Saturday, April 30, 2011

Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue; also, Why the Bad Lawyer Went to the Hole

Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue (2011, Simon & Schuster), a new book by Eric Felten, was the subject of Diane Rehms' wonderful WAMU and NPR program Thursday which at the link you can listen to for yourself.  The program was a nice follow-up on Diane's interview of James B. Stewart which I just blogged about and provided a similar link to. 
Both new books and interviews deal with the problem of lying which Stewart condemns and Felten explains.  Stewart actually addressed elevation of misplaced loyalty in connection with Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' trainer who (unlike Floyd Landis) remained silent throughout the criminal prosecutions connected to the Balco and steroid scandals.  Anderson was jailed for contempt of court.  According to James Stewart, at one point when Anderson was released from the federal penitentiary other inmates stood and applauded Anderson's loyalty to Bonds, the sport's cheat.  Stewart points out in the Diane Rehm interview that this is an elevation of prison core values--in other words misplaced loyalty over truth. 

The virtue of loyalty, obviously played itself out (and continues to play itself out) in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina with the murder of African-Americans residents by New Orleans' cops and the cover-up by the so-called thin blue line.  Of course, this recurs again and again through-out history, for instance, the NYC police corruption scandals uncovered by the Knapp Commission lay at the heart of the true 1973 Sidney Lumet movie, Serpico.  Don't snitch.  Cops and criminals don't snitch. 

I Go to the HOLE

The HOLE in federal and most state institutions is formally called the Special Housing Unit or informally, the SHU (pronounced like footwear.)  At Morgantown the SHU is a totally secure stand alone structure in blond brick with a red aluminum crown topped by bright stainless razor wire.  Friends of mine ironically call it the red roof inn.  FCI, Morgantown is a minimum security prison "camp" except for the maximum security SHU.  The SHU is where you go if you become subject to disciplinary segregation or in some other way, become a housing issue.  As an inmate, the SHU/HOLE is the last place you want to go.

This is because incarceration in the SHU/HOLE is twenty-four hour a day lock down in a "one" or "two man cells."  In "two-men" cells, you and your bunkee work out how to shit and share the stainless steel toilet and sink a couple of feet from the bunks.  A little sliver of window on the steel door allows you to see a foot or two in each direction, a sliver of window on the opposite side allows you discern some reflected light through the razor wire.  Inmates without a radio have no idea what time of day or night it is except for meals being slid through a slot on the door.  The barely edible offerings from the chow hall are reduced to fully-vile via the method of sitting in covered trays that effectively give every item on the tray a steam bath, so that for instance-bread slices are reduced to wet wash rag-texture. 

If you're housed in the SHU/HOLE in anything besides the coldest days of winter you are supposed to get 1 hour of rec per day on a postage stamp sized exercise yard.  Imagine, however, that it is coldest days of January and in your cell you are already chilled to the bone.  Your feet are in thin canvas tennis shoe flats do you take the hour to walk around outside knowing that once outside you are not allowed back in until the hour has expired?  Also when you're in the SHU if the cell door opens for any reason you are cuffed up from behind through the slot where your food, paper, or mail if any is also handed to you.  Every other day you have the opportunity to shower which entails this cuffing movement to a shower cell and uncuffing.  This is the highlight of every two days in the SHU/HOLE except for weekends, there is no shower on the weekend.

I went to the SHU/HOLE because I witnessed and reported the sexual assault upon my bunkee, a Chinese kid from DC by a Latin King drug dealer from Chicago.  I was at Morgantown two weeks when for the second or third time I watched "Ruiz Chavez" (not his real name) aggressively come onto my bunkee, "Pang" (not his real name.)  Chavez told Pang that he wanted to "enter [him] and [Pang] to have his babies."  The problem was that this "joke" behavior was, over the course of two weeks that I witnessed it--becoming more aggressive and beginning to involve touching Pang on his buttocks and grabbing at him in a way that if it happened to me I'd call the police.  Amazed that no one was saying anything, I started asking guys what the hell they thought was going on.  A couple of guys confirmed for me that Chavez had done similar things to them, one guy Kelvin (not his real name) said Chavez had touched his groin and that he wanted "guys to submit anonymous 'cop outs' to the lieutenant."  A cop out is a inmate request form.

When Chavez repeated an assault on Pang on December 29 of last year I put a signed "cop out" in describing in detail what I saw.  I was paged over the public address system and ordered to go to the lieutenant's office.  There Lieutenant Shaw cross-examined me in a manner that conveyed the lieutenant's pre-judgment that I was naive and oversensitive to the ways of the inmates.  This impression was someone dispelled by my answer to the questions:  Where are you from?  What did you do for a living?  Unbeknownst to the lieutenant I worked on two occasions as a summer intern at a federal prison camp and a medium security federal prison in the 1978 and 1979.  Nonetheless Lieutenant Shaw assured me that he knew this Chavez who he termed a problem that he would address informally in an effort to avoid sending me and Chavez to the SHU/HOLE together.  Shaw then paged Chavez who was informed, according to Chavez that inmates in the bunk wing were snitching him out.  Chavez then spent the next few days threatening and following inmates he suspected of snitching him out; especially, his victim Pang.  I felt that instead of solving a problem for Pang I had created an additional problem.

I sent a second cop out to the Warden, this time complaining that not only was I threatened by Lieutenant Shaw with the SHU, but that the way my original cop out was handled I had created a threatening environment for the Carlson inmates that I resided with because Chavez was accusing others of "snitching' him out.  Monday, January 3d I was sitting in the library when I heard my name and Chavez's called over the Public Address system demanding that we go to the lieutenant's office.  As you might imagine any anonymity I had previously enjoyed as the source of the complaint about Chavez's sexual assaults on Pang disappeared with that joint announcement.  I was briefly cross-examined by a Captain King who wanted to know whether I was "lying" about all the "hearsay" I included in my detailed cop out.  Sounding very much like Robespierre Captain King told one of her lieutenants, "Take him to the SHU!"

As I was marched to the SHU, hands cuffed behind my back the lieutenant informed me that I had in record time "fucked up" paradise, Morgantown being one of the "best places on the FORBES listing of prisons to do time."  Forty-eight hours later this same lieutenant informed me that his investigation revealed that if anything my report understated the degree of problems created by Chavez.  He also acknowledged that after reading my PSI (pre-sentence investigation) I knew more about sexual harassment and sex crimes than any official at Morgantown.  He also told me that he couldn't understand how Chavez's conduct was tolerated non-violently once it came to light what had been going on.  The lieutenant was conciliatory and assured me that he hoped to have me released that very afternoon which was Wednesday, January 5th  In fact I was in the SHU for 6 more calendar days.  Apparently a still angry Captain overruled her investigator.

As you might imagine, going to the SHU was traumatic.  My family did not know where I was and my ability to communicate with them was limited to mail, oh, I did get one phone call which I made on a portable phone rolled up to the cell door with me reaching through the slot.  Unfortunately I reached my very distracted daughter then tending my new, days-old grandson.  It was not until my letters caught up with my wife almost at the time I was released that she understood what happened.  When I wen to the SHU I was stripped and cavity searched.  I was given over-sized orange coveralls and green tinted underwear.  The little bits of property I was beginning to assemble were trashed by the COs who showed up at my locker in Carlson and "packed me out." I was put in a two-man cell with a young guy, Jason, a Chaldean kid from Detroit.  Poor Jason had been in the SHU since New Year's Day when he was observed by Lieutenant Shaw waving at his kids as he left the visiting room.  For this and other offenses Jason spent 31 days in the SHU. 

