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My America:

A Memoir on Justice and Race

in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Alexander Otis Matthews
On August 27th, 2010, the author Alexander Otis Matthews was arrested
by the FBI and charged with wire fraud in connection to a luxury home project
that he had undertaken in an exclusive neighborhood of Fairfax, VA in the fall of
2007. Mr. Matthews was later convicted and sentenced to a term of 120 months
in federal prison.
In this memoir, he narrates for the reader the full story of his journey,
beginning with his personal and family history, through his academic and spiritual
undertakings, and the inner-workings of his federal investigation and prosecution.
He tells a story that reveals what few American citizens are aware of regarding
the inner workings of the U.S. federal legal system and how many of our most
basic assumptions about how our current system works are inaccurate.
A trained clinical therapist, husband, and father of five, the author
discusses his love for America and its people and for the system that so many of
its citizens have fought for and continue to fight and die for every day around the
world, yet most of those people unaware that many of the ideals they believe in
are willing to die for are not being extended to our own citizens. He doesnt find
the source of the problem in our laws, which he found to be spirited and awe-
inspiring in their wisdom, especially the U.S. Constitution, but rather finds the
problem in those tasked with applying the law to have grown corrupted over time
by their own unchallenged power.
The founders of the American Republic knew the dangers inherent in
unchecked power and designed a system of law to keep it in check which we have
slowly eroded in critical areas that are in desperate need of change and reform.
The author seeks to make public his very personal ordeal so that others will learn,
and to bring attention to the areas that need to be addressed. The author addresses
his subject with a relaxed writing style, candor, and detail that makes this book
entertaining and a must read for those interested in the inner workings of our
nations federal legal system.
To Kawthar,

The Love of My Life

My Sun Rises and Sets With You

To Alexander Matthews Sr. and Dr. Martina P.


Who Gave Me Life And Taught Me To Love My

Fellow Man

To Joseph Purnell Pinkney,

My Uncle, Intellectual Muse, Teacher, And Friend

Who Stood By Me

Through All Seasons

To Ezana, Segen, Sara, Jihane, and Yassine,

My Life Itself

Copyright 2016 by American Investments Real Estate

Corporation. All rights reserved.

Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976,

no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed,
or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a
database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Published by American Investments Real Estate

245 9th Street N.E., Washington, DC 20002

ISBN Number 978-0-692-82115-2 (e-book)

ISBN Number 978-1-520-32976-5 (paperback)
Experience is simply the name we give our
mistakes; humility is the frank acceptance of all
experiences; where there is sorrow there is holy
Oscar Wilde

What is to give light must endure burning

Victor Frankl

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I I took

the one less travelled by, and that has made all the
Robert Frost
CHAPTER ONE .............................................................................. 1
CHAPTER TWO ............................................................................. 5
CHAPTER THREE ....................................................................... 18
CHAPTER FOUR ......................................................................... 55
CHAPTER FIVE ........................................................................... 75
CHAPTER SIX ............................................................................. 85
CHAPTER SEVEN ....................................................................... 88
CHAPTER EIGHT ........................................................................ 97
CHAPTER NINE ........................................................................ 102
CHAPTER TEN .......................................................................... 120
CHAPTER ELEVEN .................................................................. 134
CHAPTER TWELVE ................................................................. 145
CHAPTER THIRTEEN .............................................................. 149
CHAPTER FOURTEEN ............................................................. 179
CHAPTER FIFTEEN .................................................................. 200
CHAPTER SIXTEEN ................................................................. 228
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN ........................................................... 248
FINAL CHAPTER ...................................................................... 276
POST-SCRIPT ............................................................................ 280
EPILOGUE.................................................................................. 283
August 27th 2010 was a typical fall morning in suburbia in
my well-kept cul de sac. I live on a serene and tree lined
neighborhood in Northern Virginia known as Tysons Corner,
roughly 20 minutes outside our nations capital. At approximately
5:30 am that morning, my wife and I were awakened by a deafening
series of knocks and booms on my front door, accompanied by the
shouts and screams of 15 FBI agents commanding me to come out
of my home. The knocks were unceasing and seemed to be growing
louder as the obvious intent of such a raid at that time of the morning
is to catch a person off guard and to disorient him or her with the
noise and screaming. I went to the window of an adjoining bedroom
and quickly took in the scene outside my home. My wife seemed
momentarily to be on the verge of tears, and I instinctively and
gruffly told her to pull herself together, and that this was no time to
break down, we were going to deal with this, whatever it was. My
next thought ran to my sleeping daughters, five and six years old,
their safety and my determination not to let them witness what was
about to unfold.
The knocking and shouting seemed to get louder and more
insistent, wreaking havoc on the suburban calm.


I told my wife to stay upstairs, and I descended the stairs to

the front door.
I opened the front door to the menacing shouts and glares of the
FBI agents, their loaded guns drawn squarely on my chest. I placed my
hands in the air, and inquired as to what I was being arrested for. At
that moment, I felt no fear, for such a moment is strangely somehow
beyond fear, a time when you are put face to face with something that
we dread all our lives and in which we know that our lives are likely to
be irreparably altered. Somehow, I was very calm and determined, and
the adrenaline had my mind crystal clear. One of the agents yelled the
address of a home a partner of mine and I had purchased in 2007, a
25,000-square foot mansion in a private subdivision in Clifton,
Virginia, for 4.5 million dollars. As my brain attempted to take in what
the agent was saying, a retired neighbor of mine, a white gentleman in
his mid-sixties, just happened to turn the corner onto my street while
jogging. His eyes widened, his movements locked up, and he suddenly
seemed on the verge of cardiac arrest, unable to process what he had
come upon. My immediate neighbor, and Asian lady who had recently
purchased the home closest to me, was also peering at me intently
through her bedroom window, seemingly trying to also understand
what I had done to warrant such early morning attention from the
federal government.
One of the male FBI agents cautiously approached me, while
the other agents maintained their stance. He patted my pockets, leg,
shirt, and finally did a thorough pat down, including emptying my

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

pockets. One of the male FBI agents cautiously approached me, while
the other agents maintained their stance. He patted my pockets, leg,
shirt, and finally did a thorough pat down, including emptying my
pockets. One of the female agents entered my home to speak to my
wife, and was told that I would have to submit to a DNA test, to which
I replied that I would be happy to once we get to where I am being taken
to. The agent countered that it would have to be done now, on the spot,
whereupon she produced a DNA swab in my mouth. I calmly protested,
but was told this is new FBI policy, and the agent then stuck a DNA
swab in my mouth in a manner similar to how Saddam Husseins DNA
was initially taken after his arrest by US forces. My two stunned
neighbors watched all this happening, and suddenly my wife appeared
at the door, shaken, but still composed.
For some reason, I smiled at her, and gave her a knowing
wink, surprising both of us. She would vividly remember that smile
and wink in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. We would
need and draw upon such memories in the ordeal to come, which
was only the beginning.
Somehow, in the midst of all the cacophony of booms,
screams, and shouts, my two daughters had mercifully slept through
it all, providing my heart at least that solace. Nonetheless, my life
and my familys lives were about to be forever altered, for I was
under throes of being prosecuted by the United States Government.
As I was placed in an unmarked car, which drove off and made a U-
turn at the end of the cul de sac, I never bothered to look at my home


or even to look back. I needed to keep my eyes squarely on what lie

before me.

I was born in the Columbia Hospital for Women in the
Georgetown area of Washington, DC. I am the product of my dad, a
southerner from Farmville, Virginia, and my mom, a native
Washingtonian. My mom is one of nine children born to Elton and
Beatrice Pinkney, my dad one of 9 children born to his parents Otis
Matthews and Cornelia Matthews. My dad was the first member of
his family to attend college, boldly leaving the family farm to attend
college at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. My mom
graduated from the District of Columbia Teachers College before
getting a masters degree from Georgetown University and a PH. D
from Ohio State University.
Both of my parents became teachers, and met while teaching
at Evans Jr. High School in rough neighborhood in Southeast
Washington DC. My dad is handsome, fair skinned black man with
grey eyes and fine features, always driving a pick-up truck of some
sorts, and not much into fashion or external extravagances. My mom
is a brown skinned woman with dark brown eyes, very pretty, and
always very stylish and fashionable as long as I can remember. My
parents were opposites in many ways, maybe due to their
backgrounds, but they fell deeply in love while teaching, married,


and produced me, their only child. Their marriage would not last
long despite the strong love they shared, and they divorced while I
was still very young, jointly raising me in a very civil manner despite
their differences. Neither of them ever put me between their issues,
and I believe I ended up benefitting from growing up in two
households, essentially two different worlds. My mom would never
remarry, but my dad did twice, marrying his third wife, Peggy after
his second wife Alice succumbed to breast cancer. Though my dad
remained in the Washington DC Metro area after divorcing my
mom, he never had cut off ties to his family farm in Farmville
Virginia, and would return most weekends and all summer to
maintain the farm. How he was able to operate a farm all those years
while still maintaining a job and family in Washington is something
I never could fathom, but he did, and is a testament to his character
and drive. It was also a great benefit to me because he never failed
to take me along, wanting me to learn and experience the type of life
most Americans don't have an opportunity to in later generations. I
thus grew up very close to my dad, on a functioning farm, often just
he and I and our hunting dogs for long stretches as a time. His mom
still lived on the farm and his oldest sister, my Aunt Nellie, also lived
on the farm on a section she and her husband had purchased many
years ago, from her parents. My Aunt Nellie was the town head
nurse, and her husband Burnell owned and operated the local mom
and pop grocery store on main street. My father's other sister
Dorothy lived in "town" with her husband John Baker, one of the

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

first black dentists in Farmville. My dad's family was somewhat well

to do by Farmville standards, hardworking and self-respecting
people, very conservative, not known to suffer fools gladly.
Farmville is roughly 3.5 hours from Washington DC, and as
a child I can't tell you the number of times I rode the highway back
and forth with my dad to work on our farm. Located in Prince
Edward County, Virginia, Farmville is a former Dutch settlement on
the James River. Any substantive book on the history of civil rights
in America begins in Farmville, because it is often called the
birthplace of what became the civil rights movement. From my days
as a toddler until my late teens, I spent most of my childhood on that
farm with my dad when I was not attending school in Washington
DC. We spent our time there tending to the crops we grew and sold,
which included tobacco, corn, wheat, barley, soybeans, all types of
hay, and all manners of vegetables from the garden. We also raised
cattle, hog, and chickens, along with a small number of guinea fowl
and geese. My dad always said that he made the sacrifice he did to
maintain his dad's farm because he knew the sacrifices his dad had
made, and because farming and farm life was simply in his blood.
He, of all his brothers, did the bulk of work to preserve the farm that
his dad had left them before his dad succumbed to arteriosclerosis,
a hardening of the arteries sometimes caused by diets high in fat and
Farmville has been known or its racial policies, famously
refusing to integrate its schools after the US Supreme Court assed
its landmark decision desegregating public schools, Brown v. Board

of Education. The Farmville School board was one of nine plaintiffs

that sued in that landmark case, but rather than comply with the
federal government Farmville notoriously closed all its schools for
nearly five years, refusing to mix its black and white students.
Whites with means attended private academies during this period,
while black students fared as best as they could with isolated home
schools or simply went without schooling.
The reverend Vernon Johns, often credited as the founder of
the modern civil rights movement in America, and with being
reverend Martin Luther King's forerunner, was not only from
Farmville, but a friend and neighbor of my paternal grandfather Otis
Matthews. Vernon John's farm lies behind my family's farm,
separated by a creek and a patch of swampy lowlands. HBO made a
documentary about the life of Vernon Johns which chronicled his
life and struggles, and how he managed to educate himself through
attending Oberlin College and a rigorous path of self-managed
studies in languages, the classics, and religion. Farmville blacks
have always been known for their self-respect and dignity, even
during the worse times of race relations, but Vernon Johns took self-
respect and frank introspection to a new level unheard of in those
At a time when the Klan and other local whites were
committing terrorist acts and threats against the black community
simply for being black, and through such acts had managed to instill
that psychological element of fear so prevalent in America during

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

the early 20th century, Vernon John was not only fearless but highly
educated and vocal about the social inequality so fiendishly plaguing
the nation. He obtained a divinity degree and became an ordained
minister, but his sermons were not your typical ones aiming to
bemoan and commiserate white bigotry and hatred, designed to
sooth the black community's pain and suffering. With a booming
voice and a masterful vocabulary, reverend and violence, and its
failures to demand the equality that the Bible clearly told them was
all men's inheritance.
Johns instead also berated the black community for its
passivity and fear in the face of white terror. He didn't just blame
whites for their part in America's racial madness, he also berated
black men, as the putative protectors of their wives and children, for
their cowardice in the face such treatment by whites. He spoke
strongly to his own community for its failings in the calculus of
America's racial ills, and demanded blacks to overcome their
paralysis of fear and act to demand their lawful and God given rights,
and to stop blaming white America for all its problems.
He would often ask his audience how whites could claim
Jesus as their savior on Sundays, that Jesus who preached love and
tolerance for all men, after they had just lynched and terrorized black
people on Saturday night. His vocabulary and bearing was such that
many whites, while concerned by him at the time, couldn't quite
make sense of many of his sermons, and many whites and blacks
found him to be enigmatic. A man far, far ahead of his time, his
teachings and preaching would have a lasting effect on many people

in this country, including his own sixteen-year-old niece Barbara

who would later conceptualize and stage one of the first the first
successful school sit- ins in America, done in protest of the
conditions of the all black Moton High School on Main street in
Farmville, which sat blocks away from my Uncle Burnell Coles'
grocery store.
My family's farm was located in almost all white section of
Farmville known as Pamplin, and from an early age my dad's family
taught me to not be in fear or awe of any man, that we are all equal
in God's eyes, and that I must always work hard and educate myself
so that I will be properly equipped to compete with any man, no
matter his race or origin. I was never in awe of whites as a kid, nor
was I ever taught to be hostile to them for their transgressions against
blacks. I was taught to, and always have, taken each person as the
individual they are, and have never understood how a person can
hate someone on the color of his or her skin color or religion. I was
taught to respect myself and to regard all people with that same
respect, and I was taught to never see myself as a victim of whites
or of anything else in this life, and that the victim psychology is out
of step with the real nature of man and his having been given a free
will and a mind all his own to use as best he can. I was taught that
life in and of itself is an adversarial process for all humans and that
adversity comes in many forms, not just racial prejudice. I also was
taught that despite America's racial ills, opportunity is available to
those who sincerely desire it and are willing to work to achieve it.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Working beside my dad on that red clay farm as a kid, which

was very hard work most days, and then looking forward to the time
we spent after work hunting and fishing on our pond, I grew up with
a tremendous gratitude and love for America and for what it
provided me and my family. My dad is one of the finest persons I
have ever known, and has always been my hero and my guide, in
ways I am not sure he even knows. When a father takes the time to
raise his son next to him on a farm, a kid inherits a wealth of values
and strength that remain with him for a lifetime. My dad is the
kindest and most generous, and yet most serious, man I have ever
known. Kind to a fault, he is a throwback to the old days, a genuine
and principled American southern man. He could not have been
there more for me as a father, and my fondest childhood memories
in Virginia remain with him. This is the country of my birth and the
land that I love. We are at root rural Virginians to the core, and we
love that farm and land beyond words. Yet and still, speaking
candidly, as a black American there is often in the background of
our minds the awareness of the sordid racial history we experienced
at America's hands, and really there is no way to collectively or
personally wipe the reality of what occurred out of our minds and
act as if it never happened. No people that experienced such mass
trauma, brutality, and terror have been asked to do so, and America
is insensitive and unrealistic to ask and expect black Americans to
do so. No one should question our patriotism for being honest about
our feelings, for honest criticism is a part of any true love
relationship, and people tend to feel the most pain for what they most

love. Somehow, discussion and dialogue in our nation often on many

topics is dominated by soundbites and very shallow levels of
analysis, so rushed and emotionalized that the understanding we are
capable of achieving is lost in the process. The topic of race is one
area where this shallow dialogue is often typified, and one in which
both sides of the debate stand to be criticized.
For example, most whites tend to stick to the view that
America's racial atrocities against blacks are only a thing of the past,
and something for which they and today's contemporary black
Americans have scant connection to. They say that they did not
commit such acts, and that black Americans of today are not subject
to such treatment, thus it is purely a thing of the past and should be
buried. On the other hand, the recent celebration of the 50-year
anniversary of Martin Luther King's March on Washington featured
many speakers and participants, some seemingly stuck in a racial
time warp, breaking out in "We Shall Overcome", which many
whites find curious considering our black president, black national
security advisor, black head of the BOP and the ATF, and black US
Attorney General, among other prominent blacks in government.
The undeniable truth is that, given our history of race relations,
blacks and whites out to both give themselves a tremendous amount
of credit for collectively working to prove to each other, and to the
world, that Americans have the inner resolve and goodness to
achieve what stands today before us. What stands before us are the
results of our truly incredible efforts to live out the true meaning of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

America's highest values as exemplified in our Constitution and

Declaration of Independence. Lest we forget, ours is a nation that
once held white supremacy as its guiding force in all matters legal,
social, religious, sexual, and intellectual. What we have shown the
world by our progress is almost unreal when you see our gains at
wiping out racism for what they are. As racism is still very much
alive and kicking, we must simultaneously work to oppose it, while
not giving it constant attention. We live in an imperfect world well,
and one in which it is illusory to think that racism and other forms
of bias will somehow ever be permanently eliminated.
Hearing some of the speakers at the 50th Anniversary of the
March on Washington made it appear as if many black Americans
are loathe to give up their indignation concerning race, even in the
face of positive objective evidence to the contrary. If I learned
nothing else during my years as a psychotherapist its that we
humans tend to oddly get attached to our pain and misery, and place
happiness or success as a far and distant horizon when its right at
our fingertips and under our control, not others .Its almost as if some
blacks want to have some type of "racism detector" device, like a
metal detector, whereby whites would be scanned for all traces of
racism. That may be a humorous analogy, but the fact is that you
cannot eliminate and be sensitive to all symptoms and
manifestations of racism, it is as absurd as it is impossible. People
feel the way they feel, and when it rears its ugly head we need to
forcefully confront it, and we still need stiff laws and civil rights
organizations, just like the Jewish people have B'nai Birth and

AIPAC. I hope and pray for its disappearance one day, but for now,
we as a nation who lived collectively under racial apartheid for 400
years cannot expect it to disappear from our individual and
collective subconscious that easily. We work against it, but lets give
each other some praise, an opportunity to make things improve, and
lets thank each other for what have done to improve it. White
America's consecutive election of President Obama is, for me, clear
evidence of the objective gains we have made in race relations, and
an action for which I have nothing but praise for white Americans,
they having put action to our nation's grandiose words about all men
being created equal, and in doing so altered the course of history.


In the psychotherapeutic context, white and black relations

often recall my experiences in marital therapy in situations involving
infidelity. The whites, if you will, represent the cheating spouse and
the blacks, if you will, represent the spouse cheated on. Whites
cheated blacks in this nation for 400 years, yet are loathe to
acknowledge or recount their actions, thus eliciting black outrage.
Blacks got cheated on, and it must be said many in some ways came
to accept being jilted over time, but who now in some ways remain
imprisoned by the memories of the 400 years they were jilted.


In the marriage context, in many ways applicable to the

analogy of black/white relations, the person who cheated usually

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

finds it very difficult to repair with a spouse stuck on telling and

reminding them of their negative traits and pasts one
wants to love someone who is always commiserating and criticizing
the other.
On the other hand, no one finds it easy or desirable to love a
spouse who dogged you beyond description from day one of the
marriage, and who still finds it hard to come to terms with their
actions, and in fact rationalizes their actions and even somehow
blames you for being angry about what they did. That is, of course,
a gross simplification of a very complex relationship, but there is a
lot of truth in it.... like it or not the past did happen, and like any
couple we need to deal with our relationship with candor, and we
need to always remember the importance of praise in any human
relationship. We all love to be praised and sometimes a little praise
for the progress we have made will go a long way to furthering that
progress as opposed to remaining stuck on the negative aspects of
our respective roles in this situation.
The Jewish people, the Japanese people, and the Irish people
were never expected to collectively forget their horrific experiences,
and it is unfair that many white Americans expect black Americans
to also, especially when outright government racism and violence
was only banned legally in the latter half of the 20th century and still
manages to rear its head far too. In any relationship, honest criticism
is not only necessary but vital to the health of that relationship, and
whites too often use black peoples honesty about our experience as
a reason to question our patriotism or love for this nation, which is

cruelly ironic in light of the role we played in this nations greatness,

and in light of how much we love this nation. America is an
experiment of diversity, and out of that diversity we have built the
world's most powerful nation. We need each other, we are a work
very much in progress, and we will move forward in this century
with steps to both strengthen the collective gains we have made and
to bury the hurt from our past. We can and will do better, and our
children deserve nothing less than our best effort in this regard.
Black Americans must come to terms with the fact that it is
unrealistic to ask for a nation free of all vestiges and instances of
racism, that racism having been so fiendishly made part and parcel
of this nation's soul for centuries. Where that racism rears its head,
we must actively and vigorously oppose it and refuse to it to hinder
us in whatever goal we are pursuing .What we can say is that we
have collectively made progress we once thought impossible, which
is a positive portent of what may lie ahead, and that at this point we
are free to determine our own fate in the manner we choose , if we
are willing to endure the necessary work and sacrifice , which is my
working definition of freedom
.Nothing of value in life comes easy to anyone, and at this
stage there is no excuse for us to not be all we can be. We must
familiarize ourselves more with the America's laws, and we need to
make sure we are responsible parents, spouses, and entrepreneurs,
and we must emphasize all levels of proper education from
kindergarten through graduate study. We will further prosper if we

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

follow that formula, we must always be mindful that the world and
its citizens owe us nothing more than it owes the rest of humanity,
and that only we are responsible and liable for our failures.

Drawing upon the strength of my childhood experiences and
the two solid and responsible parents I was blessed with having, I
became a confident and somewhat rebellious teenager. I eventually
graduated from a private Catholic school in northwest Washington
DC named Archbishop John Carroll, and eventually ended up with
a B.A. in psychology from N.C. State University and a Master's
degree in Clinical Psychology and Community Psychology from
The University of The District of Columbia. The loving support,
guidance, and education that my parents gave me, as well as the
power of their own example of hard work and sacrifice, is a debt to
them for which I will never be able to repay.
As I said earlier I benefitted from the experience of growing
up in two households, and while my dad's family provided the rural
values that were so invaluable in my life, my mother's family
provided the urban values and the great emphasis on education and
intellectual development. While I spent weekends, holidays, and
summers with my dad on the family farm, my school days were
spent with my mom and her family, most whom resided in various
parts of southeast Washington. My mom and I also resided in
southeast Washington, only moving to northeast Washington DC in

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

my mid teenage years. I attended kindergarten, grade school and

middle school in southeast DC, finishing my middle school at Our
Lady Queen of Peace School on Ely Place, Southeast.
From my earliest school days in Washington DC , me and all
my various cousins all gathered at my maternal grandmother's house
after school. Our parents would retrieve us there after work ended,
and it offered us as a family a chance to gather daily with extended
family. Almost every evening we would eat together and socialize
with various aunts, uncles and cousins until our parents showed, and
our parents would usually stay in the gathering for an hour or to two
before taking us home. The center of all this family unity were my
maternal grandparents, Elton and Beatrice Pinkney, whose home
was the setting for these daily get togethers. They were people of
simple means but strong religious and family values, and despite
their financial limits raised their nine children in a nurturing and
disciplined environment. My mom and several of her siblings,
despite humble beginnings, went on to achieve educational and
financial success, obtaining PH. D' s in various educational fields
and working as schools principals, college professors, and even
school superintendents in the Washington Metro Area. My mom has
been a constant supporter and friend all my life, and taught me the
value and necessity of education and sacrifice, her life being a living
testament to the same. My mom is a principled, family oriented, and
cosmopolitan woman who has never stopped her efforts to improve
educational opportunities for children and to help others in this life.


