To Give or Take a Flower: Life in Prison

The tension was high and the air stale, somehow this all seemed very ritualistic and business as usual, likely because it was. An average height man with shaggy hair and an unkempt face sat still and anxious as the defendant; the room, in agony, awaited the jury’s consensus.

Their deliberation: Guilty

A sick and gruesome tale about a man who had what seemed like little moral value and a twisted perspective of boundaries had enslaved us, the audience because this truly felt like something you would only hear about in some borderline thriller/horror flick.

It was reminiscent of a more pathetic and less crafty version of the Scream thriller series.

The (sorry excuse for a) man, the defendant, had just been convicted of attempted murder in the first degree. The long, perverted list of other obscenities this bottom feeder had committed were irrelevant according to the state prosecutors; he would receive the worst of sentences via this charge, AKA, they were too lazy and too strapped for resources to put forth the effort in exhibiting just how rotten this individual was.

To summarize the events that led him to these shackles:

A grown adult man uses pharmaceutical drugs like Klonopin, Xanax and varying other benzodiazepines—as well as opioids and other intoxicating substances—to lure his daughter’s young, teenage friends in and diminish their inhibitions or at least paralyze them, leaving them incapable of rejecting their perpetrator. His authoritative role, an adult—parent—position, gave him the dominating hand in these situations of which he would cravenly take advantage. Douchebag.

“A grown adult man uses pharmaceutical drugs like Klonopin, Xanax, and varying other benzodiazepines—as well as opioids and other intoxicating substances—to lure his daughter’s young, teenage friends in and diminish their inhibitions or at least paralyzing them, leaving them incapable of rejecting their perpetrator. His authoritative role, an adult—parent—position, gave him the dominating hand in these situations that he would so valiantly take advantage of. Douchebag.”

One girl in particular struck his attention the most and he molded her into his little pet: feeding her copious amounts of pills and forever depriving her of self-confidence, security and emotional stability. He “loved” her. This middle-aged man sought out the adolescent girl’s hand in marriage—once she was of age of course, ‘cause that’s what the law says… right?

It took some time but this brave, young girl found her senses and rejected the devil in pig-skin form. Insidious, his acceptance was thwarted and he retaliated by stealing her away from her safe-zone, home, and pleading for her love. Alas, she wouldn’t have it and he turned physical.

Into the woods they drove. She kicked, screamed and cried for it to stop. He pulled off onto a dark, heavily wooded dirt road and proceeded to physically attack her: choking, pushing, pulling, slapping.

In a stroke of luck she broke free, subsequently counter-attacking and craftily de-escalating the situation, taking advantage of his now weakened state.

Guilty was the charge for this (these) crime(s). 15 years was his sentence. He’ll likely spend six to seven in confinement.

I would like to apologize for putting you through that horrendous experience—reading, feeling and likely crying; for I know tears dwell on the edges of my eyes as I script this travesty for you.

However, its necessity was crucial.

The complexity of punishment and its philosophies, which hopefully stand as a basis for which we outline our sentencing, is extraordinary. You would think the imperative to lock away such hell-sent deviants like the aforementioned scumbag would be priority number one. Though, I regretfully seek to inform you our system would prefer a different breed of law breakers when handing out the full extent of the law.

“The conspiracy was developed through a reverse sting operation that was instigated by the DEA and prosecutors using an indicted fugitive who John had never known.” Beth Curtis’s website, www.johnknock.com, explains.

John Knock is Beth’s brother.

With no history of drug abuse or violent behavior, Knock found himself subjected to the “hard-knock life,” sentenced to two life sentences plus twenty years for conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana as well as conspiracy to launder money.

According to Beth, a fugitive by the name of Clifton Brown, whom John had never met, was looking for any and every way out of a sentence that would likely force him to play out the rest of his days in confinement.

“Brown went to the Federal Prosecutors in the Northern District of Florida and said he knew individuals in San Francisco who may be involved with marijuana.  The Florida Prosecutors and the DEA set up an elaborate sting operation to lure these individuals to Florida to get them to agree to participate in marijuana importation.”

None of the subjects agreed to the deal.

“The case built by the prosecutors at his trial sounded like a fairy tale to John’s family. One frightened and compromised witness after another tried to testify in a way that would match their plea agreement and or would give them a share of the forfeiture.”

John never approved of trafficking cannabis to the United States because of mandatory minimum laws as a witness had testified; however it was his known activities outside of the States and his connection with one of the suspects from San Francisco which paved the path to his conviction.

John is 64-years-old.

John Knock

John Knock

To be clear, this case and the other life-sentence cases discussed in this article are all federal, non-violent marijuana cases.

“It’s so fiscally irresponsible to lock away these men,” Beth tells me, exasperated.

Confounded and repulsed by the travesty which is our criminal justice system, Beth sought out others who had been wronged, others who were serving LIFE in jail for POT.

As you scroll through another one of Beth’s web pages, www.lifeforpot.com; as you read through the most basic of summaries that are accompanied by photos, the faces, of other men who have been lost in our prison system, the humanization is real. These are living, breathing individuals: locked away, forgotten, left to rot in a cell.

“These men will take their last breath locked in a cage” with no family, no friends and no humanity because they were caught up trafficking marijuana.

Apparently committing victimless crimes, that solely appease supply and demand, is more revolting to our criminal justice system than the actions of raping and stripping away the self-value of a young girl.