Life in the SHU/HOLE is as you might imagine, pretty horrible.  I mentioned the toilet, the lack of recreation,  the vile food (with no calorie burning activity I lost 5lbs in 8 days,) but the worst is the endless days and nights.  If you sleep all day you will not sleep at night, but what do you do?  Fortunately, the prison psychologist, rightfully concerned about my mental health, slid my Alcoholics Anonymous text through to me.  I wrote letters with the stubby little flexible pen given me.  Paperbacks from a library cart were handed out.  I was able to knock out about 800 pages of pulp per day.  As I was given a book, I'd beg extras.  Since the authorities would only give me two at a time, I'd collect two for my bunkee who did not read, that way--even in the SHU I was working my book addiction.  In all seriousness, I do not wish the SHU on anyone--including Chavez, who I personally saw as a seriously disturbed person who needed intensive mental health intervention.  I don't think he's a homosexual, he was an opportunistic predator looking for a chance to victimize others.

Chavez went to the SHU (I could hear him but I did not see him and) he did not reemerge from the SHU during the duration of my stay at Morgantown.  Why Chavez was at Morgantown eludes me.  While in the residential units he was strange, scary and dangerous.  Carlson residents suspected him of being the "mad shitter" some one who threw his feces around the toilet areas.  In the showers and his bunk he'd moan and groan for hours on end.  The authorities had already removed him from at least one unit because of disciplinary problems.  At Carlson he would stomp around the circumference of his upper bunk screaming, "I'm the devil, I'm evil, I want to kill you."  When last I heard Chavez was slated to released to hometown Chicago in May.  Good luck, Chicago. 

The official fig leaf justifying my incarceration in the HOLE was that I was being "protected."  How uprooting an inmate from their social supports, eliminating the ability to routinely communicate with their family on the outside, trashing the inmate's property, and thrusting them in the HOLE/SHU with the perpetrator of a sexual assault in a manner that clearly communicates to the inmate population that the witness "snitched out" the perpetrator--operates to "protect" the inmate is a mystery to me.  That is precisely what the authorities did to me. 

And this then is the connection to the elevation of prison core values.  You see, I contravened the inmate value by reporting Chavez's sexual assault on Pang--the authorities knew this although they compounded the problem by leaving no doubt that I was the source of the report by associating both our names in the public address call to the lieutenant's office on January 3d. So even though what Chavez did was obnoxious, criminal, violating a little statute called PREA (the Prison Rape Enforcement ACT)--my act in reporting was viewed as a more problematic and potentially more "dangerous."  And while I was seriously in no danger whatsoever at any point (except, perhaps from Chavez, himself) I was ostracized to some degree by many of my former bunkees.  Frankly, like big deal--I wasn't planning on post-prison networking with any of them.   For the most part, whatever iciness I felt upon my return to Carlson after my 8-day ordeal in the SHU/HOLE dissipated pretty quickly with many guys thanking me for "taking the bullet."  And, yet on the morning I waited to walk out of Morgantown an inmate danced around mocking me for "snitching out Chavez." 
It's jail.  My best thinking got me jail, FCI, Morgantown, and the SHU.  But, I do not share prison values.  I went to the SHU, because I do not misplace loyalty.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How Lawyers Lose Their Mind, Another Deposition Transcript: Photocopier?

This is from a deposition transcript taken by David Marburger, a partner at Baker & Hostettler in a public records case.  The deponee, Lawerence Pattterson is an employee of the Cuyahoga County Information technology office.  He is represented by attorney Matthew Cavanagh:

Marburger: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder's office, has the Recorder's office had photocopying machines?

Cavanagh: Objection.

Marburger: Any photocopying machine?

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be -- let me make sure I understand your question. You don't have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?

Patterson: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.

Cavanagh: Dave, I'll object to the tone of the question. You make it sound like it's unbelievable to you that he wouldn't know what the definition of a photocopy machine is.

Marburger: I didn't ask him to define it. I asked him if he had any.

Patterson: When you say "photocopying machine," what do you mean?

Marburger: Let me be clear. The term "photocopying machine" is so ambiguous that you can't picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.

Marburger: Well, we'll find out. If you can say yes or no, I can do follow-ups, but it seems -- if you really don't know in an office setting what a photocopying machine is, I'd like the Ohio Supreme Court to hear you say so.

Patterson: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.
Cavanagh: There's different types of photocopiers, Dave.

Marburger: You're speaking instead of -- you [the attorney for the County are] not under oath.  [Mr. Patterson] is.

Cavanagh: I understand that, but I understand what his objection is. You want him to answer the question, but I don't think it's fair.

Marburger: [questioningly] It's not fair?

Cavanagh: It's not a fair question. A photocopy machine can be a machine that uses photostatic technology, that uses xerographic technology, that uses scanning technology.

Marburger: I don't care what kind of technology it uses. Has your offices -- we don't have technocrats on the Ohio Supreme Court. We've got people like me, general guys --

Cavanagh: Objection.
Marburger: -- or gals. I'm not really very interested in what the technology element of it is. I want to know --

Cavanagh: That's what's at issue in the case, Dave.

Marburger: Not in my judgment. Do you have photocopying machines at the Recorder's office? If you don't know what that means in an office setting, please tell the court you don't know what it means in an office setting to have a photocopying machine.

Patterson: I would like to answer your question to the best of my ability.
Marburger: I'm asking you to answer that.

Patterson: So if you could explain to me what you mean by --

Marburger: I'm not going to do that because I want you -- I want to establish on the record that you really don't know what it is. I want to establish that.   Now, do you know what it is or do you not know what it is? Do you understand what that term means in common parlance or not?

Patterson: Common parlance?

Marburger: Common language.

Patterson: I'm sorry. I didn't know what that meant. I understand that there are photocopying machines, and there are different types of them just like --

Marburger: Are there any in the Recorder's office?

Patterson: -- there are different cars. Some of them run under gas power, some of them under electric power, and I'm asking if you could help me out by explaining what you mean by 'photocopying machines' --

Marburger: That's a great point.

Patterson: -- instead of trying to make me feel stupid.

Marburger: If you feel stupid, it's not because I'm making you feel that way.

Cavanagh: Objection.

Patterson: I have self-confidence and I have no problem.

Marburger: I don't think you're stupid.

Patterson: I think -- I don't have any problem answering the question.

Marburger: I think you're playing games with me.

Cavanagh: Dave, the word 'photocopying' is at issue in this case, and you're asking him whether something is or isn't a photocopy machine, which is a legal conclusion --

Marburger: This isn't a patent case. There's no statute that defines -- where I'm asking him to define technology for me. I'm asking -- I want to find out from a layperson's perspective, not an engineer's perspective, not a technician's perspective, but from -- I have an idea.

Marburger: How about this: Have you ever heard the term 'photocopier' or 'photocopy' used in the Recorder's office by anybody?

Patterson: Photocopy? I'm sure in the time I've been there someone has used the term.

Marburger: And have you ever heard them use it in referencing a particular device or machine within the Recorder's office? By way of example, 'can you photocopy that for me?' That's an example of office parlance.

Patterson: That particular terminology I've not witnessed.

Marburger: What was the context that you've heard the term 'photocopy' used in the Recorder's office?
Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I didn't say I remembered a specific instance.

Marburger: All right. But you have a general understanding that people have used the term 'photocopy' within the Recorder's office in terms of something that could be done there; is that true?

Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I don't remember a specific instance or how it was used. I'm sure it's been used.

Marburger: And is it fair to say that it's been used in terms of being able to copy one piece of paper onto another piece of paper using a machine? No? Not sure of that?

Patterson: I'm sure it's been used. I don't recall a specific instance in which it was.

Marburger: Do you have a secretary?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: Does anybody there have a secretary?

Patterson: Yes.

Marburger: Have you ever heard a secretary use the term 'photocopy?'
Patterson: No.

Marburger: Have you ever-- do you have machines there where I can put in a paper document, push a button or two, and out will come copies of that paper document also on paper? Do you have such a machine?

Patterson: Yes, sir.

