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23rd September 2015

Becoming The Monster by Jeffrey P. Frye

I would imagine that nobody much likes or appreciates a criminal pointing out their own criminal behavior to them. But as they as say, It Takes One To Know One. And in this context, I am one. I've come to realize that criminal minds think differently than non-criminal minds. When non-criminal minds look in their rear-view mirror and see the flashing blue lights of a police car, they hit the brakes. When somebody with a criminal mind sees this, they hit the gas.

Even though I no longer commit crimes, and have to intention of doing so when I'm released, I still think like a criminal sometimes. The difference is that, now, I no longer act on these thoughts. Instead, I blog or write about them. I explained this premise to a friend of mine one time by telling her that becoming a criminal is akin to taking a cucumber and turning it into a pickle. Once it becomes a pickle, it will never be a cucumber again. That doesn't mean that I can't be a nice pickle though. I had an exasperated girlfriend ask me one time, "Why do you run from the police, Jeff!?" I replied, "Because they chase me." Duh.

I know that a lot of you guys that read this blog are in Europe, Australia, and other far-off places such as India and Japan, and that you may not be aware of things that go on here in the United States. But I also would imagine that a lot of you guys watch CNN. I watch it every morning at 6 am as I have my first cup of mud.

The lead story earlier this year was about a white police officer here in South Carolina (North Charleston) named Michael Slager who shot a black man named Walter Scott in the back five times, and killed him. This incident resulted in Officer Slager being fired, and then becoming Inmate Slager after he was arrested for murder and booked into the Al Cannon Detention Center, also known as the Charleston County Jail. Unbeknownst to Slager, the whole incident was filmed by somebody using their cell phone. This is what happened.

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager pulled over Walter Scott for a busted tail light. As he took his driver's license and walked back to his car, Walter Scott bolted from his vehicle and took off running. He did this because he had an outstanding warrant for Contempt of Court from the Family Court for failing to pay his child support on time. South Carolina, and Charleston County in particular, is tough on individuals who don't pay their child support. The standard punishment for a contempt of court charge is a sentence of six months or one year in the county jail. And while the person is locked up and his children are not receiving any support, the meter continues to run and the arrearages continue to accumulate. This is a flawed system that ultimately cheats the children. A system that Walter Scott was very familiar with after having served several sentences in the Charleston County Jail for non-support. So instead of deciding to peacefully of back to the county jail and mop floors for another year, he ran.

Officer Slager gave chase, and at some point he pulled out his taser and tased Scott. Slager had a history of this and had previously been investigated for excessive use of force after he responded to a 911 call and ended up tasing the wrong individual. However, the North Charleston Police department dropped this complaint and continued to keep him in their employ. I imagine that they are regretting that decision right about now. Also, it is worthy to mention that just last year, Sheriff Al Cannon (the current Sheriff of Charleston County) was arrested and booked into the jail bearing his name. His offense? Excessive use of force on a suspect. No kidding. Like Slager though, Sheriff Cannon kept his job. Surprisingly, CNN hasn't reported this fact yet.

It makes you wonder about the state of journalism these days when the Bank Robber's Blog scoops CNN.

After Officer Slager, acting in his rightful and official capacity, tased Scott, Scott made the stupid and fatal decision of trying to wrestle Slager's taser away from him. He was unsuccessful in this endeavor, and when the taser fell to the ground, he took off running. It was in the next moment that Michael Slager made a split-second decision that turned him from a legitimate officer of the law into a criminal. As Walter Scott ran away, Michael Slager drew his service weapon and fired eight times at the back of Walter Scott. He struck him five of those times, and one of the bullets pierced Scott's heart and killed him.

As the secret camera continued to silently roll, Slager was captured handcuffing Scott, who had fallen face-down in the dirt. Then he did was most offending criminals attempt to do: He sought to cover up his crime. He ran back to where the scuffle happened and picked up the taser off the ground, then he walked back, and dropped the taser on the ground next to Scott's handcuffed, dead body.

