Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Memoir: Part 7

Part 7
Installment 7: My winter of discontent and disappointment
Over the winter of 2010-2011, after I was indicted, I waited (and waited, and waited) for the 'motion for discovery' to be filed with the court by the prosecution. 'Discovery' is the comprehensive term for the prosecution's responsibility to present its evidence against the defendant to the court & the defense in order for the defense counsel to prepare its countering presentation at trial. In theory at least, all evidence of the prosecution must be made known to the defense through this process ahead of time, though 'last minute awareness' (in which they unethically, if not illegally, withhold anything that might benefit the defense is an all too common prosecution trick.
Withholding evidence from the defense is called a 'Brady' violation after the case 'Brady vs. Maryland', where it was decided that hiding exculpatory (i.e. evidence that helps the defense) from the defense, or is in any way beneficial to the defense/defendant) is never allowed.
There is an argument that has gone on for some time in the USA about whether there needs to be an open file, not controlled by the prosecution, for all evidence, so that Brady violations do not occur. This argument would be weaker if Brady violations weren't as rampant as they are. These days there are national conferences dedicated to examining and exposing prosecutorial misconduct held by prosecutors. (Example: 3 June 2016 42nd ABA National Conference on Professional Responsibility in Philadelphia). It is difficult to determine if these conferences are intended to diminish misconduct or to promulgate “best practices.”
Another n technique is called 'snowing in' the defense. In this case, during discovery prosecutors bury defense attorneys with as many documents as they can possibly link to the case most of which don't actually have any relation at all to the case while calling it 'Discovery' (Economist 2011) knowing that the defense then does not have time or budget to read them all, as only the government has unlimited resources. This intimidates lazy or inept defense counsel into believing that the evidence is overwhelming and pushes them to have their client plead guilty.
In my case, there was no evidence against me that was not circumstantial. No witnesses, no statements, no audio, no video, no 'co-defendants' turning evidence against me or people willing to testify against me for the government to display in court. Principally my discovery was a 'snowing in' with some circumstantial threads that AA (my attorney) was to read in order to see the narrative prosecution was going to create. As my indictments had read "with unnamed individuals for undisclosed amounts of money", vagueness was in the extreme.
In spite of the best efforts of an organization with virtually unlimited resources, including threatening people across the world for the preceding six months, absolutely no one came forward willing to support the criminal narrative the government was trying to construct.
Prosecutors, when they lack actual evidence, use whatever circumstantial evidence they can acquire, making up scraps & coincidences into a hypothesis that is then said by authority figures, which naturally, therefore carries weight with the public, and this is what my prosecutor decided to do in my case, first to grand juries and then to the media, and now was preparing to do so again in a trial, or more realistically - to use in the pressuring my attorney to get me to plead guilty. (note 1)
As the holidays approached, I remained defiant, wanting to expose the truth and clear my name, even in the face of the conditions I was being kept in, no matter how long it took. Of course, I was hyper-conscious of the toll this process was taking on my family and I wanted to be able to provide for them, not to mention desperately wanting to meet my sons, which of course the government was cognizant of and would use the threat of delays in proceedings as another pressure point.
Immediately before Christmas 2010, the police in the UK admitted that they had no grounds to seize my house, that I had bought in the wonderful town of Shrewsbury, years before. This was significant not only because it exposed their earlier threats as simply a tactic to drive a wedge between my spouse and I. It validated my lifetime of legitimate earning, but as I had put 50% down in cash and then done subsequent renovations and improvements on the house, it constituted a serious investment that had been under threat.
Securing my wife and kids in their home was the end of the good news. The US government, recognizing my determination to defend myself, and with the intent to break me to plead guilty (as was later admitted by Agent 1 to my counsel before he, Agent 1, was indicted himself and dismissed from the ATF) committed the following coordinated effort against me and mine in the first two weeks of January 2011: First, they paid an informant (i.e. jailhouse snitch) in the jail I was in (PCDC), a professional prisoner with over 16 criminal convictions, to give a statement against me. Since I did not discuss my case with anyone, let alone this man, all he could say were lies. According to his statement, he said that I had a machine gun and armor piercing bullets at my home and that I planned to take a nurse hostage from the medical department to gain escape from PCDC.
How did he even know my name? All prisoners in all the jails I was ever at, had wristbands with their names and numbers clearly printed on them, some jails even put digital photos of the prisoners as well as their names & descriptions on the wristbands. It is a common practice for the inmates to learn the names of other prisoners specifically so that they can then contact their people on the outside to Google the individuals and find out their accused crimes so that they can then concoct statements against them or try and "jump on their case" as it is called, in hopes of getting a reduced sentence for themselves in their own proceedings.
The Feds especially like this as they need only one statement from a witness of any caliber to get a conviction, they do not need actual evidence That is why in almost every single Fed case there are one or two people who get a small sentence and everyone else gets larger ones. Also, the Feds try and make as many people co-defendants as possible on the same case, as this gives them people to turn against each other.
It is an irony of the US system that those accused of a crime are only trustworthy when testifying against other accused, never in their own defense, and it is a vagary of the US Federal system that hearsay is admitted in Federal cases. So basically, even if you can't be shown to have ever met someone, a statement from them to a Federal agent and you will be held accountable for whatever they claim against you. By these means, prosecutors heap charges and run up the defense costs.
The snitch’s effect was to have moved into solitary confinement without any explanation at the time as to why. It would be six months later when the above statement from said informant was provided as part of the responsibility of 'Discovery" by the prosecution that we understood how they had justified this maneuver. It was a maneuver that was designed specifically to break me, to hurt me and to get me to confess to any crime in order to make the pain stop - which is the point of any torture - and make no mistake, solitary is torture. Torture is a weapon against the truth. You're tortured not to reveal a fact but to force you to collude in any fiction proposed.
The UN Special Raporteur for Torture in January 2012 released a report stating that more than 9 days in solitary confinement was to be considered torture. Unknown to me at the time, was the fact that I was to spend over a year in solitary. I will describe further these conditions in a later installment, for now, I wish to continue to just cover the aspects of the government's coordinated attack as it was implemented against me in January 2011.
The second act by the government was to raid my family homes. The same agent, Agent 1, went in front of the same judge who had presided over my bond hearing and committed perjury by claiming something contrary to what he claimed at my bond hearing, namely that he did not know I owned legal firearms in my family's homes. At the bond hearing he had declared that any legally owned firearms I owned were "immaterial to the case", but of course that was six months previous. when the case was not so political as it had become with press coverage in the US and the UK. (note 2)
The judge either did not catch this contradiction, or was not bothered by it, and issued a warrant for the government to force entry and take whatever they wanted from my mother and grandmothers' homes, which they did (tens of thousands of dollars in personal property never to be returned.3
They were looking not for anything illegal as they claimed in court which by the way, they did not find, as there was nothing illegal to find, nor had there even been, but they also wanted to make sure that there was no exculpatory evidence that I may have been hiding.
Further, they do anything possible to subvert a defendant's support network, and they do so with no subtlety whatsoever. They will use of physical assault if possible, they will violate homes simply to intimidate anybody who might provide aid or comfort to a defendant. They will threaten to return and do so again and again.
In this instance, they failed with all but my spouse. She yielded to government threats and deceitful assertions and almost immediately divorced me, mainly I suppose, out of fear of losing our house and other assets. But my US support network, that is my family and some friends stuck by me and even made public statements in my support. For example, when a TV news crew t showed up at a family home to film what they hoped would be a great drama, they ended up taping a great testimonial to me made by my Uncle. Naturally, that statement from my uncle was shown once at 530pm that day on the local affiliate and then disappeared under the barrage of slander spewed out by the government which the press eagerly run with. By these means, the government obfuscate and cover up their intimidation tactics.
The third prong from the government at this time was to press my attorney AA to get me to plead guilty. When I complained loudly to him and to my family of his not doing any of things any decent attorney would do or any of things he was required by law to do, he said that I was mentally unwell.
As AA was my main conduit of communication, this prompted my family to hire the former director of the Federal Mental Health facility at Butner, NC to come to PCDC and test me. He did examine me for several hours, and in the end ,he declared me quite sane. At this point I was, In essence, claiming AA was 'ineffective counsel' and therefore my defense was irreparably flawed. (note 4)
We did not know at the time that this was normal for his class of lawyer, who are called 'plea merchants'.
A 'Plea Merchant' is a class of lawyer who for a flat fee, will handle your case with just a little more attention than a public defender, but they won't do any work. Instead, their method is to get you to plead out so they don't have to do any work. Plea merchants are endemic in the US Federal system as is witnessed by the following statistic: the last year 97.6% of federal criminal cases ended in plea bargaining (note 5)
Unlike attorneys that will actually search for the bargain in a plea bargain, 'plea merchants' only look to roll their clients into whatever the prosecutor wants. Unfortunately for my case, and for the fees spent on him that we would never recover, he had been charming while we had been naive, so he represented my sole line of defense. And I was; in solitary, in maximum security with no way to make a statement to the press and no legal preparation having been done in my case. This was by any definition a sucky moment.
The fourth and final angle played by the government was to get a second superseding indictment against me, putting me above 45 counts (see earlier description of the practice of 'indictment loading', e.g. giving 50 to get you to plead to just 1 or 2 as there is little likelihood you will beat every one of them at trial).
I learned of this development only when a guard put a copy of the local paper under my door and asked for my autograph on it as there was an article describing the newest indictment and a statement from the US Attorney for the state of NC saying that they were going to bury me. What made the guard notice the story was that there was also a statement from the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who in a press conference in London said that they would punish me to the limit of any available punishments. Clearly "innocent until proven guilty" was no longer even being given lip service in the US legal system.
There will be more on this in the next installment.
Note 1. A serious warning to anyone who reads this. If anything, ever, that has appeared in your communication history can be taken out of context, it will be by a prosecutor. Also, the police/agents will always make adjustments in the prosecution's favor, e.g. 'damp' becomes 'wet'. Emails and text messages are like Styrofoam, they never go away. Try and have any conversation that you do not want to have come up in court to be only between two individuals in an unofficial setting by voice with no chance of recording, otherwise expect it to be brought up later and treat it as such. The thread of any conversation of multiple messages is immaterial to a prosecutors 'cherry picking'. Live as if anything and everything will be subpoenaed. To do otherwise is not to prepare for an all too common eventuality in today's litigious world.
Note 2. Another lesson to be learned is that the government can always get a warrant, always.
Note 3. Washington Post reportage 2013-present - "Agents and agencies sell and trade these seized items to each other, especially collectible firearms and jewelry etc, only sometimes ever acknowledging that they even took possession of said items".
Note 4. Rather than itemize AA's malpractice, I refer anyone curious about this to the filings on PACER (on-line court records for the federal system) as in my later proceedings against him my attorneys did a thorough job of identifying his shortcomings. Those later attorneys had to make up all the work he had not done.