I love her beyond expression, and I could not have achieved

what I did in life without her she is the world's best mom in my
eyes and the family and educational values she instilled in me have
never dimmed.
All my mom's brothers and sisters were kind to me and
treated me as their own child also, and when my mom left to work
on her PH. D at Ohio State I lived with her sister Garnett Pinkney
and with my maternal grandparents. As an only child, my many
cousins were for all purposes my brothers and sisters, and we had
great fun together during my childhood. My mom's youngest brother
Joseph Pinkney is my godfather and has always been very close to
me. In High School I, would often ride my bike to his home after
school and get a lecture from him on some aspect of history or
science, as well as a great meal. He was a math professor at The
University of The District of Columbia, an amateur Egyptologist, a
great chef, and the person most responsible for nurturing my lifelong
intellectual pursuits. He has always had a library and collection of
books to envy, and to this day we retain between us the intellectual
curiosity that he engendered in me more than thirty years ago.
Though my parents and most of my extended family worked
in government jobs after finishing their studies, I was never drawn
to follow that path. This is not to in any way downplay their choice
over mine, but I was never satisfied with a 9 to 5 job only, I felt a
creative urge to make money using my own methods and being my
own boss. I have always believed in following my heart and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

instincts, and those instincts after college led me from an early career
as a clinical therapist at a Washington DC human services firm
known as the Progressive Life Center to starting my own real estate
investment company which purchased and resold distressed homes
in the Washington Metro Area. My parent's example provided the
initial encouragement for my real estate venture, both of them
having taken their excess capital to purchase single family home and
tracts of land for investments- From there I went on to become a
licensed real estate broker in Wash DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and
then to also become a licensed Class A builder in all three states as
well. Real estate became my passion, and I eventually left the
psychology arena for good. Over the next twenty years I would
eventually complete many projects ranging from simple rehabs to
the renovation and construction of multi-million dollar homes and
buildings, including condo-conversions and commercial
renovations and additions.
The business of real estate investing and construction is a
demanding and all-consuming endeavor. It all comes down to
matters of market cycles and timing, and there is not much room for
error. I was so passionate about my business that I spent far too much
time working on it, and didn't realize the time it was taking away
from my other responsibilities. Its the price many entrepreneurs
pay, for without a bi-weekly or monthly paycheck, I had no income
unless I was able to close one of my simultaneous deals that I had
pending. It is not easy, and it is not for the faint of heart, and those
people accustomed to the security of a paycheck will find it hard to

realize the effort and pressure involved in being self-employed while

supporting a family.
In 2004 and 2005, the once sluggish national real estate
market heated up unexpectedly, and very rapidly. At the time, I had
just married, and remain married to, a lovely Moroccan woman
introduced to me by one of my best friends, after a protracted divorce
with my first wife, who was Ethiopian. My first wife and I had had
two children, a son named Ezana and a daughter named Segen, those
two children taking and still occupying the center of my heart. After
the separation with my first wife I moved into a coop I owned in
Rosslyn, Virginia, and I purchased a townhouse for ex-wife and kid
to live in Falls Church, Virginia.
I fell in love with my second wife upon sight when we had
met in 2001, her delicate beauty and easy- going personality drawing
me out of my single life back to the ranks of the married in 2004.
After purchasing and selling the initial home I had purchased for us
to live in, I decided to buy a home closer to my kid's home in Falls
Church, Virginia, so that I could be closer to them and not have to
drive so far in traffic on my thrice weekly visits and weekend
outings. The home that I had purchased for my new wife and I to
live in was in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and only a few minutes
drive from my kid's home. It gave me a peace of mind knowing I
was so close to them, and that I could always be there for them and
my ex-wife if needed. My new home was spacious, centrally located
to both Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and quickly

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

became a favored gathering place for my wife's family members and

friends who lived in the area.
My new wife was Muslim, as are most Moroccans, and I also
had converted to Islam before meeting her. My mom and her family
are Catholic, my dad and his family are Baptists, and I had grown
up in the Catholic church and had attended private Catholic schools
nearly all my life. I had converted to Islam in my thirties after a
lifetime of being a marginal Catholic and not particularly devoted to
formal religious practices. In college, I had studied comparative
religions on my own, and always had a gnawing interest and intrigue
with Islam that I could not explain. After college, my interest in
Islam remained, though it was more of an intellectual interest. My
interest would come to be more fully developed due to the influence
of one of my construction subcontractors who was an African
American Muslim. He had always given me materials to read and
engaged me in serious discussions about Islam, but despite my
interest I never found myself anywhere close to the point of wanting
to change my faith and thus have to deal with my parents and
extended family on the issue. As it was I had given my conservative
dad enough heartache in college with my dreadlocked hair, which
made no sense whatever to him, and which seemingly made him
think his one and only son had lost his mind temporarily, or maybe
even permanently. I wore the style back in the early 1980's, which
was long before it became the accepted and fashionable style that it
is now. Then I had went and married a foreigner, an Ethiopian,
instead of simply marrying a nice American girl. Why did I have to

complicate my life and bring this international and multicultural

element into our conservative family?
As I said earlier I have always followed my heart and my
heart has always found beauty and appreciation in differences of
look, culture, and language, and to me it has always been a part of
the wonder and majesty of life, rather than something strange. I felt
inside me, and found from experience, that we are all human of
course, and all share the same basic wants, needs, and pleasures, no
matter our origins. I have never felt uncomfortable with any culture
or ethnic group, though it may take some time and some effort to
understand the subtleties and outlook which is to each culture.
At some point after the separation from my first wife, my
religious feelings began to slowly change. Maybe it was connected
to my separation and divorce, for that separation from my wife and
kids was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. Despite
the various problems in my marriage, many of which I was
responsible for, it seemed that my Catholic upbringing wouldn't let
me see divorce as a viable option, no matter what my wife and I were
going through. I felt it necessary to do whatever was necessary to
avoid the breakup of my family. It seems our society has made it
normal or okay for fathers to accept parting from their children, and
for mothers to be nearly always granted custody. I think that is an
inaccurate stereotype about men, and unfair as well, as we often love
and are as attached to our children as their mothers are, and should
be given a chance to obtain custody of our kids if we so desire and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

can prove capable. I was solidly attached to my children, and did not
look forward to seeing them only on specified days, which society
somehow relegates. One of the other problems in a separation and
divorce is that while children are made much more resilient than we
imagine tend to look at their mindset during such a time based on
what we are feeling rather than what they are feeling. I am not
implying that divorce is not very difficult for all parties, especially
kids, but if both parents work together and remain civil and maintain
their commitments it makes it a lot easier, and is much less turbulent
for the kids. My biggest problem was in not wanting my kids to feel
that, because I was no longer around as before, such as waking them
in the morning and putting them to bed at night, that I had abandoned
them and didnt love them as before. There is no way to explain that
to a four-year-old or six-year-old who sees you as superman, but that
is not necessarily what they felt, its what my guilt and conscience
had me feeling. It was my issue, and seemed to bring sadness to each
and everyone one of my transactions with them. It was eating me up,
because I knew how much I did love them, and still wanted to be
there with them as before. Despite the problems my wife and I faced,
I had stayed committed to working through things, but my then wife
couldnt deal with the pressures and difficulties, and after a
particularly bad argument and several visits from the local police
department, I was one day ordered to leave at the behest of the court
via a protective order obtained by my wife who saw it as a way
surefire to way end the marriage since I had steadfastly refused to
leave. The kids didnt know this and may have never been told the

true story, all that they knew was that I had left and in her anger my
ex-wife would unfortunately tell the kids that I had "left" them and
abandoned them, which is far from the truth.
I vigorously sought to preserve my family, and felt my ex-
wife was making a bid mistake to end our marriage with young kids
and all the blessings we had in the larger scheme of things. Years
later my ex would admit just that, but at the time the drama and
inertia pushed her anger and for us to separate, and I would move
into my coop in Rosslyn, Virginia. For me, being forced to leave my
family was like taking my very heart out of my chest and leaving it
on the kitchen table. To me a family is a priceless and delicate gift
and blessing, one that should always be kept together if possible. I
had tried all I could and had refused to leave my home, finally given
no legal option but to leave. Sometimes in life we give our very best
and all that we have, and its not enough. At such a time, we must
learn to submit to our fate in this regard, not necessarily submitting
to defeat, for there is always a new day, and a tomorrow. But the
family I would die to protect and keep was together no more, and I
had to deal with it.
The entire ordeal matured me and slowed me down. One of the
factors in our divorce was my constant working and activity, not stopping
enough and slowing down to make my wife feel loved and needed. My
business was unbelievably tough, and in my mind, I had worked so hard
for her, rather than in spite of her, but she didnt feel that way, and a
woman's feelings are usually her guide. As her husband, I had a duty to

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

understand that and to do more to assuage her feelings. Caught in the life
and death struggle of entrepreneurship, I had failed in that duty as a
husband. For whatever her reasons at that time, my ex-wife was not open
to further discussion or reasoning...she had her mind made up.
This entire ordeal was my first hard lesson on the utter
fragility of this life that we think, and sometimes pretend, is constant
.0ne day you can be a family unit in a nice home in suburbia, the
next day that family and its days together is just a memory floating
and echoing wistfully around in your mind. It seemed to me at that
point that all that I had worked so hard for, all my dreams and
sacrifices, were gone. And it seemed to me wicked that my kids
mental and emotional security, reinforced by our family unit and
home, would be taken from them by the separation, like a thief takes
things from a home in the middle of the night. And it seemed
perverse-that all the memories my ex-wife and I had, and our
promises to never part or abandon each other in this lifetime, now
seemed like cruel jokes and falsehoods, making me now feel silly,
when I had at the time meant each word. I learned that this life has
its own directions, and in many situations, we are powerless to
change the things that we seek most to change.
It found it odd that after I had experienced in almost 10 years
of marriage, I was now single again, and forced to re-adopt single
life. I had worked hard and been fortunate enough to realize the
satisfaction of a successful material life, and a full and active
personal regimen being a daily jogger and a vegetarian. I had many
accomplishments under my belt also, but what I did not have at that

point in my life was something acting as a counterbalance to my

considerable sense of self-importance, ego, and hubris. I have read
that life is ultimately about balance in all things, and I had in some
ways failed to maintain that delicate balance essential to any
marriage between adequately providing, and adequately nurturing
your partner in ways big and small, the small and daily gestures
being more important and more valued. In my life, as whole also,
there was a need to balance my material and ego based self, and over
time it became apparent to me that the needed element was some
sustained and organized spiritual practice, one involving both
commitment and sacrifice.
Despite my book knowledge and interest in Islam, taking the
step of committing to a new religion and manner of worshipping
God was not easy. Yet it seemed that most endeavors of substance
and meaning in life involve an act of personal faith and courage and
a willingness to embrace the unknown, all driven by one's internal
gravitations that are hard to put a finger on, but that we know are
real at some subliminal level. This knawing feeling is sometimes
called one's sixth sense, and this feeling was pushing me towards
Islam, despite my trepidation.
One Thursday morning I called one of my good friends who
is an Ethiopian Muslim, and told him that I was ready to take the
Muslim pronunciation of faith, called the Shahada. He was totally
surprised, pleasantly, but very clear in his duty as a fellow Muslim
to assist me in the task at hand. Almost as if on cue, he announced

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

that he would pick me up from my coop the next morning, which

was a Friday, the Islamic day of communal prayer known as Juma.
The next morning, he showed up far earlier than necessary, and
drove me to the mosque ahead of schedule to give the mosque notice
that a new Muslim convert would be making his shahada that day.
That day turned out to be a day that I will always fondly
remember. After being announced to the full congregation, I was
instructed to repeat the Islamic declaration of faith. After the
ceremony, which is a short one, a line formed in front of me. Before
I realized it, almost every male person in the mosque was standing
in line waiting to personally greet and welcome me, which they
accompanied with smiles, inspirational words, embraces, and even
eastern style kisses on the cheek. White, Black, Arab, Asian, and
Latino men all showered me with goodwill and encouragement, and
presented me with prayer beads, oils, and kufis or Islamic skull caps.
It was something I had not anticipated, and something I will not
As an American converting to Islam, a re-evaluation of many
of my American social and cultural practices was in order. I had
never eaten pork since long ago becoming vegetarian in my college
days, so that was no issue. Islam, however, places importance of
issues of modesty and self-restraint that many Americans were not
brought up under, for example, in America today women, and men,
often present themselves in scantily clad apparel which reveal
intimate parts of a person's anatomy which Islam prohibits. In
America, its considered normal even for young women to wear very

tight and revealing clothing , but Islam holds that intimate parts of a
person's body are private, and thats its demeaning to present such
an appearance publicly, and detrimental to a society's morals and
values. Islam teaches that God himself has covered up and hidden
that which is most valuable and precious, those things having to be
dug up or extracted to be obtained, such as oil, and precious stones
such as diamonds and gold. Likewise, for example, a woman's body
and sexual organs, considered precious and sacred in Islam, are not
be shared with the entire world, but only with herself, and her
husband. On the other hand, in America's not too far off past, the act
of sexual intercourse itself was often seen as shameful or somehow
impure, while in Islam sexual intercourse itself, between husband
and wife, is not in any way seen as shameful and in fact is highly
encouraged and promoted as one of mankind's natural most natural
and essential activities. I would have to learn to pray in Arabic, and
I would have to familiarize myself with various religious and
cultural practices in the Arabic and Muslim world, related to basic
greetings and social interactions. I would come to learn that contrary
to what most non-muslims understand and are taught, Muslims,
Christians and Jews all essentially share the same religious
patriarchs, prophets, and tenets, differing mostly on interpretations.
We all hold Adam, Noah, and Abraham as prophets, Islam deriving
from Abraham's sons Ishmael and Judaism deriving from Abraham's
son Isaac. We all share monotheism, and we all trace our religious
roots back to the same God, in fact in middle eastern countries

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Christians also refer to their creator as Allah just as Muslims.

Muslims count Jesus, whom we call Issa, among our holy prophets
of God, just as many Christians do. We thus share, in reality, a whole
lot more than we differ on, which the media and current national
conversation somehow manages to always leave out. We all have
our minority extremist elements, but as a person who has been a part
of both faiths, on the whole I can attest to the fact that we are much
closer in belief than we are different. The major difference is that we
Muslims believe that Muhammed El Mustafa (saw) was God's latest
and last prophet, and that the book revealed to him is God's last
revelation instructing mankind in all matters of life, from prayer to
inheritance to charity and diet.
Islam to me is a way of life, and is not in way incompatible
with my American roots and mores. In fact, in many ways Islam re
-emphasizes certain cultural and moral holdings that are part and
parcel of the traditional American values I grew up with, such as
hard work, the importance of family devotion and love, honesty,
courage, and devotion and obedience to God. These are the core
values which led America to be pre-eminent among nations, which
it seems to me often gets overlooked in our current day analysis of
this nations issues. Likewise, with the tremendous and awesome
might of our military, we sometimes forget that this nation was
founded by men willing to push back against those who would stifle
their freedom and destiny, and that we were once the "insurgents"
that we now speak so disparagingly of in the Islamic/Muslim world.


If this nation was invaded, for any reason, by someone

seeking to occupy our land based upon their disagreement with some
outlook we held action we had taken, we would all ourselves
vigorously and unanimously resist that invasion force, using almost
any means at our disposal. We would never accept to be occupied or
even invaded, and rightfully so, but we sometimes forget that other
peoples on this planet have the same feeling and the same right of
liberty not to be occupied or have their lands controlled. I am an
American, and my loyalty and my obligation is to defend this nation
no matter what, but as both a Muslim and an American I think we
sometimes need more candor and more practicality in this
discussion, and need to remember that other people have the same
right to freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that we do.
My practice of Islam is a natural undertaking, a natural way
of life, centered on worshipping god, respect for one's self and
family, respect for others, all guided by a daily regimen of daily and
yearly rituals designed to keep me aware and mindful of my
obligations to God and my fellow citizens. Adhering to Islam's
requirements is not easy by any means, and is a discipline laden
undertaking. In my experience, which others have also expressed to
me, practicing Islam is not an overnight matter, but rather a lifetime
of study and practice and effort. I am by no means an extremist in
Islam, or in any thing that I undertake, I seek balance and moderation
in all things and try to always remember the love, kindness, restraint,
and wise discretion should be the core goal of all religions. Muslims,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

whether Arab or not, are no different from people of any other faith,
they are human beings with the same faults, weaknesses, desires,
and problems as everyone else... Islam provides us a comprehensive
roadmap to navigate those issues that we share with everyone else,
and rules and limits to avoid mistakes and transgressions. Muslims
are comprised of non-practicing, the lackadaisical, moderate,
extreme, and ultra-extreme elements. Islam teaches respect for one's
self and family, and that a Muslim has an obligation to defend his
home, nation, and religion, just as I was always taught while
growing up by my family. Having had the opportunity to travel to
different parts of the Muslim world, and being married to an Arab
Muslim woman, I can report that Muslims are not the dull and angry
people the way TV and the Media sometimes portray them to be.
Muslims societies have their problems, but the people are generally
highly social, intriguing, intelligent, and gregarious. Their cuisine is
excellent and healthy, the women are beautiful and enjoy making
themselves beautiful just as American women do, and they have a
vibrant and close-knit family structure that we Americans could
learn a lot from. I hope for and desire greater genuine dialogue
between America and the Muslim world, for our mutual benefit, for
America has so much to gain by building stronger ties and
relationships with the 1.5 billion people of the Muslim faith on the
In my opinion, American involvement in Iraq and
Afghanistan has been disastrous for both sides. Our legacy of our
occupation in Iraq can be seen daily in the instability and void we

created after toppling Saddam Hussein, consisting of horrific and

unceasing daily bombings and atrocities against civilians, political
murders, government torture, and the resulting collateral damage to
impoverished members of the nation. What did we accomplish in
Iraq and Afghanistan for the trillions spent and the priceless lives
wasted on both sides. We cannot police a foreign and sovereign
nation over the long haul, it will bankrupt this nation's wealth, and it
is not our mandate. We need the billions and trillions we are
spending for America's own children, cities, infrastructure, schools,
hospitals, scientific research, and elderly. The billions spent on these
wars could have just as easily been invested to help these nations
progress, rather than to occupy them and have our troops fight a
futile war against an elusive enemy that is hard to even identify.
Of course, America has a right and an obligation to defend
itself, and we must both defend ourselves and remain vigilant at all
times. But our best minds need to re-evaluate the scope and course
of our current efforts to defend ourselves against the threat posed to
our America's security by radical Islam, weighed against the costs
of what are children and future are being deprived of a result of this
effort. In effect, we have spent the same amount of capital fighting
a prolonged and largely ineffective war against a numerically small
group of largely impoverished guerilla fighters than we would
fighting a modern conventional fighting force with weaponry and
fighting equipment similar to our own. Does this numerically tiny
group of fighters really warrant the trillions of dollars that we have

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

invested into this conflict, and isn't there a more intelligent and
efficient way to defend ourselves against this threat? With all the
incredibly bright minds among us, why does it seem that often the
least informed and sagacious options are exercised in regards to
these matters, and that this realization often comes to us only after
insanely large amounts of money and unnecessary human lives are
wasted? Many of us fail to realize the true depth of America's
economy, wealth, and power, which remains unchallenged by any
other nation, and in light of that depth it seems to me that we owe to
ourselves and our kids a more efficient approach to our war against
radical Islam.
As a proud American who also happens to be both a black
man and a Muslim, and who is married to an Arab Muslim, I have
in some ways been granted a unique perspective on many issues
relating to the current dialogue on our nation's issues with radical
Islam, and Islam in general. I think it is unfortunate that the tenor of
our current political dialogue often gets reduced to such a shallow
perspective that if a person criticizes or challenges the actions taken
by our government, that person's patriotism stands to be questioned.
That current practice, far too common these days, to me is itself un-
American and an attempt to stifle the very transparency and freedom
of expression that we claim as our creed. It stifles the idea of
representative government and a political process powered by
vigorous differences of perspective and ideology. Part of loving
one's country, or any love relationship, is the need to have honest
criticism and an honest exchange of opinion when the need arises

and. As a black American I am fully aware of the mistakes and

wrongs committed by this nation, but still love this nation in spite of
that knowledge. This nation that we hold so dear was itself built on
one of history's most horrific and sustained mass acts of terror and
human trafficking the world has ever seen. This is the truth, though
it is a truth that we rarely acknowledge and discuss. No system on
this earth is perfect, and life itself is in itself often a continuous series
of challenges and problems. Honesty is essential in dealing
successfully with any conflict, and we must look not only at the
symptoms or the effects, but at the root of a conflict. Lets take a
closer look, and an honest look, at the roots of America's dilemma
with radical Islam. First of all, I think it must be said that despite the
common humanity we all share, it is undeniable that we have some
fundamental and irreconcilable differences in world view with
radical Islamists. For example, any belief system which would drive
the Pakistani Taliban to shoot a 14-year-old female student, a child,
in the head at point blank range, claiming to be acting in the name
of God and religion, is in my view acting against God and religion
and is himself an abomination on this planet. On top of that, this
student's only crime in the Taliban's eyes were that she was
attempting to get a formal education for herself, and advocating the
same goal for other young women in her community. The pure
inhumanity and barbarism that such an act elicited in America, and
rightly so, begs the eternal question of why humans have the
continuing capacity to be so murderous and savage to each other,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

something which I am continually perplexed by. We Americans

dont need to look far; however, for similar acts of senseless
savagery on children among ourselves, for just last week state of
Alabama belatedly placed the state's highest civilian medal of honor
on each of the four little girls killed in the church bombing in
Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, killed for the crime of being black
in America. We Americans only recently allowed women the right
of suffrage in this country. Nonetheless, to know that this group of
grown men, calling and apparently thinking themselves godly,
carrying out such an act upon a child attempting to educate herself,
lets me know that the values that this group shares run squarely in
contradiction with those of the American people. Any group of men
acting under such a mandate resulting in the attempt to murder a
child for her attempts to educate herself, are out of their collective
minds. It says nowhere in the Koran that women should not be
allowed schooling, these and other such matters and cultural
barbarisms that men have sought to disguise
in the religion of Islam, but which in fact have absolutely no
religious basis... such attempts are naked attempts to hijack Islam
for their own demented ends. This goes for other such barbaric and
cruel practices in the Muslim world such as clitoridectomy (female
genital mutilation) and "honor killings". Islam does not call for such
practices, and is a religion which promotes the study of knowledge,
self-restraint, mercy and tolerance as properly practiced, but a small
and determined group of Muslims are intent to pervert the faith and


ridiculously attempt to impose that perversion on the rest of

humanity against their will.
For me, any mindset which tends towards the thought that
people must be murdered for having an opinion or value different
from my mindset or from what my religion dictates, is unbalanced,
authoritarian, and oppressive. The thing Americans need to
understand is that radical Islam and its murderous and hateful
ideology not only runs squarely against the values of the American
people, it also runs squarely against the values of the overwhelming
majority of Muslims on the planet. The vast majority of Muslims
have about as much in common with radical Islam as the majority of
white Americans have in common with the neo-Nazi or skinhead
ideology. Radical Islamists pose as much a problem to the majority
of Muslims as they do to America, and radical Islamists have the
same scorn, or even more, for fellow Muslims that don't share
extremism as they do for non-Muslims. They pose a problem to us
all, and they have a goal to make the entire world fall under their
version if the Muslim faith. The main problem lies in their barbaric
ideology and supposed methodology. But the situation is somewhat
complicated by the fact that, looking at the root of this conflict, many
of their grievances with the West, including the situation in Israel
and America's past and present policies in the Muslim world, are not
without legitimacy in some aspects. Among these misguided
policies and wrongs committed against Muslims, which radical
Islamists have tried to hijack for their own ends, are Israel's