Marburger: What do you call that machine?

Patterson: Xerox.

Marburger: Xerox. Is the machine made by the Xerox Company? Is that why it's called Xerox?

Patterson: No.

Marburger: So Xerox, in the parlance that you've described, the language that you've described, is being used generically as opposed to describing a particular brand; is that right?

Patterson: All of my life I've just known people to say Xerox. It's not commonplace to use the terminology that you're using.

Marburger: You mean it's more -- people say Xerox instead of photocopy?

Patterson: If you're referring to a type of machine where you place a piece of paper on the top and press a button and out comes copies of it, they usually refer to it as a Xerox.

Marburger: Have you ever heard it referred to as photocopying?

Patterson: Not with my generation, no.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Other Maricopa County Law Enforcement Liars Begin to Fall

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, America's Toughest Sheriff has been repeatedly outed on Bad Lawyer as a extra-legal law enforcement thug.  He countenanced constitutional abuses by his deputies and he created a reign of terror that has cost and will cost Maricopa County and the State of Arizona millions.  And yet, like the birthers--Arpaio is a darling of the right and Republicans throughout the United States--often flown into to raise money for the Republicans.

Corruption was so rife in Maricopa County that another Arizona County's (Pinal) Sheriff was detailed with conducting an investigations.  When Arpaio received the investigation which confirmed wholesale corruption by his chief deputies he stonewalled media requests to release the report.  The report has now been released and Deputies involved in corrupt and illegal activities are beginning to lose their jobs, including chief deputy David Hendershott.  

Obviously, the question that remains is how long will Arpaio himself be free from federal indictment?  Stay tuned.  At the link, excerpts from the Pinal County Sheriff's investigation.

Deposition Misconduct

Above the Law has this astonishing depostion transcript:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Serial Fakers

An Associated Press article by Thomas Sheeran at the Columbus Dispatch has the tale of the serial faker, Randall /Thomas Keyser.  Keyser has engaged in outlandish and repeated acts of fraud and fakery.  He's a character right out of Twain's Huckleberry Finn.  Here's the story:

"A man charged with trying to land a six-figure job in Ohio by faking it as an Army general has misrepresented his background in the past, according to court records.  Randall Thomas Keyser, of Barboursville, W.Va., has used seven or more aliases and was hired under false pretenses in Alaska, Florida, Kentucky and Washington state, according to the documents obtained by the Associated Press. The FBI said he has used three Social Security numbers.

The FBI confirmed today that the individual mentioned in the court records is the same man charged in Akron with wire fraud for allegedly posing as a major general.
In a 1993 ruling involving a probation violation, the Court of Appeals of Alaska portrayed Keyser as a serial faker who misrepresented his background to land jobs in the private and public sectors.
'Mr. Keyser has a track record of being `found out' in communities where he has talked himself into employment that he is not qualified for, and then leaving town, sometimes traveling clear across the country,' the court said. 'Without measures being taken to correct that behavior, Mr. Keyser is likely to reoffend.'  That court case stemmed from a probation violation on Keyser's no-contest plea to a theft charge for a fraudulent application to be city manager of Kake, Alaska.  About the same time, he was arrested by Alaska state troopers on a theft by deception warrant stemming from his application to be city manager in Pikeville, Ky. [ . . .]  His probation was transferred to Washington state when he moved to the Seattle area, according to the appeals court, which said he then was involved in getting a number of apartment-management jobs by using forged military records and Social Security cards issued under aliases.

'Keyser's false claims appeared to become increasingly grandiose, almost gratuitously so,' the court said.

At various times, according to the appeals court, Keyser claimed to have graduated from West Point and to have retired with the rank of major or lieutenant colonel.  In reality, Keyser served one or two years in the Army and was discharged as a private, the court said.

Keyser may have obtained 13 jobs as a police officer or police chief in small communities across the nation in the 1980s, the court said, including a chief's job in Oak Hill., Fla., where he was convicted of perjury and got one year of probation.

Prosecutors in Ohio say Keyser applied for a job pretending to be a major general with references including the Army chief of staff, vice chief of staff and Army undersecretary. An FBI affidavit said Keyser sought the $175,000 job and payment for travel expenses for an interview."
I wrote about Skyler Smith (pic) last year.  Smith, a Huntsville, Alabama serial con artist was running a variety of scams including the whole fake disabled  military veteran scam as well as selling phony diamonds over the Internet. 

One morning at FCI,Morgantown I was sitting in the chow hall with the usual suspects when a new guy at a nearby table launched into this whole rap about his case.  He wanted to connect with an "inmate lawyer."  The more I listened to him, the more I recognized Skyler Smith from the news account that I posted in September, 2010.  The thing is--Skyler Smith,as with many guys that I met in prison, the whole incarceration-thing does not seem to have had the intended come-to-God effect.  The con artist is still a con artist, the briber is still a briber, the drug addict sits at his bunk and wistfully dreams of a handful of pills.

Fudging Is Another Word for Lying

A lawyer who is a candidate for a municipal court is admitting that he "fudged" the law enforcement endorsements listed in his campaign literature.  This is Joan Rusek's story from the Chagrin-Solon Sun News:

"Republican Chardon Municipal Court candidate Dennis Coyne admitted he 'tried to fudge' endorsements 'a little'  on his campaign literature during an April 19 phone call with Police Chief Jon Bokovitz.  That phone call was recorded, as are five phone lines that go through the Bainbridge police station’s nonemergency line [. . .] Those calls are answered by emergency dispatch operators.
Coyne was returning Bokovitz’s call. Bokovitz had called Coyne after a resident questioned him.
That resident received Coyne’s campaign postcard which states he is 'endorsed and supported by every police chief in Geauga County.'

The [campaign] literature, headlined with 'Honest – Ethical – Experienced,' also states Coyne is endorsed by 'every mayor, every prosecutor and every criminal public defender' in the county.  The resident questioned the endorsement because it has been a long-standing policy for the chief to not endorse candidates and issues other than a Bainbridge police levy.

[Police Chief] Bokovitz said he told Coyne, 'No,' when asked for an endorsement in January.  'There can be hard feelings with other candidates,' Bokovitz said. “Because it falls under political party lines, it can also create hard feelings with residents who belong to a different political party.'  In fact, Bokovitz would have been in an awkward position because one of his bosses, township Trustee Matt Lynch, is also running for the Republican ticket in the May 3 primary election."
Ms. Rusek's article goes on at some length analyzing Mr. Coyne's rationalizations for lying about his claimed endorsements.

I'm not posting the story about Mr. Coyne to call him a liar, but the Sun News account fits into a couple of overlapping threads from the last couple of days:  the post at Bad Lawyer about the Judge who excluded the testimony and evidence which was supported by claimed expert testimony of an Alaskan State Trooper who said he could smell marijuana "grow operations;" and, the post and commentary at Scott Greenfield's Simple Justice blawg concerning a Las Vegas resident's beating at the hands of a violent cop provoked by the citizen's video recording of the officer involved.  In a larger sense the overlapping discussions relate to official honesty and integrity. 

Late yesterday morning I also heard James B. Stewart discussing (at the link you can listen as well, to Stewart talk about) his latest book, Tangled Webs with WAMU's Diane Rehm.  Stewart discussed high profile liars:  Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Martha Stewart, track and field star Marion Jones, Barry Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson, and Bernie Madoff.  Stewart provocatively asks about the corrosive effect that our lying.  Mr. Stewart concludes that failure to sanction lying degrades values and institutions and breeds widespread disregard for America and Americans internationally.  Let's go one step forward, (expected) petty lying by lawyers undermines the rule of law, respect for the law, and respect for legal outcomes. 

Personally, all this talk about lying and dishonesty makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  If you put "lying" into the search function of this blawg you will come up with dozens and dozens of posts over the last couple of years about lying cops, prosecutors, lawyers, politicians, judges, witnesses, and me.  This blawg is in many ways a reflection of the struggle on my part to come to grip with my dishonesty and lying.  It's real easy to see it in Clinton, Bush Rove, Madoff, but it's another thing to see the little bits of "fudging."  But fudging is lying.  There should be no place for "fudging" in the law.  That law enforcement and officers of the court are perceived to get away with it--is the problem.  And going forward, for me, there is no room for "fudging." 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Further Southern Exposure

Maybe it's that Southern weather but the Legal Profession Blawg had this link to a South Carolina Supreme Court decision suspending a member (intended) for dropping trou.   The lawyer's name is J.M. "Buddy" Long, III, a Conway, SC family law practitioner.  

According to the opinion attorney Long liked to expose himself to passers-by standing behind the storm door of his house sans pants. 

Networking Opportunities

Prison can present networking opportunities.  The New York Daily News leads this yesterday's edition, at least at it's website with the story of "disgraced" former NY State Comptroller Alan Hevesi doing time with former TYCO CEO Dennis Kozlowski at the NY's Mid-State Correctional facility.  This is from reporter Kenneth Lovett's story.

They're the state prison system's high profile Odd Couple: Disgraced ex-Controller Alan Hevesi is serving his time with shamed Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski.  The scammers mingle together with 20 other inmates from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the protective custody unit at Mid-State Correctional Facility in Oneida County.

Hevesi, 71, landed at the prison late last week to start his one- to four-year stint on a felony corruption charge.  He pleaded guilty to pocketing $1 million in gifts for himself and cronies in a massive pay-to-play pension fund scam.

Kozlowski, 64, is serving up to 25 years in the slammer for his 2005 conviction on grand larceny and securities fraud - ripping off $100 million from his company to support his lavish, jet-set lifestyle.
Hevesi used his ill-gotten gains to fly himself and family to Israel and Italy, while Kozlowski used his to fund a booze-fueled birthday bash in Sardinia for his wife - complete with a replica of Michelangelo's statue of David urinating vodka.

Inmates jointly eat, exercise, attend recreation and education programs and perform prison job assignments all within the boundaries of the protective custody unit.  That likely leaves plenty of time for Hevesi and Kozlowski to kibitz about high finance.

Hevesi, who served as controller from 2003 to 2006, grew New York's investment in Tyco, topping out at 8.3 million shares right before Kozlowski's conviction, state records show. 
At Morgantown there were 1200-1300 inmates at anyone time.  By far the majority of this population were drug-related offenders, but as I said there were many white collar criminals including real estate developers, builders, brokers and former fortune five hundred executives.  Because the inmate population included accountants, financial types, lawyers, and physicians, inmates are able to avail themselves of classes, seminars, and tutorials of all types.  It was not unusual for me, a library dweller, to be "ear-hustling" day trading lessons as one knowledgeable inmate tutored another about commodities, penny stocks, and currency trading.  Networking opportunities to be desired?  No.

Georgia Suspends Overexposed Lawyer

The Above the Law blawg has an ironic feature it calls Lawyer of the Day.  In October of 2007, ATL named Robin Meredith Levin, a former public defender who exposed himself to a 16 year old daughter of friend via webcam.  Ah, social networkind, so useful, eh?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Georgia Supreme Court imposed a 24 month suspension.   By the way, the AJC was also the source of the original account relied.  In the new story, the AJC tells us that Levin was a former public defender in Clayton County, Georgia. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ray Towler Spent 29 Years Behind Bars for a Crime He Didn't Commit, Ohio to Pay Him $2.5 Million

Last year I wrote several posts about Ray Towler (pic) the inmate who spent 29 years behind bars for a child rape he did not commit. is reporting that Towler has settled with the state of Ohio over his wrongful imprisonment.  Something called the Controlling Board has agreed to pay Towler $2.5 million.

 Towler was sentenced to life in prison for raping an 11 year old girl.  DNA evidence obtained with the assistance of the Ohio Innocence Project.

Monday, April 25, 2011

You Smelled What--Um, Probably Not

An Alaskan State Trooper claims to be able sniff out marijuana grow operations all by himself, that is without the assistance of a trained dog.  A US District Court Judge is dubious.  Here's Lisa Demer's story in the Anchorage Dailly News:

"An Alaska trooper's reported ability to sniff out marijuana grow operations from hundreds of feet away is under attack in federal court.   In a ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick concluded the pot-smelling power of investigator Kyle Young wasn't supported by the facts in a Mat-Su marijuana case, and shouldn't have been used as justification for a search warrant.  As a result, Sedwick threw out the seized evidence -- including some 500 marijuana plants. Unless prosecutors appeal, the government's drug case against Trace Rae and Jennifer Anne Thoms of Wasilla is gutted.

'This time, the tables turned,' defense lawyer Rex Butler, who represents Trace Thoms, said Sunday. 'This is a huge case, especially for the Valley.'  [Attorney Butler] said it carries implications for numerous cases that were based on trooper Young's reputed marijuana-detecting skill.

Young, who has more than 20 years with the troopers, maintains he did smell marijuana that day in February 2010. 'It was fairly strong. Smelled it on the air. Smelled it downwind of that place,' Young said in an interview Sunday. 'For them to rule that I couldn't, to me that says they are saying I am lying or that I was mistaken. And neither was correct.'  He estimated that he's investigated and seized between 100 to 150 Alaska marijuana grow operations since 1998 that he located by smell.

Trace and Jennifer Thoms each face three drug counts, including manufacturing marijuana, as well as a charge of money laundering conspiracy in which they are accused of disguising more than $1 million in marijuana proceeds. In addition, Jennifer Thoms separately faces 14 money laundering counts.  The indictment against them also seeks forfeiture of various properties including their home, nearly $100,000, five snowmachines, a Ford F-250, a GMC Yukon Denali, a Rolex gold watch, and a 14-karat diamond wedding ring set.
Young, who has advanced training in drug investigations, was assigned to the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement in November 2000.  In his sworn statement supporting his request for a search warrant last year, Young wrote that he was driving on Scarlet Circle -- in a residential area -- around 1:20 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2010, when he smelled 'a strong odor of cultivating marijuana.'  He already had suspicions about a grow operation there, he said in the interview.

[Trooper Young] stopped and determined he was downwind of the first house on the right and that's where the smell was coming from. He checked property records and found that it belonged to Trace and Jennifer Thoms, he wrote in his affidavit. He found that Trace Thoms had a criminal history, including a 2005 felony marijuana conviction. He checked electrical usage and found that the home had two accounts in Jennifer Thoms' name averaging nearly $800 in electricity a month. (Young said he later found out there were additional accounts in the name of businesses for snow plowing and painting, which wouldn't have used electricity.)

The same day, troopers searched the property and found what they call a sizable grow operation with budding plants in an outbuilding behind the house. Among the 500 plants, more than 200 were budding, which Young conceded was perhaps all he could smell, according to Sedwick's order.
Prosecutors argue that the fact so many marijuana plants were seized 'would tend to establish the likelihood that there was a strong odor of marijuana present on that date.'

A magistrate judge, John Roberts, in February held a hearing on the search and last month recommended against throwing out the evidence. But the ultimate decision was Sedwick's.
Young said Sunday he was unaware that Sedwick had ruled against the prosecution.
The outbuilding was at least 450 feet from the road, where Young said he smelled marijuana from inside his vehicle. The building has no windows. There are two doors, and two garage doors, which were insulated and sealed.  In between the building and the road was a wooded area and the couple's two-story residence, which was on a hill.

At the February hearing, Thoms testified his outbuilding was equipped with a large charcoal air filter designed to capture odor. A fan sucked out the air through the filtration system, which weighed about 100 pounds. Thoms testified that he bought new filters weekly and had a dedicated ladder against the building so he checked it 'constantly,' Sedwick wrote.

