Jerry was a likable man, without pretense, and always letting you know where you stood. So, he made many friends. He had the reputation within the system as a man who would keep his mouth shut and a man that you didn’t want to wrong. His last fight was when a much younger man tried to cheat him out of money. Jerry walked to his cell and without warning began hitting him, the fight lasting almost fifteen minutes before they were too tired to continue. The man paid the money the next day. Even as Jerry talked about this, he showed no anger toward the man; it was just part of prison life.
Another friend he met during his last months at the max security prison in Kentucky was a businessman I’ll call John, who was in prison because of a massive Ponzi scheme involving millions. John was in his early fifties, articulate, and like Tyson’s friend, eager to talk. He was awaiting appeal and was certain he would win. He didn’t. He was also interested in my writing a book about his life---that is yet to be decided. He was, however, an interesting person. His story was that he purchased a failing financial firm, rehabilitated it, and began selling shares to the public. Well, you see where this is going. He used sales proceeds to pay interest, etc, etc, until his lavish lifestyle began drawing attention of regulators and they discovered the scam.
The federal judge was so angry after the guilty verdict came in that she lashed out at John viciously and gave him a sentence of 50 years, which means he would be in his nineties before getting out. In all my times of reading court cases, I’d be hard pressed to find a more angered judge. But it could have been worse because the prosecution had sought a sentence of 225 years.
I’ll continue with John’s story later but need to add a note here. In this post I referred to Jerry in the past tense because yesterday he died from pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed a few months ago and had been undergoing treatment at the Butner Medical Center in North Carolina. He had become a friend and I will miss him. However, now that he is no longer at the mercy of the archaic prison system, I’m free to share more with you , including my anger at the way we treat other human beings. So, stay turned.