As a former cucumber and eventual pickle, I've worked on both sides of the law. Based on this, it is my informed opinion that there are basically four kinds of justice to be had in America. They are:

1) White
2) Non-white
3) Money
4) No money

The rich simply do not receive the same consequences when they break the law that poor people do. This has been shown time and time again. And money even trumps skin color in most courtrooms. But there is one thing that neither money nor skin color can overcome in an American courtroom. Politics. And when Michael Slager shot and killed Walter Scott, he stepped into a big pile of political shit because of all of the focus on recent killings of black defendants by white police officers. There's not a jury or a judge in South Carolina that will let Michael Slager off the hook this time. Just last week, on the 14th September, he was denied a bond because he would "constitute an unreasonable danger to the community." Slager is through. And I guess that I don't even have to tell you the kind of reception that ex-cops get back here.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, I imagine that nobody likes a criminal pointing out their criminal behavior to them. Especially law enforcement agencies. I feel that. You all might think that because I have been prosecuted by the North Charleston Police Department and spent time in Al Cannon's jail and am now in prison, that I hate cops or think they're all crooks. I don't feel that way, nor do I think that about cops. Police officers are the Front Line of American democracy and day after day they put themselves into violent and dangerous situations that nobody else is willing to do...and they do it for very little pay.

But cops are just people, and all people have various, inherent flaws, some of which are criminal. The German philosopher Nietzsche once said, "Be careful when dealing with monsters, lest you become the monster." Life can change in the blink of an eye. All it takes is one spilt-second bad decision.

Michael Slager may not be a monster...that's not for me to judge. But one thing is for certain; he's getting ready to live the rest of his life with some monsters. I intimately know the abyss in which he has entered. And it's my opinion that the day will come when he sits alone in a cell and considers that, by comparison, Walter Scott got off easy.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog

--- DON'T JUDGE ME ---
5th September 2015

Don't Judge Me by Jeffrey P. Frye

It was another Friday in the can, and in spite of the fact that 80% of the banks will be closed this weekend, it didn't look like they were going to let me, so I had to figure out what I was going to eat. Lately, I'd been thinking about fat, juicy, tomatoes. It's hard to get a nice vegetable in prison. They're available, but sometimes you have to be creative when it comes to procuring them.

When I woke up, Shorty Morgan was posted-up on top of his rock in his "Lord of The Flies" pose. He's very statuesque for a tree frog. He had the song HUSTLIN' by Rick Ross pumping through the speakers; he's been listening to a lot of rap lately, and it's been making him aggressive. For some reason, the Rick Ross jam got me to thinking about one of my kitchen guys named Bebe (pronounced Bay Bay), and I got to wondering whether or not he could successfully liberate some tomatoes for me so I could make some Tomato and Velveeta Cheese sandwiches (they sell Velveeta cheese at the commissary). I make them on whole-wheat bread with lots of mayo, along with salt and crushed black pepper. I know that using Velveeta cheese to make sandwiches is little white trashy (in an potted meat kind of way), but don't judge me. At least not for my cheese.

So as I laid there and thought about it, the only thing that separated me from these tomatoes and sandwiches was about 10 locks, 5 cops, and 2 metal detectors. And, as I eventually found out, 1 bench. But you know what? I love a challenge.

Every week, boxes and boxes of tomatoes are delivered to the kitchen of this institution as part of the weekly food shipment. Unfortunately though, they rarely make it into general population. When they're brought out of the locked cooler in the warehouse and set on a table in the back of the kitchen to be used for a meal, they mysteriously disappear...then reappear from the pants of some kitchen worker who wants 3 stamps per vegetable. But what am I gonna do? They got me over a hump these days. For this reason, I like fat kitchen workers, because they have more folds and flaps to hide stuff under. My kitchen guy's nickname is Gordo, which in Spanish roughly translates to "Lard Ass." He's about 5'5, rotund, and every bit of 250 pounds. He wears a white uniform and black apron, and is bald except for a small, braided, rat-tail that sprouts from the base of the back of his head. He looks like a soccer ball with a piece of string stuck to it. He's only got one tooth, and it's on the bottom, right in the front. I really wish that he'd get it pulled too, because it's all I can look at when I talk to him.

