Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Punishment Worse Than Jail


For someone who had never had a traffic ticket, the reality of being arrested and charged with a crime hit home for me when the Sun Herald newspaper splashed across its headlines that I was the target of a federal investigation involving Paul Minor and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz. This was conveniently "leaked" to the media from the so called secret grand jury investigation. My first reaction was total shock. How could the paper publish such a report when grand jury testimony is secret ?

Some secret. Oh, did I mention this came right in the middle of my campaign for reelection to the Chancery Court Judgeship ? Did I also fail to mention that the leak from the grand jury was never investigated by the FBI or the federal prosecutors ? I wonder why ? And, least I forget this factoid, the incumbent DA, Cono Caranna, who prosecuted me on trumped up charges and lost - I was completely exonerated after the jury stayed out for 15 minutes - actively supported and campaigned for my opponent.

Although I carried all but 3 precincts in the general election, because I did not obtain a majority, a runoff was required. You can imagine the effect the federal investigation announcement in the newspaper had on my reelection. That did it for me. I was personally shocked that an incumbent District Attorney on the public payroll, Mr. Caranna, would not only engage in politics outside his office duties, but further that he actually stood at election headquarters next to one of my opponent's campaign managers and assisted in keeping a tally on the votes. I wonder how much of his taxpayer paid time was devoted to defeating me ?

A Little History

I was the Senior Chancery Judge at the time and I need to factor one more item into this equation, his wife, Margaret Alfonso (she does not use his last name - not that I blame her) was next in line for the position. After I was defeated guess who took over as Senior Chancery Judge - yes, Margaret. I confess the other judges and I did not get along with Judge Alfonso primarily because she made it very difficult for the lawyers she worked with, and many of them refused to deal with her unless they had no choice. This increased our workload.

Margaret was so silly. One day a lawyer friend of mine gave me a necktie that a Viagra sales rep had given him. It had the words "Viagra " on it printed on a slant in small letters. It was blue, of course, and it was a joke. I put it on and wore it down the hall to the coffee room (not open to the public). It was a joke. She called the Senior Judge and complained. It was a joke. My God, I didn't wear it in court. I didn't wear it in public. It was a joke. The Senior Judge thought it was a joke when she called to complain about me, and thought she was a joke too ! Actually, most of the lawyers did too, and still do. They are, understandably, afraid to admit it. Fear factor.

I suppose I just wanted to get reelected and wear that tie, and in the famous words of singer Ray Stevens, call her and tell her, "It's me again Margaret. Bet you can't guess what I'm doing".

I truly enjoyed my job. I loved being a judge, not because of any prestiege, but because it afforded me the opportunity to help people. The amazing thing was I actually believed I was making a difference. I wanted to keep my job.

But, it was not to be.

If you have not had to have contact with the legal system count yourself fortunate. It will sully you. My friend, Roger Shuler, had one such contact and soon discovered being in the right and being innocent is absolutely no guaranty you will prevail in your case. Actually, in the real world being in the right does not always count in court. We fool ourselves in thinking that it does because this makes us comfortable. You can, and should, read about Roger's experiences in his excellent blog What counts more in court is the side that has more money, is able to gin up more pretrial publicity, and perhaps has a hidden political agenda that cannot be located in the cold array of a trial transcript.

The Nightmare

My family and I have been living a nightmare ever since the day I was indicted. This has been going on for over 4 years and then some. I am emotionally, mentally, and financially drained. Unless you have been put through the legal wringer as I have with countless delays, untold motions, legal arguments, two trials, so many trips to Jackson which I cannot afford, and my wife's tears which would fill a river, you would never, never begin to fathom the legal system.

The Power to Indict is the Power to Destroy

Now, as of this writing I am facing having to report to a federal prison facility on December 27, which happens to be our 36th wedding anniversary. This wonderful woman, whom I am lucky to have married, and I have never been separated. I am worried about her health and how she will survive. What will happen ? What will happen ?