A smell expert hired by the defense doubted anyone could have smelled marijuana in that situation.
David Doty, director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, 'ultimately opined that there was a 'zero' probability that Young smelled marijuana as he claimed,'  Sedwick wrote.

The defense paid some $20,000 for the expert, which is more than most defendants could afford, Butler said[.]
As a lawyer in and out of courtrooms over the years I listened to a lot of incredible testimony by police officers purporting to possess various forms of "expertise," for instance the ability to adjudge with accuracy "speeding" from perspectives that seems improbable.  Or situations in which police officers with no specialized training offered expert opinions on collisions that did not witness.  Usually this testimony was accepted into evidence as almost sacrosanct.   You can't imagine how much imagination goes into law enforcement affidavits supporting search and seizures.  Well, maybe now you can.

I'll tell you what--if this was a State Court Judge who had to stand for election or reelection I doubt that the same result would have followed.  I can count on one hand the Judges that I've known over the years who would have had the courage to toss this evidence and still stand for election knowing he or she had just pissed off local law enforcement. 

This Just In: Annals of Deterrence

The Boston Herald is reporting that the trial of former Massachusetts Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi (pic) is set to get underway in US District Court.  In a triumph for the concept of white collar deterrence, DiMasi is the third Mass House Speaker to be charged and tried on corruption charges.  The charges against DiMasi involve a convoluted bribery sting.

"I'm Afraid of that Beaver!"

One of the first impressions I had when I got off the bus at FCI, Morgantown was of the deer and ducks. The prison camp is nestled in the mountains, actually a small valley evoking to my mind a china soup bowl from some views.  The residential units ring a compound below and the wooded tree line with ring roads, farms, and factories rise above the facility.  Originally, FCI, Morgantown was the Kennedy Youth facility, and this natural setting was perfect for the purpose.  As you might guess a great deal of the charm was lost when it was converted over to a prison camp.  Local lore has it that Barbara Walters visited the facility years ago and dubbed Morgantown, "Camp Cupcake."  The authorities have gone to considerable lengths to abolish the appearances (the pool, tennis courts, etcetera) that prompted Ms. Walter's nickname; nonetheless, it's customary for inmates to ironically welcome new guys to "Camp Cupcake." 

The deer, ducks, and other wildlife roam the grounds and congregate around the seven residential units: Byrd (of course, it's West-By-God Virginia), Bennett, Gerrard (after the first director of the Kennedy Youth Center), Alexander, Bates-(the residential drug abuse program), Randolph, and Carlson (where I resided.)  The population of deer, ducks, geese, wild turkey, raccoons, groundhogs, are augmented by two white bulls that wander down from a local farm, which as far as I know is not associated with the prison camp,  from above the tree line.  As you might imagine inmates feed the authorities fight a losing battle to keep these population of ducks, et al. at a minimum.  Thus it is illegal to feed the animals and inmates are employed as wildlife relocation specialists and "duck scrubbers."  The latter clean duck and goose shit off the walkways.  Since "helper dogs" are trained and kept by inmates (in the Alexander unit) the dogs are also used for deterrence (there's that word again!)  The authorities also bought plastic crouching coyotes, fox, and other scary looking plastic predators/lawn ornaments to scare off the animals.  The wildlife is not impressed.  I'm told that last year two of the crouching coyotes were placed outside of the warden's office windows in a copulatory pose not appreciated by the warden or his subordinates.  Usually, when the COs are offended by some inmate prank there is an official institution-wide response--loss of an activity, although I'm unable to report what the response this provocation provoked.

In my last couple of months at Morgantown I was bunked in what is called an "overflow" room, a former TV/Card room converted to bunk space.  Nine guys shared the room and for the most part things were harmonious.  A new bunkee, GS, a former gang banger from the Bronx.  GS was a scary looking dude:  he almost looked like a 19th century pirate.  GS is all threatening muscle belied by a funny sort of charm and consideration for others.  We hit it off:  old white dude, street-smart NY kid. 

As you folks in the NE will recall Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10 were unseasonably warm. Most inmates spent the weekend outside hanging at NoName creek, walking the compound, playing softball and participating in outdoor rec.  Sunday, April 10th Carlson inmates were actually kicked out of our unit for a periodic "shakedown" and for some 3 1/2 hours no one was permitted in the unit as COs combed the bunks, lockers, and common areas looking for cigarettes, cell phones, and the like.  As the afternoon wore on many of us assembled at the foot of the path leading up to Carlson with an eye to the unit front doors.  It was in the 80s and some of us had had enough sun and were anxious to get back in the unit.  GS sidled up beside me, pointing halfway up the path to where a Groundhog was sitting upright gnawing on an apple someone had discarded beside. 

"[BL], I'm afraid of the beaver."

"GS, what beaver?"

"That Beaver eating the apple.  It doesn't like me, it watches me when I walk up to Carlson."

"GS, that's not a beaver. . . that's a Groundhog.  You know, like Puxatawny Phil?" 

"I'm scared of it, [BL]"

When it was time to go back to Carlson GS hovered to my left as the Groundhog nibbled the apple.  I protected him  When we safely arrived back at Carlson's front doors, GS gestured to the assembled Mallards. 

"I don't like them ducks, either."

Thank God, the wild turkeys and bulls hadn't chosen that moment to make themselves known or my pal GS might have been in the waiting area of the J-complex waiting to see Dr. Roff the psychologist.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Today is Shakespeare's Birthday...

My dear friend, Gayle of Gayle's Bard Blog sent me this most excellent link to a blogger project celebrating Shakespeare's birthday.  At the website you'll see links to something like 100 bloggers interested in all aspects of Bard-analia.    If you check the Bad Lawyer archive you'll find awesome links to cross-posts by Gayle and the Bad One on the Merchant of Venice  re:creditor-debtor trial involving Shylock's demand for a "pound of flesh."

Not to confuse the issue, but today is also speaketh like Shakespeare Day in Illinois.  So if you happen to be in Chicago, good luck.  Kiss an English major.

And remember:  As, painfully to pore upon a book/To seek the light of truth, while truth the while/Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look,/ Light seeking light, doth light of light beguile/So ere you find where light in darkness lies/Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The White Collar Criminal Elite

It was a remarkable experience to write this blawg and subsequently end up in prison with some of the subjects/criminals in the stories I wrote about, or linked to.

One of the guys I felt great sympathy and friendship with at FCI, Morgantown was Jeff Williamson.  Jeff, an orthodox NJ Jew was ensnared in the stings orchestrated by the epic fraudster, Solomon Dweck.  Dwek defrauded tens of millions from inter alia federally-insured banks, then in an effort to avoid certain decades in the slammer set up some 100+ New Jersey public officials, rabbis, and lesser lights.  Jeff was one of the lesser lignts, a building inspector who agreed to expedite inspections in exchange for bribes paid (recorded and videotaped) by Dwek.  I wrote about Dwek in October of 2010.  Let me add: being a small fish does not equal being a small heart, human, or mind.  Jeff, a curmedgeon, was a spiritual guy with a giant heart.  I'll go one step further committing a crime does not automatically one a . . .well, I think you know what I'm going to say. 

Among the larger aggregations of white collar criminals at Morgantown are the crooks connected to the Cuyahoga County [Cleveland] corruption scandals which I wrote about endlessly last year,   While I was at Morgantown, seemingly not a week went by without new arrivals from (or departures to) Cleveland of peple who are sentenced to prison time for offenses relating to Cuyahoga County political meltdown.  By the way, it is not any justification if I observe that these men were caught and prosecuted for activities which were standard practices among business men, contractors, attorneys, judges, and other public officials in most municipalities in years past--it's just that these schmucks got prosecuted while in past decades many of the unprosecuted perpetrators of the pay-to play-practices had buildings, parks and other public places named after them.