So being that I had a plan together, I hopped out of bed, switched the Rick Ross to some Carrie Underwood to de-gangsta my frog, slid on my shorts and shower shoes, grabbed a razor and my shower bag along with an olive-green towel, then I headed to the shower. After I got out, I slapped some Afta aftershave (Blue Ice) onto my cheeks, put a dab of gel in my hair, put on a freshly pressed tan uniform, laced up my black boots, slid a blue pen down into the top pocket of my shirt, then shot my cuffs, and headed out.

Like all medium and maximum security federal prisons, this prison operates on what's called "Controlled movement." This means that you can only leave your cell block, or travel from one place to the other, for 5 minutes at the top of each hour when they call "The move" over the PA system. But I was excited about the prospect of Tomato and Velveeta Cheese sandwiches, and when I came downstairs from my cell (#214), I saw the cop in the office, but I also noticed that the door to the cell block was unlocked. So I decided to bolt. What can I say? I've got priors.

Well, I'd made it a good 250 yards down the sidewalk heading to the kitchen when I heard the sound of jingling keys and running feet behind me. A skinny cop in a light-blue Federal Bureau of Prisons uniform that had a radio on his belt and the microphone clipped up on his shoulder, was the first responder. Out of breath, he asked me, "Where do you think you're headed to, mister?" I remember a cop one time that told me, "Things will go easy for you if you just tell us the truth" so I said, "I'm going to the kitchen to get some tomatoes." Strangely enough, things did not get easier. Imagine that. He reached up and thumbed the mic on his shoulder without unclipping it, and turned his head to the side as he said, "I've got the possible 10-96, 10-22 on the 10-52." Well, I'm no tenologist, but I suspected that all of that translated to something like, "I've got him, boss!"

About three more of Slim's brethren finally showed up, so I raised my hands in the air, and said, "Hands up! Don't shoot!" They all took a step back. So I pressed on, and indignantly said, "You stopped me because I'm black, didn't you?" Then I yelled, "What? A black man can't go out for a tomato?!?" The leader of the Posse Comeandgetme finally took charge, and said, "No, Sherlock, we stopped you because in case you haven't noticed, there's no "Move" going on. You're the only one out here on the yard." He had a point. Then he said, "And there's something else you must've missed." I replied, "What's that?" He said, "You're not black." This guy was obviously due for a promotion. I sighed, and said, "Well, the door to the cell block was unlocked. If you leave the barn door open, you can expect a few horses to run. At least the stallions." Apparently, this guy was tired of horsing around though and he said, "C,mon, Mr. Ed, let's go to the lieutenants office." I said, "Mr. Ed? More like American Pharaoh."

Out in front of the Lt.'s office is a steel bench that's been painted green. It comfortably seats one person, and two codefendants. There's a whole bunch of reasons that a person in my uniform can end up on this bench, and none of them are good. It's the last stop before you go to the hole, or sometimes, it's where the cops send us when they get mad at us and don't know what else to do. When a situation arises that hasn't been covered in their training, they'll point towards the Lt.'s office, and yell, "Go to the bench!"

So there I sat on the bench, gazing towards the kitchen and wondering how many tomatoes Bebe could fit in his pants. After about 5 minutes, a female Lt. walked out of the office, and said, "What are YOU doing out here, Frye? You don't ever give me any trouble. What's going on?" I figured it was time for some damage control and the next step in this plan, and I said, "If I didn't get into trouble, you guys wouldn't have a job. It seems like your officers could show a little more gratitude, Lt." She laughed, and I continued, "They just upped the dosage on my psych meds and I'm still getting used to it."

I mentioned the one phrase that's like a "Get out of jail free card" back here: Psych Meds. A look stretched across her eyes that said, "Oh, okay" and she said, "Go on back to your unit, Frye. I'll radio ahead and let them know you're coming in case you get lost." I stood up and went over to the window of her office and cupped my hands on the side of my eyes as I peered in, and said, "Do you have any tomatoes in there, L-T?" She glanced at her watch, and said, "No, but it's getting close to lunch so why don't you just head up to the kitchen." Cha-ching! I gave her my best "I am medicated but non-violent", look, shuffled my feet, and headed off to the kitchen.

Don't judge me. At least not for the way I make tomato sandwiches.

Jeffrey P. Frye
Bank Robber's Blog