To me, going to jail - even for something I did not do - is not the real punishment. Well, that's bad enough, but no, the real punishment, or more aptly put, torture, is seeing my wife so hurt. She does not deserve any part of the misery that has crashed over us like waters of a hurricane bashing against the shore. What am I to say to her every night to ease her pain, to shut off her tears, and to assure her all will be well ? If you have an answer, please send it to me, because I have no reassuring words to give her. I almost hesitate to hold her anymore for when I do, the tears come again and the agony starts anew.

Another innocent victim of this catastrophe is my wonderful granddaughter. We are very, very close. She is just nine years old and we have tried to keep as much of this controversy from her as we can. Do you have any idea what it is like to hide the newspaper from a child out of fear she will see your picture on the front page ? What about turning off the local TV station because your face is item number one and you don't want the child to view it. Think about calling this precious child's teachers and speaking to them about being on guard should another child make a remark about this to her.

Punishment. I have lost my career, my reputation, and security for my family. I feel as though I have been a pawn in someone's great scheme to get someone - not even me. Someone else. I feel as though I have been used and then casually discarded as some useless piece of scrap no longer of any value. When all of this first started I cooperated with the FBI. I spoke with them without an attorney several times, and I ever sat down with one of the prosecutors and stated I didn't know anything about Paul Minor's business and nothing bad about Minor. That did a lot of good. They didn't want to hear it.

Jail is nothing now. Frankly, I would rather be in jail than to have to watch another day of my wife's suffering.


Yet, there are several things that I know I will never lose. First, I know will never lose my faith in God. No matter how much is heaped on me, God will be with me always. "Hey, big guy", I pray, "I ain't no modern day Jobe. So give me a break". I also know I will never lose the love of my wife. She will continue to stand by me and believe in me. Finally, I know I will never lose the trust of my friends, my real friends - the ones who have stood by me throughout this ordeal.

Thank you God for all of your blessings.

The Realist


John Leek said...

I can't imagine the difficulty and hurt on you end as I've never has circumstances so stacked against me as you find them stacked against you now.

I almost don't want to keep reading because then I find myself feeling obligated to do something, but I don't see any course of action that would offer any help.

Perhaps the ongoing investigation at the Federal level (in Congress) will bring some results, but sadly I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Many, many, many other people has suffered all this AND prison....LONG prison sentences. For doing what? Nothing at all wrong. Simply for not having the money and power to negotiate the legal system. When are we going become a just and fair society? What will it take to stop the abuse of power by DOJ and the current administration? said...

FedCURE is the world's leading advocate for America's, ever growing, federal inmate population which is approaching 200,000 people. We are working with members of Congress to reinstate parole; increase good time allowances; provide for compassionate releases; restore PELL grants; and opportunities for successful reentry into the community, for all federal offenders; and promote a system that incarcerates fewer people and provides humane conditions for those who are incarcerated or under post-incarceration supervision via parole or supervised release. Over 45,000 people were released from federal prison last year.

Federal Parole

Congress abandoned parole for all federal offenses committed after 01 November 1987. Over 6,000 people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Most are first offenders convicted of non-violent offenses. FedCURE co-authored the last two federal parole bills in the 108th and 109th Congress with Rep. Danny Davis (D-ILL). This year FedCURE drafted a new federal parole bill for Rep. Davis and to float around to other members of Congress who may want introduce the bill in this Congress. The bill is titled as The Criminal Justice Tax Relief Act of 2007 (CJTRA). The bill is estimated to save the taxpayers 4 to 7 billion dollars annually and 80 to 140 billion dollars over a twenty-year period.

The CJTRA, would, inter alia:

Reinstate the old parole statutes and make amendments thereto.
Make all offenders eligible for parole.
Increase good time allowances.
Give jurisdiction to the United States Parole Commission to set release dates in accordance with applicable parole guidelines or the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, whichever is lowest.
Provide for reduction in term of imprisonment of elderly offenders.
Clarify parole procedures.
Provide post incarceration supervision.
Apply prospectively and retroactively.
Extend the life of the United States Parole Commission for twenty years.