Note 5. In 2015 there were 2002 Federal criminal trials, 40% fewer than in 2009. Federal sentencing guidelines virtually guarantee lower sentences for defendants who plead guilty rather than go to trial, though those that do go to trial are traditionally facing sentences so long that they want to become part of the appellate chain so that any new laws enacted or reformed affect them in future. "The Showman by Jeffrey Toobin pg. 42 New Yorker 9 May 16.

Memoir: Part 6

12 Jul2016

Installment 6: PCDC; waiting for charges and bargaining
PCDC (Pitt County Detention Center) is a regional facility located in Greenville, NC, that holds approximately 900 inmates for both state and federal courts. It also serves the surrounding counties so that they do not have to enlarge their facilities. I arrived there on the weekend of the 23rd of October, 2010 and would remain there for 16 months, until finally sentenced and moved into the Federal prison system.
PCDC is about the same as all the jails I went through. In-take of new prisoners followed a pattern of intimidation and degradation so consistently it had to be part of correction officer (hereafter CO) training and general prison management. Staff seeks to break any inmate resistance through various shock treatments, forewarning what could happen if you arouse CO wrath. There is a period called 'shock days'; a blur of dehumanizing treatments, psychological torture and physical abuse intended to soften one up, strip away all self-esteem while warning just how bad things could get in this new home. At PCDC, it started with a cold shower for 'disinfection' after which you are left naked in rooms chilled to 60F for a half hour or more, this is called getting the 'cooler' and it works well as a day to day punishment too, and at PCDC it was just one of their many games played by the COs.
For example, throughout the prison there were cages and closets just large enough for one person to stand in. They were designed to be used to hold one prisoner while another prisoner that the first prisoner is not allowed to have any contact with passes through the same room or hallway. They were, though, also used at any COs’ discretion to “tune up” an inmate. Men were put in the cage in full restraint which prevented any slouching or leaning. They were then left in a cage to consider their sins and they were often "forgotten" for hours. When the new arrival, having been tuned up, finally arrives at a bare cell he is happy to be there, or such is the theory.
I spent 24 hours in maximum security while they 'classified' me, determining what security level I would be housed in. I was then placed int the 'Low' security section that was comprised of eight pods of 24 bunks each, single large rooms with no radios or TV's, but with a dirty window through which one could view the forest beyond.
PCDC had no library and the only reading material allow in the jail had to come through the US mail - if an inmate was lucky enough to have someone to send them anything. Typically all bunks were filled and another 20 men slept on the floor of each pod. For the 44 residents there were three toilets, one shower, and two sinks.
The low-security pods were in an older section of the jail perhaps 20 years old and it showed its age. Pods extended off a central corridor with Plexiglas walls facing the hallway so COs could monitor the pods without actually entering them. In reality, the Plexiglas was there so that prisoners could practice their sign language to their co-defendants and friends from one pod to the next while the staff ignored us. Whenever violence erupted among the prisoners, a group of prisoners would run to block the glass as there were no cameras in the pods. Every night there would be bare knuckle boxing tournaments. Then there were the predatory attacks which occurred in the early morning hours while sleeping men were easy prey. Sometimes inmates would take a break from the violence and have a pop culture trivia quiz. It was a surreal and sometimes sublimely unreal environment.
When staff wanted to go violent on an inmate, they would move into the pods to be off camera and also so as to make an example in front of the other inmates, or they would remove the inmate to a closet off the corridor where there were no cameras or witnesses.
My pod consisted entirely of men facing violent charges, (murder/rape/attempted murder were the most common charges). Most of these inmates had already served multiple sentences and got their earliest jailhouse training in North Carolina's “gladiator schools”at the Hightower and the Polk, state facilities for violent youth. Almost all were either Crip or Blood affiliated, and of the 40 odd men, there were three of us who were federal inmates. I was the only 'white boy'. (The Feds are not supposed to house state and Federal inmates together, but they are given a waiver to do so by the courts when it is 'unavoidable' which means everywhere and all the time in actuality. But I learned this sort of lore, later, when I continued my education in Federal prison . There I found after surveying the other inmates in the system that co-housing state and federal inmates is a prevalent practice.)
We spent our time watching the violence, listening to the screaming (the dumber the man, the louder he talks) which was incessant - and that wasn't even from the visibly mentally ill prisoners - and watching prisoners decompose as the torpor of hopelessness got to them. (According to the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, New Yorker pg. 5, 20 Jun 16; "...56% of state inmates and 45% of inmates in federal prisons have mental health issues.") Treatment of any condition, but particularly of mental conditions, at every jail I went to was minimal. If treatment existed at all it never involved a doctor, and usually was limited to a constant dosing of Seroquel or similar antipsychotics to induce sleep and reduce psychotic episodes. Men would save their doses to sell to others as it helped you sleep through the constant screaming. Others saved theirs to overdose; the final way out of jail. Some worked hard to get hooked so they might be able to get a disability check from Social Service when they got out by claiming prison induced dependency and who is to say they weren’t telling the truth. (Most drug dependency results from self-medication using whatever comes to hand.)
For three months, over Thanksgiving, Christmas and my birthday 2010, I stayed in in that pod. During this period there were a few visits from Attorney A ('AA') in a room adjacent to the pod. I had been indicted, but the governments practice, as I previously described, is to maximize the number of indictment counts to compound the cost of defense., so we were now in a period of superseding indictments, where the prosecutor would go back in front of different grand juries and tell them what they 'believed' occurred so as to get more and more counts added to my charges. Though some were deemed ridiculous, and easily beatable in court, the sheer number charges eventually defeated any prospect of a defense in court. Over the holidays it became increasingly obvious that I was well and truly screwed.
Federal prosecutors develop plausible if not true 'narratives' by which they "win" indictments and later convictions. The DOJ will not speak on camera about this as demonstrated on the US TV program "60 minutes" on the 15th of May 2016. These narratives do not have to be fact based, they need only be “expressed belief” based. It is these expressed beliefs prosecutors publish to besmirch defendant reputations and poison any possible jury pool. Whether charges are dropped later, or a person is exonerated, the DOJ never apologize or in any way corrects the public record. In short, there is no accountability. CBS reported that the minimum cost of defense in the face of just ridiculous charges, such as mistaken identity, that are quickly dropped in the face of adequate legal representation, is $200,000. One can extrapolate from that the likely cost to inmate families. The cost to careers and reputations is incalculable but equally horrible.