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

occupation and brutality towards the Palestinian people. The issue

of who was there first is too extensive for this discussion, but no
matter who was there first the fact of the matter is that they both live
there now and both of their human rights must be respected. Far too
much talk and dialogue has been expended on this topic, seemingly
in an attempt to obfuscate the simple truth. To attempt to argue here
that Palestinians are being denied their most basic human and civil
rights under the current arrangement is absurd, as any observer
honest of heart and mind will not argue otherwise. The simple truth
is that America would not tolerate its people living under such
inhuman conditions in the year 2013, conditions most laboratory
animals would not be subjected to. America seemingly has more
regard for its dogs and cats than Israel often shows for its Palestinian
citizens, who are not afforded anything humanly close to the
constitutional protections we enjoy in the United States, in matters
of due process, the right to a speedy trial, a jury of ones peers, and
other core democratic principles. Yet, in the name of our national
interest, America tolerates and gives weak lip service to the human
rights of Palestinians. In life, most things boil down to simple truths.
When you continually urinate on someone's head and tell them its
raining, you engender resentment of a depth thats hard to gauge.
When you attempt to deny what is obvious, with endless words, you
only make your argument seem more absurd, such as Anthony
Wiener's recent attempts to portray himself as worthy to be mayor
of America's largest city. You could look in Anthony Wiener's eyes
and soul and see a troubled man, his imbalance all over his face, in

much more need of professional help for himself and to repair his
marriage than he needed to be mayor of Gotham.
If a man came into my home, or any man's home in America,
he would do so at his mortal peril. I would defend my wife and
children, and myself, with my life. No one would be allowed to take
away my most fundamental rights and self-respect.
But we Americans allow it to happen to Palestinians, and we
don't call it for what it is. Israelis know what genocide is and know
firsthand man's inhumanity towards his fellow man, so there is no
excuse for their allowing their government to practice upon
Palestinians the savagery that goes on daily. The world is not stupid,
Arabs are highly intelligent argue the obvious for half a
decade at Oslo, and Camp David, and for the obvious to still be
obfuscated means that there is something far out of line. Its too
much senselessness with no result, and nothing takes fifty years to
talk through. Its a moral disgrace and outrage on the earth, what we
allow Israel to get away with against Palestinians. My sentiment is
not against the Jewish people, I count many of them among my best
friends and many of them speak out against and fight the injustice
carried out in their names.
The Jewish people, themselves subjected recently to evil
beyond description, cannot now be blind or passive to what is
occurring right in front of them to Palestinians. But to the extent that
America and Israel deny what is clear for all to see, Arabs and
Palestinian's hatred and resentment will only simmer and deepen.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

A fair and equitable solution must be made between the

parties, and the government of Israel must be called out under its
policy of extending endless "settlement talks" while steadily
encroaching and effectively acting to exterminate Palestinian
people homes, and cities. We ended slavery in this nation long ago,
and South Africa, as the last bastion of overt white supremacy, was
finally dismantled ...we must give the children of Palestine the same
dignity and opportunity that the children of Israel are afforded, to do
otherwise is a moral and ethical failure we cannot afford.
I am not naive to the responsibilities that we have as a nation
to our friends, as the biggest dog on the block, concerning our
national interests. I know that we can't make everyone happy or
satisfied. I have read "The Game of Nations, by CIA legend and
pioneer Miles Copeland, and many other seminal foreign policy
books. 1 have counted among my friends some of this nation's finest
intelligence and counterintelligence people. Neither am I am not a
tree-hugging, bleeding heart liberal, who thinks war is never
necessary. I know that violence between men is sometimes
inescapable, though I believe that we must exercise every available
option before unleashing the dogs of war. But I am a realist and a
pragmatist and I will not deny what is obvious. I know that we can,
and must, do better policy wise, concerning the middle east and
Muslim people. Our policies have served to alienate not only radical
Islamists, but most of the everyday moderate and mainstream
Muslims also. We tend to portray Muslims, whether moderate or
extreme, as somehow being angry for anger's sake, without taking

the time to look at the roots of that anger. Are fourteen-year-old

Palestinian girls, in the prime of their adolescence when the world
and all in it should be at their fingertips, prone to blow themselves
up in a suicide attack because that is their nature, or is the
hopelessness and terror of their daily life pushing them to act against
the very instinct of life itself, which of course is to live?


Why are these people so people so angry at us? Is it because

of our policy of over the past fifty years of putting lipstick on the pig
and fully supporting tyrants such as Hosni Mubarak, Mohammad
Ghadaffi, and Saddam Hussein when it suits our interests, looking
the other way to the sustained butchery these men practiced on their
own people? Is it because of the assassinations and coups we've
fomented in these regions, and the despots we have propped up using
American tax dollars, all the while looking the other way to the way
these despots have looted their own nation's wealth and resources?
Ironically, Syria, currently in the midst of a brutal civil war, was the
site of America's first experiment with fomenting coups in the
middle east, and a place where in my opinion America should again
act, yet in this instance is failing to take action when it is so
desperately needed. A leader who, as Bashir Assad just did, puts
sarin nerve gas on his own people including women and infants,
needs to go, and as the world 's leader we are expected and must lead
the world' s response to this atrocity. Yet when our action is so badly
needed, as here, an America weary from our other recent
My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

misadventures, is loathe to stand behind president Obama when he

really deserves or support.
One of the other problems adding to the Muslim world's
anger and alienation towards us is our current use of the word
"terrorist". I think it is a word grossly misused and a word to be used
with caution, rather than our current practice of lumping almost any
armed Muslim groups as being terrorists. Seemingly the closest term
for describing those Muslims bent on killing Americans and anyone
else not conforming to their value and beliefs is "radical lslamists",
but even that word must be used with reservations as all radical
Islamists cannot be said to be determined to kill those not sharing
their value and beliefs. These are the people that can threaten our
national security and are hell bent on our destruction and the
destruction of other Muslims not in conformance with their world
view. These Muslims are extremely committed to their cause, and
both readily known and identifiable by our intelligence services and
the world's. These Muslims have forsaken any peaceful strategies
and believe that violence and mayhem is the only answer to the
problem's facing the Islamic world.
On the other hand, you have Muslim groups, like Hezbollah
and Hamas, that often are fighting in furtherance of their legitimate
rights of self-determination and self-defense. They are fighting for
the same principles that led the early Americans to rise up in arms
against the British, fighting under the same "give me liberty or give
me death" stance that threw the yoke of tyranny off our collective
necks. We are foolish to attempt to deny others the very things that

we hold dear. The wise founding fathers of America knew man is

very imperfect, and that power tends to corrupt. To guard against
that they wisely gave America three rights that form the vanguard of
defending against that tyranny that they had just rid themselves of...
the "ballot box, the jury "box, and finally the "cartridge box. The
right to arms is a basic liberty right that we Americans wisely "cling
to " not because we are backwards or bloodthirsty, but because we
know the importance of arms in many areas, such as defending one's
family, one's property, defending against a foreign invading force,
and ultimately against our own government should it become our
oppressor. It is a critical balancing agent and safeguard against
human aggression, tyranny, and domination. As a young kid on
Virginia, I remember my dad one day explaining to me that contrary
to the fairy tales I had grown fond of, everyone on this earth is in
fact not made of "sugar and spice and everything nice ...and that
real life is certainly not a nursery rhyme. Not only was my dad right,
but in this life, I would come to learn that not only are people
sometimes bad, we humans are by nature fallible and prone to error
and bias, and that it is unwise to swallow wholesale anything
someone would put on you, it doesnt matter who it is, be it a teacher,
a police, a lawyer, or even a federal judge. People will always act
competent and all knowing, but you need to reserve skepticism and
always carefully verify things in this life.... doing so you will often
find that things are not quite what they were made to appear to be.
As an American with a southern heritage, I think President Obama

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

badly missed the mark when he rather condescendingly said that we

still "cling to guns and religion" in parts of America, as if it is
somehow backwards. The American people are intelligent and we
have wisely managed to retain awareness of what is important to
maintaining a nation's liberty. What we should also not forget, in our
current world dominance, is our own struggle for liberty and the
methods we used therein.
Would the world call Nelson Mandela's Umkonto We Sizwe
movement against the former South African regime a terrorist
group? They were the armed military wing of the African National
Congress (ANC), a branch of the ANC that Mandela, as a young
lawyer, resorted to joining in his bid for freedom for his people. The
South African state body not only designated him a dangerous
terrorist for his loyalties and actions seeking to rid black South
Africans of the racial tyranny they were under but imprisoned him
on Robben Island for more than 27 years for his legitimate efforts to
free his people. Israel now refers to Hamas and Hezbollah as
terrorists for the tactics they use in furtherance of their legitimate
rights of liberty and self-defense... but are they really terrorists and
are these groups bent of destroying America and other Muslims not
sharing their views, or are they bent on defending their homes, lands,
and right to liberty from those who would deny the same? History
shows that one of the first acts of modern "terrorism" was the
bombing of a British Hotel in Israel, committed not by Muslims but
by the Jewish "Irgun Gang"... the point is that the word terrorist is a
word that tends to be used by those in official state power against

those opposed to their actions and using violence in furtherance of

their opposition. As to the actions which cause a person to be
designated a terrorist, namely the killing of innocent civilians, so
called terrorist have no monopoly on such killings as, for example,
American military campaigns and drone strikes cause such civilian
deaths all the time in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. The point is
that we Americans need to be more thoughtful in our analysis of
these matters, and against must always be mindful to not deny to
others what we demand for ourselves. To the extent that we continue
to be insensitive and unaware of our actions and the role we play in
supporting those people who would deny Muslims what we
ourselves enjoy, whether those persons be Muslims despots or
Israeli soldiers, Muslim anger and resentment at America will both
continue to fester and blossom, and the violent and radical Islamic
fringe will seek to continue waging attacks upon our homeland,
citizens, and interests. America is not the evil empire radical
Islamists wage war against, and the American people are by and far
fair-minded, decent, and of goodwill to others, but our official
government policies in and towards the Muslim world have been
disastrous in many ways and we need to and must alter those policies
and put our considerable diplomatic abilities to use in addressing this
issue for the betterment of our people and Muslims around the
world. We don't need to be in the continual crises we are with
Muslims and we don't need to have to lose our sons and daughters
to wars and conflicts caused by bad and ineffective policy...we also

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

don't need to live under the constant threat of attack in our homeland
and the accompanying hundreds of billions of dollars we pay as
increased security as a part of that threat.
For the actions that we must take against those radical
Islamists that have declared war against us, America has done much
better in using surgical strikes, raids, and drones than in the
conventional army missions since 9-11 that have costs us billions of
dollars. It seems that we should do more of the same, at less than
even a fraction of the costs of our army missions and that we must
begin engaging other local and regional players and allies in these
efforts and stop allowing them to sit on the bench, although the
current use of drones entails a basic violation of fundamental due
process which is in violation of our system's essential legal
guaranties. America should not have to do it all alone, and we are
providing a defense against those extremist forces which also plague
the surrounding regional players. But more importantly America
must come to realize that we cannot fight endless trillion dollar wars
against a ghost- like enemy who never seems to stop appearing history has shown that, as first the British and then the
Russians had to learn in Afghanistan, Muslim's ideology will not
ever permit a foreign force to occupy and dominate their lands, just
as we Americans will never permit a foreign force to occupy and
dominate our land. Its basically that simple at its core, but
something that we need to find a diplomatic way to resolve to the
satisfaction of both sides, and the fact remains that a war can never
achieve a solution to the conflict at hand.

The fact of the matter is that all these issues are not lost on
the Islamic world, and we Americans would ourselves take up arms
against many of the policies we enforce and support against the
people of these regions. It seems that with, our immense power and
resources there is a much more economical and judicious way for us
to use our power and influence, in a way that is less alienating to the
people themselves and the most radical elements among them who
use our policies to then justify their actions.
In the age of the internet, twitter, and Facebook , and the
accompanying global and instant nature of information and news,
our seeming and continuing belief that we can topple a leader of a
foreign and sovereign nation , and that the people of that sovereign
nation will all be waiting for us with roses in hand , is delusional. In
To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee said that you can never really
understand a person until "you consider things from his point of
view... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." As the
most powerful nation on earth, we must recognize change and the
need to adapt our policies to a changing world, and in our frequent
tendency towards bluster and saber- rattling must always be mindful
that discretion is the greater part of valor. Providing hundreds of
billions of dollars of aid to almost every nation on earth, and
maintaining conventional wars in two nations of the other side other
planet geographically, while we face municipal bankruptcies and a
collapsing road and bridge infrastructure, is not patriotic, but foolish
and suicidal. Caught up in our own hubris we are forgetting the

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

basics when we act to subsidize the rest of the world and can't meet
our own financial obligations. The world has changed and we must
adapt to it. The main reason why the Republican Party has fared so
poorly of late lies in its refusal to adapt to reality and its
determination to maintain the privilege, wealth, and power of this
country all for itself and those who look like they do. It is unviable
and self- defeating, and to adapt to change does not mean you
abandon all your core principles, but if your core principles involve
excluding those who don't have your skin color than maybe you do
need to re-evaluate what you represent and are all about.
We need to take an honest look in the mirror and consider
that much of the resentment of the Islamic world has for us is the
result of our own misguided policies. We are often hated and
despised by the peoples of those regions, but we never ask ourselves
why the people feel that way. What is causing it? Are Muslim people
just full of hatred in general, and if so why haven't they also declared
war against China or India, or Sweden? We have pushed a mostly
impoverished group of men and women to do ungodly and often
ineffective acts of violence which usually result in suicide, reduced
to using their own bodies as a part of the act, which runs counter to
our most basic primal instinct as a species of self -preservation.
What would we do as Americans if India decided it didn't like our
current president and invaded us to topple him, against our obvious
wishes? What would Europe's reaction be? Wouldn't we declare war
on India with virtually any tool at our disposal, with the nations of
Europe standing firmly beside us against the outrage, with all of us

declaring India to be both evil and monomaniacal. Of course, we

would, and we would most likely try to blow India to kingdom come.
That is a rough example of putting ourselves in someone elses skin,
but it serves the purpose of getting Americans to think
comprehensively by putting us in the position of other people we are
in conflict with.
Furthermore, as I aim to illustrate in remainder of this
memoir through my personal ordeal, while our government fights
wars in our name in foreign lands in the name of spreading
democracy and the rule of law, employing our sons and daughters to
lead those wars, we Americans have little idea of to what degree our
own federal legal system has atrophied. We are going around the
world spending billions to fight wars in promotion of our democratic
values and principles, which are often being denied to us right here
in this country. We are promoting something which we are often not
even guaranteed at home, which is both a sad irony and an outrage
when the full contradiction is realized, including the billions of
dollars and countless lives wasted on both sides of the conflict.
We are bombing other people on the planet and sending our
own children to their deaths, all in defense of a system of legal
principles and democratic values that our government often doesn't
even ensure its own citizens are being afforded. This is not to say
that this now occurs in every instance, but my own ordeal and the
ordeal of nameless other men I have encountered and dialogued with
inside the tentacles of the U.S. Federal Justice system with points to

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

a frightening erosion of the very ideals and essential legal

protections that we purport to be freeing other nations to join us in
practicing. While there remain many excellent and conscientious
judges, federal agents, and U.S. attorneys, the sober fact is that too
many have strayed far off course and go about their mission with an
arrogance and contempt for those they prosecute far out of balance
to any reasonable or necessary degree of animosity.
Our legal system has become known worldwide for its
heavy-handedness, draconian sentences, and pro-government biases
which would be completely unpermitted in other western
democracies comparable to ours... most informed citizens in
America are aware of this, and many defense lawyers will admit this
to you in private, but everyone is seemingly afraid to publicly
discuss the immense and troubling degree to which our system has
now plunged. While we are 7 percent of the world's population, we
now incarcerate a whopping 25 percent of all prisoners on the planet,
imprisoning more of our own citizens than any other nation on earth.
Europeans are acutely aware of the extremes and glaring imbalances
of fairness in our current federal legal system, seemingly more than
even the average American is. Why is that? Why is it that many
defense lawyers will admit this to you in private, obviously aware of
the rot and dysfunction in the system, but almost no one speaks about
this national shame publicly. Many federal district judges, given
lifetime positions, have seemingly abandoned their role as neutral
arbiters of issues between the parties, and are often transparently
committed to the prosecutor's case and towards keeping their

judgements intact towards those they prosecute. A "day in court" for

most Americans, is no longer what it once was, or what Americans
still believe it to be. The search for truth through the adversarial
process has far too often been abandoned for an overwhelming zest
to win, with deceit and manipulation, whether subtle or gross, seen
as par for the course.


While we are fighting "terrorists, our own government is

terrorizing many of us and our families in the course of routine
prosecutions and criminal proceedings. The reality of the "rule of
law " in many U.S. courtrooms is far from what is used to be and far
from what many Americans now imagine it to be. Far too often U.S.
prosecutors, federal agents, and judges, drunk on their own
essentially unchecked power, are running afoul of our basic and
essential constitutional protections, violating the due process rights
of citizens in their efforts to win convictions, and looking with
disdain and contempt upon habeas corpus as a means of legal redress
against abuses and violations.
If a criminal defendant elects to go to trial, exercising his 5th
Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution which is our nation's
highest body of law, he is now punished by the Feds for exercising
this most fundamental right under our system, and given an even
more draconian sentence as a reward. These days the Feds win an
average of 97 % of the cases they try, a very disturbing ratio to any
student of the law, and a higher win percentage than that of any other
My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

developed and democratic nation. Our "adversarial system" has

these days devolved into one which employs threats and coercion to
make criminal defendants feel that they have to plead guilty to avoid
the almost certain guarantee of being convicted at trial and given a
sentence beyond all reason and logic in relation to your offense.
Many U.S. Attorney's, federal agents, and judges find no
contradiction in violating their own laws and statutes in prosecuting
a person, and then turning right around and prosecuting that person
very efficiently for violating the laws of his or her profession,
essentially operating under the mandate of working to preserve
democracy and justice, while not always practicing it themselves.
The U.S. federal justice system has become like a run-away
train with no brakes, wreaking havoc and terror on its own citizens
in the course of its duty, done very matter of factly. The venerable
judicial soul and tradition of this nation is being soiled by those who
are supposed to serve it, and not subject it to tyranny. There has been
a shocking erosion of many of our basic legal guaranties, including
egregious due process violations, Sixth Amendment violations
whereby judges usurp for themselves what only a duly empaneled
jury can find and decide, unreasonable and arbitrary bail and asset
forfeiture terms , grotesque perversions to our Fifth Amendment
Speedy Trial guarantee, and U.S. prosecutors having been granted
free rein to give grand juries a one sided version of the facts with no
obligation to include exculpatory evidence. Frankly, going through
our current federal system, as I have, at times served to bring to mind
the subtle horrors aptly captured by Orwell in "1984, or of Kafka

in "The Trial. This is not what our justice system is supposed to be

all about, and is a troubling usurpation of its tradition.
This nation was founded by the refusal of its men and women
to be subjected to such actions by their government, and their spirit
and resourcefulness bequeathed us the great system of law we are
currently guided by. The bulk of the problem is not our U.S.
Constitution and other laws, which are for the most part excellent,
its the perversion of these laws and guarantees by those who we
have empowered to administer them. Many members of Congress
have spoken on these issues concerning our legal system, its not
only myself or other private citizens raising this alarm, even the
Attorney General Eric Holder has spoken of our legal system and
being broken and greatly in need of repair.
Until you have personally experienced some matters, you
may not have an accurate understanding of the real essence of that
matter. Having recently been through the U.S. federal legal system,
my humble aim in this book is to give an accurate and unfiltered
account of its present state.

