American Warlord

In July 2003, as gun battles engulfed Monrovia during the final hours of Charles Taylor’s regime, the president’s son, Chucky, quietly arrived in Port of Spain, Trinidad. He was broke and haunted by the crimes he had committed in his father’s name. Chucky, who arrived in Liberia as a naïve American teenager a decade earlier, rose to power to become the leader of the feared Anti-Terrorist Unit, a paramilitary force comprised of mercenaries and former child soldiers. He had little to show for that experience other than a reputation for brutality that drew the attention of international human rights investigators and, eventually, U.S. law enforcement. As he set out to reinvent himself as a hip-hop star—cutting a demo detailing his violent exploits—federal agents zeroed in on his crimes and built a historic case against him. When he chose to return to the U.S. in 2006 to shop his demo, agents were waiting for him at the airport. Six months later he would be in a U.S. prison cell, awaiting trial: the first American ever charged with committing acts of torture overseas. How did Chucky Taylor go from a regular– if somewhat troubled– American teenager to an international war criminal? How did the victims of his brutality in Liberia survive to testify against him in an historic trial on the other side of the world?