If and when I write a formal memoir—an autobiography—it would have to include the third of my life that I’ve spent in jails and prisons … some 25-yrs. A significant aspect of those experiences would be cellmates and jobs… (But I’m kinda like Meyer Lansky; a full memoir? Not likely.)
Within a certain context, there is a freedom in prison of association. The First Law is that wardens, counselors, case managers and corrections officers—all being part of an institutional bureaucracy—spend most of their time making things easy for themselves. This includes writing and interpreting the rules to best suit their own situation.
The Second Law is that prisoners themselves are relatively free to associate (live, work, etc.) … within the context of the First Law, of course.
(The American Gulag is essentially a vast system of over 2.3 million prisoners housed in over 4,575 prisons; second-place Russia has 1,029.)
The only other preamble I would draw here is that there are a variety of trial, sentence, age, security level, ethnic group and politics, in addition to crime factors, that enter into how prisoners associate w/each other.
(The American prison system tends to treat all prisoners the same w/out special privileges, dressing them in nondescript uniforms even as they proclaim that they seek to rehabilitate them for the “free world.” One might wonder how they really view that “free world.” A mass blend of twilight bland ruled by an elite few? They decry “communism,” yet create an institution that projects their pathological image of it.)
Prisoner association of generally equal group and “rank” is common. Either we’re assigned that way, or we seek each other out and are so assigned.
After 9-months in Detroit’s Wayne County Jail, my first prison cellmate at FCI Milan, MI, 1990, was a Colombian engineer who had worked for the US gov’t. He lived in Washington, DC, and had a wife and two young girls. He had an American “friend” who pestered him for a coke contact. (He either knew none or didn’t want to be involved.)
One afternoon while he was at work, this “friend” dropped off a package at his house, giving it to his wife. She left it on the dining room table for her husband. After he arrived home, the feds hit the house and busted them both (it was a kilo of sugar w/a smattering of coke. Under US law, that counts the full weight as coke).
Long story short: Unwilling or unable to produce a source for coke, the prosecutor offered him a plea-deal to 14-yrs or they would prosecute his wife. He took it. After his conviction they also pressed his Colombian wife for coke contacts. Not “cooperating,” they prosecuted her for the possession of a kilo of cocaine. She got 10-yrs. They had their two little girls sent to Spain to live w/relatives.
In 1991, I was transferred to FCI Ray Brook, Lake Placid, NY. It was originally the Athlete’s Village for the 1980 Winter Olympics. My first cellmate was a general contractor from Virginia. He scammed the banks out of several $million and got 10-yrs.
One day he showed me a state indictment from VA for scamming the sub-contractors as well and asked for my advice. I advised him to file for a speedy trial assuming there was a good chance that VA wouldn’t comply w/in the required time limit (70-days), and would otherwise tend to accept a plea for a consecutive sentence while serving his federal time. (He could always cop a plea down the line…)
He rebuked me as he had come to “accept Jesus as his savior” and would plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court. I gave him Jesus’s advice: “Render onto Caesar… To the Criminal Justice System, you’re just a coonskin on the wall.” When I saw him next, he had an additional 14-yrs to serve in Virginia after he completed his federal sentence.
Other cellmates at Ray Brook included a Lufthansa airline pilot w/a kilo of heroin under his flight seat; a Vietnamese ship’s captain, caught w/a load of Thai-stick off the coast of Hawaii; and a Cuban Brigade 2506 commander from the Bay of Pigs invasion, who was a chiropractor who defrauded Medicare.
My work assignment at Ray Brook was as an Account’s Payable clerk disbursing about a $250,000/month to vendor’s of the prison facility and UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries. Inc.). I determined the payments according to Treasury Dept guidelines, processed the computer billing, and passed it on to my supervisor. When I disqualified a $300,000 payment to local contractors for prison work, the fit hit the shan. (Of their $900,000 billing, I only approved $600,000).
(All UNICOR moneys, to and fro, are disbursed thru accounts w/the US Treasury Dept. I was merely following their own guidelines [granted, as a former criminal investigator, I could smell the contractor rip a mile away, but I didn’t take into account the “cozy” deal between certain prison personnel and the locals]. Taken from my cell early one morning soon thereafter, I was given a round of “diesel therapy” to another prison.)
FCI Schuylkill, PA, was new in 1992 and w/out a seasoned comptroller or experienced business staff, UNICOR hired me as Payroll Clerk. Among several cellmates over the next 3-yrs, my most memorable was Seamus Moley (shamus mooley), an IRA officer from Northern Ireland who had been busted for buying a Stinger Missile.
(We hit it off right away when he found out that my mother’s side was all-Irish, and that I could describe precisely the training camp he had attended in Syria … where I had been a journalist attached to the same PFLP-GC commandos.)
It was an entrapment scheme so blatant that the Miami federal court judge dismissed most of the indictments and only sentenced Seamus to 5-yrs for the one guilty verdict.
Unfortunately, the gov’t, being pissed off at the Miami judge, waited ‘til Seamus almost completed his sentence, then re-indicted him in another jurisdiction on the dismissed charges, which that judge allowed and gave him an additional 10-yrs.
Other cellmates at Schuylkill included a young dead-head (follower of the Grateful Dead) who was sentenced to 40-yrs for a 3rd-strike felony (#1 a lid of reefer; #2 a lid of reefer; #3 a sheet of LSD thru the mail); a smuggler pilot who’s airfield and aircraft were confiscated by the feds, which has since become Air America for the DEA/CIA; and a Replug PA state legislator busted for taking a 10-yr-old boy across the state line for a little diddly-time.
In 1994, w/the help of Congressman Sander Levin’s office, I was transferred to FCI McKean, PA (a lot closer to Detroit and family visits). Well-known to federal prisoners as “Dream McKean.”