After marrying my second wife and purchasing a home in
the Tysons Corner area of Northern Virginia in 2005, I set my real
estate brokerage up on the first floor of a prime office building on
Leesburg Pike, Tysons' major thoroughfare. Things were going very
well for my business and only looking to get better with more new
realtors signing up and more projects making themselves apparent.
The real estate market was incredible and there didn't seem to be an
end in sight to the market's exuberance.
One lovely morning in early fall, a friend of mine who was
also a real estate investor called me on my cell phone.
He told me to go and look at a 18,000-square foot luxury
home in Great Falls, Virginia, that had just been foreclosed on by
Aurora Loan Services. The home sat less than five minutes from
Tysons Corner Mall, and was being offered for 2.95 million dollars,
despite having a county tax value of more than 5 million dollars. It
sounded like a great deal by the numbers, although the 2.95-million-
dollar price tag was far more than I usually ventured near while
investing in real estate. A home of that value would carry a large
monthly payment, so if I took the deal on I would have to quickly
find a buyer or else face having my equity spread eaten up by the


monthly mortgage and carrying costs. After many visits and

inspections, I decided to submit a full price bid of 2.95 million,
which ended up beating out the other competing bids. Because this
was 2005 at the height of the real estate boom, I had no problem
finding a private equity lender to make a first trust mortgage loan
based primarily on the strength of the Fairfax County tax value of
the home. The terms were steep nonetheless, those terms offered
being a six-month balloon note with the option to extend the note for
an additional six months. The monthly payments were almost 22k
monthly, but with close to 2 million dollars in equity, I gambled that
I would put the home for sale below market value and quickly
negotiate and accept any offer that netted me between 500k to 1M
in profit. That way, it would be a win- win situation, whereby I
would make a quick profit and the buyer would still benefit by
purchasing the home for a price significantly under the value.
A few weeks later I went to closing on the home, and then
celebrated the achievement of being the proud new owner of such a
prestigious home in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in
America. Little did I know at that time what I had in store.
Almost as soon as I had purchased the home, I began to hear
quite mumblings in the real estate community about the market
beginning to cool down. As it turned out those mumblings were
accurate, because despite me putting the home up for sale the same
day I bought it, and despite its obvious desirability and discounted
price, I didn't receive any serious interest as I had expected and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

counted on. I have always been pretty level headed under pressure,
and I didn't panic...l stuck to my plan of action and kept aggressively
marketing and showing the property. Before I had realized it the six-
month initial term on the note had passed, and my friendly private
lender was calling me to see how I was coming along on the project,
which really meant how I was coming along with repaying his
This time my friendly lender was not his normal friendly
self, and matter of factly informed me that he had given me my six-
month opportunity and was not at all interested in giving me the six-
month extension. He then explained that since I had been unable to
find a buyer he would now take over my project, and that he already
had a "friend" ready to buy the property from me, which somehow
all seemed very "convenient" to me. He said the friend would pay
me 50k-100k for my time, but that I would have to lose my 400k
down payment and equity as a part of the risk of doing business.
I told him that I very much took exception to his assumption
that I would be willing to just walk away from my money and profit,
and reminded him of the 6-month extension clause. He replied that
he was not honoring it, and that in fact he was proceeding to auction
the property soon. I crisply countered that he must be crazy if he
thought he could just auction my property, and refuse to honor the
plain language of our agreement.
At that stage in my life I still had a lot to learn about the
cutthroat nature of business, and frankly I am still learning about the
dangers of human intrigue and avarice, and its really a lifetime

education. Most business deals start out well with the possibilities
being boundless, but somehow overtime usually tend to get
complicated. Sometimes it doesnt take long at all for things to take
a serious turn for the worse. I had much to learn, but I am generally
a quick study, and I have never been amenable to being taken
advantage of. In a portent of was to follow over the next eight years,
I decided to take on this lender. I called him back a few day later,
and I informed him that I would not abandon my project and money
under any circumstances, and that if necessary I could file
bankruptcy for the corporation I had the property under. He initially
by trying to convince me not to avoid what he called " the
inevitable", but then he suddenly flew into a rage and told me that I
didn't know who the f--- I was messing with and that he would bring
this fight to my door in a manner that I didnt yet understand.
That next week I was in a meeting when a friend called me
talking about an ad he had seen in a local newspaper advertising my
property for sale in an upcoming foreclosure sale occurring in the
next few days. I was dumbfounded, and thought that there was no
way what he was telling me be true. I located the publication he had
referred to, and sure enough what he told me was there before me in
black and white. I didnt know at the time that the Commonwealth
of Virginia offers lenders a "fast track" foreclosure option, and this
lender had clearly exercised that option and had my property ready
to go on the auction block. He had accelerated the note and deed of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

trust, and it didn't seem real. I hadn't even been served legal notice
of what was corning.
It may not have seemed real, but it very much was real, and
I needed to take quick action to take the wind out of the lender's
That Monday, I went to the U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse for
my area, and read as about the process of filing a bankruptcy petition
for a corporation as I could find. After reading for a few hours, 1
began to fill the actual forms out that had to be filed, and though I
had never prepared such an application, I managed to complete the
essential documents and stood in the line so that it could be filed.
However, as I stood in line I felt some type of urge to go outside the
courthouse and to call the lender one last time just to feel that I had
made every effort to resolve this without having to take the step I
was standing in line for. I felt somewhat naive still allowing myself
to think I could avert all-out war with this lender, but I believe at
such moments we should step back from our emotion and passion
and always give diplomacy as much of an effort as we can. I left the
courthouse and sat in my car to make the call... he answered his cell
phone on the first ring as always, and to my surprise and relief we
were able work out a temporary deal that have me more time to sell
the property, an additional two months. I worked as hard as I could
those two months, but the market only became worse with further
predictions about the great slump approaching. In such a market
selling a house of the size and price of mine just made it more
difficult, such homes only appealing to the tastes of a small and

select buyer pool. With the doom being forecasted, my homes size
and price became a liability. I was not successful in selling the home
within the two month period, and the lender me on the last day to
remind me that I couldn't file bankruptcy this time to stop the
auction. He had already cranked up the auction process under the
fast track option, and rebuffed my suggestion that we should re-
negotiate our agreement. He was adamant that we were on avoidable
collision course at this point, this time there was no small talk, and
he was all business. I had no choice but to file the initial petition for
bankruptcy I still possessed, so when I filed that bankruptcy petition
that I had almost previously, I called the lender to inform him of the
filing and to give him the case number so that his attorney could
verify it. All that I heard after relaying the filing information to him
was a volley of loud obscenities followed by a very even dial tone.
I had saved the property from auction for the time being. At
that point I didn't appreciate having an aggressive lawyer
representing me in such an encounter. I was caught off guard the
following day when one of the most reputable bankruptcy lawyers
in Virginia from one of the most prominent law firms called me to
say that he would be personally taking my deposition in regards to
the property and my loan with his client. I had to scramble to find a
bankruptcy lawyer able to go with me on such short notice, and I
had to rush through getting my new bankruptcy attorney up to speed
on all that had transpired. The following week my attorney and I

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

walked into the office of attorney Brian Wolfson and sat down for
turned out to be an all-day grilling session.
Attorney Wolfson was very good at what he did, which was
forcefully interrogating his client's opponents in looking for a legal
victory concerning the matter being contested. After initially
softening me up with a few general questions, that shark of an
attorney bore down on me with a restrained ferocity in asking me all
manner of questions about my business and personal life. He was
unrelenting, mercifully only breaking once for lunch. I had to loosen
my tie and fasten my seat belt as I to answer as carefully as possible
while being as accurate as possible, because under such a deposition
I can be charged with perjury for not answering truthfully. You don't
realize how full a life youve lived until its all put on the table before
you, but I had to mask my astonishment because this was no friendly
stroll on memory lane the aptly named Wolfson wouldn't hesitate
to take my information and use it against me in any way possible to
assist his client. Finally, after eight hours of pain in which I managed
to avoid Wolfson's sleights of hand and other maneuvers, it was
over, and that night I not only slept early for a change, I slept
soundly. The deposition had drained me and had taxed my nerves,
but at least it was over.
Wolfson, however, was just warming up. Just when I thought
I had recovered from his grilling, I received notice that he had set an
emergency hearing at the by him asking the court to lift the
automatic stay preventing me from being sold at Wolfsons auction.
He was already asking the court to remove the property from

bankruptcy protection so that the lender could restart the auction

process. He was pressing me, and I felt it. This seemed ridiculous, I
mean for crying out loud, less than three weeks had passed since the
last auction and here I was again facing Wolfson asking for another
If the appointed judge somehow granted Wolfson's motion,
the stay preventing the auction would be immediately lifted and I
would be back in the horse crap again. My bankruptcy attorney, who
turned out to be a very capable lawyer, told me that the U.S.
Bankruptcy trustee had told him in private that my property had
quite a history to it before I had owned it. That was not news I wanted
to hear, as it would only increase the court's scrutiny of my case in
general. I inquired and discovered that the prior owner and his
attorney and lender were all being prosecuted for mortgage fraud in
relation to my property concerning some scheme to hide proceeds
from the bankruptcy court and other actions. If the logic in my brain
had overcome the optimism in my brain, at that moment, I would
have seen the dark clouds above and abandoned my efforts to
salvage the project and my money. On the other hand, life is never
easy and all large achievements come with risk and sacrifice, and a
man can't get jittery when things go rough or else we would never
as a species made the scientific gains we have made in all endeavors
that led us to where we find ourselves in modern times. Was I being
stubbornly foolish pursuing such a project in such a market? I don't

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

know, but I will let you the reader draw your own conclusions from
the full context of this memoir.
I was left temporarily asking myself what in the heck I had
gotten myself into by purchasing this home. But I didn't need self-
doubt at this time, I needed a calm and deliberate resolve to get me
through this hearing with Wolfson successfully. What I really felt
like I needed was a stiff martini, I mean under the original contract
I had with the lender he was contractually bound to extend the loan
an additional sixteen months upon my request...the bottom line to all
this drama was that he was in effect abridging the loan period on his
own whim. His acceleration and enforcement action was violating
our contract, but all of that had somehow gotten lost in the madness.
How could he take such action against me when I was solidly within
rights contractually and legally?
The answer is that such disputes in business where one party
attempts to deprive the other's rights or take advantage of the other
are common, and thats why we have courts of law and equity. Also,
considering the complexity of our nation's state and federal laws,
notions of who is right and who is wrong also can be can be difficult
to ascertain and need some interpretation, and can be greatly
influenced by who you are in society, your prominence and wealth,
and who your attorney is. A litigants personal understanding of the
law as it applies to his or her case is also important. In today's world,
a person shouldn't be in fear or in awe of the courtroom, because for
better or worse it is the only arena where you are given an
opportunity to confront and influence some of the most important

matters in your life, including divorce, being sued or suing someone,

or defending yourself against criminal allegations that can
incarcerate you for many years or even the rest of your life. The
courtroom is a serious place that people should make greater efforts
to familiarize themselves with, because if you are ignorant of the
courtroom and both its perils and its opportunities, trying to get
familiar with it after you find yourself there will be too late. Prepare
yourself as much as possible on your issue, and keep an open mind
because the law can be a very tricky arena, and the people applying
it and interpreting it very fickle. The courtroom of today is no less
than the modern-day gladiator arena, the place lives are stolen,
fortunes are made and lost, reputations earned and debased, and
where there are clear winners and losers. Often the results of that
occurs in the courtroom are irreparable. Somehow, we are not
sufficiently warned or prepared for what a day in court entails, and
only find out after the fact. At that point we our left scratching our
heads and licking our wounds, wondering what just happened.
The following Monday, the hearing was upon me, and I had
it all to win or lose, my legal and contractual rights notwithstanding.
As it turned out I was very lucky that day and things ended up
turning out well. Although I really wasnt adequately prepared, the
fact of my sizable down payment and the fact that I had a large
amount of equity in the project persuaded the judge to grant me an
additional six months to sell the home or to refinance the loans I on
it. The lender's motion to lift the stay was denied so that he would

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

not be able to coordinate another auction, and would have to go back

to court again to try after my six-month extension period had ended.
Against the odds, I had stood up to my lender and attorney Wolfson,
and I had prevailed.
After the hearing, there was a lot of talk in the local real
estate community about how I had defended myself against one of
our communitys toughest legal dogs. The temporary victory would,
unbeknownst to me at the time, also paint a bulls-eye on my back
in certain parts of the legal and investor communities . I must also
say that it did also earn me a certain respect as well in these same
communities, so much so that a lot of the local lenders refused to do
business with me after that, concerned that I would end up taking
then to court or concerned that they wouldn't be able to take me for
a ride. After that rather pyrrhic victory, I set back upon trying to sell
the project.
This time around I also made simultaneous efforts to
refinance the loans that I had on the project so that if the sale didn't
happen in time I would also possibly obtain relief getting the
refinance done, which would get my current lender out of the picture
and possibly make the payments much more affordable.
My personal credit score was inadequate to qualify for a
conventional bank loan due to my first divorce. In that divorce my
wife's attorney had tried coming after the assets I owned, which
consisted mostly of single family homes in Washington, DC, that I
owned in my own personal name. My attorney at the time had
advised me to let him file personal bankruptcy to make the portfolio

appear much less attractive in court, and due to the fact that I didn't
at the time have the liquid cash to pay my then wife half of the
estimated equity that I had in the homes. I followed my attorney's
advice, and that bankruptcy filing had ruined my then perfect credit
score, a casualty of one of life's unplanned for events.
A fellow real estate investor and friend happened to call me
during this period and spoke to me about a group of private equity
investors that he had assembled who were looking to offer credit
enhancement services. Credit enhancement typically involves
individuals lending their borrowing strength for a fee - things like
credit facilities, or assets such as cash, real estate, or even security
instruments. These are added to the balance sheet of another person
or entity to make that person or entity more creditworthy.
I told my friend that I was interested in talking with one of
his investors, and after speaking with several he arranged a meeting
between myself and the persons most interested in my project. The
investor and I met and got along well, and he turned out to be very
enthused about offering his services to me in exchange for a fee and
a partnership agreement between us. We were eventually able to
come to agreeable terms and a partnership agreement was prepared
which memorialized those terms. The investor's name was Tariq
Hamdi, and he was a Pakistani commercial pilot that flew for United
Airlines. Under our agreement, Tariq basically offered to lend me
his credit score only, with me being responsible for all other aspects
of the project such as the marketing and sale of the home, and of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

course all payments and costs associated with the project, in

exchange for me paying him $100,000.00 cash at the table when the
refinance loan was obtained. He said that he had the income and
assets to qualify for a loan of that size, and under our agreement he
was responsible only to obtain the loan and make sure it was
ultimately approved.
Commercial pilots don't earn as much as it seems they would
considering their job and its risks, but he earned roughly twelve
thousand dollars as a base salary, and then he said he had a
substantial income from rent from the other homes he had as
investments. He also had approximately $700,000.00 to
$800,000.00 thousand dollars in savings, retirement accounts, and
mutual funds, so he appeared to be more than qualified and
obviously possessed the considerable reserves that banks would look
for to offer someone a loan of the size I needed to refinance the debt
I had on the project. I owed the first trust lender who Wolfson
represented 2.5 million in principal, but the high interest rate and
late fees he had tacked on, and extension fee based on the court's six-
month extension had all added up to a payoff of almost 3.3 million
dollars, which means that for a loan of less than a year the lender
would make a 700,000.00 profit.
Although its a considerable amount of interest to pay, that's
the price of the convenience and simplicity of private money lent
without the stringent requirements made by banks, and based more
on the value of the project than on a person's credit or financial
situation. The lender knew that with the project now appraising at

6.5 million by three different appraisers, his 2.5 million dollars first
trust loan was safe and that if need be he would always get his money
back to him if the home was sold. For me as well, despite the lender's
3.3-million-dollar payoff, I still had roughly 3.2 million dollars in
profit left, which was respectable, and thus had to appreciate that the
lender's loan had made my project possible and I couldnt be petty
or selfish and worry about what he stood to make off me. We both
stood to do well when the project sold.
I would need a loan of 4-5 million dollars to pay off the
existing debt, to create a reserve to make further improvements to
the property, and to receive a small portion of my equity in cash to
pay whatever other bills I could. Tariq and I began to look for local
mortgage brokers who could facilitate such a loan. Tariq clearly had
the credit and reserves to qualify for such a loan, but one issue that
arose was how he could justify or prove for qualifying purposes the
rental income that he received from his investment homes. To
qualify for a loan of 4.5 million dollars based on interest rates at the
time, Tariq would need to show roughly 40,000.00 dollars a month
in income. At that time in 2006 almost everyone in America was
obtaining what is known as "stated income" loans, whereby if you
had a high enough score and seasoned assets a bank would give you
a mortgage loan without you having to prove your income through
traditional means such as providing tax returns, W-2s, and paystubs.
A stated income loan would allow a borrower to "state" the
income that he or she made, and the bank would accept it without

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

verification. As the American people would later discover, the

bank's relaxation of the normal rules of lending and borrowing was
brought on by both the incredible amounts of money being made by
the banks and their mortgage officers, and by the governments
stated goal of making home ownership available to all levels and
classes of society.
What may have started out as noble goals essentially
reverted to a virtual free for all where the profit motive ended up
taking over and mortgage lenders ended up making loans to almost
anyone who wanted one. The profits made were astronomical, and
Wall Street packaged and bundled these loans into securities that
were sold to investors the world over and touted by Wall Street and
the rating firms as mostly A-rated paper.
Of course, those securities were not anywhere near what they
were said to be by Wall Street, most were subprime loans that were
later deemed "toxic", and the fallout caused by the realization that
many of those loans were almost worthless depressed and rattled
markets and led to the financial crises. Many people in the mortgage
industry called the loans that led to the crises ''liar loans", since the
banks knew that the income most borrowers provided was
inaccurate, and that banks had essentially looked the other way due
to the enormous profits being made. On the other hand, many people
who worked in jobs such as bartending and cab-driving used stated
income in their mortgage applications, as did many people who
simply hadn't reported all their earnings.


In the midst of the ensuing financial crises, with the finger

pointing and blame being deflected by all sides, many people would
ask how it was fair for a bank to claim that a borrower who defaulted
on a stated loan had defrauded that bank by giving stated income,
when the bank knew or reasonably should have known that that
borrower didn't make what he or she stated. This is even more so
when the bank's loan officers were widely known to have
encouraged and even provided borrowers to provide an income
necessary to get the loan approved that may or may not have born
any real relation to their actual income.
For myself and Tariq, he was responsible for obtaining the
loan, and he was responsible for providing the necessary income to
get the refinance loan approved. Tariq was given a figure of 4,000
000.00 as the refinance amount by the first loan officer that said he
could make the loan, and Tariq and the loan officer met without me
present on a Saturday at Starbucks to fill out the necessary 1003
Standard Mortgage Loan Application. The lender told Tariq that to
qualify for the loan Tariq would have to claim a stated income of
60k-80k which is preposterous, yet Tariq would later admit in a
court deposition that he agreed to claim such an income amount he
was told by the lender that it was the figure he needed to claim to
qualify for the loan. Although Tariq admitted that I was not present
when he initially came up with the stated income amount that began
at 60-80k, the government would not prosecute or even investigate

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

him for what he admitted, in fact the government would only

prosecute me, which will be addressed later.
As just explained, the initial 60k80k stated income figure,
and the loan application which was ultimately used to get the loan,
came from that meeting at Starbucks between Tariq and the
mortgage lender without my presence. That initial mortgage lender
ended up not coming through on their promise, so Tariq took that
initial loan application to a different lender who ended up lowering
the stated income requirement to 48k. This next lender said that his
bank would do the loan internally or in-house", and that he loved
the property as a loan worthy asset and he also loved Tariq's
financial profile. The loan officer liked the deal so much that he
increased the loan amount to 4.5 million dollars, which was the
maximum loan Tariq could get after this new loan officer had ended
Tariq to claim 48k as his stated income figure on the loan
The new loan officer's name was Paul Hampton, and he said
this was the largest mortgage loan he had ever was also the
largest commission he would ever make and because of that he made
it clear that this loan was top priority and was being given the red-
carpet treatment by him and his entire back office. He was the VP of
his office and though he hadn't been there very long this deal was
making a name for him at the company.
Because the loan was being done as a refinance, there was a
hurdle to deal with based on the fact that to do a refinance someone
had to already own the property, and the property was owned by my

corporation, not Tariq. Hampton and his team would not let such a
hurdle derail their biggest loan of the year, and what they did was
find a way around the hurdle, a way which required Hampton and
his underwriter and quality control people to look the other way.
Hampton's solution, which was sent to Tariq and via his company
email, was for a deed to be prepared in advance of the loan closing,
a deed which conveyed title from my corporation to Tariq's personal
name. This deed would be prepared by the settlement company, and
it would be sent to Hampton's office for their prior approval. Then,
on the day of settlement, the deed would be signed and notarized
giving Tariq the ownership needed to obtain a refinance loan, since
the property would be in his name as required under the loan
There was nothing illegal about my company deeding into
Tariq s name via a quitclaim deed, it is done routinely in real estate
matters. What was illegal was what Hampton and his team did on
the loan application itself. Namely, Tariq was getting approved for
a refinance loan, but he wouldn't own the property until it was
deeded into his name right before settlement. However, because the
loan was being approved as a refinance, it had to be approved prior
to the settlement, and that approval would necessarily require the
home to be shown as a current asset of his, when in fact it was an
asset of my corporation. What Hampton and his team did was to
prepare the loan application to show Tariq owning the property
many months prior to the settlement, which was not only materially

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

false but a clear fraud committed by the loan officer himself and his
back office, done willfully and driven by their willingness to bend
their own guidelines to obtain so large a loan commission. In their
investigation, the FBI team would overlook this obvious fraud
committed by Hampton and his team, and again would only
investigate and prosecute me in this matter, even though Tariq
applied and personally signed the loan papers at settlement.
Hampton in effect made the transaction appear if Tariq had owned
the property all along, and this cleared the way for the transaction to
be consummated.
Anyone in the loan industry, and certainly the FBI's white
collar mortgage fraud division, would have seen what occurred from
even a casual perusal of the loan documents, but in my case, they
either somehow missed the obvious or sought to downplay it
because they were only interested in prosecuting me alone and not
any of the other participants. Hampton was never investigated or
charged, and in fact was held by the government only to be a
potential witness against me if necessary. We now had Tariq,
Hampton and his company, and the settlement company all on the
same page and ready to close the refinance. Three separate and
independent real estate appraisal firms had all come back with
appraisal figures of at least 6.5 million dollars for the property,
which gave Hampton's company the comfort they needed that they
could always sell the home and recoup their loan if the loan was not
paid as called for under its terms.


The loan documents were prepared and signed off on, and
Tariq was called to come to the settlement company's office and to
sign all documents as needed. The original first trust lender, when
sent word that I had successfully obtained the refinance loan to pay
him back, sent the settlement company a very padded and inflated
payoff after seeing all the money that was on the table. He wanted
to increase his stake, and thus had Wolfson prepare a bill for his
attorney's fees that was far outside of any reasonable figure for the
work that had actually been done. But Wolfson was an old pro at
this game, and he knew how and when to play it to maximize his
client's profits. Seeing what I stood to make, Wolfson went for the
kill as he is paid to do, and I really couldn't complain after it was all
said and done because my company had done well also and
accomplished its mission be keeping its main asset. It had not been
an easy battle, and this victory enabled me to again refocus my
efforts on marketing and selling the property. This time I had taken
some of the money made from the cash out refinance and I had
placed it aside to make the mortgage payments while waiting for a
buyer. After paying off the loans, paying Tariq his 100 000.00, and
escrowing a few hundred thousand dollars to make the monthly
payment of 21,000, my company had still had nearly 1 million
dollars left over to improve the property and to pursue other deals.