Though in the US legal system, it is the prosecutions responsibility to protect the rights of the defendant and the integrity of the 'justice' system (no one in the system except the prosecutors call it the "justice system", for everyone else its just the "legal system"), the reality of their employ is that their job is to get convictions and their promotions and careers are based on how many they get, how many cases they close, and the total number of years they get assigned to a conviction. Ideally, judges would recognize the reality of prosecutor over-reach and the failure of prosecutors to imbue justice with truth but such is the exception as a large percentage of federal judges are former prosecutors and old school ties will tell.
There is a scene in the film 'Training Day' where Denzel Washington's' character, the dirty cop, tells his superiors in the restaurant that he has "over 10,000 man years in his jacket", i.e. the number of years sentenced to men he's arrested and testified against, this being reason for them to retain him & promote him. It is the job of the police to get arrests, not to get the truth. It is the job of the prosecutors to get convictions, not justice. A very lame theory holds that the process of adversarial argumentation before a judge will produce “truth.” Given equal resources that theory might work., but only the 1% have equal resources so most simply yield to the inevitable and thus DOJ criminal prosecutors have a nearly 100% win rate.
During the autumn of 2010 Julian Assange released hundreds of thousands of classified communications of the US government through Wiki-leakes. Since making that act of suicidal defiance he has sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to the US. Like Chelsea Manning who is doing thirty years in a Federal prison, he tried to induce an element of truth into the government narratives.
The material released by Assange included State Department communiques that showed that the US government was involved in the very project that I had described at length upon my arrest and subsequently to authorities. Namely, armed maritime security was being provided for commercial vessels without the knowledge of governments that hosted these vessels in their ports.
In one cable the US was asking Kenya to allow a former NOAA ship renamed the 'Douglas MacArthur' which had been purchased by the PMC (Private Military Company) “Blackwater” and then armed with naval weaponry to dock and be serviced without interference.. This Wiki-leak revelation began the process of verifying the classified information I had provided to the US government upon my detention. It’s verification continues to be validated by whistle blower disclosures.. Knowledge that in July 2010 I could not possibly have had if I hadn't actually been involved in the business and been cleared to have came out before any charges were ever filed against me and it was suppressed by the DOJ.
At this point in my prosecution, my attorney asked for a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) release from the Department of Justice (DOJ), so that I could defend myself without fear of being prosecuted for violating the NDA's that I had signed with the US governments intelligence agencies, which were explicit in their threat of Federal prosecution for any violation. The prosecutors refused and said that I would be prosecuted either for the crimes they accused me of or if I was cleared for those crimes by showing that I was exporting firearms under orders of the government, for violating the secrecy agreements related to those projects, a catch 22 that saw me guaranteed to be sentenced for committing a crime. ("Official impunity is, always and everywhere, the arch enemy of the rule of law" David Luban 21 Apr 16 NYRB pg.22)
My supporters contacted directly, through first person connections, every single one of my legislative representatives. Only one offered any assistance. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), currently chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence offered no actual assistance but he did refer AA to a competent attorney, an offer AA did not act on, and his decision not to seek competent co-counsel may have been his most fatal breach of his duty to me.
Meanwhile, my family and friends, including my wife (who had not two weeks before given birth to our twin sons), were being braced by Federal agents and/or their local associates worldwide and being falsely threatened with civil asset forfeiture or criminal arrest for conspiracy. The intent of these threats and intimidations was to subvert my support network and get their hands on any evidence that might help me; to deny my defense. Regardless of guilt, or evidence of guilt, the Feds will make threats. The only defense is to lawyer-up and let the attorney explain what they can and can not actually do.
The authorities spoke to the press. Gossip can be ignored but, in the process we're talking about there was authoritative public exposure and humiliation. It is the manifest power of the state to crush someone and its intent is, in part, to intimidate anyone who might come to a defendant's assistance; this too could happen to you. They paraded me through the newspapers and on TV before ever letting me into a courtroom. They invented things about me and passed them off as true. They used their authority to deny who I really am, to deny any and all positive aspects of my history. Incarceration and libel are just a tiny foretaste of what they can and will do to someone. The Feds know that the firewalls between news and entertainment, journalism and profit making have collapsed entirely, and it's sad to see the 4th estate straying so far from its purported function of sustaining an informed citizenry. As noted before, regurgitation of government press releases now passes for journalism.
Defense attorneys, as a rule, don’t speak to the press out of concern that they may inadvertently inform prosecutors of their defense strategy and the expect the prosecution to deny by any means access to exculpatory evidence. In my case, I had no idea that AA was not only not seeking “disclosure” from the prosecution, he wasn’t doing evidence gathering at all. He did absolutely nothing to offset gross ly inaccurate characterizations of me by the government in the press. Being held incommunicado, well away from media I had no way of knowing what was being published except as it trickled in to PCDC in letters from friends and family.
At this point, is there anyone still speaking to me, let alone supporting me? Yes, thanks to having friends and family that cared enough to not succumb to government propaganda I had a small but loyal support cadre. In this regard our lives are cumulative; what we sow we reap. I am so grateful for the ongoing support of my loved ones I can not express my gratitude. It is to them that I constantly pointed out the deficiencies of AA and it is they who would eventually save me from him. Alas, though, being tried in the press drove many away from me. In some cases colleagues felt they had to deny any association with me because it could hurt them professionally.
Picked up, interrogated and imprisoned, life wrecked, is that the worst that can happen? No, not really. In the world I chose people got killed for a hell of a lot less than you can imagine. Thanks to my career choices I know just how nasty and awful humans can be, thus none of the treatment I was receiving in my various jails annoyed me. Rather, what annoyed me the most was the very charges against me. The ridiculous assertion that I would dump guns into the hands of criminals in a community where I was raising a family did not irritate, it infuriated me.
Now I am a criminal and am in prison. My karmic bill is mine to pay. I do not write for your pity, or for your attention. This is just to say what was and is. My goal is precision. Some people get through prison by counting down the amount of time that they've left in prison. I get through by treating it as the only life I've ever known or will have. That also is the way I have survived all my previous, some times ill-considered avatars.


