The panhandler who won a $100,476 settlement from the city in 2006 died in the basement of his Bronx home after having spent all his money on Chinese takeout, drugs, and gifts to his friends and family.
Kate Briquelet at the Post reports that Eddie Wise's pregnant widow found her husband dead in January, bleeding from the nose. The Medical Examiner's office stated that Wise died of a brain stem hemorrhage "due to acute cocaine intoxication and hypertensive cardiovascular disease." He was 51.
Wise, who used crack periodically throughout his life, was the subject of a fascinating New York Magazine profile in 2007 after he led a class-action lawsuit against the city for arresting him multiple times for panhandling, a right that is protected under the First Amendment (just don't do it "aggressively" in New York).
In the profile, Wise says he blew tens of thousands of dollars he received in the '90s after a work injury on cocaine, and vowed it would be different this time. “I got to prove to myself that I know how to handle this money. One hundred thousand dollars ain’t no joke.”
The reporter who wrote the story, Jennifer Gonnerman, told NPR several months after Wise received the money that he was holding on to it.
It's been almost three months since he got his money and he hasn't blown it on crack. He's held on to, you know, virtually all of it. And he seems to be trying to lead a very sort of low budget lifestyle, you know. Spending money on food, spending money on cereals, spending money on Chinese takeout, taking taxis instead of buses. But other than that, he doesn't seem to really have upgraded his lifestyle all that much.
But according to Wise's friend, Ross Biernick, the money, and plans to move to North Carolina, eventually slipped away. “When he won the money, he asked me what to do, but he didn’t listen,” Biernick said. “He gave it to his uncle. He spent the rest on stupidity, drugs. He didn’t get better.”
“Eddie was a good man,” Wise's widow, Sharon Persaud, said. “He worked hard; he was always cheerful. I loved that man so much. It was always me and him. He deserved better. His life was hard.”