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Prison Cellmates & Jobs…

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.)

Co-defendant Larry Genoa & Author, FCI McKean, PA, 1995

Co-defendant Larry Genoa & Author, FCI McKean, PA, 1995

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.)

Wayne County Jail, Detroit, 1989

Wayne County Jail, Detroit, 1989

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.

FCI Ray Brook, NY

FCI Ray Brook, NY

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.)

Seamus Moley & Author, FCI Schuylkill, PA, 1993

Seamus Moley & Author, FCI Schuylkill, PA, 1993

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.”

Peter MacDonald

Peter MacDonald

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.

Scott Robin Roston

Scott Robin Roston

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.)

Author w/Kaley at Auburn University Vet School Show, 2006

Author w/Kaley at Auburn University Vet School Show, 2006

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.

Marc Mezvinsky & Chelsea Clinton.

Marc Mezvinsky & Chelsea Clinton.

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…)

Former Congressman, Ed Mezvinski (D-IA).

Former Congressman, Ed Mezvinski (D-IA).

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…

 

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Peter MacDonald: Navajo Warrior…

In 1994, while serving a 25-yr prison sentence on a drug conviction (an archival conspiracy), I found myself with a new cellmate at FCI McKean, PA…the former Chairman (Chief) of the Navajo Nation, Peter MacDonald.

Peter MacDonald (85)...

Peter MacDonald (85)…

From day one I used my time to pursue studies in historical knowledge and a Doctorate in Forensic Psychology (PsyD).

My attitude was to thoroughly study the American gulag from inside the beast, as it were, and to avail myself of all the knowledge and experience possible from those around me…prisoners, staff and contractors.

My cellmates included Mafia figures, a bankster ($200 million rip), an airline pilot (Lufthansa), a Cuban gusano commandant, an IRA officer, an Air Force general, a Medellín Cartel pilot, a Grateful Dead-Head, a Nigerian gov’t official, a PA state rep, a US Congressman  and a variety of other interesting characters.

The U.S. federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is a unique living laboratory. With more than 118 facilities, holding more than 215,000 prisoners. Some 27% are designated as “aliens,” mostly Hispanic, but quite representative of an international population. Imperial Rome was not built in a day….

If one adds the populations of state jails and prisons, juvenile, military, Native American, immigrant, possessions et cetera, we’re looking at a total of some 2.5 million world citizens.

If you add all those who are under criminal justice control (parole, probation, etc.) the number reaches over 7.5 million. Add former felons, well, you get the idea….

America is the largest “criminal” gulag empire in human history.  Ironically, only 3-to-8% of these populations are considered violent predators. The incapacitation of criminal predators in the general population is the least of its tasks.

One might reasonably argue that the capitalist enterprise fosters–if not requires–the warehousing of a large surplus labor force.

Peyote Art...

Peyote Art…

Just over 50% are drug prisoners, mostly for reefer. (During alcohol Prohibition, that percentage rose to 75%.) The percentage convicted of moral, consensual and public order “crimes” designated as victimless is 86% of the total prison population.

Contrary to the conservative algebra of the corporate media, if one were to release 1% of the predators, the impact on society would be significant; on the other hand, if over half the consensual prisoners were to be released one would hardly score a blip on the reported-crime graphs. Well, that’s my experiential opinion….

But for these “criminal” designations (overwhelmingly weighted toward racial, ethnic and class factors), the federal prison population is in fact a reasonable microcosm of the general US population. (Give ’em time, they’ll get around to the rest of y’all…)

In all-too-many respects, the police, prosecution and court systems are themselves predatory, parasitic agencies imposing racial and class rule for the direct benefit of a corporatist/political elite.

Author w/Peter MacDonaldFCI McKean, PA '95

Author w/Peter MacDonald
FCI McKean, PA ’95

Back to Peter MacDonald. Pete was born to the Navajo in 1928.  He was among young native children wrenched from their parents by Congressional decree and installed in Christian Missionary facilities to be whitewashed (forbidden their dress, language, religion, long hair, even their original names).

In 1944 Pete was laboring on the railroad. Being only 15, he falsified his birth status and joined the U.S. Marine Corp. After boot camp he trained as a Navajo Code Talker and was sent to the Pacific. When the US nuked Japan and ended the war, Pete was sent to China to help repatriate Japanese troops.

After military service, he completed high school and used his GI Bill to attend Oklahoma University, acquiring a degree in electrical engineering. Working for Hughes Aircraft, he became a Project Manager of the Polaris (Submarine) Missile Program. Pete eventually returned to the Navajo Reservation and served as the elected Chairman (Chief) of the Navajo Nation for a total of 20-yrs.

In 1989 in a tribal election dispute, two local sheriff officers were “kidnapped” and two of Pete’s followers were killed. While Pete was not present, he was convicted (like Leonard Peltier, another Indian leader) of conspiracy to riot along with fraud and racketeering and sentenced to 14-yrs. After serving most of his sentence the remainder was commuted by Clinton in 2001.

In our cell, Pete was one busy beaver. In addition to his full-time prison clerk’s job, he was constantly writing letters to correspondents, working on another book following up on his autobiography, working on a Navajo dictionary and other projects.

The Navajo are the largest Native American tribe in the United States. Their tribal lands of over 27,000 square miles occupy significant parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Navajo land is comparable to the size of Ireland.

True to other historical aspects of Euro-American racism and nativism, the Navajo were treated as sub-humans by many colonial settlers. As with other tribes, the Navajo suffered a variety of massacres by colonists and the Army, one of them was the Long Walk in 1863. Even birthing mothers who “straggled” were shot.

Like other Native Americans they would no doubt have been dispossessed and mostly wiped-out had their lands been more fertile. Given their often cruel wardship by the US, the Navajo remain among the poorest of populations in America.