Memoir: Part 5

Part 5
Thee wheels of justice grind inexorably and fine.
From August until October 2010 I idled away in a for-profit prison, surviving on baloney on white bread and overpriced vitamin supplements bought at the prison gedunk, waiting for the Justice Department to actually do something with my case. My legal representation (mentioned before) I will call "Attorney A" (or AA for short from now on). He is charming and seems realistic. Over the course of the following few months his deficiencies, negligence and misconduct proved life altering for me. We dismissed him by the following spring after he wreaked irreparable damage to my case. Though we fired him we could not get him out of the case for many, many months. In fact, until 2015. He was privy to the case progress after we terminated him even as we sued him for malpractice. There is no need for me to go on describing his faults or derelictions in my case as they have already been chronicled by wonderful attorneys, who are much better writers than I am, at length, and can be found in U.S. Federal and N.C. State Court records if anyone ever wants to read it all.
In the jail in VA, we spent our days teasing threads from towels and mattresses to use as dental floss, as well as tying magazines together to make stab proof vests to sell. I saw my first prison riot and had a tear gas ball from a paint-ball gun. smack me in the face. (Who knew they weaponized paint ball guns for the prison industrial complex? ) Go USA!
Lawyer AA visits me in Virginia randomly and basically repeated that we are awaiting the government's decisions in all aspects of the case. This tactic of acquiescence is why Federal prisoners call attorneys like AA "plea merchants."
Here is a little riff on plea bargaining with the department of Justice.
Dealing with the DOJ is never at “arms length”; they own the field. The Feds are all powerful and have a system that allows them to almost never be beaten. They 'plea bargaining' almost every case so very few ever go to trial. Thus there exist attorneys who will for a fee simply hold your hand while they lead you to slaughter and never do any work as you'll be guilty regardless of the facts of the case. The prosecution gets to say who's guilty and who isn't. (There also exist incredible attorneys, stellar advocates, who will fight for you and go above and beyond, but more on them later, for at this time of my tale I'd yet to meet one.)
So unbeknown to me, AA was doing nothing that I was asking him to do to prove my innocence (such as, but not limited to, investigating the case, or speaking to my chain of command, or manage my affairs at all. Rather, he was simply being the best friend that the government could ever wish for - and in an adversarial legal system such as the US, this is suicidal for the defendant. Some say he did this as a deal with the prosecutors, 'I'll serve this high profile one up on a plate and you go easy on me in future cases.' But since the prosecution never has to release it's communications regarding a case, unless a federal civil rights lawsuit is successfully prosecuted, you can never know why your attorney performed so dismally.
My attorney bargained a plea and turned a deaf ear to all requests to do otherwise. Admittedly, in our extortionate system, a plea, though it makes nugatory the Constitutional right to a trial, is an attractive option for anyone who is not financially independent. Once a determination is made that a crime may have occurred, the first step of federal criminal prosecutors is to develop a theory of the case aimed at maximizing the number of charges to be brought and severity of those charges. This allows them to estimate the maximum sentence a defendant may receive at trial. So, when faced with 30 or 40 years in stony lonesome, regardless of whether the government actually has evidence to use against a defendant, at least 98% of federal defendants, innocent or guilty, opt for a much more attractive offer of 5 or 10 years. The 'bargain' has long been taken out of 'plea bargaining' and now it's just called 'pleading' or 'the plea'.
Occasionally a wealthy person stands up to the Feds, such as Mark Cuban, who when charged with insider trading and told to pay a one million dollar fine and plead guilty said, “No.” Instead he took them to court and spent seven million dollars on his own defense to win at trial, thus becoming part of the less than 1% than wins at trial against the Feds. He has since repeatedly written about the crookedness of the system in multiple op eds in major papers like the Wall Street Journal, and I highly recommend reading them.
[Editor's note -The same month that Steve was charged with exporting weapons without a permit Erik Prince (owner of the Blackwater mercenary army) was charged with the same thing for moving thousands of weapons, heavy and light, into South Sudan. The difference being that Prince was offered a plea he couldn't refuse; he was charged with a misdemeanor (not a felony) and he was fined about $42 million (yes million) which he paid before being allowed to emigrate to a Middle Eastern state with no extradition agreement with the US. Ours is a two-tiered legal system.]
While I mouldered away in a Virgina for profit prison, federal agents and other law enforcement in several countries, in pursuit of a suitably damning theory of the case, terrorized my family, friends, and associates. They braced anyone and everyone they could think of in an attempt to find anything or anyone who might support their narrative. Slander, threats and lies were employed to apply pressure to me during the plea negotiations and to subvert my support network. They told one and all, “He's not the man you think he is.” and threatened to ruin peoples lives. For example they told my wife that they could can seize her house when, in fact, they couldn't. They would say virtually anything to break associates, to induce friends and family to speak against me. In some cases people cracked, distanced themselves from me, deleted themselves from my life electronically. But, since there was no crime, the government could find no individual who would or could give evidence of anything more important than the occasional smoke. For the brave ones who refused to bend to strong-arm tactics., I say Bravo. To those who folded and ran from the field I'll quote Shakespeare "A coward dies 1000 deaths.", and to the loved ones pressed beyond resistance I say, as I have all along, I am sorry for your suffering.
After a couple of months, the indictment came down. It had 7 counts, that is 7 individual crimes charged against me. As with the rest of the filings for court, I shall be brief about them as you may read them if you like on the PACER system. These charges were then proffered to a Grand Jury to determine if I should be tried for any or all of them. A grand jury consists of citizens asked to sit in closed session for several days and review cases. The cases are presented by the prosecutor in secret, without any input from the defense. Needless to say, virtually all cases sent to a grand jury are approved for prosecution. Indictments are issued, a criminal is charge.
Famously, a United States Senator, Trent Lott, said "You can indict a cheeseburger in this country", because the government simply tells the jurists that they believe crimes have occurred. The evidence presented to them is simply the opinion or testimony of opinion made by the government's agents. If a grand jurists protest at the lack of evidence, then the prosecutor says "Well it will come out at trial" and pushes them to indict anyway (see the Harpers magazine piece "Confessions of a grand jurist"). This, though, is just a sop for, as noted above, at least 98% of indictments never reach trial. Last year less than2000Federal cases went to trial.
Each indictment carries a maximum penalty, which is always dis proportionally high. The press receives the indictment from the prosecutors as a press release. To poison the pool of potential jurors, the prosecutor then follows up interviews to further defame the defendant in the press. The press then generally adds up the maximum charge for each indictment and reports to the public something like 'Federal prosecutors today handed down a 7 count indictment for which [fill in defendant name] could face up to 215 years imprisonment.' Rewriting press releases now passes for journalism in America.
From the perspective of a defendant, confronted at last with the extent of government ambitions it can be a terrifying moment. If found guilty of even one of the indictment counts, they will still be given a lengthy sentence. The government needs a conviction on only one count, and since there are over 600,000 Federal crimes that require incarceration, even the most technical point can get someone decades in prison if a jury returns a guilty verdict on any indicted charge. At this point in my journey things became very, very serious. I now could estimate the cost of defending all seven indictments.
My attorney and my more experienced fellow inmates educated me regarding what to expect. And perhaps the scariest thing was that, assuming the ability to spend a fortune on defense and assuming the lawyers fight the prosecution to a standstill, the jury may still not reach a conclusion whereupon the judge will declare a mistrial and you will be confronted with paying out another fortune. It is a system designed by and for lawyers not defendants and certainly not for the public good.
That cost of going to trial was prohibitively expensive. Bear in mind that this was all before we discovered that attorney AA had not done one substantive thing to investigate my case. So, we entered a new phase, a phase informed by sentencing after a guilty pleas.
Sentencing is not in any way fixed in stone. Instead a sentence is determined by calculating “enhancements”. Enhancements add or subtract months from a sentence. So, if you were fully cooperative with investigators and gave them useful evidence against others, your enhancements will tend toward the low end of the allowed term of imprisonment. If, on the other hand, you were uncooperative with investigators, a difficult negotiator, or if , as some times happens, you were an innocent party inadvertently caught up in the chain of evidence in someone else's crime and have nothing to offer in return for leniency, you are screwed. Prosecutors can enhance the recommended sentence to the maximum allowed. All that stands between a defendant and this sort of prosecutorial abuse, if the defendant is lucky, will be a benevolent judge; there are very few of them.
I once heard a reporter say that "Martha Stewart should have taken the generous plea deal the government offered her", I suppose he was inferring that she should have saved the taxpayer the cost of trial. Well if she had, it is certain that the prosecution would have enhanced her. She had the wherewithal to go to trial and it saved her years of time served for unsubstantiated capricious opinion that would have surely followed her pleading guilty.
So with my indictment, I was assigned a Federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. The US divided into federal districts and each one has a certain number of judges appointed by the president who occupy their role for life or good behavior,, whichever ends first. In my district sit 5 judges. One of them holds the record for the most years given out by any judge in the world (he is in Guinness Book Of Records, over 1.5 million years) who even into his 90's sits with aid of machines on the bench giving out the maximum he can for each sentence.
My judge though will turn out to be one with a better reputation, let's call him "Judge H.” I will emerge in 2014, thanks to Edward Snowden's revelations ,that he is also the head judge of the secret FISC court in Washington DC which signs - without giving any legal basis or justification- authorizations for the NSA to spy on all Americans all the time. So it was probably no coincidence that my case landed on his desk. He was accomplished at dissembling law to cover the backsides of US intelligence agencies.
With the assignment of the judge, at the end of October I was moved back to North Carolina, specifically to the regional jail known as PCDC in Greenville N.C., where the judge sits. Publicly funded county jails, such as PCDC reflect their localities and particularly the political proclivities of the sheriffs who run them. Some sheriffs get elected based on "tough on crime policies" that include denial of amenities to those in their jails, but since most jail occupants are "innocent until proven guilty" the needless punishment regimes add to the difficulty of defending oneself if denied bond. I'll write more later about my horrific stay at PCDC.
Meanwhile, though, as it happened, the day I arrived at PCDC I become a father, though I didn't learn this for some days. This gift probably saved my life, certainly saved my sanity, as the boys gave purpose to me as I headed into the darkest phase of my pretrial, a year in solitary confinement.