Another one of my closest pals at Morgantown was the former Northeast Ohio Sewer Board lawyer, Bill Schatz.  Schatz's crimes are summarized in this article.  Bill did some rotten crooked financial shit, but here's the thing,  paradoxically, Schatz is a fine person.  And even in his job as the Sewer District lawyer as far as I can see, Bill spent years meticuloously crafting the districts' contracts with builders and others who in turn created an excellent sewer system for the region.  If Schatz was so rotten, why did he serve the district for decades?  How did the district keep costs low while the services were reliable?  Funny, huh?  sure. 

At Morgantown Bill Schatz is teaching GED classes to drug dealers. He helps borderline illiterate guys read and respond to legal paperwork they receive from lawyers and courts.  [Disclosue:  Bill used to wash the sweats Jeff Williamson lent to me]--I don't profess to be in a place to assess the scope of Bill's criminal offenses, or even the appropriateness of his sentence-- afterall, there are sentencing guidelines and reasons to depart upward or downward.  My point is to question certain underlying assumptions, do long prison sentences for older white collar criminals involved in purely financial offenses serve a social or societal purpose?  We are kidding ourselves if we think years in prison for someone like Schatz is corrective, redemptive, or adequately retributive.  My guess is that long prison terms for guys who committed financial felonies is purely and reflexively political and counterproductive in any corrective or social sense (pun, intended.)

Dennis Dooley, another of my Morgantown associates is directly connected to the former Cuyahoga County Auditor, Frank Russo (a Big Cheese, in all of this.)  The feds charged Dooley with trying to buy or bribe his way into a "no-show" job with the Auditor's office according to the article at  Dooley argued in Court that he was doing what he learned to do, hustle.  Dooley was a formerly a small business man, an entrepreneur, a networker.  In Dooley's view, he was one of those guys out in the marketplace who conceived of ideas and innovations that created economic activity including jobs.  Sure in hindsight, Dennis sees that the public officials with Cuyahoga County were crooked, but why is Dooley doing 3 years?  How does putting this former business man behind bars (at age 60) achieve any public or social purpose.  Setting aside the devastating impact on Dooley's familly, do we expect that others who learn of his situation to be deterred from trying to hustle benefits, contracts or work from local government.   Yeah, good luck with that.

The president of Mont Granite, Dinesh Bafna, provided a granite counter top to an installer that ended up in auditor Frank Russo's house.  The feds alleged that in turn Dinesh received a tax reassessment on his residence.  He also got 6 months at Morgantown.  Here's the story.  As I write, my friend Dinesh, a fine and decent man, bunks with drug dealers (and dogs) in a residential unit at Morgantown.  The day before Bafna arrived in prison he was running a successful business employing people from greater-Cleveland and supplying much needed economic activity to the region.  Jailing Dinesh Bafna makes sense, why?

As I go along the road of happy destingy, freed from federal prison  I'll revisit the stories of these Cleveland and other white collar criminals, (Gene Dinatale, a Philadelphia accountant who is the head librarian at Morgantown comes to mind.)  The point is that regardless of whether these gentlemen did or did not commit real financial offenses, large, small or barely worth mentioning should they be doing in some cases lenghty prison sentences.  Each of the guys I met at Morgantown is paying the price, with their loss of reputation, careers, businesses, personal freedom, separation from their families, friends and fortune.   Is there a more reasonable and rational reponse to white collar offenses than imprisonment on the taxpayers' dime? 

Trick question!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Madness Never Ends

I go away for a few months hoping against hope that some sanity will prevail in the abuse of police power department, and, of course, I return to find that the madness never ends.  In case you haven't seen it elsewhere this account is from the Gothamist with a pic from the Daily News with links to both articles:

The NYPD has a zero-tolerance policy toward students, and hasn't hesitated to cart kids out of school in handcuffs for such offenses as doodling on their desks. But one Queens mother thinks the NYPD went too far when they dragged her 7-year-old son out of his special-ed class in handcuffs. The Daily News reports that Joseph Anderson, a first-grader at P.S. 153 in Maspeth, had been wetting himself throughout the morning on April 13th, and then became upset when he was dyeing Easter eggs and "the color on the egg he was painting didn't look the way he wanted." Yes, it's a sad story.

His mom, Jessica Anderson, says teachers threatened to send him to the hospital if he didn't calm down, and that's when Joseph jumped on the table and yelled, "I want my mommy!" So the school called her to come pick him up, but as she raced there from her job in Manhattan, administrators called in a cop to handcuff Joseph because, according to an NYPD spokesman, "he was a danger to himself and others in the classroom. He started spitting and cursing at the officers. The handcuffs were used to restrain the child because of his behavior. He was a danger to himself."

By the time Anderson got to the school, her son had already been taken to Elmhurst hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, making this the third time the school has sent him there. Poor Joseph suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, delayed speech and emotional problems. Anderson tells the News that when she arrived at the hospital, "I was crying. I broke down. They know that my son is special ed. It's like they're trying to get rid of him, and it worked because I'm not sending him back there."


Prison was an Orwellian, cultural, adventure.

 Like many semi-literate schmucks who undergo this experience I think it was endlessly fascinating; of course, every Tom, Dick and Mary seem to believe that they have a brilliant book in them based on prison adventures.  We probably have O. Henry or Dumas to blame for this impulse or example or whatever.   I personally doubt that I have much to add to this literary canon.  Regardless, I plan to write about the last 5 months and I'm actually working on some posts based on various facets of being a white collar criminal elite.  My mocking tone or words should not be confused with the reality which was prison is stultifying.  My thoughts are with the men and women who are still in custody in prisons in America.  Believe it or not, there are many fine people, some of them real crooks--doing time.  I want to examine the widely-held assumption that prison serves a functional purpose from my Bad Lawyer perspective. 

Keeping watching this space.  I'll show you my tats.

Simple Justice on Restitution and the "Misty" Series of Child Pornography

This morning Scott H. Greenfield at Simple Justice had a provocative post on the "Misty" series of computer child pornography

In the last year the New York Times and other major media  covered the legal and philosophical issues arising out of the now adult survivor victim's efforts to seek redress, specifically to obtain "restitution" in criminal prosecution where her images crop up on the computer hard drives of child porn defendants.

Scott's post this morning (his second on this case) deals with some of the aspects of the underlying criminal conduct as it relates to the restitution component;  and, especially the difficulty federal courts face in arriving at statutory restitution remedies.  Restitution is complicated, enough, now try to figure out how it suffices as a remedy for an adult survivor of child pornography vis-a-vis the present day perpetrator via the mouse click. 

Lots to think about, huh?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

He Answers To No Law

His name may be James M. Tesi, but who really knows.  He claims to answer to no law, and according to a story at the Colleyville Courier he wants a federal court in Texas to uphold his right to refuse to provide identification to the police during a traffic stop.  Here's reporter Steve Norder's story:

"A man identifying himself by numerous names and declaring himself not subject to state and federal law has asked a federal court to take jurisdiction of his traffic case after he said city police unlawfully tried to coerce him into showing a driver's license.  The man, who lists ties to the 'Moorish National Republic,' says in his federal court petition that he is 'free to travel' and that he did not give his express consent to be detained by police. In a financial statement accompanying his petition, he also says he should not have to pay court fees or 'be compelled to fill out any ritualistic forms.'

'Persons and corporations have assets and I am neither,' wrote the man, listing himself as 'I, Me, My, or Myself, also known as James Michael Joseph; house of Tesi El.' He continued: 'I am not saying I do not have property, because I do have property, but the property I have is not an asset, and I have no income or expenses because I am not a US citizen, 14th Amendment citizen, corporation, or other fictitious entity as defined by your current and FRAUDULENT Fourteenth Amendment.'

