Back From Hell…

I’ve been absent for nine months. Being that I strive to keep my online presence strong and thriving, I feel I owe an explanation for my sudden disappearance. There’s a lot that happened, most of it extremely negative, but I’ll give the shortest version possible and if you have any questions please ask and I’ll happily answer them as thoroughly as possible.
What Happened –
In July 2010 I was in a car accident with my (at the time) girlfriend. Some legal issues followed, the most relevant to this post being a misdemeanor charge for driving on a suspended license. However, I had paid the fine I owed to the DMV on July 13th. The accident was July 16th. I had paid in cash, so I had no paper trail to prove I had paid it. So I went to the DMV, got a receipt that proved I was correct, and brought it to court. The D.A. claimed it was a forged document. One can only assume he was extremely bored that day. Regardless of his motive, I gathered the appropriate evidence. The DMV provided a letter re-iterating that my license had been valid and I even recorded a phone conversation with a DMV representative who verbally stated the same thing to provide further proof, beyond any doubt, that the suspended license charge should be dropped.
The Escalation –
The D.A. claimed I provided the DMV with a forged receipt in the first place and fooled them into changing all of my records. Apparently Special Ed tutors with zero criminal convictions are secretly criminal masterminds? I cannot begin to understand his logic. I was then charged with “offering a false instrument for filing”, a Class E felony. After months of court appearances and negotiations, I finally thought: “Fuck it. If he’ll reduce the felony to a misdemeanor and just charge me some fines, I’ll take a plea deal. The D.A. stubbornly refused and insisted on jail time. What the fucking fuck! To make matters worse, he contacted the DMV and suddenly the DMV said I paid my fine on July 22nd, thus making the suspended license charge valid. How this came to pass, I do not know. I suspect the D.A. desired to save face and used whatever clout he carried to get the DMV onboard with his plan of ruining me, going so far as to have investigators bust into my apartment on May 12, 2011 (my birthday, no less) and confiscate all my computer-related equipment to analyze for evidence of forgery. Nothing was found.

Fuck My Lawyer –

My (shitty, in hindsight) lawyer pressured me regardless into pleading to all my charges and in return the D.A. would give me 5 years probation instead of prison time. In a rare moment of irrationality, I caved. On September 22, 2011, I would be sentenced. I realized within 24 hours of making the deal that I’d made a mistake and told my lawyer I wished to appeal. He said it was “impossible”. I then told my pre-sentencing probation officer of my desire to seek an appeal because I’d falsely pled to crimes I did not commit. Well, part of any plea agreement is to maintain guilt around the pre-sentencing officer. I didn’t realize. So she was a royal little fucktard and told the Judge, who declared I violated the agreement and I would now have prison time added to the agreement. My lawyer suggested it would be for 3-6 months. Lovely.

The Big Decision –

So then I thought… hey, why not move to California? It had been my dream for years, I’d lost my job because of the legal bullshit I was going through, and I had yet to be sentenced so my record and freedom were still intact. My charges weren’t extraditable, so I could move to the West Coast without fear of being dragged back to NY and tossed in the slammer.

On Sept 21, 2011, the night before my sentencing, I fled and began my life in California where I proceeded to live happily for nearly a year. Absolute bliss. Great people, great weather, great career opportunity. There’s no place I’d rather be.

The Return to NY – July 4th was approaching and I wanted to visit my family in the Adirondacks for our annual mini-reunion. So my cousin/roommate and I drove across the country back to NY. Yes, there was an outstanding bench warrant for my arrest, but her home in the mountains was remote enough that I felt I’d be out of danger. Besides, my felony charge was laughably minor. Well, I was… RIGHT. Had a great time, saw more of the country, swung by my old college town etc. It was a lovely time. On the way back home to L.A. my cousin and I were going to attend a family wedding in Ohio and make a pitstop at the Grand Canyon as a grand finale. A great way to top off the adventure!
My Downfall –
Well, for just a few days we took a detour into Schenectady, NY so I could reunite with a couple good friends of mine before leaving for the wedding. Mistake. To my continued amazement, the great state of New York in it’s infinite wisdom decided to send the Federal Marshall’s to surround my Toyota Prius, guns pointed at my head, where I was parked in the peaceful Stockade neighborhood.