Navajo Code TalkersEventual Recognition...

Navajo Code Talkers
Eventual Recognition…

Nevertheless, the Navajo saw their military service as a source of great pride. One might be able to imagine young men coming from such a victimized culture becoming Marines, given such critical jobs as Code Talkers and being respected for the first time in their lives by the ruling culture.

The Navajo Code Talkers participated in all 14 of the Pacific Island campaigns, from Guadalcanal to Okinawa during World War-II.  They were credited with saving many thousands of American lives.

After the war, they were considered so secret (to be used in future conflicts) that for 24 years (1969) they were prohibited from divulging what they had done, even to their families.

Pete is a curious blend of Navajo and Christianity (as are most colonized peoples).  He explained to me that the actual name of the Navajo were the Diné, the original people, and that they were the first people in the world and were bounded by the four sacred mountains.

One Planet...One Human Family...

One Planet…One Human Family…

To me–a secular humanist–his belief is perfectly in line with the other world religions.  They all believe that they alone were “chosen” by their respective god(s).

On the other hand, scientists have found that the genesis for modern humans was Africa some 200,000 years ago.

Eventually humans spread throughout the planet.  Asians traveled into the Western Hemisphere thru the Bering Bridge. DNA studies today confirm these hypotheses.

For me, other confirmation came from Sally McClain’s 1994 book on the Code Talkers, Navajo Weapon.  The Japanese themselves–a highly ethnic-conscious race–supplied an interesting form of confirmation.

During the War in the Pacific, the Japanese were very keen on cracking the Navajo code. One of their highest priorities was to capture one of these elusive “Navajo.”

What they never realized until December of 1944, was that they already had a Navajo that they had captured in 1942 in the Philippines at Corregidor. He was Joe Kieyoomia who had joined the Army in 1941 and had survived the Bataan Death March not long after Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese were convinced that Joe was hiding his true Asian ancestry (even his name to them was Japanese-sounding: “Key-oh-me”). All of his protestations that he was an American Indian only further pissed-off his interrogators.

They transferred him to Nagasaki, Japan and tortured him repeatedly, breaking a number of bones over time to get him to admit he was Japanese. At one point, they made him stand over night in the cold, freezing his feet to the ground.

When they finally figured it out and had him listen to some recordings of the battle-field code, Joe was amazed to hear his own language. While he could easily understand the words, they were in a code that made no sense to him. This led to even greater torture.

In August of 1945 the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Joe survived. (One of the war secrets is the number of POWs killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

After the war, it took another four years of hospitalization for Joe to recover. He was grateful to the code-talkers…having a remote chance of breaking the code is the only reason the Japs even kept him alive.

Today Peter MacDonald is the president of the Navajo Code Talkers Association. I believe there are 39 (out of some 385) still living. They’re trying to raise funds for a Navajo Code Talker Memorial in New Mexico.

As stated…I cherished my time with Pete…  Even great empires create the conditions for their own eventual fall…

P.S.: A response I’ve since rec’d from Peter MacDonald: There were a total of over 400 Navajo Code Talkers in WW-II; 13 were KIA and more the a dozen WIA; and only 38 remain alive, Pete being the youngest at 85.

Dr. Publico  (Nick Medvecky, PsyD)

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Pardons & Hot Pickles…

Back in the summer of ’00, when Big Bubba Clinton was wrapping up his quasi-Republican two terms in la Casa Blanca, I filed a commutation/pardon request with the Justice Depts’ Office of the Pardons Atty.

How much are we gonna take?

I didn’t really expect a positive result.  But as I was already helping put together one for my cellmate at the time, Peter MacDonald, former Chief of the Navajo Nation, friends urged me to also put one in for myself.

Pete had resisted applying for several years despite the support and urging of his Nation and a number of interested political figures as disparate as Barry Goldwater (deceased in ’98) and Jimmy Carter.

   Aside from denying any criminal role in the “reservation” uprising, he also argued that the US Gov’t had no jurisdiction in the first place.  As a matter of sovereign Treaty and even US law, he was correct…not that that ever bothered the US gov’t. more…

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Prison: Retribution vs. Reconciliation…

One  of the fringe bonuses I got out of 20 years in the federal prison system (there were many), was the year I spent as a cellmate with Peter MacDonald, former chief of the Navajo Nation.

Peter MacDonald & Friend

Pete led an interesting life:  From starting at his grandfather’s knee learning to be a medicine man, forced into a Christian Mission school, being a Marine Code-Talker in WW-II, to Oklahoma University on the G.I. Bill, to Hugh’s Aircraft as a Polaris Missile project manager, and back to his Navajo roots.

I spoke previously of this experience.  Here, I’d like to deal with another aspect of my education from celling with Pete.

Among intensive discussions and readings, I studied a variety of Indian lore, including the Iroquois Nation, a confederacy of six tribes in what later became the greater New York area.

Arguably, the Iroquois laws and political composition became influential to some of the Framers of the US Constitution, if not so accredited.  Clearly, the Iroquois had a significant level of socio-political organization.  I suspect it had a lot to do with the family formation. more…

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Navajo Chief–Peter MacDonald…

As the rest of the nation commemorates Memorial Day, some 300,000 military veterans mark the event thru the impress of razor wire and prison walls.

Chief Peter MacDonald

Chief Peter MacDonald

The American Correctional Association (ACA) and the US Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicate that fully 83% of that number are veterans discharged under honorable conditions.  The Veterans Administration (VA) reports that 20% reported combat experience, 18% were homeless prior to their arrest, and 70% were arrested for a nonviolent crime.

It is clear that many military veterans start out with non-criminal issues, such as, PTSD/SS, drug and alcohol problems, and homelessness.  These situations sooner or later lead to criminalization if not effectively resolved thru mental and social health programs. more…