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Memoir: Part 4

Steve Greenoe
10 May ·
Installment IV
My First “for profit” Lockup
Up to this point I had learned a few things about surviving in a crossbar hotel. Now I found myself in my first private prison and there my tuition continued.
The starting salary of a guard at the private jail I was at was a little over $16K a year. I discovered this when the 'shot caller' for the pod, "J.O.", the highest ranking 'Blood' gang member there, showed me his commissary account receipt that denoted he had $17 000 US Dollars in his account, and said that he always kept at least that much on the account as a way to show the guards he could buy and sell them, which he did, regularly. My favorite thing he did was to have the guards in his pocket roll up a TV & DVD player on a cart to his rack on a 200ft extension cord and he'd watch rented movies all day.
By the third day in this new circumstance my racial uniqueness, and my non-alignment with any gang had put me in a category of one. But, I discovered, I had value to the rest of my ganged up pod-mates. It took three days for all natural suspicions to dissipate. So with a special shout-out those wonderful teachers who taught me how to write, what saved my butt was being literate. Having seen me writing letters for hours a day with my 3" golf pencils (all we were allowed for 'security' purposes [that great catch all, 'security', which trumps all normal rationale] as larger pencils could be weapons and ink pens could be drained for tattoo ink), Pod-mates began asking me write for them I estimate that 60% or more of the pod were illiterate. So I wrote letters, translated lawyer letters for them and helped with reading thee few law books sent in by family members..
As with all the jails and prisons I had chance to observe, at least 25% of the men had visible mental illnesses - which if you've ever seen anyone schizoid the fuck out, you know what I mean. Jails and prisons are the dominant mental health institutions of the USA. 'L'enfer c'est les autres'; as Satre so rightly said. It's the people that you have to do time with that make it hard. For more on this subject, read "Callous & Cruel' by Jamie Feller a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, or "Madness" by Eyal Press in the 2 May 16 New Yorker, for sadly - nothing I am writing here is not known and well reported on in the press. (Everything I am writing here is also well documented in my court case, nothing unconfirmed will be entered into this narrative.)
As soon as the Latinos realized I could read and write in Spanish, then I was doing theirs too. Suddenly I began being a scribe for both gangs, and in this way I passed my days for the entire time I as there (94 days). Given a better bunk, as well as a better time for the one shower (my first time being 2am on Tuesdays), Ostensibly these little perqs were a reward but really they gave me this slack just so they could show me their paperwork without their enemies or snitches reading it all. I wondered aloud once why I was being without their enemies or snitches reading it all. I wondered aloud once why I was being trusted and I was shown a copy of the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper with the story from the day of my bond hearing. Seems that as soon as I hit the pod, someone made a call, Google was consulted and everything in the public domain was mailed into the jail for them to know about me. I worked up to daily showers (& during daylight hours!) by the end of my time there. * [see note below]
In prisons everything is for sale from the easily corruptible guards. Heroin, needles, tattoo guns, think of it and it was there. Violence amongst prisoners was there in the pods, but quite muted as the gangs wanted functionality. The guards however would pull out the "ballers' for their own gladiator bouts that we heard they would bet on when they would return the participants to the units if they were still presentable afterwards, sometimes rewarding them with extra food trays or blankets. All this took place where the cameras weren't, which is a surprisingly large amount of every facility or they'd never get anyone to work there.
As a demonstration of inmate control inside the prison, for the Bloods, whenever a new Blood member was brought to the jail, the guards would first bring them to our pod so they could check in with J.O. and have a 'tete a tete'. It was in this way that, without surveillance, the Bloods were able to pass messages around throughout this jail, the Virginia DOC, their communities, and the Feds.
As an example of how the US Marshal's service oversee our private, for profit prisons I will describe an “inspection.” Prison staff came around and pulled down all the “out of order” signs barring use of amenities the prison was supposed to make available to inmates. This indicated an inspection would be coming through. The two US Marshals inspecting our facility didn't even look into the bathroom or, for that matter, any other part of the Potemkin Village, that was our pod. They strolled through, chatting amiably with their prison escort about football the whole time. Of course we were warned not to dare to speak to the inspectors. The walls were mildewed and the floors caked with grime, The sewage system was backed up into the pod and they didn't ask about it. Staff can always explain such discrepancies away as being the fault of the pod residents not the prison. It was our fault for not cleaning it and for making it dirty in the first place, even though they gave us nothing to clean it with and it'd been that way for many years.
The prison allowed no sanctioned exercise. Exercise was punishable but we found ways. We would do so clandestinely. A trash bag filled with water makes a fine weight. We diid push ups when the guards weren't looking. There was no fresh air except when staff were going to “toss”: the pod looking for contraband to sell back to the prisoners. Under that circumstance they would empty us into an otherwise unused basketball court.
State inmates with low bonds, e.g. crack heads (not crack dealers) & trespassers (i.e. homeless) were made 'trustees', In American jails these are inmates trusted to move about the place and clean the place, serve out the food, etc. In this private prison, if they didn't look too deranged or otherwise present poorly they were given white coats to wear over their orange jumpsuits and they were taken out of prison to serve at events catered b y the prison kitchen. They were compensated with better food and came back reeking of alcohol from the half finished drinks they chased.
In our pod, about fifty of us were Federal prisoners the rest being state and local inmates. This was contrary to law and contrary to Marshal service publicity in which they declare that Federal detainees are not housed with state inmates, they are as a matter of common practice everywhere in the USA where there isn't a major metropolitan Federal Processing Center, such as FDC Brooklyn.)
The taxpayers were being charged $250 US Dollars a day for me, and for each other Federal 'detainee' tthat private, for profit prison housed and, in spite of our bringing all that sweet money in to the prison none of us got to put on a white coat and serve cod to Rotarians out on the town.

Denial of basics is part of a deliberate process, a slow and subtle method of reducing the prisoner to something less than a human being. One's cleanliness, for example, is a matter of choice and self imposed limits in the world. Imprisoned, it is a matter of opportunity controlled by an enemy who controls even the basics of your existence. For the arrogant, this control over them is intolerable. What the enemy wants is to reduce you to such a state of misery that you will beg for a small comfort. In many ways it is more intolerable than physical pain as a form of torture. Being imprisoned means that no one physically present in your life is concerned for your well being. If you're too cold/ too hot/or your food is inedible, you've nowhere to sleep, whatever - no one is there to complain to and if you ever get someone to complain to, they will only punish you for complaining. You must sort yourself out the best you can, another way the gangs recruit because who doesn't need friends at a time like this?. trusted and I was shown a copy of the Raleigh News & Observer newspaper with the story from the day of my bond hearing. Seems that as soon as I hit the pod, someone made a call, Google was consulted and everything in the public domain was mailed into the jail for them to know about me. I worked up to daily showers (& during daylight hours!) by the end of my time there. * [see note below]