Not long after closing on the refinance done my Hampton on
1036 Leigh Mill Road, I hired Zak Breyer to sell the property,
thinking it prudent to hire and pay another well-known realtor who
dealt with prune and high end homes to handle the sale. Breyer was
an older gentleman with a very pleasant inner and engaging
personality, and he had tons of experience with moving high end
homes. I was eager to sell 1036 Leigh Mill Road, and very worried
about the prospects of it still failing to sell considering the difficulty
that I had just endured. I told myself to keep my focus and eyes on
my goal, and that I would somehow get through this to see the home
sell, make a nice profit, and to pay back the refinance loan and move
on. One afternoon, I received a mildly urgent call from Mr. Breyer,
saying that he wanted to meet with me as soon as possible. He said
he had some business to discuss with me, and suggested that I meet
him at 1036 Leigh Mill Road.
The business that he had so insistently pulled me from my
midday meeting for involved me buying another project like 1036
Leigh Mill Road, except this project was larger and even more
expensive. A very wealthy client of Mr. Breyer's had been violently


robbed in his home more than a decade ago. This wealthy client had
opened the door to his home to a group of young men purporting to
be salesman. Once the young men were inside his home the
gentleman became alarmed by their movements and comments and
realized that they were not who said they were. Realizing he was in
danger, the man went for the pistol he had, but one of the young men
wrestled the gun from him and in the struggle the man ended up
being shot point blank in the head with his om pistol. The wealthy
client, whose name is John Crowe, was shot directly in the part of
the brain that controls speech and motor skills. His assailants didn't
get much cash, and left Crowe for dead. Miraculously, Mr. Crowe
managed not once, but twice, to call 911, the operator initially taking
his garbled voice for a prank. An ambulance was dispatched, and
despite literally having half of his head blown off Mr. Crowe would
valiantly fight to recover his ability to speak and to walk, though in
an impaired manner. Mr. Crowe's recovery over many years and the
outlook with he carries his impairments is a testament to his
willpower and faith, and he has returned to being a motivational
business speaker around the world.
Years after his recovery, Mr. Crowe decided to build a
special home wherein he and his family would never again be faced
with such a mortal threat in their home. He began research of what
he envisioned, and in the end his plans called for a 25,000-square
foot state of the art home, built with all steel and concrete, on five
private acres in a gated cul-de-sac community in Clifton, Virginia.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

The home had five levels, 2 basements, an indoor mini golf

course, a bomb shelter,
German Heinz man bulletproof windows throughout, and
an alarm system featuring a steel shutter lockdown.
As an observer, I had never seen anything like it, it was
impressive, unique, and had state of the art electronics, heating,
electric, as well as a smart security system. Mr. Crowe was
represented in the transaction by an attorney named
Bob Brown, who also lived in the small and exclusive
subdivision where the project was located. Attorney Brown had
found the initial builder to construct the home for Mr. Crowe. The
builder chosen by Attorney Brown had basically taken Mr. Crowe
for a ride, and collected millions of dollars for work that never
happened and that had lead Mr. Crowe to the point where he wanted
to sell the project. Feeling taken advantage of and frustrated, Mr.
Crowe began to think he had also been overly ambitious in seeking
to build such a home of such scale and amenities. He had sought Zak
Breyer's assistance in finding a builder/investor with the appetite,
finances, and building expertise to take the project over. Mr. Crowe
decided to sell the project at a discounted price, money being not the
primary issue for him considering the toll the project was taking on
his health and peace of mind.
Despite the money I made on the cash out refinance of 1036
Leigh Mill.
Road, I had been lucky to get that done and avert disaster,
and I had many reasons to decline taking on such a large project. On

the other hand, two hands are better than one, and this new 12995
Wyckland project had an appraisal with a completed value of over
ten million dollars, the appraisal having been done for Mr. Crowe
by the conservative insurance company which insured the project. If
I could get 12995 Wyckland built and sold I could take that profit
and make a full or partial payoff on the 1036 High Mill Road project.
It was a confusing predicament for me, but this dilemma offered me
another means of substantive income in a slowing market and a way
to relieve my 1036 Leigh Mill Road problem. Having two such
projects for sale also doubled my chance of getting a sale for either
of them, and the profit made on either sale would be enough to pay
all my outstanding bills and debts and to shore me up enough to
survive the market slump. Of course, having two such properties
also doubled my chances of further financial turmoil if both projects
failed to move.
I brought in some of my most competent builder friends to
look at 12995 Wyckland, and to a man they all told me that it was
unlike anything they had ever seen, and that it would be a sure sell
if I could build it, which wasn't going to be easy. It called for the
largest concrete pour of any home in the history of Fairfax County.
Of course, realtor Zak Breyer did his job well and pumped my brain
and ego full of visions of grandeur and success at the prospect of
building and selling such a project.
My best friend at the time had worked for the United States
in various positions, and had personal connections to people of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

prominence within the U.S. intelligence community. Considering

the remote and private location of the 12995 Wyckland project, as
well as the homes security features and all steel and concrete design,
I ran the project by my friend in the hopes he may have an idea of a
U.S. agency or even a foreign embassy that may be interested in such
a structure.
He was casually interested in looking further into my
suggestion, and arranged a meeting at the site for myself to meet him
and the attorney for one of the entities he had spoken about the
project to. We all met at the site a few days later, the attorney there
to make his determinations and recommendations as to the possible
suitability of the project for his group's needs.
A few weeks after that site visit, my friend informed me that
there was some interest, and that a draft lease was being prepared
between my LLC which was buying the project and the interested
group's holding entity, that draft lease of course being fully subject
to me successfully purchasing and building the project per the plans
I had showed them. I would also have to agree to add to the design
whatever particular special features they would need for their
Later, the government's indictment of me would allege that I
had fraudulently create that draft lease to influence the mortgage
lender who provided financing, alleging that I had created it and
presented it to make the project appear more viable to the bank. This
was one of the many false charges made against me by the
government. When I saw this allegation in the indictment, I sought

my friend's support and asked that he provide me some type of

written affidavit that I could present to disprove the government's
allegation. I would have been hard pressed to expect my friend and
his friends to involve themselves in publicly supporting me on this
without me having been indicted, given the nature of the potential
use I had tried to get interest in. After my indictment , my attempts
to disprove this false charge by asking my friend to come from the
shadows was laughable.
Very strange things occur in your life after the U.S.
Government indicts you. Friendships of 20 years, family ties,
ironclad business ties, and both casual and close acquaintances, all
start to fade or simply disappear. People who always swore by you,
and whom you swore to yourself would always be there for you in a
time of great difficulty, fade and never reappear. Its eerie like an
Alfred Hitchcock film, a weird spy-fi mystery, or to be trite like a
good Twilight Zone episode. There's nothing like an indictment by
the U.S. government to let you know exactly where you stand with
the people around you in life, and it enables people to fully reveal
themselves regarding their true sentiments concerning you.
Initially you will resist the reality of such revelations and the
ensuing defections, but eventually you will find a kind of perverse
humor in what occurs. You will discover that often we are not
exactly as important or as beloved as we thought by those close to
us. The life that we think we are living or thought that we were
living, is not quite what it appeared to be, in both positive and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

negative ways. People you would swear on can prove to be a fair-

weather friend, and those who you undervalued can be a true-blue
friend regardless of your current predicament. Being under
indictment allows us a more realistic and balanced understanding of
our lives, oddly revealed only in the face of great adversity or
At the time the draft lease gave me additional comfort and a
backup plan in helping me decide about going forward with
purchasing the 12995 Wyckland project. After more soul searching,
I inquired from Mr. Breyer as to what favorable terms Mr. Crowe
would offer under such a sale. I could see that Mr. Crowe was
basically in a bind, and like my situation on 1036 Leigh Mill Road,
he had found it difficult finding a buyer for such a home in the
current market. The difference was that 12995 Wyckland was of
such high quality and taste that there is always a very small segment
of wealthy buyers undaunted by the vagaries of the market and its
cycles. To buy Mr. Crowe's home I would be rescuing him in an
attempt to rescue myself, and as his rescuer I would be entitled to a
very favorable price and terms. Mr. Crowe couldn't expect to recoup
all the money he had spent thus far, and I made that the start of our
discussions. After a period of back and forth over a period of two
weeks we mutually agreed on a sales price of 4.5 million, with him
holding a second trust of 1 million at 8 percent interest. The 4.5
would be enough to both pay Mr. Crowe what he would make and
to establish a construction escrow to build what remained to be built,
which was basically the whole house.

Mr. Crowe in effect only walk away with around 1 million

dollars cash, and would have to wait on his 1 million dollar second
trust then I sold the project. Based on the completed value of over
10 million dollars, even if I only sold the home for 7 or 8 million
dollars, I wouldnt do too bad.
As with 1036 Leigh Mill Road, I needed a source of credit
endangerment, but this time I used an Iranian partner of mine that I
already co-owned several homes with. For the financing, I was
referred by a friend of mine to a very shrewd Nigerian mortgage
broker named Femi Achebe. The Nigerian and I met at a popular
Georgetown restaurant called Nathan's and enjoyed a grilled shrimp
salad while sizing each other up. Achebe was very well dressed, very
much unpretentious and direct, and obviously appreciated and
enjoyed the finer things in life. He patiently explained to me the
complexity of placing such a large loan with the right lender, while
at the same time reassuring me of his unique qualification to do just
that. He told me that putting together such a deal would cost me,
which certainly proved prophetic, and I wish it was only money that
I would have to pay.
My Iranian partner, Sharbanoo Hosseini, provided her
general financial information to Mr. Achebe, who found her to be
qualified, in fact it was his idea to use her for the credit enhancement,
not mine. Mr. Achebe emailed Sharbanoo and I his approval of her
loan, which he had approved as a stated income deal, based on her
high credit score.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

After approving the loan as a mortgage broker, Mr. Achebe

now had to go out and find an actual bank or direct lender to fund
the loan, for like many firms he simply brokered his deals to banks
and charged then an origination fee for his having given the loan to
them. He eventually placed the loan with a small but respected local
bank called American Bank. Mr. Achebe would later tell me that he
spent many nights over expensive dinners wining and dining the
bank's vice president to get him warm and fuzzy on making the loan.
Because the home was very much unconstructed, the loan would
have to be what the industry called a construction to perm loan, that
loan having a provision which established a construction fund to
draw upon as the various stages of the home were completed. Such
a loan required an inspector from the bank to thoroughly inspect and
sign off upon each stage of the draw. It was a large loan for a small
community based bank, but Mr. Achebe made good on his word and
after a four-month process of getting appraisals and final approvals,
the closing for 12995 Wyckland was finally ready to close.
Sharbanoo attended the closing, along with myself, Mr.
Achebe, the vice president of American Bank, John Crowe and his
wife, and the settlement agent accompanied by two additional
attorneys he had called upon. There was a minor crisis when the
bank remembered that it had omitted having the necessary HOA
documents prepared. Fortunately, I had brought along a copy of the
HOA's Rules and Bylaws which had been given to me by Mr. Crowe
when he and I had first met, because initially the contract to purchase
was in my name only, not Sharbanoo's. Some calls were made to the

president of the HOA, and eventually it was all worked out to a

degree satisfactory to American Bank. I was now the proud owner
of not one, but two, of the most impressive homes in Fairfax County.

Over the past 6-month period during that time, I had been on
the receiving end of a rather unusual amount of phone calls from
Tariq Hamdi. After completing the 1036 Leigh Mill Road refinance
deal, Tariq and I had become casual friends.
He had been over to my home and met my family, and as
fellow Muslims we exchanged holiday and cultural pleasantries. He
had a very pleasant and level headed manner, as one would expect
of a commercial pilot. Yet, lately his calls had been sounding
anxious, and he had been seeking my reassurances that 1036 Leigh
Mill Rd would sell and wouldn't take us to the proverbial poor house.
I would reliably and professionally answer each of his calls, no
matter what I happened to be doing. I was obligated to the man
had trusted me enough to back me on a 4.5-million-dollar loan.
His calls had begun to sound tense and measured, yet there
was no adversarial tone, it just seemed that he was driven regularly
to call me and invite me to meet him at Starbucks for coffee, our
preferred meeting place. One Friday in particular we had an
agreement to meet, and as is my habit, I was running late from
another appointment after having to fight my way through Tyson


Corner's famous gridlock. After arriving late I greeted Tariq and

offered to pay our tab, the least I could do after being late.
After we settled into our usual table, Tariq went right to the
point. You know Alex, this loan has kinda been getting to me
lately, Tariq said. In what way, I replied.
Well, I'm not comfortable with the amount of stated income
I put doom. I'm an honest person, and the income I put down wasn't
accurate", he said.
The income you put down was what you came up with
based on your income outside of your United Airlines job.
Yes, well my additional income is nowhere close to the
stated I amount I gave the bank.
Tariq, I don't think you have anything to worry about. It was
a stated income loan, which means you stated what you believe the
income to be, it's not an exact science, and if the bank really sought
to know your exact income they would have asked for your tax
returns. W-2 's, or paystubs.
''Just in case, as a backup to make me more comfortable, can
you help me out If I am ever questioned", he said.
"Sure, I'll help you out in any way that I can. What kind of
help do you need from me?
Can you provide a W-2 for me for the income, which will
allow me to claim it in my tax returns?"

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

I can't provide you a W-2, you don't work for me as an

employee. All I can do is provide you a 1099 for the actual income
you did earn for doing the
1036 Leigh Mill deal and the two other smaller deals that we
"You would really do that for me?
It's my company Tariq, I can do what I want. No problem,
just don't keep worrying about it, I really don't think its something
that will come up again, relax brother, let's enjoy our coffee and the
''Ok", said Tariq.
Tariq and I remained in the Starbucks for about 20 minutes
more, and then we took off in our opposite directions, fighting as
best we could through the gridlock on Route 7.

The following week my regular real estate settlement agent,
John Nguyen, called me to tell me that a few of my smaller deals
were ready to close. I really liked John, who was a savvy Vietnamese
man with sharp business mind and a lot of personal style in clothing
and cars. He and I had occasionally enjoyed social time also, eating
out at nice restaurants while going over our pending business
matters. He had been the settlement agent for both 1036 Leigh Mill
Road and 12995 Wyckland Drive, and those closings had been the
largest residential settlements in his firm's career. Title companies
make money not on the $300 settlement fee they charge, but rather
on the interest earned on the "float" of the money held in their
escrow accounts, and on the hefty commissions they earn on the title
insurance policies which are pretty much guaranteed on each
transaction. John had earned almost 100k on from my business just
on those two deals, not counting my other smaller projects, so he
treated me as a valuable client.
Today, halfway through our conversation, he asked me about
Tariq. "How well do you know this guy?, he asked. I basically trust
him, I mean he hasn't given me a reason not to". Are you sure
Alex? What do u mean? Is there something I need to be aware of?

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Alex, between you and me, I had a meeting yesterday at the

FBI field office in Tysons. I was called in to answer some questions
about another client of mine, nothing related to you. "Ok", I said.
Well, when I signed the FBI sign-in sheet, I happened to
notice another signature on the page that caught my eye. I can't swear
on it, but it looked to me like Tariq 's unique signature, which I
remember from the many documents I have notarized his signature
on from the 1036 Leigh Mill Road deal.
Why would Tariq be at the FBI field office in Tysons on a
weekday, he is normally in flight somewhere in the world during
that time. That' s odd, I said.
"Alex, be careful with him, I don't want to be paranoid, but
you are my good friend and client, and you can't be too trusting of
people brother.
Hey John, thanks for the tip, I'll think on it for a few days,
and then let you know what I can make of it.
I hung up with John and after several minutes of quietly
thinking, I called
Tariq very straightforwardly.
"Tariq, its me, how are you and what are you up to man?"
Nothing Alex, just preparing to return to Virginia from New
Orleans. What are you up to, and how can I help you?"
''Tariq, you didn't happen to pay a visit to the FBI Field
Office in Tysons this week for any reason, did you?
No, why would I be at the FBI Building in Tysons.


''I don't know Tariq, I'm just asking, a friend of ours thought
he saw you there. "
Who, Alex, I have no business with the FBI, and I 'm a little
surprised you would ask me something like that.
I don't mean any harm Tariq, it's probably just a mix up,
forget about it man. Hey, what time does your flight arrive in Dulles
tonight man?
I should get in around 8:45 pm, if we don't have taken off
or weather delays.
Well Tariq, drive that plane safely, and Ill catch up with
you over the weekend.
Ok Alex, have a good evening.
Ok Tariq, you too, catch you later.
At 8:30 pm I was already inside the terminal, just in case his
plane happened to arrive early. Very calmly, I waited in the section
of the airport where the pilots come through with their rolling
suitcases. By education and training I am a social scientist, trained
at the basic human art of listening, observing, and communicating. I
had no idea what to expect when Tariq and I came face to face, but
I knew him to be a man of refinement, which I also have always
sought to be, so I didn't think this matter would descend into some
type of physical altercation. I just wanted to know the truth, I wanted
to know if the Feds had their sights on me through him, and if so
what was it all about. Unexpectedly, my task took no effort. Tariq's
body language as our eyes met told me all that I needed.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

''Alex, I'm sorry brother, they came to my home and scared

the check out of my wife and me. I couldn't tell you over the phone,
and I feel horrible about this.
So now the Feds are after me, and my business partner and
friend has agreed to cooperate against me and is being interrogated
in exchange for whatever it is he is being offered. John Nguyen was
right after all. I phoned Steven Lisa, one bull dog of an attorney and
a good friend as well. I couldn't begin to imagine what had put me
in the Feds' crosshairs. I didn't know if I should tell my wife and
family at this point and possibly stress then out needlessly, or if I
should wait until I have a more complete understanding of what was
happening. To tell my wife now would put a heavy load on her mind,
all for what could turn out to be just an investigation and no more.
What about my five kids? And what about my deals and my
business? I had to stop myself, slow myself down, and remind
myself that worry is a useless notion. I told myself to stay calm and
focused on what was before me, and that worrying would not assist
me in any way. I told myself that I would deal with it the best way I
could, and that I would get through this, whatever it was.
The following week, an unknown number appeared on my
Blackberry screen as I was driving. I have always my Blackberry
phone, and I have found it to be an indispensable tool in business
and emailing. I looked at the number, and although I don't usually
answer unknown calls this time I hit the answer button routing the
call to my wireless earpiece.
Mr. Matthews?" said a voice.

This is he, how can I help you?" I replied.

''This is Agent Hinton of the FBI. May I speak to you for a
Sure. How can I help you?"
Well, I was thinking we can help each other.
What are you referring to, I replied.
On your 1036 Leigh Mill Road house, there are some things
I wanted to talk to you about, and it seems there's an opportunity
here for us to help each other.
Why do I need your help", I said.
We can discuss that when we get together.
When do you want to meet?"
What about tomorrow afternoon, said Agent Henton.
No, that's too soon for me, and besides, I have to bring my
No Mr. Matthews, thats unnecessary, its not that serious,
you don't need your attorney"
You are saying that I don't need to bring my attorney to a
meeting with the FBI.
Absolutely not, this will be a short and simple meeting, just
between you and I."
Incredulous at that Agent Henton is saying, I paused for a
few seconds.
'I'll tell you what Agent Henton, here's what I'll do. If I don't
need to bring my attorney to the meeting, fax something to me in

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

writing which says you will also keep the U.S. Attorney out of this
matter, and make sure you sign it, and that will give the assurance
that this matter will only be between the two of us.
Agent Hinton didn't like that comment at all.
Mr. Matthews, we need to get together, get back to me once
you have secured a time to bring your attorney, and make sure it's in
the next few days.
''Ok Agent Henton, give me your number and I'll call you to
make the appointment.
A week later my attorney Steven Lisi and I were at the
Tysons FBI Field Office in the lobby, waiting to be escorted upstairs.
This had the potential to be quite a meeting.
After waiting in a mini-lobby for 20 minutes, a secretary
came to retrieve us, and used her electronic card to lead us through
several sets of secured doors leading to Agent Henton' s office.
Agent Henton was sitting at his desk waiting for us,
accompanied by a short, heavy set young man he appeared to be
Agent Henton was an older white male, sixty-ish, with a cleft
upper lip. His face seemed to be one large scowl without any trace
of pleasantness. He didn't stand or extend his hand to Lisi or myself,
and he started right in without any preface.
So, Matthews and Mr. Lisi, I have a series of questions I
want to ask Mr. Matthews in relation to 1036 Leigh Mill Road.
Neither Lisi nor I responded, and the rom grew palpably
tense. I sat calmly facing agent Henton, close enough to Lisi he

could kick me with his foot without it being obvious should I began
to say anything to my disadvantage.
Matthews, where were you born", said Agent Henton.
Washington DC", I replied.
What high school and college did you attend?"
Archbishop John Carroll High School, undergrad at N.C.
State University, and grad school at the University of the District of
Mr. Matthews, what... began Hinton before Lisa erupted
without warning.
What in the fuck is happening here, Lisi demanded.
Excuse me, replied Hinton.
"You dragged my client and I here to ask a bunch of
questions that you already how the answer to? What is this, a joke?",
Lisi replied.
Mr. Matthews I hear you are attempting to lease 1036 Leigh
Mill Road to an offshoot of the Catholic Church. Gearing up to
defraud the church now, are you, Agent Henton snarled.
Confused by what Agent Henton had said, and rather
insulted, I was just about to answer the provocation when Lisi kicked
me gently, saving me from helping Henton to provoke and agitate
me into saying something both unnecessary and irrelevant to my
Lets go Alex, we didn't come here to play games, said
Lisa, and we stood up together as if on cue.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

In this arena, the one who ends up talking the most is the one
who normally ends up losing. Henton was skillfully playing his
game, trying to get under my skin and simply to shake me up so that
I started to open up. I had insisted on bringing my attorney with me
to meet him, which had greatly increased my chances of not getting
tricked into giving up unneeded information which Hinton was in
search of. Most defendants are simply ignorant of this dynamic, and
law enforcement uses it to play defendants like a tune and take
advantage of them through needless talking all the time. Henton had
dreamed I would have naively accepted his initial entreaty to have a
little private talk with him, under which I would have probably
solidly sold myself down the river without even knowing it.
Continuing with his ploy, Henton added, Mr. Matthews, is
Will Kaufman still doing your bogus appraisals? "
I had never before been face to face with someone that
showed me such clear hostility and antagonism. Henton was a
festering pustule of animus towards me. FBI agents are trained to be
and usually are very professional in bearing, and are usually well
dressed and spoken. Agent Henton seemed a miserable and rabid
man who obviously had a very large weed up his rear for me, as Lisi
later commented.
Just as Lisi and I were walking through the door without
having made any comment, Hinton stood up and tried to soften his
demeanor. He requested that we sit down and try this again for a
second time. Less than a minute after we reluctantly sat back down,
Henton flared up again snarling about some matter , and Lisi this

time said enough is enough. We walked out, and I never saw Henton
Before we walked for the second time, Lisi decided to get
one dig of his in. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is
perfectly okay for the FBI, or any police, to lie to a criminal
defendant during the course of an investigation. In fact, lies, false
threats, and deceit are the stock in trade of law enforcement, tools
that lubricate the engine which propels ignorant criminal defendants
into waiting traps. On the other hand, attorneys are held to be agents
of the court, and as an agent of the court an FBI agent or police is
not allowed to lie to a defendant's attorney. So then Lisi inquired as
to whether or not I was a target of this investigation, Henton had to
answer truthfully that I was. Then Lisi asked Henson if Tariq had
been wired for sound during several of my seemingly innocuous
Starbucks meetings, Henton smiled very stiffly, refusing to answer
in the negative knowing that he was not permitted to do so. Lisi had
obtained the information we needed , which translated that Henton
was going very hard in this investigation with me as one of the
targets, and that Tariq had already folded like a lawn chair and was
singing operatically to save himself.

Back on the 12995 Wyck1and Drive front, that project was
coming along well and was on time with its construction draw
schedule. Lisa had brought in a fellow Italian as a builder he said
would work as my subcontractor, since the bank's rules prohibited
me as an owner from being the builder of record. The Italian builder
and I worked as a team, but the complexity of the building plans and
the materials chosen still made for a very difficult task. Together,
we made it through the worse challenges, and ended up as friends in
the process.
During the three-month period prior to closing on 12995
Wyckland Drive, Zak Breyer began informing me that Bob Brown,
Mr. Crowe's attorney, was expressing vehement opposition to Mr.
Crowe about him going through on completing the sale to me. I
didn't know Bob Brown, and he didn't know me, and we had never
even met. At first I didn't give it much attention or thought, which
turned out to be a major error, as in this life we live sometimes you
must nip certain matters in the bud before it blossoms and grows.
The comments and sentiments from Mr. Brown only became more
vehement and hateful, and Mr. Crowe began calling me to express
concern and to distance himself from Mr. Brown 's actions. Mr.