GAME OVER.

Next stop was Albany County Correctional, a shithole to be certain. Spent two weeks there as my (still shitty) lawyer advised I throw myself at the mercy of the court rather than fight my case, basically just a continuation of his prior lack of defense. Instead, I told the Judge that I was innocent of my charges and wished for the opportunity to prove as much. He declared I showed “no remorse” and he showed himself to have no soul by slamming me with a sentence of 1-3 years.

Uh… what?

On August 6 I was transferred to Downstate Correctional, a maximum security prison in Fishkill, NY for processing. Upon entry (called “Reception”), inmates have their heads shaved, are stripped down and forced into a cold and exposed shower and throughly “searched” (cough). Not pleasant. The whole place wasn’t pleasant. When leaving the messhall I was nearly assaulted by the guards because I had margarine on the bread I was bringing back to my cell. Why, you might ask? Because margarine was considered contraband! This place didn’t fuck around. It was bleak enough that I poisoned myself in what ultimately was a failed attempt at suicide. I woke up feeling dizzy and sick, but alive. And I became further depressed because of it. I don’t want to share any more about Downstate Correctional.

I knew I needed to get out of prison as quickly as possible or I would wind up dead, either by my own hands or a fellow inmates (more likely the former). So when I heard about an early release program called “Shock”, my interest was piqued. I qualified for the program based on my age and overall health and was transferred to a “Shock-Ready” transit prison at Ulster Correctional. This place was much more lax, as it was a Medium prison, and was far more tolerable as a result. Read a few great books and met some really civil people there.

After about ten days I was shipped to the Lakeview Shock Correctional Facility in Brocton, NY (as far West as you can go in the state, 15 minutes from Lake Erie). Unbeknownst to me, there was a “training” program before I would be permitted into the actual 180-day program. It lasted for about two months before I finally joined the 4th Platoon Brave Company (or “The Eagles” platoon) on October 11th, 2012. The program began on the 15the and ended on April 11th, 2013.

It was the most physically and mentally challenging experience of my life. Easily. Here’s what consists of a single day in Shock:

– Wake up to a shrill whistle at 5:30am.
– Leap out of the rack (bed) and stand at the Position of Attention.
– When instructed, we had 8 minutes to shave, brush our teeth, use the head (bathroom), make our racks, and be locked back up in the Position of Attention with the proper uniform. Then we file outside into formation and run as a group to the PT (Physical Training) deck, a large blacktop space where all 800+ Shock inmates (8 platoons) would gather by 6:45am.
– One or two Drill Instructors would lead an intensive exercise routine which lasted for 45-60 minutes.
– Next would be the daily run, which varied from 3-10 miles.
– Breakfast at 7:40am. No talking.
– Back to the dorm, changing into work clothes.
– Work assignment from 8:30am-2:30/3ish.
– Showers (1 big room, 7-14 dudes at a time… bah).
– Community Meeting
– Dinner @ 4:20pm.
– Varying evening class of some kind.
– Lights out @ 9:30pm.

Now do the same goddam thing for 180-days straight. No break for holidays, weekends, nothing. Straight. I cannot begin to explain how excruciating it was. I felt like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. I didn’t go to war, but I feel like nobody can understand what it was like unless they’ve experienced it themselves. Here’s a very short article about what a Shock camp is like because I don’t even know where to start: 

