an air base in Kuwait.
What happened to Shamena in the interim is a wild story involving custody fights in the Bronx, alleged kidnapping, Jerry Falwell's church in Virginia, and international intrigue. It all, in a roundabout way, led him back to East New York, N.Y., where Mr. Sloan lives with his wife Kayo, whom he met in Japan, and his 2-year-old daughter. If you want the details, you could be in for very a long ride.
Here are the petitions I have filed in the United States Supreme Court, in HTML Format: