I was busted in Wheaton, Md., on Oct 25, 1976, for a bad check. Remembering F. Lee Bailey's admonition, "Never plead guilty," I turned down a plea-bargain offer to cop a guilty plea in return for a 2 1/2-year prison sentence. After a 4-day jury trial, I was convicted on one count of mail fraud in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Fla. Judge John A. Reed Jr. sentenced me to 4 years, just 1 year shy of the 5-year max. The feds flew me to the medium-security prison in Danbury, Conn., where I met G. Gordon Liddy and other luminaries. I took the job just vacated by Clifford Irving.
My first encounter with the U.S. Parole Commission's kangaroo court system was a perfunctory hearing at Danbury in December 1977. The parole commission's guidelines indicated in my case a period of incarceration of 20-to-24 months. However, the kangaroo court ordered me to continue to the full expiration of my sentence. Reason: a prior conviction. But the prior conviction was already used to figure my incarceration in the first place!
The parole bureaucrats use "salient factors" to figure out how long a prisoner should be locked up.The first salient factor is the record of past convictions. Hence, to use a record as the reason to exceed the imprisonment guidelines is to count the same thing twice. This impermissible doubling was upheld on perfunctory appeals to senior parole bureaucrats.
But this was only the beginning of the railroad job I would get in the name of the law.
I was on parole when I was busted. The U.S. Parole Commission lodged a warrant for parole violation against me just three days before the 2-year parole was due to expire. That was Oct. 22, 1976. By law, I was entitled to a revocation hearing.The whole intent of former senator Sam Ervin's Fair and Speedy Trial Act was to bring federal criminal charges to trial within six months of indictment. States, counties and municipalities that lodge detainers to hold a prisoner on their charges provide for a speedy trial on request, thus disposing of the detainer. The parole commission's warrants are also detainers, but with a big difference-the commission holds revocation hearings to execute its own warrants whenever it wants to.
I requested a revocation hearing to execute my warrant in September 1977 and again in June 1978. Both times, the parole commission denied me the hearing but kept the warrant in force. Now-nearly three years later-my violation warrant is still on file against me and the parole commission still refuses to give me a revocation hearing to clear it up. In this way, the parole commission can wait until the very last day that I "max out" on this sentence to make me "back up" time on the old sentence, thus running the two sentences consecutively.
The law clearly says, however, that only the sentencing judge can decide whether sentences are to run concurrently or consecutively. To back up this clearly illegal "stacking" of sentences, the parole commission relies on a non-law in a non-case (Moody ), in what has become case-law-by-default because the Supreme Court refused to review, and thus left standing, a lower court's ruling on what is clearly a constitutional issue. Does a convicted prisoner have the right to a fair and speedy revocation hearing that he requests on a violations warrant?
There is only one consideration that makes my parole file different from some 30,000 others. On three different occasions, I wrote letters to each and every representative and senator detailing parole commission abuses and asking for their references to the commission to help me get an early release. I now count over 200 such references from senators and representatives from Muskie of Maine to Tower of Texas, from Biaggi of New York to Heftel of Hawaii.
Instead of doing me any good, though, the paperwork crush brought out the worst of the parole commission. Already saturnine, parole bureaucrats now fume at the mention of my name. In the climate of ethical overreaction, what used to be pulling strings has now gone to the opposite extreme of defiant independence. The ugly backlash by embittered bureaucrats exacerbates the breakaway Congress in its effort to seize leadership initiative from the executive branch.
Meanwhile, back at the prison, the other day I asked a parole commission examiner here in the minimum-security camp outside the fence of the main compound of the federal prison at Petersburg, Va., when I would have my revocation hearing on the 3-year-old violation warrant. The latest parole commission letter robot-typed out to Congress said that "in June 1979" I would finally get my hearing. But the examiner had news for me and for Congress: I shall get my revocation hearing at the next regular time the parole commission is scheduled to visit Petersburg-either July 1979 or September 1979!
There is another little understood, equally treacherous and, yes, tyrannical practice by the U.S. Parole Commission. When an old parole is finaly violated, the poor prisoner loses all of the good time he accrued during his last stretch in prison. Congress giveth statutory good time, but the parole commission taketh away. All of the prisoner's earned good time is also eradicated. Earned good time includes meritorious good time, earned by staying out of trouble and being innocuous, and industrial good time, earned in prison sweatshops that pay $40 a month.
Exposures of U.S. Parole Commission abuse may yet help to bring about badly needed reforms. But don't hold your breath!