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— Questioning Rico at his deposition were attorneys not only for Southwest but for Heritage, Otis Elevator Company, and the California Compensation Insurance Fund. "My lawyer tells me the Insurance Fund is temporarily on my side," says Rico, "because they're hoping to recover money they've paid out for me so far."

In his deposition, Rico describes problems that the Comerica Bank building had with its elevators while he worked there. He claims that Otis did not properly maintain the elevators and that he and other employees kept a log of the things that went wrong with them. Oil leaks were one problem, Rico tells me. Instead of spending the money to fix the leaks, he says, Debbie Valdivia arranged for Otis to put buckets under the leaks and empty the buckets every week.

After Rico's deposition, each defense attorney wanted copies of his writing. "Do you realize how much work that was? I've written six novels and a whole lot of poetry and articles," says Rico. "I said to them, 'I've never made a dime on my writing.' Then, shortly after I told my agent that the attorneys might contact her to see if I had made any money, she informed me that she'd done about all she could for me. But my lawyer said, 'The defense doesn't want to see your writing to learn how much money you made. They are trying to find something in it that shows you're lying.' "

Before coming to San Diego in 2000, Rico says he lived in Panama City, Panama, with his wife, who worked at the U.S. embassy. "I wrote quite a few articles on boxing for a local paper there and became a minor celebrity," he says. "And I was writing all these novels. When we came here, I was sure my agent would get me a book contract soon. But it didn't happen. Simon & Schuster and other big publishers were rejecting my work. So I had to find work. That's when I went to work for Heritage Security Services."

Rico's case goes to court in January. Why is he talking publicly about it before the trial starts? "I couldn't put my finger on something that was bothering me recently about this whole thing," says Rico. "Then I saw some video of Muhammad Ali. There was that great confidence he had. And I thought, 'That's it.' These people who threatened me did it with such arrogance and confidence that I'm sure they've done it before. And if Larry Richmond, Heritage's owner, does have help from cops, they're going to go too far someday and hurt somebody."

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