Memoir: Part 3

7 May
Part 3
My introduction to the Federal Pison Systeem [be aware that at this point in my story there has been no trial, no plea bargaining, I am awaiting trial, and in our system that means that am presumed innocent].
Six days after my arrest I entered the American Gulag. My stay there would last over a year.
Held under criminal complaint, not yet indicted. Bond denied with the only reason given being "... we have questions your honor" is answered by a shrug from the magistrate judge as he easily acquiesces (he's a former prosecutor), and just that quickly I was set up to spend an indefinite period in any jail at any level of security with any treatment the government wants. 'Evidence' presented is the prosecutor saying "we believe..." The denial of bond violates the principle of 'no punishment without a crime', the most basic of all the principles of the rule of law, as you will be punished before even before being charged, let alone found guilty of a crime.
My Public Defender (P.D.) informed me that there was a reporter in the court and by not clearing the courtroom, the gov't is publicly stating their charges against me, though some of their filings will remain sealed and that I should expect news coverage. My year of tuition in a world populated by experts on what the government does and doesn't do in our courts taught me what really happened.
The gov't, I learned, always releases their opinions and hypotheses to the press regardless of whether they have evidence or not in order to poison the jury pool for the defendant. Defense counsel is then forced to decide whether to release its own statement and tip it's hand towards what it's defense will be or stay moot and let the bad press roll on. The presumption of innocence is basic to our law but not in the minds of the average citizen outside the proceedings. The average citizen, unless previously having dealt with the system, simply equates an arrest with a conviction.
I learned that I was at the mercy of the government in every way. When I could see a judge would be decided by the prosecutor, when I would be indicted and charged, likewise. Prosecutors asserted and my counsel agreed that if I paid any bill owed at the time of arrest I would be charged with money laundering. That if I told anyone from jail to pay a bill, access an account, or make any move for me I would incur new charges. Hope of helping anyone outside my cell was utterly futile; duty to family and creditors be damned. My future was to simply sit in a series of small rooms indefinitely and read the slanderous clipping brought to me by counsel. I was told to expect abandonment and betrayal, and that to do otherwise was to be overly optimistic. The Feds would now pursue everyone that was in my life in a concerted effort to subvert my support network and scare away any help I could possibly count on from any quarter.
[For a good impression of this process, and more, check out the new film 'Concussion' with Will Smith - who plays Dr. Omalu. When he gets the NFL on the ropes, the big wigs call in the Feds who send the FBI to charge his boss with an 84 count indictment. When Dr. Omalu says this is more capricious than even anything they would do in Nigeria, the FBI agent says "Dr.Omalu, we didn't come for you, but we can have you if we want."]
So, I, a former patriot, had to unlearn my social studies indoctrination and come to grips with a very ugly reality. The Feds do not need evidence, and unless you are extremely wealthy you can't outspend them. For those of you clinging to those rosy pictures of America the beautiful, be advised, American justice is every bit as ruthless as Germany's old Gestapo or the more modern Stasi. This, apparently, is the way of the world.
After my being beaten in the Raleigh, North Carolina jail I was patched up at a medical facility and, while being moved back to jail I had to put up with a US Marshal's mirthful carrying on about my physical condition from being jumped, a real charmer him.
I managed to get word about the beating to my family through the P.D. They bravely attended the bond hearing and my mother even took he stand beautifully, but it was never in the cards. The government was determined to bury me. My public defender stayed mum throughout the hearing and the judge's gavel fell.
At this point I asked my family to get me a lawyer not employed by the government as it seemed to me during the bond hearing that my counsel deficiencies were so obvious they could be mistaken for collusion with the prosecutor. Mom began a search.
Two nights later I met my first potential lawyer. She was a lovely lady, a former prosecutor. Prosecutors frequently move to the defense table to offer their lobbying connections during plea bargaining. Going to trial is virtually out of the question for the reasons noted above (unlimited resources a docile judiciary accustomed to give prosecutors what they want). Virtually nobody but corporations and the super-rich ever wins against the Feds, so the preferred defense is to minimize how bad you lose. While sitting with my new bargainer she was getting text messages from professional and personal connections of mine offering to help in any way they can. The story had hit the press and I naively envisioned a rallying.
My mother and a friend came to my jail during the normal visiting time the following day, day 8 since arrest, and were put on a grainy video monitor rather than being allowed a normal face to face visit. The only explanation for this is that the jail didn't want people on the outside to see my injuries up close. Of course the video conference was recorded for the gov't. For this reason every attorney warns clients not to discuss their case with visitors as it could provide prosecutors with a chance to take something out of context and use it against you to, for example, run up more charges, so I consistently refused to talk to anyone about my defense and that annoyed the people who hadn't turned away from me and wanted answers. Instead all I could do was to treat them to a few tears over my poor wife's condition and tell them to love & take care of each other the best they can in my absence. To those who stuck by me in spite of my lack of defense, I say thank you and to the others I say not much.
On the 9th day, early in the morning a, flashlight blasted in my face just as I get a boot to the gut wake up call. It was time to move. I was chained up and placed in a series of cells as I am processed out of the jail. It was obvious to anyone who's ever done a jail move that I am going somewhere, but it takes those around me to tell me as it's my first move. We are given exactly no information about where we are going. Staff says that for 'security sake' I can't know.
This brought to mind a Soviet Gulag prisoner who once wrote that in 22 years he ever only knew the name of one of the places he was sent and it never bothered him as what did it matter? Good point. Of course I think I matter, that I am someone and that there are those out there who will want to know.
Such thoughts bring small comfort an do no good at all.
Five hours chained with a coffle of other inmates in a van. Guys pissed themselves left and right, and soon the smelled like a cat box in 100F (and it actually is that hot or more outside), stops at lots of small facilities to pick up more imates, no water, no a/c. We ended the trip at a privately owned jail in rural central Virginia. The intake process took 12 hours with standing room only in our various holding cells. We were told if we complain then we wouldn't be fed and, I ask you, who among us would give up their bologna on white for the day? Welcome to America's private prison system.
My intake picture is evidence of the violence visited on me in Raleigh so I am told they would retake it later when I've healed. Put in a 100 man cell to live, I am the only white guy. Over 30 bloods from Richmond area, 20 something MS-13 from DC area. Where we are is a 900 man, private, for profit jail that has contracts with local communities and the Feds to hold VA state inmates for up to 2 years of their sentences and Fed inmates indefinitely.
Our pod had one working toilet and one working shower for 100 men, both open. (For not the first time I thank my lucky stars I was silly enough to think myself tough once upon a time and join Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, for I'd dealt with loss of modesty before, nor are continuous violence and screaming, new to me and so it goes.
This place prided itself on returning money to its investors, so it fed 900 men for less than $2000 a week (and bragged about it). You can imagine the quality and frequency of meals. However, they have an extensive commissary list with extortionate pricing on every item. To this day it is the best commissary list I have ever seen. Inmates are expected to feed themselves via the commissary which could draw on an inmate's account. Those fortunate enough to have family and friends contributing money to your commissary account could eat supplemental rations, buy vitamin supplements and over-the-counter medicines, writing paper, envelops and stamps. Phone calls from the prison cost $15 for ten minutes. The prison is a 7 hour round trip drive for anyone to come and visit me through the plexi-glass for 20 minutes a week if they can do so at the time the jail says. The same mileage applied my attorney to come and work on my case though he wasn't limited to 20 minutes. There was no law library, no periodicals, no news. There was one TV in the unit which of course no one can hear over the screaming but which stays on, and on full volume, tuned to the most puerile entertainment on the menu - we jokingly call it the 'pacifier'.
A lesson quickly learned (by observation not experience) is that If you 'buck', or revolt against the guards (often called c.o.'s, or correction officers) they will charge you with any number of crimes such as expelling a bodily fluid or malicious conduct of a prisoner, both felonies. They can keep you in jail forever, constantly answering new charges.Greenoe

I also learned quickly enough that there are two types of c.o.'s ; those that know you're being punished by being there and those that think they need to punish you because you're both there. Every place is different, but of course you can figure out which ones you'd rather be around.