The man, who also calls himself James M. Tesi, is making the kinds of claims that police nationwide have faced from individuals who say they are sovereigns and not subject to what they describe as man-made law. The groups, like the Republic of Texas, typically pepper courts with various legal-sounding arguments.

Judge Stewart Milner, who presides over Arlington's Municipal Court and is president of the Texas Municipal Courts Association, said that because Tesi has an active case in Arlington, he could not comment directly on him. But he said such arguments are often based on 'bits and pieces' of the law. 'But they don't have a commonality in statutory law,' he said, and years ago appellate courts made definitive rulings against such arguments.

[. . .] The tactics, such as questioning a court's jurisdiction, 'come right out of the sovereign citizens material,' said Mark Potok, director of the Alabama-based Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors and investigates radical U.S. groups.  'They believe they do not have to obey the laws of the federal government, pay taxes or carry a driver's license or register their car.'
[ . . . ]The so-called Moorish Nationals make an additional claim to distinction: They are 'aboriginal and indigenous natural peoples of Northwest Amexem'-- a statement most often made by individuals within the movement claiming to be descendants of African slaves. Tesi, who is said by Colleyville and Arlington police to be Caucasian, lists the Moorish National Republic on his financial affidavit, which also bears an image of the unfinished pyramid and the eye of providence, or the all-seeing eye of God, found on the back of a dollar bill.
Tesi's troubles began in Arlington on Feb. 23, 2010, when he was stopped for driving without a seat belt, according to a police report. He was fined $244.15 but did not pay, so an arrest warrant was issued.  In December, Colleyville police stopped Tesi for allegedly speeding on Precinct Line Road. When he would not produce a driver's license, he was arrested on the outstanding Arlington warrant.

[. . . ] The modern variation of the sovereign-citizen movement began in the 1970s and 1980s with the 'posse comitatus' belief, based on common-law theories that there is no legitimate government higher than a county sheriff. "
I've met quite a few guys who profess the sovereign ideas.  In fact a dear friend of mine and sometime follower of this blawg is sympathetic to the ideas professed by guys like Tesi.  I'm not.  I not sympathetic to the ideas, but I try to keep an open mind to the arguments.  The "sovereign" perspective puts me in mind of the early commercials for E*trade or one of the other day-trader companies that utilized a slacker spokesman who would claim, "we don't need the government..."  Well, bullshit.   Watch what happens to investment in a country without the rule of law, without certainty, without enforceable contracts. 

Tesi, et al. and their ancestors, and their children and gandchildren, and all the day-traders in the world are only able to function because of the infrastructure that exists because of government.  I love the irony inherent inTesi resorting to federal court to get an order declaring his status. 

The Cops--a New Normal

When the Bad Lawyer went to jail, I had to adapt to what my probation officer, Ms. W calls, "the new normal." 

I already talked about this in the context of coffee, commissary and cans..  A couple little jolts this weeks brings this new-dimensional sensation into startling focus.  Maureen Dowd in this morning's New York Times writes about what she calls "gate rape" in the context of TSA pat downs (below, left) at airports.  Dowd cites a video from a Ky. couple's child who's getting a "deep probe" courtesy of the TSA.  I shivered at the description since throughout the whole-incarceration-thing, beginning with booking by the US Marshal Service in the court house I have submitted to countless deep probes. 

It was not at all unexpected that you would be routinely patted down, probed, and even stripped search--randomly, for any reason, for no discernible reason while in federal custody.  As I walked out of the "mainline" (chow hall) following my last meal at Morgantown (MGR), I was patted down--I think it was random the COPs were cracking down on food theft.  I suppose the crackdown wass not illogical in light of budget cutbacks.  One of the most colorful characters at MGR, the Gooch, was a notorious Mainline-food thief.   Gooch specialized in loaves of bread--one afternooon, I passed Gooch hurrying up the foot path to the residential unit.  He looked vaguely like an African-American Michelin Man.  Gooch had adapted his prison-issued jacket to accommodate his Mainline harvest.  It was his hustle, if you wanted to buy bread a loaf was "two cans." When I last saw Gooch he was being shut down by "the man" aka the cops.

The prison cops are called a variety of names not all of them nice as you might imagine.  A prison cop is in BOP speak a corrections officer, or, politely a "CO."  Inmates call them POH-leece, POH-POH, or simply a cop.  I didn't hear anyone refer to these folks, men and, yes, women--as "screws," unless it was intended humorously.  Let's face it, the prison camp at Morgantown isn't a traditional jail (except, for the SHU/HOLE)--facility doors get locked and unlocked, but there are no jail cells.  Inmates can walk away from Morgantown.  Unless the inmate, wants additional time at a much more secure facility--behind the fence, escape is a very bad idea. The corrections officers are there to discourage walking away, detecting escape, and more importantly to provide security and safety to the Morgantown community, the BOP employees, and the inmates, themselves.  Violence, workplace safety, drugs, alcohol, and further criminal activity these issues are the mission of the BOP cops.

At MGR all BOP personnel are trained corrections officers including secretaries and educators, but for the purpose of this post I'm referring to the uniformed COs.  These men (and women) perform the shakedowns of property and persons.  They do the "standing counts" day and night.  As you might expect while not necessarily unfriendly, COs aren't warm and fuzzy folks.  Among inmates the quickest way for the new guy to earn a bad reputation is to be perceived as someone who "talks to the cops."  Prison inmate culture's strongest bias is anti-snitch; and, yet, the population abounds in snitches. So, yeah, these, my former bunkees are flaming hypocrites doing what they think they need to do to get-by...still, no CO is a friend of the inmates.  There are COs who are less of an asshole than others.

When you see a Cop in prison one of two things will happen.  You will be ignored or you will be hassled.  Being hassled includes being "deep probed."   Part of this is what I call the "theater of security."  In doing the deep probe the prison cops are sending a message of deterrence to the inmate who is being frisked and to everyone standing around watching.  Oh, we watched, don't tell me you don't rubberneck car accidents. While I'm sure each CO expects to find contraband the mere act of patting down an inmate intimidates.  Many of the anomalous and seemingly random acts of indignity serve this function. 

Certain inmate cohorts are targeted for more of this than some.  Younger inmates get more of this than older inmates, I suppose on the theory that a solid bust at the outset will positively effect the overall incarceration of that inmate, henceforth.  An example of this was my SHU/HOLE bunkee Jason M, a young Chaldean dude from greater-Detroit.  Jason made it to the SHU on New Year's Day by turning to wave at his kids as he left the visiting room.  "No Way?!"  Way.   Jason ran with a group of young dudes from the Detroit area.  Earlier New Year's day Jason was caught "out of bounds" in a residential unit where he did not belong. The CO who caught him gave Jason a pass on the incident.  While the "waving" at his kids was probably not something that in the course of normal events the sort of violation that would land Jason in the SHU there is a security reason for the prohibition and Jason appeared to be someone beginning to cross lines, regularly.  The MGR cops sent Jason (and almost everyone at Morgantown) a powerful signal.  The message came in the form of 31 days in the HOLE.  As with Jason, inmates in specific offense categories (drug dealers) are more likely to undergo searches.  Inmates perceived to be members of gangs or prison cliques are more likely to fall into this category.  Also some guys have contraband "priors" or have otherwise made it onto a Hot List they get searched  more frequently. 

Several times since leaving Morgantown last Wednesday I have crossed paths with local police officers--maybe I don't look like it to the police, but I'm flinching inside.  This morning the officer is walking into Starbucks, I'm walking-out, I flinch.  He says, "Good morning, sir,"  I'm flinching.  I'm wearing a suit, not federal khakis, but I flinch.  This is my new normal for now. 

It's going to take me a while to get back to a semblance of the old normal if I can.

So What's Sheriff Joe Been Up To?