Second Chance Act of 2007

The Second Chance Act of 2007 was introduced in the 110th Congress, also by Rep. Davis, on 20 March 2007 as H.R. 1593. Just a week after the re-introduction of the bill, 28 March 2007, members of the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 1593 out of committee. The bill will now be sent to the House floor for consideration, which sponsors say will take place before the summer session ends. During the mark-up of the bill, members voted down several amendments that would have jeopardized the bipartisan support for the bill. Sen. Bidden introduced S. 1060, an identical bill, in the Senate on 29 March 2007. On 02 August 2007 The Second Chance Act passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Unanimously! On 13 November 2007 the bill passed the full house. The bill now goes to the full House and Senate for a vote. If passed, President Bush will have to sign the final bill into law. Gene Guerrero, Director of The Open Society Institute/Open Society Policy Center (SOROS) is the lead lobbying effort behind this legislation.

The Second Chance Act of 2007 authorizes $192 million annually and would:

Reauthorizes and makes improvements to existing State and local government offender reentry program. The bill authorizes $50 million annually for the Department of Justice, State and local grant program, increasing authorization levels, incorporating best practices from the reentry field, and requiring the measuring and reporting of performance outcomes.
Authorizes new competitive grants for innovative programs to reduce recidivism. The bill authorizes $130 million each year in grants for State and local governments and public and private entities to develop and implement comprehensive substance abuse treatment programs, academic and vocational education programs, and housing and job counseling programs, and mentoring for offenders who are approaching release and who have been released. The bill requires grantees to establish performance goals and benchmarks and report performance outcomes to Congress.
Strengthens the Bureau of Prisons ability to provide reentry services to federal prisoners. The bill authorizes funds to improve federal offender reentry services and to establish an elderly non-violent offender pilot program.
Authorizes grants for research and best practices. The bill authorizes additional funds for research on innovative drug treatment methods, causes of recidivism, and methods to improve education and vocational training during incarceration and for the development of best practices.

If you are interested in collaborating in some manner and would like to discuss this in more detail, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Mark A. Varca, J.D., CIO,Executive Director
P.O. Box 15667
Plantation, Florida 33318-5667

Web Site:
E-fax: (408) 549-8935

Links to Bills:

H.R. 3072:

H.R. 1593:

S. 1060:



Prospero said...

Help me understand a few things.

What do you mean when you say "the original judicial bribery effort to defund democratic fund raisers?" Does that mean that all these recent "bribery" convictions of people like you and Paul Minor were an effort by the Republican power machine to keep the Democratic party poor?

Do you think that Trent Lott knew it was wrong, and that was why he protected Dicky Scruggs? And if that's true, why didn't he go to bat for you & Paul Minor?

Is Mukasey the new and more independent Attorney General not under the control of Karl Rove and company you're talking about possibly going after Trent?

I'm sorry to be dense. This has enraged me. If this is true, and it went on right under everybody's noses, how, oh how on earth did they get away with it?

I intend to do something about this. I have no idea what that will be, but I don't care. This is horrendous. This is America for God's sake. If we sit quietly by and let this kind of thing happen we should all be shot. I don't intend to.

I don't know where to begin, but I'm reading, studying, and gathering contacts. If you ever think of anything -- anything at all -- that I can do for you I hope you'll tell me. My email address is

You hang in there. You still have the internet, and so do I. If they ever get their evil mitts on that I guess we're all truly sunk. So far though, we at least have that.

You have my prayers, and those of many others. Small comfort as you rot in jail over this kind of evil, tyrannical, fascististic thing that's been done to you.

saildude said...

Spreading your story.

I would like to see those who perverted justice for political gain take the spot in jail reserved for you.

Stay strong!

You are not forgotten.

tholzhauser1 said...

Cono Caranna and Margaret Alfonso had a lot to do with the charges. They are as guilty as anyone and act as though they are innocent. Believe me, I have been a victim of these two. src=""

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