Memoir: Part 2

14April Installment II
Tuesday morning after my arrest on Sunday.
At this point I had been locked up in a real pod for 36 hours with other inmates. 'Little Tommy' or was it Timmy'(who can remember having only heard the name in passing) hung himself. Seems he was known. Something you get used to, people all knowing each other in jails. Coming from the same 'hood', constantly relating to each other news form the outside. Not being from the hood alone marked me as an outsider, not being from the same socio economic class made me totally other, not to be trusted and sure as all gett out not to be cared for. No one dared confide in me anything. I hear taunts and earnest requests that I convey sometime in the future what really goes on inside. They believed that being white and privileged 'someone might listen to me - I assure them that I am as screwed as they are. They don't believe me because no honkey could be that screwed and we settle into mutual a disregard. 'Tourists' come and go in every jail I encountered, but the'local'in local jail is the typical population.
What did we do to pass the time in jail? Unlike prison, there is so little to do in jail, that most just talk to each other while you sit around on a steel bench or concrete floor. There's only so much sleeping you can do. Rumors go round, stories, some jokes. All are annoyed, some worried, but for many it's just part of the process of their lives. For many, the cycle of arrest and the process of the system are all too familiar. Their communities are inured to their people being locked up, they see themselves as under siege, definitely them vs the system.
Processing. They can't use cattle prods, so instead they scream and threaten, though the jails with tasers use them freely. Hurry up and wait. Some jails are notorious for processing you in and out very slowly. What incentive do they have anyway? You're not a customer, not even a person, just scum units to be processed. Hours and hours sitting in various rooms till you're marshaled out to another room to sit for more hours. In between you may see a disinterested party that makes a few entries on a form, but no news. Meanwhile the men you're crammed in with suffer from withdrawals, delusions, D.T.'s, psychotic episodes, and worse.
Once you are a prisoner, there is no “due process”, no legal rights to speak of. The jail may overtly inflict whatever is constitutionally allowed and secretly whatever they want to maintain “control” a vague term that varies from one jailer to the next. It all seemed to depend on how scared, bored or angry they were at any give time.. Bored staff who have to deal with some of the worst people in society come up with new and interesting ways to break people down. New charges can be added to your charge sheet, privileges withdrawn and it is always just your word against the staff member as to what happened to bring on the heat.
'Roger' was a former Marine who was "going through a period of homelessness" in his own words. He awoke from some kind of stupor under the bench I was sitting on. Waking up and finding yourself in jail must suck, but it wasn't his first time. I was reminded of the times I woke up in hospital, the first time I was relieved, then subsequent filled with "not again" knowing the pain of the injury that would come when the drugs wore off and the rehab began so I could appreciate his moment of disorientation and dismay. He and I chatted to kill the time. Seems he was on the rail road tracks facing central prison, throwing his empty bottles at the prison fence when the cops rolled up. They arrested him for belligerence and trespass. A hard upbringing, no social safety net, a lot of PTSD and self-medication; the dude liked a drink.
'Not knowing' is the hardest thing for a person to bear. Many elite military units finish their grueling physical & mental exercises for admission by leaving the applicant just sitting around waiting without news about how they did while trainers surreptitiously watch them to see how they respond to uncertainty. None of us had any idea how long we would be where we were or what would happen to us. Being completely helpless produces a certain look, maybe a suppressed flinch. When it's on every face around you it resonates.
Uncertainty coupled with total removal from hews about loved ones produces its own kind of stress. I remember worrying over my wife and her condition, as she was pregnant at the time. I wanted news of her, news to her, you get the picture. Of course that wasn't possible, so instead I just sat listening to the screaming, and in jails and prisons it's always screaming. From the mentally ill to those who never learned 'inside voice', there's a constant din. Jails are never insulated as insulation is flammable. They are made of steel, concrete and plexi glass; wonderful echo makers So compound the din with the echo of the din and imagine if you can a continuous cacophony, the opera of the damned. Instead of connection, news, relief from worry, just the din. So you sit and worry if anyone knows you are in jail, do you have an attorney (the appointed public defender said “g'bye” and went silent days ago. There is nothing to do but fret about all the stuff you can't do. Being powerless sucks.
I began to hear from other detainees bout the Federal system and what I heard was was not good. It seemed I was to have a bond hearing on Thursday or Friday, and that gave me a hope to hang on to that I might be released on bond until I "took the plea" (none of the federal detainees suggested that a trial was in the offing. All but the wealthy plea bargain because federal trials are just too expensive for normal folks. I admit I didn't believe that at the time, I just heard it and assumed I would find a way. To my chagrin, I learned otherwise in the fullness of time. Tuition, it is said, is always expensive.
[Plead guilty? Yep. Seems that the Feds in the US have a 99% conviction rate. They don't need evidence and you can't beat them (remember when I said hearsay is admissible) as they control the narrative presented to the court with virtually no chance for refutation. [The best synopsis of this incredible tilting in he prosecutions favor in the USA was from The Economist of London, which, in the summer of 2014, had a cover story entitled "Why US prosecutors have too much power]. If this interests you, you can also read such fine legal thrillers as "The Lincoln Lawyer" from Michael Connelly, or the wonderful book The Racketeer by John Grisham which I highly recommend because in it he destroys the Department of Justice (DOJ) & the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) with some hard truths they'd rather not have cast about.]
Meanwhile, I'm sitting in bedlam, on a hard bench fretting. Naturally my thoughts were all all about my innocence. I didn't even know what I was being charged with, What I was learning though was that there is a judicial assembly line from which no one gets off. That gave me a new topic to fret about and so the week went..
Friday morning I was still living on a floor when I was awoken by a flashlight in the face (better than the toe of a boot) and placed in holding cell alone downstairs at 4am. In the next couple of hours it filled with primarily Latinos who were being deported (a roaring trade), and I had a chance to practice my elementary Spanish and discuss what they thought was going to happen to them.( We were in a cell built for about 6, but there were 16 of us and some had dysentery, which was unfortunate for all of us.
They actually chained me up with all of them before one guard asked where I was from. I said in English "Mexico" (Hey, it was worth a shot.) and the rest of the guards laughed at him. Learned a lesson then; do not make one guard the butt of the jokes of his coworkers. {Did I say, “Tuition is always expensive.?) **
Back in the box, after couple of hours go by, an unidentified agent came and took me to court shuffling in full Hannibal Lector shackles and chains. Made a great looking defendant, unwashed and looking like I just spent the morning in an overcrowded cell - did I mention the dysentery cases? - unshaven, well you get it.
I was the Federal court house, in the cage when the public defender came and told me that my family was in the court room. She had managed to get in touch with them. /the PD told me the family were all well but of course worried. As the cased was “sealed the attorney could not discuss the case with them . The PD then then told me that she'd been in touch with my in-laws in the UK and that the UK police had raided my house on Wednesday. From that information the PD determined that the AUSA had decided to prosecute me.
A US probation service r(USPS) representative came and interviewed me. The USPS is the government agency that handles pre-trial probation for federal prisoners who are to receive bond. So this was good news. The representative said said that I would , of course, be a good candidate for bond and that I would be able sign a document saying that if I failed to appear I would have to forfeit $100 000.*** He also said that the hearing would just be a formality. I was then led into the hearing and the prosecution opened by laying out a large criminal conspiracy with unnamed individuals. My mother took the stand and the judge said that she is a fine person for me to live with on bond, but the prosecution objected saying that "they have questions" and that they wanted me classified instead as a flight risk and that I should not therefore be granted bond. The judge shrugged and all of a sudden I have no hope of being on the outside awaiting trial.. My PD utterly choked, presented no counter-contentions, sought no relief.. So, in summary: we said nothing coherent throughout the hearing, did not challenge the prosecution's characterization of “flight risk”, nothing. Wham, bam, it was done and the judge turned to the next case. I didn't know at the time that I would spend the next 19 months in the jail system with 12 months straight in solitary confinement as they ratcheted up the pressure.
Denied bond, I was placed in the jail system for an indefinite time in an undefined place. I described jail already. Conditions there are dreadful and, it seems, intentionally so. Dreadful conditions influence a detainee's willingness to fight for their innocence. the Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) determines when a case will be heard, and AUSAs can, and do, keep people in conditions the UN calls torture, for years trying to, and mostly succeeding, to breaking them so they will plead plead guilty. ****
Imprisonment, if it teaches nothing else, does at least compel a submission to the inevitable which resembles patience.
* It seems most were picked up in stop and frisks, or traffic stops, or raids on businesses - none were actually charged with any crime in the USA so they were simply being put into the private prison industry for an indeterminate amount of time where they would see judges on screens in proceedings that weren't translated and eventually, after the private prison industry took their time and a lot of money from Uncle Sam, drop them at the Mexican border with no money/phone etc. Seems that our border with Mexico is kind of in civil war at this time thanks to our war on drugs, so they were enthusiastic about the process.
**The Constitution lists only three federal crimes; piracy, counterfeiting & treason, but years of get tough on crime legislation has expanded the number of things that are federal crimes are require imprisonment to over 500,000. Worlds' largest prison system remember…)
*** On the state level, everyone except the very worst of the worst are granted bond as the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to reasonable bond so that one may play a role in their case and not be coerced into pleading guilty by rough treatment before trial. The way state judges get around this is to make the bonds ridiculously high. Therefore there are over 500 000 people in the jails in the US (as of 2011 according to the Economist) who can not afford their bonds which in total exceed $16 Billion US dollars. Legislation to prevent this practice is constantly stalled by the efforts of lobbyists for the Bail Bondsman Lobby & the Prison Guard Lobby, amongst others, who are trying to protect their racket or jobs. Bail bondsman in the US issue bonds for people in exchange for a non refundable fee, usually a minimum of 10% of the total bond amount, but as high as %30. So a bond of 100 000 would require $10 000 to $30 000 in non refundable fee to the bondsman. If you have property (e.g. house & land), you may place it directly in bond to the state, but it is only a percentage of tax value, not the current market rate.
In the Federal system, bond is issued through the USPS as I described above, with an evaluation being made of the person by interview and a review of their record and assets. This deal is worked out before a bond hearing. However, there was a piece of legislation in the mid 1980's called the Bail Reform Act which states that Federal judges - it is usually magistrate judges, not senior sentencing judges, who hear bond hearings and 96% are former prosecutors (thank you again The Economist) - may deny anyone bond who is either a "flight risk or a danger to the community". This extremely broad definition allows most Federal detainees to be denied bond based on he prosecutor inferring at the bond hearing that the defendant would be or is, one of those two things. So if you've ever walked out of your front door, you're a flight risk and if you've got any criminal record, you're a danger to the community.
****Recently President Obama told the Federal Bureau of Prisons to stop using solitary confinement so much. This will affect only a portion of the nearly 100 000 people in solitary conditions - conditions that I will describe later and which the UN Special Raporteur for torture called in January 2012 "Torture" - as the AUSA's keep innocent until proven guilty defendants in solitary

at state facilities, thus getting around the injunction. The good news from the Presidents directive, and he is the head of the Department of Justice, is that it's use on juveniles - that's right folks, we don't just execute mentally handicapped juveniles (thank you Texas) we torture them to the tune of 16 000 at any given time - will be reduced.