Crowe informed me that Mr. Brown, who lived in the same

exclusive subdivision, had shown revulsion when Mr. Crowe
informed him that I was both African American and Muslim. Brown
had embarked on a mission to prevent Sharbanoo
and I from becoming his neighbor, and the first part of his
mission was to convince
Mr. Crowe to scuttle the 12995 Wyckland transaction itself.
As Mr. Brown's behavior became more extreme, Mr. Crowe fired
him and sent me email messages in which he made clear that he was
not a part of Mr. Brown's actions. Mr. Crowe several times
expressed incredulity at the tenor of Mr. Brown's remarks and tells
me that Brown has gone rogue on him I also at the time was
puzzled at the direction which Brown was going under the racial and
religious animus that was driving him.
Mr. Crowe was getting bombarded by Brown with offensive
comments about me personally and about Islam, and one day I
received an email from Mr. Crowe himself that had a strange
diagram with my name and Sharbanoo's name that equated us to
being swine, which was obviously some attempt to slur us as
Muslims. The diagram was odd and even a bit childish, and I didn't
honor it with a response, I just ignored it. When I ignored it Mr.
Crowe emailed me a days later asking me if I needed him to explain
it to me. I told him that it wouldn't be necessary and that I had been
taught to take the high road and to not feed in to such provocations.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

In retrospect I should have addressed this issue head on, and

I was naive and underestimating just what a person acting under such
an animus was capable of. Little did I know at the time, but I would
later find out that Mr. Brown had used his clout as an attorney to
lobby and prod local and federal law enforcement to investigate and
prosecute Sharbanoo and I. Brown played a major role in my being
a target of the Feds, the mortgage company never once made a
compliant about the transaction or alleged that I had violated any
law. Mr. Brown had orchestrated it to punish me for buying a home
in his neighborhood that is the unfortunate reality of the hate that
some Americans still harbor in areas of color or religion. He had also
created a smear campaign against me in the local real estate and
investment community, which I came to know about after being
personally told of his comments by two friends of mine that
somehow ended up seeking his attorney services and in the course
of the discussion my name had come up.
I should have had Lisi immediately file a discrimination
lawsuit against Mr. Brown to halt to his actions, but I didn't. It would
take Brown nearly four years to find a prosecutor interested in trying
to investigate me, but he finally convinced the Maryland State
Attorneys Office to look into the transaction and they eventually
referred the case to the Maryland FBI office. Femi Achebe, the
Nigerian mortgage broker, had sold the loan to Sharbanoo and I as
stated income deal but had at some point switched it to a full income
deal requiring tax returns and financials. He had these false
documents inserted without our knowledge and on top of that

charged me an additional 30k to finish the deal at the last moment.

The false income documents were discovered during the
investigation and that was the basis for the governments case
Sharbanoo and myself. We ended up taking the heat for
actions done by the lender himself, and in their zeal to prosecute me
the government pressured Sharbanoo to be a witness against me
although she had no first hand or personal knowledge of my having
created any false documents concerning the transaction. Also, in a
private email to me at the start before the government pressured her
to give false testimony, she says to me in black and white that she
and I are being framed and that neither she nor I had any knowledge
of the false documents that were inserted into the deal. Some of this
forms the basis for my appeal, which will be addressed later .
Nonetheless, it was a grave error not to take action against Brown at
that stage because in today's world someone is defaming you or
discriminating against you, civil suits for damages can be powerful
tools of self-defense.
Civil suits not only stand to benefit you financially, they also
are good ways to bring out the truth that you are seeking, done
through what is called discovery.
Discovery can be written questions that a person is made to
answer which are called interrogatories, or it could also be
admissions, requests for production of documents, or depositions,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

where a person can be questioned under oath. Done properly, all of

these tools can be remarkably effective in defending your rights.
Modern day business is in many ways akin to warfare, where
you must always protect and guard your rear flank from those who
would harm you. It's good to have an attorney on retainer to
aggressively attack and defend you against an enemy. Failure to
defend yourself can be painful and very costly. I mentioned filing
suit against Brown to Lisi, but caught up in the pace of my business
affairs I never really sat down with Lisi to put it together, and I
eventually assumed that such a disturbed person would just go away
on his own. I asked myself how far would a man go to harm me
whom I didn't know and who didn't me. I was both wrong naive, and
I would pay dearly for it.

While I was building 12995 Wyckland Drive and my search
continued for a buyer for 1036 Leigh Mill, I also looked for other
avenues to make money. The market had cooled so much that I
began to look for an avenue to simply pay both homes off outright
to rid myself of the pressure to sell . I was paying large amounts of
money monthly on the mortgages of 1036 Leigh Mill and 12995
WyckLand, and it was really taxing my resources. The 1036 Leigh
Mill mortgage was $21,700.00 monthly and the 12995 Wyckland
mortgage was $17,000.00 monthly. I had recently purchased a pool
of one hundred and ten foreclosed homes in Detroit, hoping to resell
than, but as with the two large homes the market had not yet
responded favorably to my product and I had gotten stuck sitting on
the entire pool of foreclosed homes as well. Things were getting
really tight.
A close Jewish friend of mine, Jeff Zuckerberg, had been
talking to me about going into the business of brokering the same of
what are known as medium term notes in the financial world. The
term notes are bonds, and are debt instruments issued by banks for a
fixed payment in the form of a coupon. Medium Term notes are
issued in various world currencies, primarily the U.S. dollar and the

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Euro, and are favored investments of insurance companies, hedge

funds, and retirement companies. The issuance of medium term
notes, which are brokered through securities firms, serves to insert
cash into the world economy. The notes are also referred to as
MTNs, are generally are issued by the world's leading banks for a
five to ten-year term, and are favored by insurance companies and
pension funds because they are conservative investments that offer
a fixed return of investment and the opportunity for the market value
of the security to increase as well thus increasing the overall return
when the security is redeemed.
MTNs are issued in large sums of money, from as little as
several million to billions of dollars, but each note can be divided
and sold in tranches. There is an estimated 350 trillion dollars worth
of paper on the market, most of it being held on offshore accounting
ledgers, making it one of the largest markets in the world and making
it dwarf the U.S. stock market by comparison. Despite the fact that
all U.S. Wall Street financial firms and securities houses deal with
mortgages regularly as buyers and brokers, most Americans have
never heard of a MTN and have no idea of the importance the MTN
market plays in world financial markets. We Americans tend to be
very unaware of the real happenings on Wall Street and we tend to
be very trusting of what we are told without taking the time to look
into and educate ourselves about these matters. For example, most
news reports reported the U.S. Treasury to have spent 700 billion
dollars to bail Wall Street out of the 2008 financial crises. That was
not anywhere to what Wall Street actually received, in fact Michael

Bloomberg's Bloomberg Markets filed a Freedom of Information

Act lawsuit to force the government to admit that we taxpayers
actually loaned Wall Street close to 8 trillion dollars after it was all
said and done, and most of that money was given to Wall Street at
so low an interest rate that many of the firms loaned it back to the
Federal Reserve for a profit. They didn't use that money to lend to
American citizens and companies, it was so much money that they
parked much of it with the Fed and used it to buy other financial
firms. This is how Bank of America ended up owning Countrywide
and how Wells Fargo bought Wachovia, they were sitting on more
money than they knew what to do with.
Once Jeff had introduced me to the MTN business, I
developed a keen interest and travelled to other of the world to make
inquiries with bankers and to verify what I had been told.
There really is no school to attend to learn about the MTN
market, it is something that you must learn about through experience
and through other people in the financial world who work with
money. I knew that they were real because I had taken the time to
get a Bloomberg LLP account and I had the Bloomberg screen and
terminal in my office where I could look up any MTN that I needed
to verify by entering its ISIN or CUSIP number. All types of
financial information scan be looked up on Bloomberg LLP, which
is the world's largest and most reputable financial database in the
world where all manners of financial instruments can be bought and
sold using a Bloomberg buy ticket, including stocks, bonds, and US

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Treasury notes. Other financial database systems can be verified are

Euroclear and Clearstream.
I had purchased the Blooomberg screen for my company,
and a Bloomberg installer had flown in from Manhattan to install
my terminal and teach me the essentials. After a few days, I was
proficient enough to find the information 1 was seeking, as well as
the troves of other financial, news, and marketing data that is
provided under a Bloomberg screen.
In my inquiries to people in the mortgages business, I was
introduced to a man named Ota Sackey who was a salesman for a
securities firm based in Zurich that sold discounted MTNs. As it
turned out this gentleman introduced me to the global community of
MTN brokers, buyers, sellers, wannabe dealers, and sharks of all
kinds from great whites to hammerheads and of course many
straight-out crooks. Any such business dealing with such large sums
of money, and the potential for huge commissions, attracted all
manner of people from all over the world in different time zones, a
lot of them in communication at all hours of the day and night by
cell phone or Skype.
Due to the large size of the denominations MTNs are issued
in, being a broker on either side of a transaction can earn big
commissions in a single deal, though the deals are often complicated
by the task of getting a buyer and seller to agree on the same
procedures to conduct the transaction under and the varying
geographical locations of the involved participants.


After being mentored by Sackey for several months, what

knowledge I had acquired was rewarded with an open line of credit
to purchase securities with a very large international bank, the line
of credit having no set credit limit. Whatever discounted security I
was able to have sent to my account would be traded by that bank's
fixed income securities desk, the bank and I agreeing to split the
profits after all expenses were paid. In effect, I had custom made my
own trading platform like the players on Wall Street, which was
pretty stimulating and drove me to work all times of the night trying
to acquire the right discounted instrument for my account. Under the
agreement I had with the bank that gave me the credit line they had
minimal risk because under our agreement they had to prescreen
the security before I had it sent to my account to ensure that It was
properly priced and met their underwriting standards. Based upon
their findings my account manager would then give me the nod to
accept the instrument. I made more if I had my own prearranged
buyer for the instrument but if I didn't have my own buyer the bank
had no problem letting their fixed income securities desk trade the
instrument for me. As long as the instrument was in my account the
coupon was bringing in a profit, and any security brought to my
account had to be under a certain percentage under par for my
account manager to sign off on it. It was a winwin situation for
myself and the bank.
Nonetheless, any large transaction is fraught with peril and
difficulty, one of the hardest tasks being the necessity of using

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

SWIFT, the international bank messaging and delivery network, to

give the security house or seller sufficient surety to initiate the
transaction by sending the instrument via SWIFT to your account.
And there is no roam for error when a 100-million-dollar instrument
is on the line, so the transaction must be scrutinized over and over
so that nothing was overlooked. Also, you have the complicated
issue of making sure that all brokers, subbrokers, lawyers, and
agents and representatives are paid when the deal closes.


After many attempts to close my first deal over an eighteen-

month period I was unsuccessful because they all in some manner
ran into a problem that I couldn't overcame. I had to change my
approach, so I decided to not rely on other sellers and buyers and to
place a call option on the instrument of my choice and to be a
principal rather than just a broker. That was very ambitious, but it
would serve to give me more control in a transaction. Using my
broker Mr. Sackey, I raised money from private investors to pay the
monthly call option fee on the instruments I chose, a call option
being a contract paid for monthly which enables the owner to have
exclusive rights to purchase a security at an agreed upon price, in
my case that price being a discounted price offered through the
European Stock Exchange. My securities line of credit account
manager issued me a written guarantee to present to the securities
firm brokering the deal so that they could present it to the owner of
the security as a guarantee that I could pay for it if they delivered it

to my account. It specifically said that bank would use my credit line

to pay for the instrument within 72 hours of its receipt and proper
verification and authentication.
The instrument I chose was a triple A rated note from Bank
of America with a coupon of 7.5 percent, collateralized by a mix of
real estate and cash, being offered at six points under par although
my Bloomberg screen had its market price well above par at 112. I
wired the first monthly call option fee to Mr. Sackey's head office in
Zurich, and after they verified the wire they sent me documents
confirming the terms of my option, a prospectus of the bond which
I had already read myself from my Bloomberg screen, and a contract
laying out our respective obligations.
In order to initiate the first part of my contractual obligation
I had the difficult task of getting my bank to send a payment
guarantee via SWIFT to Swiss securities account in Hungary at
My call option called for a price of 88 million dollars per 100
million dollars of the bond, which was an excellent discount, and
which meant I had to send a guarantee to pay 88 Million dollars for
the first 100 Million dollar tranche of the bond.
To accomplish this I had to bring a business partner of mine
into the transition whose name was Buck Walter because it was too
large an undertaking for me to qualify for alone, Buck had the
additional assets and banking connections that I needed. He was a
preacher from Georgia who had made a name for himself and his

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

company as one the premier American builders of churches and

other religious structures. He is an older white gentlemen ,very
gregarious and mild-mannered at the same time, and deeply
religious. Buck had gotten into the MTN business independent of
me, but he had found it very difficult to find a legitimate source for
discounted notes, which I had managed to find and make among my
contacts. I brought my discounted note broker Sackey to the table
for Buck, and brought his extensive network and banking and
international financial connections to the table.
We ended up using a Brazilian bank that had experience with
sending SWIFT conditional payment guaranties for MTN
transactions, and we used a large Los Angeles law firm to act as
escrow agent for the money we paid the bank to execute the
guarantee necessary to have the bond delivered to our account. We
also paid the law firm a fee to ensure that we were protected,
especially to ensure that our funds were not released until the
instrument was very carefully authenticated.
This transaction was critical for me and held great promise
both for my current business needs and also for the future. If I could
consummate it, even if I only sold the first 100-million-dollar
tranche of the bond, I could fully pay 1036 Leigh Mill Rd off and
pay off a portion of 12995 Wyckland drive as well. The money I
could earn from this business could free me from ever having to seek
loans for my real estate transactions because I would be able to fund
my deals with my own cash.


Buck had the manager of a large Merrill Lynch Office in

Pennsylvania open special accounts for us to receive our funds and
he even found a trader he knew to pre-sell the MTN tranche for us
to several American hedge funds, something which brought
additional comfort to us , the Swiss securities house, and our
Brazilian bank guaranteeing payment for the MTNs on our behalf.
The Los Angeles law firm charged us 200k for their services, which
was to ensure the transaction's success and for its preparation of the
tedious agreements memorializing the deal for both sides and all
other parties somehow involved. There were numerous brokers and
sub-brokers that had worked to assist Buck and I that had to be paid
out of our proceeds.
It took almost one month just to get all the paperwork and
fee agreements in place to the satisfaction of the various parties, and
then another six weeks to work out the details of the language which
would be the body of the SWIFT message itself. The Swiss
securities house wanted language that the Brazilian bank found
restrictive, and vice - versa. Staying up all night to communicate
with the various parties scattered around the globe caused by
international calls bill on my Blackberry to be outrageously high,
but I had to do what it took to get this completed. As is my habit in
my life, I put all I had into this deal and was singled minded in my
determination, both to wife's amazement and concern seeing me on
the phone during the entire night many times. I am not a daytime
sleeper, so my all-night phone sessions often went unaddressed with

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

no sleep to compensate for it, but to me the final potential benefit

was more than worth the sacrifice.
The pressure began to mount and tempers flared between
Sackey and I as well as between the other participants. The raw
greed in many people surfaced the closer we came to the finish, and
it was quite a spectacle to behold.
Most of the MTN business is done by phone, and over time
you learn to very well read a person's voice intonations for deceit,
for game, for bluff, and for competence or ineptitude about
understanding what he or she was doing.
The timeless human art of effective communication carried
the day, and one learned also to hone his or her communication skills
for maximum effect.
One night during this time, I was having dinner at my
favorite Tyson's Corner pizzeria after an exhausting workday, when
Buck called me to announce the news that our 88-million-dollar
bank guarantee had been delivered to the Swiss security house's
bank, which was Volksbank in Hungary. The moment I heard that
news was the most gratifying thing I had ever heard, and I felt that
all my efforts not been in vain after all. Feelings I had never felt
before flowed up and down my neck and spine, and at that moment
I realized that there is a neurochemical reaction to what we
perceive as humans to be substantial achievement.
The human body and brain is truly a never-ending marvel of
wonder and complexity.


My euphoria had me floating at the table, but I also quickly

remembered to call Sackey and to email him a copy of the SWIFT
message confirmation that Buck had also just sent to my Blackberry
e-mail. Despite it being 3am in his part of the world I called Sackey,
and he answered right away, as always, and was very generous in
his praise in hearing the news, which after all was no easy feat, and
a feat that stood to alter my life in a major way.
When banks send wires and messages internationally, they
rely on intermediary banks, which they call relay banks. That means
that banks like to transact with others that they have a history with
of doing business. So, if a bank in Brazil wants to wire money to a
bank in Hungary that it has never transacted with before, it will
choose a third party bank that it already has a history with which the
bank in Hungary also has a previous history with to send the wire to
first, that third party then forwarding the wire to its final destination
in Hungary.
In my transaction, the Brazilian bank had no prior
relationship with Volksbank of Hungary, so it chose a relay bank in
Zurich called Centrum bank that they both had a prior history with
to act as the relay for the transaction.
For reasons, still rather hazy at this point, Centrum bank
would receive the message from our Brazilian bank, but fail to then
relay the message to Volksbank in Hungary.
All parties knew that we had fulfilled our obligation, which
was to have our bank initiate the bank guarantee via a SWIFT

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

message sent from the Brazilian bank, and which was indisputably
confirmed by SWIFT's emailed code which had sent to us our
Brazilian bank very confidentially and only for confirming the
transaction had been completed. Due to the role SWIFT plays for
banks and financial entities worldwide, its system is one of the most
secure in the world, meaning that a person cannot sit down and make
up a fraudulent SWIFT message confirmation, it is not that simple,
and a fraudulent message can be easily revealed by a by that bank
calling SWIFT to confirm the message. And only banks can be
members of SWIFT, so private citizens have no means of even being
a member of SWIFT to get messages sent, only banks can.
We didn't know at the time that Centrum bank had
inexplicably held the
SWIFT message instead of forwarding it, we had been told
by the Los Angeles law firm that the transaction was successful and
we assumed it was. Only days later when
Mr. Sackey began emailing us that Volksbank in Hungary
hadn't received notice of the message hitting their account did we
start to feel uneasy. When the Swiss securities house that had the
Volksbank account where the SWIFT was supposed to end up at also
started making unpleasant threats, we knew there was a serious
problem somewhere in the transaction. We asked the Brazilian bank
to ask SWIFT to conduct an immediate inquiry into the whereabouts
of our SWIFT guarantee, they assured us over and over that it wasn't
necessary, that it would surely show up in the account at Volksbank
very shortly. Only after Buck and I had to raise our voices one day

did the SWIFT inquiry get ordered, and by the time SWIFT
concluded its inquiry and told us Centrum hadn't forwarded the
message almost 35 days had passed since we had initially been told
the transaction was successful. Centrum immediately forwarded the
message after SWIFT identified their delay, but they had sat on our
wire for almost 5 weeks, and they had totally failed in their duty and
had ruined our transaction because by then the Swiss securities
house' confidence in Buck and I and the transaction had been eroded.
Any little flaw in these deals is cause for worry or to suspect
something unsavory is afoot.
A five-week delay had caused the deal to look suspicious to
our seller, and they refused at that point to talk about still delivering
the security to our account despite our very strenuous efforts to
repair the damage done. When they refused to reconsider the deal,
both sides of the transaction began posturing, our side not wanting
to believe that we had put all of that hard work together only to not
get paid in the end. Lawyers were engaged and a complex set of
allegations were made by both sides of bad faith and breach of
contract. Buck and I also looked for an international lawyer could
file suit on our behalf against Centrum for causing this disaster by
its failure to forward the message for reasons still unknown.
Technically, the SWIFT guarantee sent the Brazilian bank
on behalf of Buck and I was a "live" instrument, which means that a
bank guarantee can be leveraged or hypothecated in any number of
ways. In fact, even without than having the SWIFT hit their account

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

at Volksbank, the seller could take the SIIFT conformation itself and
use it to obtain a line of credit against it or use it as average to do
other transactions. It could be that Buck and I were taken for a ride
the seller who simply used our bank guarantee for their own
purposes which had nothing to do with our transaction. Buck and I
at the time were uncertain as to what had happened that caused our
transaction to fail, and it was a very difficult matter to try and sort
out with the participants located all over Europe, America, India,
and Asia.
To add to difficulties, I was indicted shortly thereafter, which
meant that I was considered a flat tire in the universe, and I had to
withdraw in any personal capacity from the deal or face having even
more issues and concerns arise. After my indictment, another
possible explanation for my deal 's failure came into focus. I been
working on this MTN project from the end of 2008 until almost the
end of 2010, but after my indictment I found out that I had been
under investigation by the Feds since the end of 2006. After my
arrest, and long before my actual indictment, Assistant United States
Attorney (AUSA) Walter Pince had called my attorney at the time
Bill O'Reilly and made a very odd series of statements with him
referencing what he had called a "fraudulent SWIFT wire that I had
tried to pass off someone. At the time AUSA Pince had managed
to use false allegations he coerced Sharbanoo into making against
me as a basis for his motioning the trial court to revoke my
conditions of pretrial release. After successfully revoking my
pretrial release or bail conditions, AUSA Pince seemed to deliver

the coup de grace and called attorney Reilly to ask if I was ready to
plead guilty so that I could spare myself and U.S. Government the
expense and burden of a trial.
Sometime during that conversation AUSA Pince had out of
the blue made reference to a "fraudulent" SWIFT wire that he told
attorney O'Reilly I had tried to negotiate unsuccessfully. The first
thought of mine was taking exception to his having called my very
real and legitimate SWIFT wire fraudulent, but my mind quickly
realized that he had just revealed the fact that he and his team had in
fact known of and been closely monitoring my project. Did AUSA
Pince use his considerable power to sabotage my project by a having
Centrum somehow agree to hold my SWIFT until they killed my
deal very subtly? Later AUSA Pince would prove to seemingly
harbor a considerable amount of hostility for me and my business.
In fact, he would later charge me with having falsely schemed to
defraud my investors of the funds they invested with me which I
used partially to fund my project costs and expenses. In a painful
and perverse turn of events for my efforts to finance my sincere
MTN project, that project ultimately was unsuccessful largely
because of my indictment. Essentially, I couldn't pay my investors
back because the timing of my indictment foreclosed me from
returning to that project in any meaningful way.
The government made it appear as I if had schemed against
my investors and never had any intention of paying them back the
money we had agreed to, but that is not only true, it's the very

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

opposite of what I had intended. Worse, my investigation and

prosecution by the Feds at that time ensured that I could make no
further effort to finish the deal because being under indictment
ensured just that.
And once you are indicted no one will listen to your
explanations and in fact no one wants to even hear your
explanations. It was made to look as if I had heartlessly schemed to
defraud the good people had personally and trusted me with their
hard- earned monies, in fact the very people charging me publicly
with this heinous action were the same people who had seemingly
worked to sabotage that very project. It is an issue that I am still
investigating, as I owe my investors not only the return of their
investments but a proper accounting for the series of events that lead
to this point as well. To ensure that I would be portrayed publicly in
the worst possible light, the Feds went so far as to release a special
news bulletin on the internet a portrait of me as a businessman who
had willfully and knowingly schemed to defraud my company
investors of the monies. It all made for a hot news release and
scandalous revelation, but the fact remains that it is untrue and that
I had every intention of repaying my investors as I always have done.
Also, Pince's portrayal of my deal as fraudulent was itself false not
only was it real it remains the subject of a federal lawsuit where I
have sued the Brazilian bank, known as Matthews v. Estrategia
Investimentos, S.A. in the Eastern District of Virginia.
After coming to terms with the fact that my current
indictment precluded me from acting as a principal in a MTN deal,