A few things NOT mentioned:
  • No phone calls except every other Sunday for 10 minutes.
  • No visitation except for every other Sunday.
  • No packages could be mailed in or out.
  • No books, magazines, or reading material.
  • Music and television were strictly banned.
  • Eight minutes to eat a meal.
  • Three minute showers.
  • Walking was banned. Yes, walking. One must jog/run (called “Double-Time”) at all times.
  • Sitting/laying down was banned from 5:30am-9:30pm except for meetings or classes.
  • EVERYTHING is measured or timed and graded accordingly.
  • Fuck up? You get sent to The Box for solitary confinement and then restart the 6-month program all over again. And again. And again… until you get it right or get kicked back to a regular jail. 
  • Physical abuses by Correctional Officers were not uncommon. 
There’s more, but that’s enough to make the point I wish to make. 
So What Now? –
When being released on parole, NY requires inmates to be with family so I am unfortunately living with my parents again at this time. It’s taking a great deal of humility to accept it. As long as I complete ONE year of parole without any violations, I will then be completely free of any legal restrictions and will absolutely return to my beloved California life. I’m using the time (and lack of rent/bills) to my advantage so I can come back to Cali significantly wealthier than I was before. 
I will be filing numerous lawsuits, none of which I can discuss publicly, against the NYS Corrections for a variety of abuses. But I will briefly say that one Drill Instructor in particular is going to regret assaulting me and justice will be served. I am also working on a promising appeal (yes, my old lawyer lied about that… I CAN appeal!!) so my current status as a convicted felon should be a temporary one. Should I win, parole would of course end earlier as well which would be lovely. I have a variety of parole conditions, but these are my most significant restrictions:
  • Strict curfew: 8pm-7am if unemployed, 9pm-7am if employed. >rolls eyes
  • Weekly appointment with parole officer for 6 weeks, then only once a month.
  • Zero alcohol/drug use, as if that wasn’t a given. (NY bud sucks anyway).
  • No traveling except within the 11 counties surrounding Schenectady, NY. Supposedly this will ease up by July or August and “travel passes” will be considered within the state. I cannot go outside of NY while on parole at any time, though.


Parole could potentially end in January 2014, but definitely will end by April 2014.


In Conclusion –
Despite everything, I feel extremely optimistic about my situation. Financially I’m in the best position I could ever be in. Between my appeal and lawsuits and living rent-free for a year, I should be able to move back to CA in great financial shape. If I win my appeal, I get $80k+ in compensation. If I win the lawsuits I’m looking at over $200k. If none of my legal efforts yield success, I will still breach $50k. So no matter how ya slice it, my move to CA will be a very, very comfortable one. A larger apartment and a Prius with a few more bells and whistles are on the menu, for starters. 
As far as my record, being a convicted felon is a handicap but in California employers can only do a background check up to 7-years. So when I’m 34, it’s as if I have a clean slate again. Besides, the Hollywood industry that I seek to be a part of could care less about that type of thing anyway. But it will be a challenge while I’m in New York, that’s for sure…

I kept a journal throughout the Shock program which I am turning into a script for a graphic novel which I am very, very excited about. I have detailed quotes, dates, records of abuses, etc etc. I have so much material for what will ultimately be a dark comedy that primarily focuses on “the inmate experience”. This won’t be a little project or a hobby… this thing will be a high quality, digitally rendered masterpiece that I will not quit on until it’s successfully published. I haven’t been this passionate about a project before. Right now I’m sorting through all the material but will hopefully have the rough script completed within 3 months time so I can jump into the illustration process which will most definitely take a couple years to complete.

One other perk, and it’s about the only positive I’ve gained out of Shock: I’m a runner now. I can run 10.5 miles without barely breaking a sweat at this point. Score.

So… that’s it, I guess. Thus far I’m spending most of my time catching up on entertainment I’ve missed. Boardwalk Empire (Season 3), Breaking Bad (S5), Weeds (S8), The Walking Dead (S3), The Office (S9), etc. Reading Books 2 and 3 of the Games of Thrones novels before watching the new Season that just started. Finally watching The Dark Knight Rises (at long last), The Hobbit, Ted, 007: Skyfall (saw last night actually). Catching up on The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher so I can be up-to-date on current events. God, there’s so much to do and see!   

And finally: Peanut Butter
In the Shock program we were deprived of protein because they didn’t want us gaining muscle so we were given a single scoop of peanut butter once a week. In Shock, that single food item meant everything. It was the best thing to look forward to on any given week because that was all we really had. It was comparable to Christmas morning and that’s only a mild exaggeration. I kid you not.
That’s how deprived we were. 
Oorah.

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