My government and me

My government tried to destroy me, and they almost did. You’re having lunch with a friend, a former law partner, and he is recording your conversation and you don’t have a clue what’s going on. Days before, he calls my landline and I wasn’t home but my 13-year-old son Robert answers and he tells Robert to have me call him. I thought about that a lot after the sting was revealed. He talked to my son whom he knew, knowing that if the sting succeeded my son’s life, and my two other children’s lives would be adversely affected. How can someone do that without feeling you are not only destroying the target’s life, you are also destroying his children’s lives. But he didn’t care. He was trapped; cooperate or go to jail. The strange thing is, I got the feeling he enjoyed his new job. He had to do what they told him. He wanted to succeed so he could justify his actions. That’s what happens when you are an informant, the government makes you believe you need to redeem yourself from the corrupt life you have been leading. At trial, he admitted he was a degenerate gambler but found God and his brother who is a priest helped him mend his errant ways. We had witnesses, racetrack tellers ready to testify they sold him tickets the same day he said he found redemption but F.B.I agents showed up at their homes and intimidated them from testifying, and then the lying? At the first meeting in the restaurant, he said he had a client and he wanted to do something in Springfield, Illinois, the site of the state capital and I was a State Senator at the time, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He wanted me to be co-counsel, and he said he got a $10,000 retainer and he would split it with me. At this meeting, he didn’t give me any money. At trial, he testified the language about being co-counsel and the offer of money was code for a bribe. We objected and the judge ruled it inadmissible but the damage was done, the jury already heard it. We moved for a mistrial but the judge denied our motion. There were two schemes he was totting: one involved selling baggage claim insurance, the other was to talk to a judge I knew he represented a client in front of. The government indicted me on the first and introduced evidence on the second to prove my criminal intent. I was convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. While serving my sentence and just about to get out the government indicted me again. This time it was on the evidence they used to prove my criminal intent, the second scheme. A pound of flesh wasn’t enough; they wanted the whole body. I still remember my wife coming to the prison camp and telling me the government indicted me again. My lawyers asked permission for me to fly back to face the charges in Chicago on a commercial jet, but the government denied the request. My hands and legs shackled I was shipped out on a government plane to a prison in Oklahoma called El Reno. I remember sleeping on the floor because there weren’t enough beds. Eventually, I got back to Chicago to stand trial. The government wanted to make a deal: if I didn’t appeal my sentence, they would allow me to plead guilty and let the judge decide the new sentence. I agreed, they told the judge I should serve another 36 months because I was a really bad person. The judge questioned why I was indicted a second time since they already used the evidence in the first trial. She sentenced me to 6 months. The federal persecutors were so pissed they slammed the doors on the way out of the courtroom. At that moment I felt we beat the bastards. Their attempt to destroy me failed; an additional 6 months was no big deal. We beat the bastards. I served the additional 6 months at the federal corrections center (FCC) in Chicago and was released on June 24, 1995. I’ll never forget that day as long as I live. I spent most of my sentence at a federal prison camp in Florida. The funny thing about serving time in a federal prison camp is, there are no walls, just a yellow line. Inmates would leave the camp all the time, mostly at Christmas, they get lonely for their families. Federal Marshalls would pick them up at home and bring them back to the camp. I realized the real reason to incarcerate nonviolent criminals wasn’t punishment but to employ people from the adjacent town where the prison camp is located. The town next to the camp was called Niceville, and half the town’s population worked at the prison camp. Their congressman would visit the camp now and then and assure the authorities that their appropriation was secure. The argument for eliminating these types of prisons goes: When you sentence a nonviolent criminal to prison you disrupt the family causing irreparable harm to the family unit. Why not put the criminal on house arrest and let him work to support his family? The argument against goes: society needs to set an example so it has a deterrent effect on other people. The other reason not talked about is the economic one. It’s good for the community, it employs people. What this argument doesn’t take into consideration is the deleterious effect these prisons camps have on the federal budget. It cost a lot to house and feed a federal prisoner. All that money is saved if he or she is on house arrest.  I lost my law license, therefore my ability to make a living. I had three children who were adversely affected. I spent three years in federal prison. No person was injured by my conduct. I didn’t cheat anyone out of their money.  I didn’t physically harm anyone. This was a government sting operation. The funny part is, the informant was supposed to give me five thousand dollars, half the retainer he got from the client, but he kept twenty-five hundred for himself. One of the charges in the indictment said I didn’t pay income tax on five thousand dollars. I had to pay the I.R.S taxes and penalties on five thousand dollars even though he only gave me twenty-five hundred. I think at trial the government realized he kept the money for himself when we pointed out the inconsistency on the tape where he was supposed to give me the money. On the tape, he says, “I have another twenty-five hundred for you”, but he never pulled it out of his pocket. I guess that’s the funny part. The sad part is the informant never went to jail. They put him in the witness protection program never to be heard from again. But he did write a book, and he did do TV interviews, and he was a featured player in a National Geographic docudrama about the Chicago crime syndicate but he never went to jail. My defense team subpoenaed his income tax records. He didn’t pay income taxes for five years before becoming an informant. Can you imagine what would happen to you or me if we didn’t pay income taxes for five consecutive years? We’ll be in jail before the sun went down. “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.”[i] End of story.

[i] [i] (c. 15 BC – c. 50 AD), Roman fabulist


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