“I think for a couple of them, I’m their only support.” Beth stays in touch and corresponds with all of the prisoners she has found serving life for pot.

“They want out so badly. They hold on to hope.”

Interestingly enough, there seems to be a disproportionate number of life sentences handed out for non-violent cannabis offenses in the 11th US District: Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Of the 17 listed on Beth’s Life for Pot page, at least 9 were convicted in the 11th district of the US Circuit.

When asked about this, Beth concurred she had noticed the same but couldn’t give a solid reason as to why.

“Southern Justice is a little bit harsher in punishment.”?

She expounded with a sensible theory that because of the type of sentences these guys receive—life—they get put in maximum security facilities. This in turn allows for the Bureau of Prisons for each of the US districts to appeal for better budgets by saying, “Hey, look! We’ve got all these prisoners, we need more supplies—more manpower.” When the reality is they are taking in these effectively harmless men and filling their cells for better pay and better equipment.

“All of these [convicts] are bright, delightful men. I would invite each and every one of them over for tea.”

Knock’s sister who is herself an older woman, has made it her personal mission to be there for these lost souls. She went on to tell me most of the gentlemen she communicates with have continued education and received degrees while serving out their sentences. Many also seek out mentoring and educating others: holding classes and studies on writing, poetry, yoga and other creative outlets which help them release while in confinement.

Stanford University’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Punishment explicates on the matter, “The concept of punishment — its definition — and its practical application and justification during the past half-century have shown a marked drift away from efforts to reform and rehabilitate offenders in favor of retribution and incarceration.”

Does seven to fifteen years in prison rehabilitate a man so sinister and twisted he knowingly and willfully takes advantage of young women? Is it really retaliation or retribution instead of rehabilitation? And if so, why the inequitable sentencing and punishment for cannabis traffickers or cultivators?

How do I explain to my daughter that our government thinks importing illegal flowers is more dangerous and vile than if a man were to, without her permission, defile her and rob her of her flower?

“How do I explain to my daughter that our government thinks importing illegal flowers is more dangerous and vile than if a man were to, without her permission, defile her and rob her of her flower?”

“You don’t know how much power the government has until you become a target” Beth spoke about how intent the US Attorneys had been in her brother, John’s, case.

Her story reminded me of that recent flick with “The Rock” in it– Snitch. Is this real life?

It’s become a case of criminals pointing fingers at other alleged criminals who are pointing fingers at other alleged “evil-doers.” Is this all just to maintain high prosecutorial numbers and show a tough stance on crime?

Infographic from Snitch Official

Infographic from Snitch Official

In the movie, US Attorney Joanne Keeghan, played by Susan Sarandon, is running an aggressive anti-drug campaign in order to boast her competence while up for election to Congress. Her judgment throughout the movie—which is based on a true story—is so slanted that at points she is practically foaming at the mouth for more convictions, bigger fish to fry. Sound familiar? Obama?

At this point, many would decompress and say, “Eh, it’s just a movie.”

But it isn’t.

John Knock, is a first-hand victim of callous, resume-building shenanigans our public officials and leaders so arrogantly discarded for their personal gain.

Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle and the many, many others that are stuck also were thrown away, pushed out of sight, out of mind, likely for more merit badges.

It is easy to forget this is a War on Drugs; our freedoms have been lost in the field of politics and commendation hunting as well as from the blood, sweat and hard work put in by activists: yelling, picketing, writing, organizing, advocating and being arrested. The countless involved in importing against the will of our government to give us our cannabis; the thousands and thousands who have cultivated for us—risking everything and far too often losing everything.

These cold realities of our criminal justice system are because of failed policies which have imposed a WAR on fairly benign substances. The fact is: there is no good reason for the disparaging and unjust sentencing outcomes. It all boils down to politics and ignorance.

Beth Curtis is a hero. She is a loving sister and an immaculate human being with compassion and humanity. Please take the time to investigate these serious injustices Beth has brought to our attention; donate your expertise; donate your wit, your money and acknowledge the efforts of those around you who have tirelessly fought for your rights and nurtured your fallen. We are a community, a constituence—if we can band together as a united voice, maybe we can bring some common sense to the table.

 

Letter to Some Forgotten God – George Martorano

(Serving life in prison for a non-violent drug offense–http://www.freegeorge.us/)

George Martorano - Taken from www.freegeorge.us

George Martorano – Taken from www.freegeorge.us

It is night, the middle of it. And here I sit in the middle of my oft-cell on the cold, hard floor.

There is a small fire going in a metal pail.

As I stare into the flames my soul sits across from me. And after three decades in prison, I truly have not a thing left to feed the fire. For if this fire on this night shall perish before the grey dawn; so shall I.

“You have to do it?” I asked.

“But then you’ll have no soul”, my Soul replied.

“Yes, but I wish to live, so do it!” And my soul began feeding the fire with himself. First the arms, and I moaned. Then legs, and we wept…. Then my soul began tearing pieces of his torso and we both felt the agony…. As I held my own soul’s head in my hands

I screamed out to God…. No one answered…. Finally, not wishing death, I placed the head, held it there, burning my hands.

As the dawn sneaked at me through the barred window. The cold fire before me. Me, alive, I never felt more dead.

So, it had come thus, me, to continue on, caged, a man with no soul.