One of the many threads I lost track of during my 5 month-sabbatical was the Maricopa County follies. I see that Sheriff Joe continues despite shocking revelations of financial malfeasance, misfeasance and outright fraud, and his standard craziness--his brilliant crime fighting with a new Mugshot Contest.  This is William Hermans's's report on Arpaio's fun new law enforcement game:

"Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio may be 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' but he's clearly a fun guy.  First he put inmates into pink underwear, then into striped jail suits like the Beagle Boys. Then he put dogs into cooled jail cells and humans into tents in the heat. And he fed inmates green bologna.

Now the sheriff is letting everyone in on the fun. Arpaio's office says the public can go to the Maricopa County Jails website, 'peruse all the mug shots of the people arrested each day,' and choose a favorite. The most popular mug among mugs will be 'Mug Shot of the Day.'  One day it's a murder suspect, the next a drug suspect, and the next a child-molestation suspect.  Arpaio says there's a serious side to it: 'More eyes on arrestees may result in more leads to criminal investigators.'

Similar schemes in the past have met with mixed results. Federal courts rejected Arpaio's attempt to stream video of inmates, but the sheriff maintains inmate mug shots online."
And Andrew Thomas?  How's the wanna be attorney general of Arizona doing?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Prison Coffee, Commissary, and the Alternative Inmate Economy

One of the things I did not consider when I went to prison was that I would no longer get coffee.  Of course, this was the least of my worries as I was readying myself to surrender, but having had significant amounts of coffee every morning for my entire adult life--the sudden cut-off of JOE did had a measurable impact.  I had a major caffeine withdrawal including migraine-like headaches that lasted a couple of days.  I missed coffee.

When I was at the "private prison" at Youngstown, a faux-Joe was occasionally offered in the AM, I was grateful.  Since I didn't know how long I was going to be at this temporary assignement I was not able to, and I was leery of establishing "commissary" beyond obtaining "franking" privileges.   In other words instant coffee was available through the commissary for purchase.  Until I got to Morgantown in mid-December I went with out.

So what is commissary? 

Commissary is the prison store and a process for obtaining permitted personal items: toiletries, candy bars, stamps, pen and paper, etcetera.  With commissary you can buy  toothpaste, cold medicine, Tylenol, non-lye soap, a radio and ear buds, necessary to "watch" day room or common area televisions (all audio signals are broadcast via radio signals.) Like many of the things you buy at Commissary, radios, cups, bowls--acceptable radios are encased in clear plastic, presumably so we criminals don't try to smuggle illegal-stuff in our little electronic devices.  Similarly coffee cups are "clear" plastic.

Commissary, rather the withdrawal of commissary is also one of the elements of control used by the authorities to maintain security.  Commissary is the carrot and the stick over the inmate population.  

The major player is prison commissary is the Keefe Commissary Network  or as Keefe calls it, the "corrections community."  Keefe is a whole supplier.  When I arrived at Morgantown, my first cup of coffee was Keefe freeze-dried Colombian, with powdered "creamer," and "sugar twin" served in a clear plastic thermal cup prepared in the day room microwave.  Thank you, Keefe. 

No, thank you friends and family.  It was the BSL who funded my commissary account and unbelievable friends who occasionally passed the hat back in OurTown including the boys at the 'Bucks who made sure I was hooked up with commissary.  [Note: a separate post about these amazing friends who supported me in myriad ways I could not have conceived of--is overdue and not the subject of this post.] 

I said prison commissary is a store, well, not in anyway I was familiar with--at CCA you received a sheet and you were permitted to order from this sheet approximately one week before delivery.  Carts with partially sorted stuff were rolled into the cell block once a month and distributed to the criminals.  Being prison, uninformed, I was astounded by what guys buy including the "Honey Bun."  This 5000 calorie treat is fav food of the inmate population at CCA Youngstown.  Any sane person reading the nutritional information on the back of this baby would not ingest this product.  Guess where "honey" is on the list of ingredients? 

At FCI, Morgantown, the commissary was actually a physical location.  Again you were armed with a sheet that you fill out (better be properly completed and highlighted or no commissary), and based on your inmate number you go to the location on your designated day of the week.  Standing in a long line with an optical orange mesh "commissary bag," outside, in the dark, in January, in the snow I experienced what Soviet-era Muscovite's must have felt like, sorta.   My reward for this effort was acceptable supplies of caffeine, toilet paper (splinter-free enough to use on certain body parts), postage, finger nail clippers, and most importantly, TUNAS.

At Morgantown, the Tuna pouch or strictly in prison parlance, the CAN is the monetary unit for the Alternative Inmate Economy (AIE.)  Like all not knowledgeable folks I assumed incorrectly that cigarettes or postage stamps were used to "buy stuff" in jail.  Maybe at one time, but smoking is prohibited in federal jails (which is not the same as saying that it doesn't happen.)  For reasons that seem obvious to me now, and not very interesting these Tuna pouches that currently cost $1.05 per equal "a buck" by agreement among inmates.  The FCI permit inmates to have 30 Tuna "cans" in the locker at any one time.  There are also Mackerel, Salmon, Chicken and other types of pouches, but the Tuna pouch is the universally accepted currency.  For two cans I was able to pay for a haircut and beard trim, for a can I purchased skilled physical therapy from a former chiropractor, for 15 cans I bought a chair to sit in (as a reader, my necessary and prized possession!), for a 2 cans a talented launderer washed my clothes in the residential washer and dryer helping me to limit my exposure to MRSA.  You could buy used tennis shoes, sports equiptment, "sweats," and food stolen from the chow hall. Other guys paid gambling debts, bought contraband, and obtained miscellaneous services--that we will get into at some point. 

In our housing units there were inmates who operated the AIE; our guy, Jamal aka Walmart, would walk around selling itmes he knew would be valuable or desirable.  Jamal was a hustler and he worked his hustle.  All new guys were "sized" and Jamal was ready to sell shoes, sweats, watches, radios, and as I said I acquired a chair from him  At one point some brothers were razzing Jamal about his hustle and he exclaimed with pride that "I have a net worth of 200 cans."  When I heard him brag about his position in the market I laughed out loud and asked, "what's that in real money?"  There were all sorts of guys working a hustle, not including Jamal--most of which involved contraband of one sort or another. 

Contraband sounds nefarious, but in fact at Morgantown, at least, contraband was anything you had that you weren't supposed to have or which you had more than you were permitted.  For instance I noted that you were allowed to have 30 tuna pouches--if you had 31, the 31sth pouch was contraband.  You were permitted to have, in fact you needed a radio, but if you bought your radio from another inmate instead of through the commissary you possessed contraband.  Magazines depicting nipples, that's contraband.  Of course, the big stuff: cigarettes, cell phones, drugs, alcohol--all of that was contraband, too.  Possession of that sort of contraband at a minimum landed the inmate in the SHU/HOLE and potentially prosecuted and shipped away from the prison camp--or in jail speak:  "Behind the Fence."

When I went to the SHU/HOLE I was at Morgantown for all of two weeks.  My locker was "packed out" and my commissary acquisitions were largely trashed.  Any snack I had that was open was tossed,  Tide detergent was spilled over everything else.  The radio that was lent to me by another inmate was taken as contraband along with the new ear buds that I had just purchased so I could hear the day room television. When I went to the SHU once again I went through the caffeine withdrawal.  I was surprised, but even in the SHU you could buy some limited items of commissary although on reflection it makes sense to have some privilege available to the authorities to withdraw. 

This morning as I sipped my fresh-brewed cup of coffee and read my newspaper, dated today, I have a lot to be thankful for--especially, my family and friends.  I kiss and hug family and friends in realtime.  Today, I reach in my pocket and pay for coffee with cash not cans.  And I think about the folks I met at Morgantown and the CCA--I think about the things I took for granted and take for granted.