Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hell Hath No Fury….

I interview all of my clients.  During these interviews, I must try to gain an accurate picture of the many details that led up to their incarceration.  That’s actually one of the most essential duties I have as a parole lawyer.  Sometimes, the path to prison is a relatively simple explanation. In other cases, it can be very complicated and multifaceted.   Unfortunately, I have seen many cases in which the person incarcerated is sitting in prison partially, or in some cases, completely as a direct result of the affirmative steps taken by an angry partner, spouse, or ex spouse.

It’s a well known fact that approximately 90% of all Texas prisoners are male.  Although I frequently have female clients, over 80% of my clients are male. During inmate interviews, I get to hear many relationship horror stories where a guy went off to prison in large part because his angry girlfriend, wife, or ex-wife made sure of it.  Hence, the title of this post.

There are many variations of the story, but I seem to hear a few common themes.  Here are the most common, in no particular order.

Scenario #1

The guy who is on probation and is doing stuff that, if known by the probation officer, might result in a revocation of said probation.  This guy has a girlfriend or spouse who, despite his illegal or improper behavior, chooses to stick around and capitalize on the situation by using the guy’s probation as leverage to gain the upper hand in the relationship.  She thinks that he will do whatever she wants him to do, because if he doesn’t, she’ll make sure the probation officer or the police are given all the information needed to arrest the man she purports to care so much about.

The power imbalance in the relationship from the above blackmail breeds an enormous amount of resentment in the guy.  Eventually, he stops taking her threats seriously or he just doesn’t do as he is ordered, and as she sees her power slipping away, she finally makes good on her threats and brings him down.

Scenario #2

A man is on probation and he is not doing stuff that would result in the revocation of his probation.  Nonetheless, his status as a probationee still makes him vulnerable to a partner with a dark side.  When he fails to obey such a woman or live up to her expectations, she makes up a story or gets him arrested for allegedly making deadly threats or allegedly striking her.  This woman may have to work a little harder to get her man locked up, but she finds a way.    

Scenario #3

A man on probation complies with his probation, but he cheats on his partner.  She places drugs in his car or pockets and calls the police.  He’s going down for sure.

Scenario #4

A man is involved in an unhealthy relationship.  He and his partner abuse drugs or alcohol, or both.  During a late night fight over something stupid, they are both intoxicated, and he ends up hitting or pushing her. Often, he was struck first, but that rarely matters to the police, who are summoned by either the woman or the angry neighbors.  The police see that he has a record, ergo, he’s going to jail.  Then, regardless of whether she even wants to see him prosecuted, he’s prosecuted.  Prosecutors love to grab at the lowest hanging fruit. Nothing is easier than seeking convictions against a person with a prior criminal history.

Anyone on probation or parole would be wise to choose their partner very carefully.  The potential for incarceration is never far away when a man’s partner has the potential to drastically undermine his future so easily.

 

The Lesson The Parole World Can Learn From A Race Car Driver’s Death

Recently, a 20 year old race car driver named Kevin Ward, Jr., died following a tragic accident on a dirt racing track in upstate New York.

Ordinarily, such an event, though tragic, would not be expected to garner much media attention. However, the details and aftermath of this particular accident have been the subject of a firestorm of news reports and much speculation and discussion.  The reason for all this attention is quite simple… Ward, the relatively unknown 20 year old driver died shortly after he was struck by the right rear portion of a passing sprint car, but that passing car happened to be driven by a man named Tony Stewart.

Unless you have made it a point to ignore anything and everything related to race cars for the past 20 years, you should know that Mr. Stewart is one of the most famous and wealthy race car drivers on the planet.  Yes, this accident on a local dirt oval track in upstate New York involved the Tony Stewart.

Despite all the exhaustive coverage this accident has received, the police and investigators, so far anyway, have not charged Mr. Stewart with a crime.  I do not think he will be charged either, but we shall see.

Many who follow racing know that Tony Stewart is legendary in the racing world for being aggressive and hot tempered, particularly when he was a younger driver trying to move up the ranks and make a name for himself. My first reaction to the initial reports was that the young man who died had likely either been the sole cause of his own death, albeit unintentionally, or at the very least, his actions had greatly contributed to his death.  Now that I have watched the video of the accident on YouTube several times now,  I am pretty convinced that my first reaction is, in fact, likely the proper conclusion.

I realize that we do not have all the information and investigative evidence, but I have seen enough thus far to know that this deceased young man did some incredibly dangerous and stupid things in the seconds before he was struck by the passing race car.  As you read this, perhaps you are wondering why a Texas Parole Attorney, who is not even much more than a casual racing fan, at best, would bother to blog about a racing accident that would seem to have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Texas parole, prison, or even much if any connection to crime, for that matter.

There is, however, a very real connection between the death of Kevin Ward, Jr., and many, many people who are sitting in prisons, in Texas, and elsewhere.  You see, the reason I immediately suspected that Kevin Ward had died because of his own behavior, even before I had received very much information at all, is really quite simple.

1. The initial reports said that in the moments before his death, the 20 year old Ward was racing side by side with Stewart on the outside “lane” of the dirt track and had spun out after Stewart’s sprint car had slid and bumped into Ward’s.

2. After Ward spun out, he climbed out of his car and stormed down from the relative safety of the area where his car was located, and into the area where the drivers were still racing their cars at over 100 miles per hour.

3. Ward was waving his arm in in an aggressive manner, pointing at Stewart and indicating that he wanted to immediately “confront” Stewart, who was  still racing, because he likely perceived the contact with Stewart was caused by Stewart’s own (well known) driving style and aggressive racing.

4. Ward was a 20 year old (testosterone filled) male, in an angry, highly emotional state.

Perhaps that last reason is the one which immediately made me think of all the prisoners I’ve met over the years.  Many of the most tragic cases involved boys and very young men, 16, 17 , 18, maybe 20 years old.  Most were in highly charged, emotional circumstances, and some had a mix of alcohol and/or drugs in their bodies, which further diminishes the very real struggle to maintain one’s rational thought processes under stress filled situations.

When I have interviewed such men in the calm and cordial atmosphere of an attorney visitation booth, I am almost always struck by how friendly, and sometimes, dare I say it, gentle, some of these men seem, especially the ones who are now 5 or 10 years older than they were when some terrible thing happened.

You see, when we all step back and look at things through the lens of reflection and hindsight, these tragic crimes that occur with little or no forethought, and with emotions running high, seem, well, crazy.  And yet, the actors themselves are usually not, and never have been deemed crazy or even very malicious people.

Kevin Ward, Jr. was probably a nice guy.  He was also 20, and in the heat of the moment, when he became angry that the legendary racer Tony Stewart, who races sprint cars solely as a hobby, had caused him to wreck, he acted in a tragically foolish manner.

It’s really frustrating that more people do not see that much of the most tragic and senseless crime that occurs is not the result of “bad people”.  Instead, it is the result of a bad combination of factors, one of which is almost always a young man who, at least on one occasion, did not  think clearly.

In my opinion, Kevin Ward’s death occurred for very much the same kind of thing that causes many, many young men to be sent off to prison and labeled as a “danger to society”. The immature, testosterone filled male brain will always be with us, and therefore, brief violent criminal episodes will likely never leave us, no matter how many people we lock up. Our best hope is probably to undertake a dedicated campaign to help young men understand how their own brains can so badly betray their own best interests.  We need only look to our prisons for thousands of examples of such betrayals and the devastating consequences for everyone.  The parents of Kevin Ward, Jr. need only watch the video on YouTube to see how their son’s young brain betrayed him.