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SEPTEMBER 2020

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--- LEAVING SHAWSHANK ---
25th November 2020

In June 2020, two months into the national lockdown in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I made a strong cup of coffee and took 10 sheets of paper and I sat in my cell and penned a Motion for Compassionate release to the court in Charleston, South Carolina. I cited the COVID-19 epidemic and it's devastating effects on the inmate population, especially for people with my medical conditions of COPD, asthma, and hypertension. However, for somebody with my history, and given the fact that I was given 20 yrs for robbing seven banks (w/out wearing a mask), and given the fact that Judge Norton had actually whacked me with seven 20 year sentences (one for each bank), I figured it was a stretch. But time and pressure sometimes makes a jailhouse lawyer... so I fired off the motion anyways. And in what has turned out to be the smartest move I made, I sent a copy to the Federal Public Defender in Charleston, Ms. Ann Walsh, to ask her if she would represent me on this filing.

After about a month I had still heard nothing back from the court or the Assistant U.S. Attorney on my case. Nor had I heard from the public defender's office. I found this to be odd, because usually the AUSA deny my filings in short shrift. I waited, all while the outbreak back here got worse and people started dropping like flies. I have a friend named Wayne T. Dowdy who had started sending me daily reports from the BOP's website (bop.gov) of which institutions had cases and how many people had died. When we came out for our hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I would write these down. It was sobering. The numbers were climbing all while the BOP told Congress and the media that it was getting better.

Enter Ms. Ann Briks Walsh, Esq.

The judge appointed her to look into the validity of my claims. I kept piping her info through snail mail, and filing addendums to my original brief, and asked her to amend these to my pro se filing if she thought it relevant. In America, a lot of defendants have an incorrect assumption about public defenders. They assume that they are the bottom of the barrel or lawyers who are just on their way to something better. They also mistakenly believe (at least in federal court) that if they hire a high-priced lawyer that they'll get a better deal. Maybe these opinions have at least a little validity in state court but not in federal court. In the feds, the public defenders' office is the best one to have because all they do is federal law, day-in and day-out. Subsequently, the are the smartest lawyers in the pack; the best to have.

Ms. Ann Briks Walsh is the cream of this federal crop.

After sending her a second addendum telling her how bad things were, she filed an amazingly excellent 20 page brief that used recent reports from the Department of Justice's Office of The Inspector General (OIG), and from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that refuted the BOP's claims. She blended this with my medical history, my new-found career as a writer, and a couple of character letters with info on the place I would live if the motion were granted (those were paramount). Then after she'd threw all of these things into the pot, she stirred it using her own narrative of me and my life. I have often commented that writing is like making sauce in that you throw in a bunch of different things and stir, hoping that the reader loves your creation. And much like feeding people and the ones you love, you hope that the reader likes your sauce...

I am here to tell you that Ann Walsh makes a damn good sauce. She also included something else that I found to be pretty cool. She included you guys... my blog readers for the last eight years and the people who have purchased my books. How cool is that? She also attached letters penned by the two people who have been great friends to me and that have been instrumental in my career to this point. Steve Hussy, the owner of Murder Slim Press and Jonathan Jackson (a.k.a. Alexius Rex), creator and pilot of my website bankblogger.weebly.com. Two people who have been very kind to me over the last eight years, and who, strangely enough, that I have never seen in person or even spoke to on the phone during these years. At the end of "The Love Fest" section of her sauce, Ms. Walsh listed my transition from the genre of "Hey look at the dumb criminal," to the mainstream by mentioning "The Life of Riley Book 1" (now available and seriously underpriced on Amazon). But in spite of her awesome brief, there was still no word from the judge. Until two days ago.

I was standing on the inside of my cell door staring out into the abyss of abject criminal nothingness while practicing what I refer to as "Anti-social distancing." This involves me strapping on my MP3 and ear buds and pretending that the music is playing, even though it's not. This tactic prevents me from having to talk to my psycho cellie. He's the one whose face, head and neck are completely tattooed; the one that I have had to fight at 5am three frigging times in the last three months.

As I stood in my door feeling every bit the Nowhere Man living in my Nowhere Land, staring into nothing, while listening to absolutely nothing, I spied the back area of the staff offices open up and watched as my case manager hustled towards my cell with a sheaf of papers in his right hand. I found this to be extremely odd because most days, I couldn't find this dude with a search warrant. He walked up to my house and opened my cell door, and said, "The judge has granted your compassionate release and commuted your sentence to Time Served. We have up to 14 days to get you out of here and on a flight to Chicago, all we're waiting on is Probation in Illinois to verify your release residence, then you're out of here."

And just like that...this 12 year nightmare is over. I'm going free.

Now it's two days later and what should be extended joy and elation is only fear. I have no money to speak of and no clothes. Until I can get to the food stamp office like a good liberal, I don't even have any food. At least here at Shawshank I had Cheeseburger Day to look forward to every Wednesday. I was the guy who could write about Cheeseburger Day. Now I don't even have that anymore. But in a few short days, you know what I will have?

Freedom. A brand new beautiful life. A chance not to die here.

So, very soon I will be sitting in a terminal at Orlando International waiting to catch a flight to Chicago, where I will be met by my sister and brother-in-law with love. I will have on my lap all of my possessions; a mesh bag with the hand-written copy of The Life of Riley Books 1-4, and two other books I have penned and not decided what to do with yet. Ironically, I will be wearing a mask. Go figure...

I am not sure where my cool new life will take me in the coming years, but I do know one place that it will not. To a bank. Ever. From now on, I will be doing all of my banking online.

Jeffrey P. Frye
11/24/2020
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