While drifting through days in jail, I often wondered how the people around me got there. I tend to think of the term “criminal” as being synonymous with “a hazard to the community,” yet a lotta fellers in jail just don’t seem that way to me. What if you’re a good person put in a bad situation and you end up doing something awful? What is the proper punishment for a momentary lapse of judgment?
My buddy (let’s call him JerkFace HogSmack aka Leftologist), had a messed up case and he used to blather about it all the time, ‘cause dudes in jail just talk for lack of anything better to do, but Leftologist actually showed us his paperwork, so we knew his case was somewhat bona fide. He’s been out the clink-clink for less than a month after over four years of straight incarceration for one vicious swing of the arm, and he’s trying to put together some t-shirt designs to start a company up. (He’s an artist, the photos are of his art, and that polaroid is of a background he painted over an eight-month period.)
VICE: Mr. HogSmack, please tell us how you landed in jail.
JerkFace HogSmack: In 2004, I was 22 and my sister was 24. We were outta town chillin’ at some beach community bullshit town with a couple friends, and these drunk dudes kept bothering my sister. My sister got scared, and so we bounced. They followed us for blocks being drunken assholes, and she was trying to dead the beef between a couple of our friends and the gang of dudes. In the process she got violently hit and thrown down on the ground headfirst by them, and was knocked out, so I hit one of them in the face with a bottle.
Just like that, huh?
They said some dumb shit to her like, “Hey baby, wanna fuck?” That’s what my police report says anyways. Then people were trying to get between them and they tossed her hard. I kinda snapped.
Yeah, I saw the guy’s face in your paperwork. He got a pretty ugly cheekbone scar out of the deal.
Yeah, I didn’t mean to do that, I was just in a fit of rage ‘cause I saw my sister get fucked up. I woke up in intensive care after eight dudes stomped me out. I was seriously mangled with a cerebral contusion.
I’d say you probably have permanent damage…
Well, that’s one of the messed up parts—me and my sister both woke up in the hospital, and she still has a scar on her arm. The gang of them fucked both of us up. I said it was self-defense, and they said it was self-defense. The main problem for us was that the kid who I hit’s father is a cop in that town. We could not press any charges. We were finished from the jump. The self-defense claim was shot down, because supposedly I could have fled the scene, even though that would’ve been impossible due to the fact that my sister was bloody and half-unconscious.
So none of the dudes who beat y’all up ever had any charges pressed against them?
Nah, and once I was found guilty, my sister couldn’t go forth with any charges. I have no photographs of me until I got out of the hospital. They took 16 photographs that never showed up in trial. All of my bloody clothes disappeared as well. My arrest photo inexplicably vanished. I had footprints all over my face and neck, and my t-shirt was completely covered in blood. They tried to say it was his blood.
How’s that possible?
My lawyer was such a piece of shit. He never turned in my sister’s or my medical files. He convinced me to go to a bench trial (where the judge rules instead of a jury). My subsequent appeals lawyer told me that if I had gone to a jury trial there’s no way I would have been convicted. This is the kicker, the one that blows me away: People saw this fight and they called 911, but someone called from one of my assailant’s houses, and that became the official call used in court describing me hitting someone with a bottle. The police station said they had a mess-up in their system so there were no calls. House landline calls went to the police station, but cell phones went to the County sheriff, but basically all the County calls disappeared.
Did you have any witnesses at all?
Their witnesses changed stories. At first they said I hit him in the face with a bottle—later they got coached, and when we went to grand jury they said I stabbed him with the bottle which upped the charges to a class B felony. I got a B-felony Assault 1st Degree with a Deadly Weapon with intent to seriously injure and Criminal Possession of a Deadly Weapon, a bottle.
Such bullshit. You might as well have shot him, ‘cause that’s basically what they hit you with. So, your story gets real crazy with all the appeals you went through. How’d that process go?
It took me two years to go to trial in early ‘06, and it was a mess for me in which we made a lot of mistakes I guess, ‘cause we got railroaded. The judge found me guilty and sentenced me to five years for my first-ever brush with the law. I spent the night in jail, and my lawyer went to the appellate court in Brooklyn and I was out the next day. For the next year I went through the same shitty trial again thinking I’d get the ruling reversed, but I was re-sentenced to five years again in early ‘07.
Wow, that stinks.
Yeah, I went to jail again and actually made it upstate to the reception prison, Ulster, but then they let me walk out the door, ‘cause my Supreme Court appeal was approved. It’s less than 1 percent of cases that appeal that are granted a leave like that, a continuation of bail during re-trial, and almost never a violent case, so I thought finally things would be made right. I was out for another year, and up in Albany at Supreme Court on TV and shit with this big shot lawyer telling me I’m all good, and I’ll be out, and then BOOM, five years again in early ‘08.
Well I’ll be dipped in shit…
So for this stupid fight that got outta control in 2004, I didn’t start doin’ time ‘til early ’08, and then I just got out a couple weeks ago. Eight years of my life fucked up, ‘cause of an impulsive act of rage that inflicted more damage than I meant, but still… Now I have five years post-release supervision, so who knows how much longer this’ll go on?
How much did you spend on lawyers throughout the whole thing?
A hundred grand easy, it wiped my parents out. It looked like it was going to work out and get dropped, but sometimes I think they were milking us the whole way like they had a plan to fuck me and rob us.