My most significant cellmate at FCI McKean was Peter MacDonald, former Chief of the Navajo Nation for 5-terms (20-yrs). Pete was given 14-yrs for “conspiring to overthrow the gov’t…” There was an election dispute on the res, it got violent, two Sheriff’s officers were “kidnapped” and two of Pete’s supporters were killed. Pete wasn’t even there at the time.
I learned a lot about Native American history from Pete. From the age of 7, he was raised in a gov’t-Christian missionary school (as was law for all Native Americans), forbidden to speak his language, wear Native garb or hair, and forbidden to practice their religion.
At 15 he joined the Marines (1944) and became a Navajo Code-Talker serving in the Pacific and China. After the war he got an electrical engineering degree from Oklahoma State on the GI Bill, and joined Hughes Aircraft as a Project Manager for the Polaris Submarine Missile Program. When he retired back to the res, he was elected to the Chairmanship (Chief).
(On Clinton’s last act as President, he commuted Pete’s sentence, after he had already served almost 10-yrs.)
While not a cellmate, I spent some time w/Gene Gotti (John’s brother) out on the track. I knew a number of the Detroit Family (working as an investigator to both criminal and civil plaintiff attorneys) and we spent time swapping stories.
At one point, Gene suggested that I distance myself from Novi Tocco, nephew to the Detroit Don (whom I knew from Detroit and often visited my cell). That was just before Novi went back to Detroit to strike a deal w/the feds in return for testifying against his own family (father and uncle). What a slimeball.
In 2001, I was transferred to FCI Jesup, GA. Around 11am on September 11th, I was unceremoniously thrown into the hole (Segregated Housing Unit) incommunicado. I learned the story of 9/11 over 50 days later when I was released and sent back to work and my housing unit. Just a little reminder of the essential political character of my conviction.
After that period they put me in a cell w/one of the weirdest characters I’ve ever met. Pretty much a doppelgänger for Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) or vice versa. Scott Robin Roston is a stone OCD psychopath. Nine days into his honeymoon back in ’88 aboard a cruise ship he beat his bride unconscious and threw her off the ship to her death.
Witnesses said they argued at dinner over her eating sweets and using the wrong fork for her salad. Several days into my celling w/this freak I awoke in the night to his standing in front of the commode, whipping his willie w/one hand while he held his thumb up his ass w/the other.
I went ballistic. He apologized saying he didn’t think I’d mind, and it took me several months to get the f*ck outta there. My Case Manager said they’d move me asap “but it’s difficult to find any inmates who will bunk w/him.” They had to wait ’til some newbies were transferred in. No shit!?! (P.S.: This sex predator is scheduled to get out July 8th, 2017. Be aware.)
In 2006, after one of one of my 6-month Program Review interviews, the Unit Manager took me aside and asked me if I knew that my file contained a Secret Service, FOIA-Exempt security section.
I told her that I did know (I already knew what was in it because an SIS lieutenant had privately allowed me to read it). She asked me that since I had at least 6-yrs remaining on my sentence (of 25-yrs, minus 15% Good Time), would I prefer to be in a prison camp (no fence, community privileges)? Yes, of course.
She advised me that she would get notice to the Secret Service that the BOP was misusing their information to bar me from a proper lower security status. (I knew that the file included a notice by the Secret Service to the BOP that I had been cleared of all threat allegations.)
She notified me a couple of months later that my status was changed and I would be sent to the first available camp. (My non-snitch and political quasi-status, often earned me the respect of both inmates and staff. Part of the prisoner hierarchy.)
I was soon sent to the camp at Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, and was assigned as a dog-handler w/the freedom of the base and downtown Montgomery (in order to socialize the dog to the public for later advanced training). Quite a change after 16-yrs behind the walls, eh?
Before I got my dog Kaley (who lived w/me and went everywhere I did), one of my cellmates at Maxwell AFB was former Congressman Ed Mezvinski (D-IA). Before he was a Congressman, he was an investigator during the Watergate Hearings, of which we had many interesting discussions.
He was convicted of fraud and got 5-yrs. The camp PA-system confused our names all the time … we had to both respond to their calls. His son, Marc, married Chelsea Clinton. Small world, eh?
Two years later, I was transferred to the camp at the Pensacola Naval Air Station where I was sent to a Navy school for training as a haz-mat officer. When I completed training, I was assigned a 4-man crew, three haz-mat vehicles, and the security codes of all areas of the base (including the Blue Angels’ compound). What more could a federal prisoner ask for?
(What I found especially ironic was that two of my assigned crew were former pilots at Pensacola. One a Navy F-16 Falcon chief instructor, and the other an F-4 Phantom Marine fighter pilot w/73 combat missions over Viet Nam. They were convicted of tax evasion…)
After two more years, for a total of 20, I was selected for a 2-yr early out (to home arrest in Detroit). It was a Congressional Program for Elderly Offenders. Although clearly qualified, many were routinely refused (the BOP doesn’t like being told what to do). I was fortunate to have Congressman Charlie Rangel as a sponsor.
Over the years, my cellmates also included an Air Force general, police officers, CEOs, Mafia figures, Israelis, Palestinians, rock musicians and numerous pilots (being one myself) who flew choppers in ‘Nam, CIA-Contra traffickers, 3-different Colombian drug cartel pilots and more. Never a dull moment.
I had the opportunity to complete a 2-yr psych internship thru WSU and the VA (I have a fully accredited PsyD), but I figured going into clinical practice at the age of 70 would be a bit much.
My current (and last?) roommate up here in the Heart of the North Country (Grayling, MI) is Boo. Best pussy I’ve ever had. I got him at the shelter and he pretty much totally ignores me… Just the way I like it.
Dr. Publico (Nick Medvecky, PsyD), January 2015…