Memoir: Part 1

Friends, many of you have asked about how I ended up where I did. Rather than respond individually to your questions, though, I will write a multi-installment narrative of what has transpired since 10July2010.
Installment I
As the subject is immense and complex, for the sake of brevity I must assume that you all are versed on the governments version of events as that is all that was ever published in the media. I shall not waste any effort attempting to recount their version, as you can see it better than I ever have . All I know is that I am a Google search away from permanent infamy. Hopefully I will provide an offsetting narrative ofmy progress in America's Gulag. What follows then is just a linear account of the process, with little or no emotional or reflective angles covered, as I am just answering FAQs, not writing a memoir, yet.
For those reading without a prior knowledge of the US system of incarceration, I have added a number of notes to help explain it. The statistics are well known; the US comprises 5% of the world's population the US holds in 25% of the worlds' prisoners. Over 90 billion dollars a year spent on the system at the federal, state and local levels combined. The states all operate their own prison systems which do not include the county jails and the feds operate the worlds' largest prison system. Within this are private, for profit facilities serviced by private companies under contract for provisioning and servicing said facilities - and all these said companies pay lobbyists who pay politicians to keep the status quo because mass incarceration is highly profitable to those companies.
My adventure began on a Sunday afternoon. While on a business trip in the US (I had been in Los Angles and in Washington DC in a ten day period, meetings/hotels/witnesses a plenty), I had stopped by to see my family in Raleigh, NC. After brief visit with family and friends, while in the Raleigh-Durham airport to catch a flight back to my home in the United Kingdom I was approached by two federal agents in plain clothes. (I will call the first 'Agent1' and the second 'Agent2' for the rest of this narrative.)
Agent1 was a close confidant of a friend of mine who I had known since high school wrestling (Sanderson alum know who I mean). Agent1 and my friend had worked together in ATF.
Agent2 claimed to have attended a training program at the same time as me years before in a different state, but I did not remember him, he was and still is with ICE as far as I know (whereas the Agent1 no longer a federal agent as he was indicted and tried in a separate case).
The nature of my work saw me frequently have dealings with such individuals and I had even been stopped in May at the same airport (RDU) on the way out to the UK and everything I was shipping at that time was inspected. During business trips to the US it was my practice to purchase side-arms for use by security teams in my employ as it was easier and less expensive to buy them over-the--counter in the US than it was to acquire them abroad. I would pack the arms in my luggage and each time inspectors questioned my cargo I simply provided my chain of command, my bona fides were checked out and I was sent on my way. I expected this time to be no different. I was to find that it was most certainly to be a very different experience. The weapons I was carrying were dissembled, inert, clearly labeled and not hidden. They were just some of the items that require permission to carry outside of the country . I mention this as, my understanding is the government has referred to my acts as "smuggling" (though they did not charge me with that). In fact, once, when my cargo raised an alarm I pointed out to the inspectors a note lodged with the cargo saying I had permission to transit the items. Not very covert, that.
Cooperating fully, as I had nothing to hide from the agents, I was interviewed and everything was quite cordial. They alerted me to the fact that some of the weapons I had carried overseas before this trip had turned up in the hands of criminals, which triggering an investigation from the other end. Of course this would have been through employee misappropriation and so I provided them with all the mission information that I could at the time and gladly offered to help trap the guilty party as I was horrified that any weapon attributable to me was being misused and in the hands of criminals. At one point I was then told that they had been in contact with the US Attorneys office who said I was to be taken to their offices. Confused, they assured me that we would be working together to sort everything out the very next day which was a Monday, that I would stay with them for the night, that it was just for the night. Further, they said privately that since the investigation had begun overseas the US Attorneys office had little leeway in handling me. This is when I began to realize that I was being sacrificed to a foreign investigation, but I never believed that they would to the extent that they ended up doing so.
Quick note on interviews: Federal agents are not required to record interviews. In today's television cop shows, which is where most people - including me - get their examples from, interviews are mostly represented as being on video and accessible to the court. The Feds hate having a record of their actions as their actions are often mendacious, so they resist this and 99% of the time don't do it. The reason for this is, simply, that a defendant can't subpoena something that doesn't exist, so they make sure anything exculpatory doesn't exist or disappears (thousands of case about this, feel free to Google).
In 2012, Attorney General Holder ordered federal agents to start recording interviews, but most still don't. The investigators' technique is to get you to talk to them without an attorney because they can then say whatever they want and attribute it to you. My first and possibly biggest error was assuming that my chain-of-command would once again ease me through the system as it had done before. My investigating agents misrepresented a few things in their reports that were later corrected in court - though the judge didn't care about it. LESSON: you must never speak to a federal agent without an attorney.
Feds are not like local cops, they are not there to help you. They are only speaking to you because they want to put you or someone in prison and close a case. They begin every conversation and case with an assumption of guilt about everyone (see the great book "Three Felonies a Day" to see how you could be put in prison any time they want to).
Be forewarned, and I know there is enough in the media on this that you know I am not fear mongering. Be polite and wait for the attorney, saying "Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer" three times (think Beetlejuice:) even if you have nothing to say, even if you are just asked directions to a gas station. They are not recording and you will be in court with them & they will be saying you said things you didn't before you know it. They will try and coerce you by saying "this is your only chance to help yourself etc", just remember they do not have your best interest at heart regardless of what they say. Hearsay is admissible in federal court, unlike the state courts and people are serving life sentences for lies from jailhouse snitches, but more on that later.
I was not cuffed, or paraded through the public at the airport. I was still being treated as one of the good guys, sorting out a problem that arose through legitimate actions. We simply walked to the car and drove to the offices of the ATF where I expected them to call my chain of command and sort everything out. Instead I was placed in a room and had all my property taken from me, then later that night saw me on a 'marshal waiver' at the local jail, i.e. not under my own name and left to sit on a bench all night with no food, water, toilet, bedding etc. The next morning, an agent who didn't identify himself arrived and took me to the federal court in Raleigh where they processed me in at the US marshals and put me in a cage with others waiting for court appearances. The agents from the night before were there, and they told me that 'things were at the "Secretary Clinton level" (direct quote) and out of their hands and all would be explained in due time.' During this time they spoke to me openly in front of other prisoners about 'working together' until a public defender arrived who then advised me not to speak with them anymore as I was being charged in a sealed criminal complaint (meaning secret and not made public).
Rushed in front of a judge, the court automatically, without testimony, held me over for five days until I would get a bond hearing. At this point I was remanded to the local county jail, still incommunicado except for the public defender I had just met and who I begged to contact people for me (family, chain of command, etc) as I was of course, deeply concerned about the impact of my disappearance would be having on my wife and family. My grandmother, who is quite prescient - scarily so quite often - was already of the opinion I had been kidnapped. How right she was.
In the jail, which was horribly overcrowded, I was provided with an inch thick of foam rubber mat measuring 3 ft wide by 5 ft long and one ripped up sheet and a thin blanket. A two piece striped pair of coveralls and a pair of flip flops. I was then housed in a unit that was already full, just one of 30 sleeping on the floor in the center of the 'pod'. Many reports in the press outline how the in the US, the lack of mental health facilities means that the jail system handles a disproportionately large number of mentally ill people. I can vouch for this as over the next 19 months I was in the jails, I saw at least 1 out of every 3 people in there possessing mental disorders that were plain to the untrained eye.
A note on jails & communication from them. In the USA, the jails are operated at the local level and although they might contain people serving short sentences, they traditionally only hold those who are "innocent until proven guilty" and who are trying to make bond and get out, which is hilarious as communication from them is notoriously difficult and expensive.
The states and the federal government operate prisons, and the jails are where they hold people who can not make their bonds, or are denied bond, until they go to the prison.
The jails are the most primitive in their conditions, with no law library, hyper expensive communications that require people on the outside to pay price gouging phone companies in advance for you to even be able to connect with them to tell them you are there, no gym, no books, nothing but a holding pen. The food is terrible, the conditions filthy, violent, etc and if you protest the staff simply says "well bond out then!" But if you are a Federal detainee (read: prisoner - same euphemism they use for Gitmo) that's usually not possible, which I will come to momentarily.
So the first night I was in jail, the crew that had been in the cages with me and heard the ATF agent talking about "working together" jumped me as I slept. I awoke after being kicked in the head and then reflexively grabbed on to one and proceeded to try and give it back to him while the rest hit on me unencumbered. Eventually staff responded to the noise, or perhaps they were patrolling. Suffice to say they stopped the beating and may have saved my life.
The offenders were taken away and I was left unattended by medical personnel (you have to put in a 'sick call' slip and then they'll call you some future day should you live so long, or so I was told). Busted lip, sore ribs, the usual, but all I've ever really cared about after a beating was my teeth as they don't grow back or heal.
The next morning, with the other couple of white guys in there (you associate by tribe inside, it's automatic and you're only chance of having camaraderie of any kind), the doors were popped to the cells so that the guys in them could come out for a couple of hours into the main room. (There is no outside recreation in the jail system at any facility I ever saw, just a movement from small room to slightly larger room where you can sometimes be around others).
A black guy came out of a top floor room and went straight to the railing, where he tied one end of his sheet to the rail and then jumped over (he'd had it wrapped around his neck like a cravat. Eventually staff came in and moved us over to the next room, doubling it's overcrowded situation while they dealt with the hanged man's mess.
Seems it's quite common in the jails for guys left their for ages, unable to make their sky high bonds, ignored by the courts, to get depressed and attempt suicide. This wouldn't be the last I saw or heard... In this jail, there had been a guy just a week before who'd done a header off the top floor hoping to break his neck and die but only paralyzed himself. (I've heard that the new jails are being constructed with railings that go to the top so that they can't do this anymore.)

Then it was Tuesday morning.