I had to regroup and look for opportunities in which I could still

participate as a broker or subbroker. I had my projects to pay for,
and my investors to repay, so I couldn't give up even with the
indictment hanging over me like an ominous cloud. In that regard, I
quickly partnered with other folks in the business to assemble a new
transaction, albeit a smaller one. I partnered on one deal with an
Arab prince that I had become very close to whose family had deep
banking roots in the middle east going back into the early 20th
century, but I was arrested shortly thereafter.
After hearing of my arrest that prince sent me a letter which
said that due to the recent news reports detailing my involvement in
fraudulent business activities, he was immediately giving me notice
to cease and desist all contact with him and his companies in any
current or future business undertakings.
After having used my assistance and contacts for 6 months
and agreeing to pay me for my efforts when the deal finished, he
now very conveniently used my troubles as an excuse to break our
financial agreement, and to break all contact as well. I could see that
my indictment and prosecution would only destroy most of my
business and personal relationships before this was all said and done.
Both 1036 Leigh Mill Road and 12995 Wyckland
Drive still hadn't been sold, none of my medium term note
projects had been completed, and the drain of cash over the past
three years had been beyond excruciating.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Just as I had anticipated, after the princes defection, my

indictment and prosecution would soon cause people very close to
me to disappear. I was in for some very rough times, and in such
times, I had to be cognizant to maintain my emotional, mental, and
spiritual balance. This life was never promised to be easy for any of
us, and often in our most difficult challenges we can also learn our
greatest lessons in life if we have the calm and patience to see it.
How would I now repay the wonderful people who had
believed in me and invested in my undertakings? What would the
near and intermediate future hold for my lovely wife and five
children, an essentially brand new family? How would I personally
manage to survive the onslaught that had only just begun?
I knew what my intentions had been, but the proverbial road
to hell is paved with good intentions, and at this point those good
intentions could neither pay back my investors or serve to rebut what
I was being charged with.
I felt that I had to dig deeper inside myself than I had ever
even thought of going to prepare myself for what was about to
unfold, and the lives of those who depended on me deserved nothing

Going back to the day of my arrest on August 27th, 2010, the
ride to the United States Courthouse on Route 495 was delayed by
the congestion caused by early morning suburban commuters trying
to make it on time to their Washington DC offices.
The two FBI agents who were transporting briefly to engage
me in small talk, which was their way of trying to relax and disarm
me so that I would get comfortable enough to say something that
could possibly be used against me, but my one word replies quickly
let than know that nothing was coming their way, and the talk died
for good until we reached the US Courthouse.
I am not a small man and the combination of the tight
handcuffs with my arms behind my back and the unmarked economy
car's dimensions was giving my arms painful cramps, my blood
circulation being restricted. After I had twice requested my
handcuffs to be properly cuffed so that my circulation wasn't
restricted and that they be cuffed with my arms in front of me
because the backseat was so small, the male FBI agent mercifully
agreed to loosen the cuffs and placed my arms in front of me rather
than behind my back.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

When we finally arrived at the U.S. Courthouse in Greenbelt,

I was turned over to the U.S. Marshall's service which was located
in the lower annex of the courthouse itself. When the FBI
investigates you and decides to place you under arrest, the US
Marshalls are charged with guarding you and transporting you in
your movements to and from your court appearances and to prison
should you be convicted and given a sentence to serve with the US.
Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
Once you are in the custody of the BOP, they then have
control over you during your imprisonment and usually work with
the US Marshall to ensure you are transported to your hearings and
new prison assignments.
After being interviewed by the US Probation Office for my
initial intake interview by their office, and after sitting on a cold iron
bench for several hours, I was delivered by a US Marshall upstairs
to the courtroom of US Magistrate Tom Knight for my initial court
appearance in the case. At this hearing, Magistrate Knight would
read the charges against me and either offer or deny me a bail
package. Also at the initial hearing other minor concerns and
preliminary issues were often presented to the court by either the
prosecution or the defense so that they could make sure the court
was aware and the issue or concern was placed on the official court
record. For various reasons, many defendants are denied bail, which
means they gave to sit in jail all the way until their trial date, which
can be months or years away in the federal system. Being denied
bail means that without warning or time to prepare a person is taken

completely away from their life and family without being able to get
any of his or her affairs in order, or to say goodbye to their loved
Being removed like that from your life and family is for me
only explained adequately using the analogy of being kidnapped by
an alien race of beings and delivered to an entirely new and strange
foreign planet. That foreign planet is called prison.
Being a businessman and accused of a white-collar offense,
the Magistrate granted me bail, although he made me put the home
I lived in up as collateral, and since he knew I was a real estate
professional he required me to go the county court where I lived and
record his lien against my home myself. He added that he trusted me
to do as he had instructed, and that he required me to bring the
receipt from the county court back to him within 3 days.
I was charged with wire fraud, which basically means I was
accused of using a false artifice to obtain money or credit over some
type of wire, the term wire being used to imply use by phone, bank
wire, or even the US Postal Service. It's a catch all phrase that the
government prosecutes many white-collar defendants under.
The US Magistrate seemed a firm yet reasonable man, and
he slowly read me the terms of the bail package he was releasing me
under. The US Probation Office had called my wife and instructed
her to come and retrieve me from the court and take me back home,
and midway through the hearing I looked back and was pleasantly

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

surprised to find the comforting face and presence of my wife among

the spectators.
I was briefly sent back to the US Probation Office after the
hearing to sign sane paperwork, and finally released to return to my
home that I had been unceremoniously escorted from a few hours
Although my wife and I Muslim she doesn't wear the Islamic
head covering or clothing worn by many Muslim women, but
members of her family who are frequently at our home do. After the
arrest scene at my home that morning was witnessed by many of my
neighbors, and considering the post 9-11 climate in America towards
Muslims, it was a bit awkward returning home to interact with
neighbors that had just seen me arrested at gunpoint by 15 federal
agents. I really couldn't find the right words to broach the
awkwardness, even with neighbors who has seemed as close as
family. What words could I say to them to reassure them that I was
not a crazy psychopath or even worse or that I was not the even more
common Muslim sobriquet, terrorist. I had no grounds upon
which to try explaining that I was not a psychopath or a terrorist, and
it was not really my place or any business of theirs to tell them what
I had been charged with. I imagined me during a conversation
offering, I want you to know the big scene that unfolded on my
lawn the other day with the 15 federal agents, well let me assure you
that it had absolutely nothing to do with me being a psychopath or
an Islamic terrorist at all." Somehow the words just never came out
right as I practiced in mv head, which told me the verbal version

would likely be even more of a disaster, and I abandoned any idea

of it.
I had to deal with the discomfort and get past it. I did notice,
however, that after the incident my neighbors all seemed to be very
much more polite than usual and that one neighbor who had allowed
her dogs to terrorize my kids had now managed to consistently keep
her unruly dog in her own yard and under control.
US Prosecutors have a wide array of pre-trial antics and
skirmishes in their repertoire designed to install fear, break your
will, and to convince you to give up and lay down. At my initial
hearing where Magistrate Knight had set my conditions of pretrial
release one of my conditions he set was that he restricted me from
having any further contact with my Iranian partner Sharbanoo. I
hadn't read much into the restriction at the time. It wasn't until
months later that I realized what AUSA Pince had orchestrated. It
was AUSA Pince who gave that condition to Magistrate Knight, but
in giving the court this restriction to place on me AUSA Pince had
not also asked the court to bar Sharbanoo from having any contact
with me, despite us being co-defendants in the case. By doing so
AUSA Pince had laid his first trap for me because under the terms
of my bail if Sharbanoo so much as called my cell phone and I
answered her call I would technically be in violation of the court's
no contact order despite her initiating the contact, no matter how
innocuous or evert one-sided the conversation may have been. Even
worse, I had no idea then that AUSA Pince by then already had

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

coerced Sharbanoo into becoming his primary witness against me in

exchange for granting her leniency in the case. In almost all federal
investigations the government builds its case around using its
awesome power to enlist the assistance of one or more of the
participants against the person the government deems most culpable.
The enlisted person's testimony then becomes the centerpiece of the
government's case and that person is usually more than willing to
say whatever the government wants or needs them to say so that the
enlisted person can save his or her own hide.
The enlisted person will often be offered immunity or some
other benefit in exchange for him or her to be willing testify under
oath in the case as to what exactly he or she knows personally that
will help the government convict the person or person deemed most
culpable by the government. Federal judges generally go along with
this process hereby a person is essentially forgiven for their crime
for the greater good of helping the government convict other people.
The obvious problem with this is that given human beings natural
tendency cowards self-preservation it is natural that a person will be
willing to lie or greatly exaggerate to make the government happy
so that he or she manages to get out of the trouble they are in. This
tendency is obvious, and no other legal system relies on such an
obviously unreliable method of pursuing justice. In many other
western, democratic nations such a widespread and dubious policy
used to convict people would likely be deemed officially sanctioned
fraud. Federal prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges know our
federal legal system's use of plea bargaining to obtain cooperation

from one defendant to testify or turn states evidence against another

defendant is rife with dishonesty and deceit, which is very unfair and
improper, as well as unconstitutional.
Plea bargaining for leniency in exchange for cooperating
with the government to convict another person is the basic
machinery of a federal prosecution. This is the federal legal system's
dirty laundry that many prominent defense attorneys and legal
scholars privately rail against and cringe over, but don't really talk
about publicly for various reasons. Call it fraud, call it a legal shame
and a perversion of our system, but It is what it is. Behind the dark
hued suits and under the black robes, this is how the deals go down
in federal courtrooms across America every day. Federal criminal
defendants, defense attorneys, many prosecutors and judges, as well
as informed citizens all over the country, know of this travesty which
occurs, but no one says too much about it or stands up to it.
It is far from the adversarial testing system of our legal
system is designed to function and be touted as and often results in
no more than shooting fish in a barrel. It is no wonder that under this
model US Prosecutors are said to maintain such a high percent
conviction rate, with our federal prisons bulging at the chest and
operating at 40 percent over capacity. We can and must do better
and change this assembly line system of prosecution, but like
anything over time our system has been left unchecked and has in
many ways weaned itself from the protections ingrained in all our
founding and guiding documents. Something is gravely wrong, our

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

prosecuting of our own people has become epidemic and

frightening, a national disgrace. With all due respect and deference
to the needed and vital role law enforcement plays in making us
great and keeping us safe, our current system is out of balance and
we are cannibalizing our citizens under system.
The governments case against me centered around their
allegation that I had assisted in the preparation of false income
documents which had been presented to induce the mortgage
companies to make the mortgages to both Sharbanoo and Tariq.
Though the loans were not made to me and I nowhere signed for
them, the government had charged me, and only me, for the crime.
The government also alleged that the money I had raised from
private investors in furtherance of my MTN deals had been solicited
with the willful intent to defraud those investors, that I had taken the
monies with no Intention of paying it back.
After agreeing to be the governments main witness against
me, Sharbanoo had gymnastically concocted a narrative to support
that cooperation under the pressure put on her by the AUSAs and by
FBI agents Judy Bond and Suzanna Rozette. Her story to satisfy
them, which they suborned, was that she a helpless woman who had
been under my spell and control and that I had somehow used
Islam compel her involvement. She said this even though she was
a very educated woman with a job as a US. State Department
coordinator, and despite her being married another U.S. government
employee who managed her financial affairs and interests. She
added that she had been coerced and manipulated by me into signing

all the documents without asking any questions, and that I was a
flight risk because I owned 18 homes in 18 different nations around
the world, which while flattering was something not even something
achieved by many of the worlds wealthiest men, much less me.
With Sharbanoos false allegations AUSA Pince had what he
needed to make his case against me. She either forgot or feigned to
forget her private email to me just a few months prior where she says
in plain English that neither she nor I had any knowledge of the false
documents inserted into the package, but under the direction of
AUSA Pince and FBI agents Bonds and Rozette she now says that
she believes that I am in fact the person who created the false
documents. For dramatic effect, she also now claims to have been in
fear of me, and that she was a victim of the force of envy personality
and my powers of persuasion. It all sounded great, and AUSA Pince
doubled down on his case against me with such statements made by
his chief witness. AUSA Pinee was so happy about Sharbanoos
story that he also offered her services to AUSA Sam Kiplinger over
in Virginia, who along with FBI agent Dirk Henton had been trying
to build a case against me on the 1036 Leigh Mill Road project. The
two investigations became one and were both consolidated in
Eastern District of Virginia with Sharbanoo as the star witness in
both cases.
I am not a snoop nor do I advocate electronic snooping but I
do retain and organize many of my important emails and other
messages for many reasons, mostly to help my memory which

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

sometimes has difficulty keeping track of the numerous activities I

tend to stay involved in. A good memory storage unit can be
purchased for 50 dollars, will more than hold any amount of data
you ever need to retain.
Contrary to Sharbanoo's many forlorn statements to the FBI
reflected in what are called 302 reports, I had saved and retrieved
emails from my storage which were directly opposite to what she
had represented to in her private emails to me where she had
expressed the most profound appreciation for my help with her
financial standing which had been improved by the homes we had
invested in and purchased using my money and her credit
enhancement. In those emails, she expressed a special gratitude for
what she deemed my fairness and unusual support and generosity,
and she said that she counted my friendship to her as one of the
greatest blessings in her life.
In those she also said that neither of us created or had any
knowledge of the false documents inserted in the loan package, as I
said in the last chapter. She says that both she and I are innocent,
obviously never imagining that her email would ever be reproduced
subsequently. She also emphatically confirms that Steven Lisi at that
stage represented us both in the case, which would serve to
invalidate the governments case against me because of the clear
conflict of interest such a fact represented. After the 12995
Wyckland Drive settlement she had sent me an email in which she
commented about having signed some strange looking documents at
the settlement which had concerned her at the time but which she

had nonetheless signed so that settlement would not be held up. Her
comments in that email contradicted her story to the FBI that she had
never seen the false income documents used in the loan, because
based on her words in the email she had in fact noticed those false
documents and had signed them in the midst of the Wyckland
closing itself. This email by her was consistent with her previous
email to me that I had no knowledge of the false documents being
placed in the package, but it did prove that she had in fact seen the
documents. Sharbanoo and I would come face to face with these
false documents later when attorney Lisi would show a copy of some
of them to us after his first meeting with the investigators about the
case. Loan officer Femi Achebe had created and inserted those false
documents after selling the loan to Sharbanoo and I as a stated
income deal and then apparently not getting approved, thus he went
back and made it a full income verification loan without disclosing
the change to us. At a later date, I was able to get another client of
Mr. Achebe to explore his electronic history with Mr. Achebe and
to send me the name, address, and phone number the accounting firm
Mr. Achebe used to manufacture and professionally create the false
documents used to get his loans approved.
Further relying on electronic communications I also
retrieved a series of emails sent to me over a three-year period which
documented attorney Bob Browns obsession and racist animus
towards me for my having purchased 12995 Wyckland

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Drive. Attorney Lisi later got confirmation directly from the

FBI that
Bob Brown had campaigned the FBI and local US
Attorneys offices for four years asking that Sharbanoo and be
prosecuted, and that it was him personally rather than the mortgage
company that initiated the 12995 Wyckland investigation.
On the 1036 Leigh Road investigation being conducted by
AUSA Sam Kiplinger,
Tariq had also agreed to be a witness against me in that case,
the case against me being that I had created false income documents
to induce the mortgage company to make the loan. Relying again on
technology, I had retrieved the electronic transcript of a court
hearing in which Tariq admitted under oath that he alone had created
the income figure used in his ''stated income loan application used
to approve the 1036 Leigh Mill Road project. In fact, under oath
Tariq conceded that he had initially chosen an even higher stated
income figure than the figure eventually used.
Based on the evidence I had been able to gather which
supported my innocence, there was no way I was going to take a plea
and go down in this case without a fight.
I played it as calm and possible, and waited for the right time
to counter those aspects of the governments case which I could
prove were demonstrably false. While I knew it was false and that I
had information to squarely contradict it, I still wasn't naive enough
even at that stage to think that it would be that easy, no matter how
obvious it appeared.

AUSA Pince felt strongly that the weight of Sharbanoo's

statements would intimidate me into giving up without a fight.
Somehow, although Im generally a peaceful person, the best in me
often comes out in a serious challenge, and in my eyes this conflict
had only just begun and giving up was not in my mind. In fact, at
that point I had only began laying the foundation for the real
opposition I would later make.
Realizing that he had not shaken me, AUSA Pince switched
gears. Roughly 30 days from the actual trial date, he went back to
Sharbanoo and enlisted her help to get me caught in another that
conflict in an effort to get me to change my mind.
The initial pretrial release conditions sought AUSA Pince
had been granted by Magistrate Knight at my initial appearance
hearing, those conditions forbidding me from having any contact
with Sharbanoo, but no conditions had been set for her to not contact
As explained in the previous chapter, under such an
arrangement, her simply making contact with me would constitute a
technical violation of my bail. Fully aware of the situation he had
created and needing to put pressure on me to break me and make me
give up my defense and plead guilty, AUSA Pince called upon
Sharbanoo and she dutifully offered to him that I had in fact been in
contact with her in violation of the court order.
AUSA Pince did an emergency subpoena to my Blackberry
phone carrier to be able to present evidence of the contact Sharbanoo

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

alleged signed, but . it came back negative as to any contact.

Undeterred, AUSA Pince set an emergency hearing to revoke my
bail and keep me in jail until trial for my alleged violation of the
release conditions I was under. Being placed in jail would not only
be a shock, it would make my defense and overall circumstances
much more difficult and would make it very hard for me to support
my family and business. These are one of a myriad of fabricated
pretrial skirmishes deployed by US Attorneys in today's federal
criminal proceedings, something patently unfair but something they
do because their power is largely unchecked and because the federal
judges wont call them on such tactics. Other tactics to put pressure
include freezing a defendants assets so that he or she cannot pay for
their defense, or prejudicial media releases designed to erode your
base of support among your colleagues and community.
On12/22/2010, US Magistrate Knight granted AUSA Pince
a hearing to prove his allegations that I had violated Magistrate
Knights order not to have any contact with Sharbanoo. With the
actual trial itself only 30 days away such a hearing made no logical
sense, but the US Government almost always gets its way in federal
courtrooms, so here I was going to this hearing with attorney Lisi 3
days from Christmas on a cold Maryland morning at the US federal
courthouse in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The situation quickly became interesting at that pretrial
hearing. Lisi was waiting for me outside the courtroom and as usual
scolded me for not showing up at the time we had agreed to.
As we walked in to take our seats, Lisi informed me that he
was withdrawing from the case as my lawyer.
The and weight of Lisi announcing his withdrawal to me as
we walked into to take our seats for a hearing where I faced being
imprisoned is hard to put into words, and my brain had a hard time
registering what he had said. He had failed to give me notice of his
withdrawal as required under local law,
Maryland District Court Rule 101.2, and he knew very well
how critical this hearing was to me and to my overall ability to
successfully defend myself in this case. I momentarily flushed with
anger after the initial shock wore off, but I quickly recomposed
myself because that anger would serve no purpose in the
predicament I was facing. If Lisi didn't want to represent me I
certainly didnt want to force him to, and furthermore I didn't want
to be further represented by an attorney at such a critical hearing
who didn't want to represent me.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Before I had time to think, the clerk called all rise", and in
came Knight to open the proceeding.
The events leading up to Lisis surprise withdrawal were
largely unknown to me at that time, and would only reveal itself in
detail after my personal research and from information disclosed as
a result of a later investigation . I had overheard Lisi and AUSA
Pince discussing the conflict of interest created in the case created
by Lisi's prior representation of Sharbanoo, but the real problems
created by that conflict, and its concealment from the court by both
Lisa and AUSA Pince, had grown far beyond anything I had
Conflicts of interest are dealt with very seriously in federal
courts, as even a potential conflict can undermine the basic
assumption of fairness in a proceeding. Also, defense lawyers and
US Prosecutors have a clear ethical duty to disclose and conflict or
material conflict to the court so that the court can fulfill its
requirements to the defendant under federal law, specifically Federal
Rule of Criminal Procedure 44.
In my case, it was not a potential conflict, it was an actual
and irreconcilable conflict where Lisi had represented me and the
governments chief witness against me in the same case, and one in
which that conflict had caused an adverse effect on my defense by
the actions Lisi was forced to forego or choose between based upon
his loyalties to me and his continuing loyalties to Sharbanoo as his
former client.


Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 44 (Rule 44),

when a court becomes aware of a conflict or potential conflict the
court must personally advise the defendant of his right to conflict
free counsel, must further investigate the effect the conflict had on a
person's defense, offer a defendant and voluntary and knowing
waiver if the defendant so desires one, and finally must conduct what
is called a Rule 44 hearing to hear facts and issue a verdict on the
conflict. Under federal law and precedence for a court to fail to offer
a defendant these four protections this is reversible error, which
means that the defendant's conviction and sentence must be
What had occurred behind the scenes leading up to Lisis
withdrawal at the hearing was that AUSA Pince and Lisi both knew
that by concealing the conflict from the court for so long they had
both failed in their ethical obligation to promptly disclose it to the
court so that the court could fulfill its duty, which it must carry out
conflict situations arise, which is specified in Rule 44. The problem
was that AUSA Pince knew that the conflict stood to invalidate his
case against me, so he brazenly hid it from the court and tried to
micromanage the conflict himself with Lisi, which was
misconduct that entailed him basically seeking to coopt my own
attorney and control him. This was further revealed by Lisis where
he strangely speaks of AUSA Pince, my enemy in the case, strangely
granting his "consent" for Lisi to withdraw from representing me ,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

something only myself or the judge could grant, certainly not my

Because AUSA Pince knew that if the court was informed of
the conflict his case against me stood to be weakened or voided, he
sought to get Lisi to withdraw without the conflict having to be
revealed and he worked for several months on getting Lisi to do just
that. When didn't give up and fold, Lisis new strategy called for an
emergency hearing on Sharbanoo's false allegations, and for that
hearing Lisi and I had planned to vigorously cross-examine
Sharbanoo to show the fallacy of she was alleging. AUSA Pince and
Lisi realized at the last minute that Lisi's cross examination of
Sharbanoo, his former client, would by necessity reveal the hidden
conflict in open court that they had concealed.
This would happen because during the crossexamination
because Lisis prior representation of her would surely arise, and
leave Lisi facing a huge potential legal liability by possibly
breaching his loyalty to Sharbanoo in favor of my defense. It was a
legal minefield that stood to harm both Lisis and AUSA Pinces
interest, so what happened is that they preplanned Lisis
withdrawal at the start of the hearing, which was revealed by the fact
that Lisi had asked the court to provide a standby public defender
attorney to be in the court that morning when Lisi withdrew.
That standby lawyer made obvious that Lisi and AUSA
Pince preplanned it all, but they didn't inform the person that had
the most right to know about the withdrawal, which was me. It was


grave misconduct, spearheaded by AUSA Pince out of his desire to

convict me by any means.
Faced with certain disaster in his case against me at the
hearing, AUSA Pince deviously decided to take the bull by the horns
and turn possible disaster into triumph. He decided to make the
belated disclosure to the court at the very start of the hearing,
whereby, he could simultaneously appear to be the ethical US
Prosecutor whose earnest disclosure was done to protect my 6th
amendment right to conflict free counsel, and get Lisi off the case,
all in one stroke. The problem was that any legal observer with a
half of a brain could see that if AUSA Pince had really been
concerned with my having conflict free counsel, especially at that
hearing, he had four months prior to inform the court and make
certain that I did have the proper defense at such a hearing. Further,
he knew of the emergency bail revocation hearing in advance
because he ordered it, so he had plenty of time to make sure I had
the right counsel rather than springing the conflict on the court at the
start of such a dangerous hearing where he sought to imprison me.
His attempt to show himself as properly advocating for my 6th
Amendment rights was a farce and disingenuous, and was calculated
to hide the fact that he and Lisi had concealed the conflict for so
That is exactly what AUSA Pince did at the hearing, and in
the drama of his sanctimonious disclosure of the conflict the court
itself totally failed to follow its duty under federal law and give me

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

the safeguards called for under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure

44. AUSA Pince also tried to cover his scheme and his misconduct
by asking trial Judge Lesser to arrange CJA court appointed counsel
to be on standby, but that is even more troubling because it means
the court also knew in advance that my counsel also planned to
withdraw at such a perilous hearing and the court was seemingly ok
with my attorney doing so. AUSA Pince's action further indicates
that the trial judge may have been implicit in actually trying to cover
up or downplay the conflict, which is more apparent when the court
took no steps to protect my right to counsel under Rule 44 as
previously detailed. Even a fourth grader can tell you that the foxes
shouldn't have a hand in choosing the chicken's lawyer, which is
exactly what occurred under AUSA Pince asking the court to
provide me a CJA attorney that he recommended, that CJA attorney
shortly thereafter having been appointed a federal judge in that same
courthouse just months after my case finished.
A simple and familiar analogy serves to illustrate the degree
of misconduct committed by AUSA Pince, the mistakes committed
the court, and the ensuing injustice melted out to me as a criminal
defendant as a result.
Imagine during the O.J. Simpson trial Johnny Cochran
having at the start of that case represented both O.J. and Mark
Furman. Imagine prosecutor Marsha Clark knowing of this conflict,
and choosing to withhold the information from Judge Ito until right
before the start of the trial when she is in the midst of a hearing to
revoke O.J.s pretrial bail based on statements made by Mark

Furman, thus allowing O.J. to receive conflicted representation for

four months into the proceeding through the initial appearance, plea
negotiations, an attorney status hearing, and O.J.s indictment,
arraignment, and bail revocation hearing just 30 days away from the
start of the trial itself. As prosecutor Marsha Clark makes her belated
disclosure about the conflict to the court, she asks the court to
remove Johnny Cochran as O.J.s lawyer and feigns to be actually
standing up for O.J.'s 6th Amendment rights, when she knows that
in reality she has actually sacked O.J.s defense.
Finally, imagine Judge Ito, after being told of the actual
conflict of interest, taking no steps to investigate the effect the
conflict had on O.Js defense or to take any measure to discipline
Marsha Clark for her deception, even calling everything hunky dory
and even allowing Johnny Cochran to continue representing O.J. for
two more hearings after the conflict was made known to him. The
legal farce just described would normally be relegated to the skits of
Monty Python or Saturday Night Live, yet in fact this is what AUSA
Pince orchestrated and pulled off in my criminal proceeding. Under
this legal farce, AUSA Pince would later maintain that he acted
properly at all times, that he didnt violate any ethical standard, and
that as an attorney representing the sovereign power called the
United States of America he sees no harm done to my rights under
the 6th Amendment to our federal U.S. Constitution.
These were behind the scenes happenings in the drama that I
walked into the courtroom into that unaware of on 12/22/2010,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

primarily the machinations of AUSA Pince with some ex-parte

dealings between he and trial judge Lesser mixed in also. Following
AUSA Pince's Oscar worthy performance in which he decried the
"discomfort" he faced in seeing Lisi represent me in light of the
conflict he had just disclosed, the court still allowed Lisi to stay on
as my attorney for two more hearings before formally accepting his
withdrawal, and appointed the CJA standby counsel as Lisis co
counsel until things were sorted out. Despite the courts recent
knowledge of the conflict, they also still allowed limited arguments
on AUSA Pinces motion to revoke my bail, the court knowing full
well that Lisi could not continue to act as my counsel after saying he
wanted to withdraw, and also knowing that the new CJA counsel
was essentially clueless about the case and in no way prepared to
represent me at such a dangerous hearing. All of this confusion and
should have been avoided if AUSA Pince and Lisi had just disclosed
the conflict to the court as they were obligated to under their ethical
duties. As a final insult and blow to my defense that day, the court
even orally granted AUSA Pince's motion to revoke my bail that day
after modifying it slightly, not imprisoning me but greatly restricting
the terms of my bail such that I was on 247 lockdown at home,
unable to work further and unable to properly prepare my defense as
I had been able to do previously. My defense had been crushed under
the series of blows orchestrated by AUSA Pince, seemingly with the
court's approval.
The hearings around AUSA Pinces motion to revoke my
bail started on this first 12/22/2010 hearing, but would be continued

to two more additional hearing dates, the second in the trio held on
12/23/2010 and the final hearing held on 12/29/2010.
After incredibly allowing Lisi to continue representing me
even after AUSA Pinces disclosure, at the 12/23/2010 hearing the
court granted Lisis motion to withdraw and Lisi literally walked cut
and left me standing at the podium with the new CJA court
appointed next to me, an attorney named Bill OReilly. With Lisi
out of the picture, I was left with O'Reilly who had no grasp of the
case and really didn't have any zeal for getting a grasp of the
circumstances. He just wanted me to go along with things and not
make any waves, and made no effort to suggest methods of
defending myself under the present circumstances. Despite AUSA
Pince having failed to present any evidence that I had violated my
bail, including his subpoena of my Blackberry phone account which
came back not showing the alleged contact, O'Reilly advised me to
not press the matter and to not move forward with putting Sharbanoo
on the stand. He told me to lay low and that in a few months he could
get my bail terms back to normal, based upon his past experience
with Magistrate Knight. O'Reilly's assurances were patently false,
and months later I would have to raise hell just to get him to file a
motion to revert my bail back to its normal terms. He didnt know
that I had a Pacer account which allows me to view filings in federal
court proceedings and I caught him a bold faced lie because first
of all he hadn't filed the motion on the date he represented to me,
and second he filed a greatly watered down version of what he and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

I had agreed upon. I called his office and confronted him with his
lies and he blew up on the phone in a cloud of bluster, and I made
him file an amended motion which accurately reflected what he and
I had agreed on rather than the nonsense motion he had filed on his
own. It didnt matter anyway, Magistrate Knight denied the motion
instantly without even providing any detail, and I had learned my
next real life lesson in trusting your attorney's solemn assurances.
OReilly, as my attorney in the case, never interviewed any
witnesses or made any effort to make use of the evidence I had
compiled which challenged AUSA Pince's case, and I would later
file a malpractice suits against O'Reilly for his unprofessional
performance and ineffectiveness largely out of the confusion
wrought upon my defense by Lisis surprise withdrawal and
O'Reilly's non-assertive representation and seeming complicity with
AUSA Pince. I lost the hearing and had my bail changed to keep me
home until trial on lockdown. As for O'Reilly, he was shortly
thereafter appointed to be, and remains, a US Magistrate in that same
federal courthouse. Magistrate Knight himself, after observing
AUSA Pinces machinations during this trickery of hearings, would
comment himself in open court on the 12/29/2010 hearing as to
whether AUSA Pince had in fact baited me in this hole bail
revocation matter. My efforts to obtain the transcript of him making
that comment during the last hearing would be deflected and
obstructed by trial Judge Lesser for months on end, and I would
finally have to file suit in federal court against his clerks office in
furtherance of my efforts to obtain that transcript. The issue remains

in a pending case in federal court, but Judge Merritt was able to deny
me from receiving it during the pendency of my appeal when I really
needed it in support of my appeal claims, pure delay often being one
of the governments and the courts strongest weapons in denying
defendants fairness during their criminal proceedings.
The silver lining in all of this for me was that the brazen
misconduct of AUSA Pince, coupled with the court's errors around
the conflict of interest in my case, would end up giving me my
strongest claims in my efforts to overturn my conviction and
sentence. This turn of events was in line with my lifelong belief that
with great perseverance we can often find ways to turn our greatest
difficulties into our greatest opportunities. This would be one heck
of a difficulty to transform into an opportunity, and I would have to
transform it from behind bars where every task becomes even more
difficult often to the point of seeming surreal.

When the hearings concluded on 12/29/2010, I was left stuck
in my house unable to work or to prepare for my defense in the
manner I needed to. I was allowed to meet with O'Reilly only on
preplanned and approved meetings, but as I said he was more
concerned with going along with AUSA Pince's program than
challenging it and our meetings were short, unproductive, and rare.
Because I had refused to lay down and enter a guilty plea,
despite all AUSA
Pince had tried and hoped to achieve, my January 2011 trial
with Pince was delayed indefinitely. It was also delayed because of
the weakness of their case and their trepidation with taking what they
had on me to trial. Pulling another tactic out of their usual and
standard arsenal, they decided to ratchet up the heat on me and to
also indict me on the 1036 Leigh Mill Road transaction involving
over in the Eastern District of Virginia/Alexandria.
Before my very eyes, without me fully realizing it, my entire
life had been turned inside out. I couldn't work, I couldn't leave my
house, and I couldn't even properly prepare for trial. I Could no
longer walk my daughters to the park or take them to and pick them


up from school. I now had not one but two federal indictments over
me, and I was loath to continue in my business for fear of it all falling
apart when one of the parties got wind of my rather severe current
legal predicament. My mother kept wondering why I consistently
refused to visit and avoided dinner invitations, and I didn't know
how long I could maintain normal appearances.
I had to keep my balance and poise in the face of all this, as
billions of people can this planet faced difficulties far greater than
what stood before me. I didn't then know how but I knew that would
survive this crisis. Just one look at my daughters angelic faces gave
me all the reason I needed to be willing to stand firmly and resolutely
in this matter.
Just one look at my wife's beautiful face and smile, and there
was no room for anything less than all-out war for me.
This may sound extreme, but I would literally give my life
before I would let AUSA Pince ruin me, my family, my business,
and thus effectively my life. I would stand my ground and endure
the best of what he could hit me with, with the victory going to him
for now, but one day when he had counted me out and assumed me
spent I would get back up from the ring and dispose of his
contemptible ease against me. Timing was everything, and this was
a war of endurance, not of speed. I would draw upon many lessons
from my dad, from my country, and from my people's history to
sustain me in this matter.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

I would refuse to lose until the only option left for me was
victory. That may sound a bit fanciful to a person whose never had
all that they are and stand for challenged, but some people find
themselves willing to endure the unendurable to stand up for
themselves and who they are as a person and human being. The
government seeks to break you and to make you disgraced and
neutralized. For me in this life, I will never let anyone disgrace me,
destroy my sense of worth, or selfconfidence.
I know who I am, and certainly know what I have done and
havent done in my interactions with other people. The government
will try and reduce a person to absurd labels such as convicted felons
or convicts. The fact is no human is a label, or a designation, we are
unique and far greater than any human designed term meant to
control and to limit.
We are built in our creator's image and must always be wary
of attempts to label and stigmatize.... only America has this
obsession with so called convicted felons and their exclusion from
various areas of public life and office. Nelson Mandela, Vaclav
Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Mohammed Morsi were never
excluded from public office for past convictions or time spent in
prison, and while the role of prisons are beyond dispute the emphasis
we place on stigmatizing those in prison or those who have been in
prison is out of balance and extreme.
We Americans seem to have a somewhat morbid obsession
with incarceration and a selective view of own national and religious
historical traditions.

The widely loved and respected pastor and televangelist TD

Jakes was once asked by his congregation why he dared to consider
to bring the recently released from prison Jim Baker onto his show
to preach before Jakes' followers. Jakes' followers referred to Baker
as a convicted felon and a con man. Jakes thought a minute and then
he said a series of statements or admissions out loud before his
audience. He said, well, let's take a look at this. He said God's leader
and beloved prophet Moses was a murderer on the run when God
called him to his cause. Prophet Jeremiah wrote Lamentations from
prison, and the Apostle Paul wrote half of the New Testament from
a prison cell. Joseph spent 8 years of his life in jail and our beloved
Jesus was placed in jail and soundly vilified by the authorities of his
time before being given the death penalty of his time and age, which
was carried out upon him. Jakes said if these men could pass through
those walls and still hold the place that they do in the eyes of both
God and Man I think Jim Baker is more than worthy and qualified
to be graciously received and heard by our congregation.
I had ample time to further steel myself for what was to
unfold, and to draw upon the spirit of American competitiveness and
resolve that has led us to victory time and again. For the moment,
however, I had to focus on the trial and how I could limit the
potential damage I stood in facing those two federal indictment.

Drawing upon my sixth sense, and not wanting my kids to
be around should the FBI decide to pay me another visit, I packed
up my wife and kids and sent them to Morocco until I could sort this
matter out. By this time, I had informed my wife of legal
developments, and she would have known anyway by my being
restricted to my house 24 hours a day. My kid's school year was not
quite finished for the spring 2011 term, so to compensate I told my
wife to enroll our two girls in a private French school in Morocco to
properly finish their spring term, and so my legal dilemma would
have as little an impact upon their studies as could be expected under
the circumstances.


My wife packed quickly, and we arranged their trip on a

direct flight from JFK to Casablanca on Royal Air Morocco. Our
daughters were excited to go to Morocco, it always sure to be a
wonderfully stimulating social, culinary, and scenic experience.
They would join all of their many cousins among my wifes
extended family members, but I was sad to see them depart while at
the same time happy that they would be spared any drama that may


play out at our home. They had left, my home was eerily quiet, but
at least I was finally able to lay out all of my evidence and papers all
over the house which would help me to be prepared for all to come.
While I was hoping for the best, I also had to be prepared for the
worst, and I was more free alone to prepare.
At this point the District of Maryland trial had been
postponed indefinitely, but in the Eastern District of Virginia case
the trial had been set for July of 2011.
I set about each day under the same daily routine, which
always started with a morning workout, a coffee flavored with
hazelnut flavored coffee creamer, reading the Wall Street Journal,
NY Times, and Washington Post, and concluded by a very hot
shower. Depending on the time of year, Morocco is three to four
hours ahead of USA eastern standard time, and so most mornings
my wife and daughters would be calling me on Skype at three or
four AM my time without fail. They would also be firmly insisting
that I get out of bed and start my day, despite my defense of it only
being three or four AM. The weeks passed quickly, and each day I
would manage to quietly spend seven to eight hours researching my
case on my own as best as I could. When my then attorney Bill
O'Reilly wanted to meet me, which was rare, I would have to first
call my probation officer assigned to my case, and get his permission
several days in advance to leave my home for a few hours to meet
attorney OReilly. I would have to wait for him to call or email me
back with his approval, and only then was I allowed a short and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

specified time, date, and period of hours to make the attorney

appointment. Feeling very unprepared by attorney O'Reilly's clear
disinterest in aggressively defending me, by this time knew that I
would need other counsel to properly defend myself against the
governments charges. Being kept home 24 hours a day and unable
to work while still paying my bills had further drained me financially
and I really had been precluded by the government for unknown
circumstances from being able to pay for adequate counsel. I was
thus stuck with the court appointed CJA attorney Bill O Reilly, and
he made no pretensions about his lack of vigor. My defense had
already been substantially weakened after the debacle at the
Maryland District Court involving AUSA Pince and my defense
counsel Steven Lisi, and attorney OReilly made no efforts to try and
repair and recalibrate my defense, he just went with the flow and
tried to get me to take the same perspective.
Eventually I ran out of food in the house, and I had to call
upon my son to go grocery shopping for me. I had very few visitors
save for my best friend Ammar Ghiati who normally showed up each
morning after my workout to join me for coffee. He and I had been
like blood brothers for almost 20 years, and he had pledged to be
there for me throughout this legal ordeal and said that he would help
me navigate whatever happened, which was very comforting to me.
The remaining aspects of my business life I left for him to try and
complete, giving him my bank account numbers and instructions on
how to carry out and complete what needed to be completed. Ammar
was truly a brother to me in many ways, a person who I shared many

things intellectual, religious, and social. We knew each other very

deeply, and we had made great future plans for business and
charitable endeavors.
As the weeks turned to months, one day I realized that my
trial in the East
District of Virginia case was roughly 30 days away. Late one
evening my court appointed lead attorney in that case called me well
after the evening hours at a time when I had never received his call.
Slowly, he ominously informed me that my trial judge in that case
had been suddenly and mysteriously replaced with Judge Charles
OConnell. Judge O'Connell was a former AUSA from the Eastern
District of Virginia U.S. Attorney's Office had been appointed to be
a federal judge by President George W. Bush.
Judge O'Connell was a former Navy intelligence man, and
not what one would call a cheery fellow by any stretch of the
imagination. My lawyer went on to explain just how conservative
and essentially progovernment Judge O' Connell had consistently
been in his decisions, and my attorney spoke slowly and with
trepidation in letting me know that this was not at all a positive
development in my case
My case and my defense had just suffered another setback. I
haven't heretofore been able to prove it, but I have always suspected
that the arrangement of Judge O'Connell was somehow orchestrated
at the behest of some higher up in the Justice Department.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Someone wanted me really badly, and had sought to stack

the deck against me as high as possible. When I pressed my attorney
for a reason as to why a new judge had been given my case at the
last moment, he told me that someone just had said that my previous
judge had a fire in his house, a story that I could never corroborate
and I could find no evidence of the previous judge taking time off
work or transferring other cases during this period. Nonetheless the
show had to go on, and my counsel proceeded in a very world
weary tone to wish me a better evening before hanging up the phone.
A few days later, I happened to be searching through my case
on the federal courts PACER site which allows viewing of all
filings in federal court proceedings. I noticed that something had
been filed that Monday morning, and I called OReilly, my
Maryland court appointed lawyer, to ask him what he thought of the
very late in the game sealed filing. O'Reilly had a very scholarly
appearance at first glance, his hair stylishly long and reading glasses
riding low on the bridge of his nose, and I had initially made the
mistake of being fooled by his appearance. I say that because
contrary to his appearance his legal positions and advice nearly
always seemed to be both cynical and shallow at the same time. He
had been a criminal defense lawyer nearly thirty years, and in all
fairness to him maybe he was simply burned out. All I know is that
he almost never gave a definitive statement unless it was a portent
of something bad to come. His reasoning appeared circular rather
than linear, and I just had the devil ever getting him to give a straight
answer or statement.

<Whatever the case was with him, on this occasion attorney

OReilly was very accurate with his grim prediction. Not only did
he turn out to be accurate on this matter, he went on to tell me that
AUSA Pince had for the second time alleged me to be in violation
of my pretrial release conditions, which of course by now had
been severely restricted to me being kept at home 24 hours a day. I
asked myself what in the heck I could be accused of violating now,
now that I was unable to work or leave the house or even interact
with anyone. I was just beginning to learn that the Feds will usually
employ any trick or ploy to get you to bend your will and carry out
their designs and perspective on the manner in which you will be
O'Reilly also at that time chose to inform me that AUSA
Pince had told him of my alleged attempts to pass off a fraudulent"
88-million-dollar wire, which related back to my earlier story about
my concerns that the AUSA Pince had somehow hindered my deal
by causing Centrum Bank to not forward my 88-million-dollar bank
guarantee to Volksbank to complete the MTN deal Buck and I were
partners on.
As always, OReillys comments were confusing and
incomplete, and I couldn't begin to fathom why he would have
refrained from telling me all this until now considering how
important it was. Also, why would he not inform me, an already
indicted defendant, of AUSA Pinces serious further allegations of
me being involved in additional criminal activity?

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

How did AUSA Pince even know about my MTN deal, and
what was the government's actual involvement in my MTN deal? It
was all very confusing, and If I hadn't called
OReilly he would have just sat on this very critical
information, something I found very troubling and puzzling. OReilly
topped it all off by suggesting that I enter a guilty plea and lay down
my defense in both cases, telling me that both cases would in fact soon
both be consolidated into one case in the Eastern District of Virginia
I was too overwhelmed and confused by his revelations to
answer him or to even consider what he was proposing in any proper
way, and he quickly said that he would call me back in a few days
to discuss what he had said , which he never did. I was left to
decipher what had happened of Pacer myself, OReilly never sharing
with me the full story of what he had vaguely indicated was coming.
That weekend passed quietly and without incident. That
Monday morning I was out on my deck, drinking coffee while
watching a squirrel play in the top branches of an old oak tree in my
back yard. I was about to open my Washington Post when suddenly
a loud boom pounded against my front door. The booms were
unceasing and only growing louder, and I was strangely comforted
by the fact that I had followed my gut and sent my family overseas.
Yes indeed, the FBI was back at my door again with less than thirty
days to trial, this time not with as many armed agents as before but
still enough to scare the stuffing out of my poor neighbors again. I


think by this point my neighbors had written me off as one of the

world's most dangerous criminals,
I mean how many people get such a visit twice by the FBI in
less than a year?
This time the lead agent on my arrest was FBI Special Agent
Suzanne Rozette, who on the first arrest raid had only been a backup
agent. She was a diminutive blond, seemingly weighing less than
100 pounds, making the automatic pistol she was carrying look
larger than it really was. She was piping mad, and promptly
informed me that I was under arrest for a violation of my amended
bail conditions. There was no one home except me, and with my
keys taken by Agent Rozette I had to leave the house without locking
the door to secure my belongings. This time Agent Rozette escorted
me to the U.S. Courthouse at 401 Courthouse Plaza in Alexandria,
Once I arrived at the courthouse, I was visited by a U.S.
Probation Officer who informed me that I would be going to a
hearing in a few days where a judge would determine whether I had
for the second time violated the terms of my bail terms. For the first
time in my life 1 was behind bars, and if I was unsuccessful at this
hearing 1 would likely remain behind bars for quite a while.
This had caught me totally off guard, as I had been under the
impression that I had at least another month to get my affairs in order
and to finish properly preparing for trial. This unexpected arrest,
with my wife overseas, had in effect left my entire life affairs,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

including my home and office, wide open and completely

unprotected. This was certainly new territory for me, and on top of
it all my new home was the Alexandria Virginia County Detention
Center, a county jail.
To the uninitiated, there's a big difference between staying
in county Jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. County jails are
where criminal defendants are usually held before their trials, and
are by no means designed or appropriate for long term incarceration.
However, due to the current shortage of space in both state and
federal prison systems, county jails these days are currently utilized
far beyond their capacity of space and function. In a county jail a
person is normally stuck in a pod with no fresh air or outside access
for most of the week save for an hour or two when you may be
allowed access to a metal and barb wire enclosed roof deck. Once
you are awakened for breakfast there is nowhere to sit in the pod
unless you sit in a very narrow steel stool or a very hard plastic sofa
whose back is at a 90-degree angle. You are stuck all day for weeks
and months in a crowded day room with no seats and nothing to do,
and no fresh air. The televisions are usually set to the most
unintelligent programs available, and the temperature is set to
freezing supposedly to keep germs from spreading... it is really a site
to behold and one of the most uncomfortable and unnatural human
settings I have ever seen.
When the deputy from the Alexandria County Sheriff's
Department escorted me from my first floor holding cell to the
fourth-floor general jail population area that I had been assigned to,

he led me to a secured elevator that would deliver me to my new

home. I had been kept on the first floor holding cell for three days,
and forced to sleep on a cold floor with a very thin mattress. I am a
vegetarian, so I could barely eat any of the food they served even if
I had wanted to, even though they eventually served me a meal once
they knew I didnt eat meat. In the first floor holding cell they had
put myself and four other Somalian men who had been arrested for
allegedly conspiring to sell the popular middle eastern stimulant Kat.
Kat is a mild stimulant commonly found and used in Yemen,
Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and several other middle eastern
nations. It used to be legal in the United States, but after the military
incident popularized in the movie Blackhawk Down America
became concerned about the effect Kat had in making the young
Somalians under the influence of it seem fearless.
The Somalian positioned closest to me in the holding cell,
Mohammed, was seemed pleasant and was polite to a fault,
especially considering we were cramped together in a roughly 20 by
25-foot area that only had one exposed toilet in middle of the cell
for us to use in full view of each other. I am a notorious neat and
clean freak, and I had never every used the toilet in front of my own
wife, much less a stranger, preferring privacy and modesty in such
personal matters. Well, privacy was now officially a thing of the past
in my life and the lives of the men I encountered, and almost every
human activity I engaged in was done in full view of the group or as
a group. The holding cell's bright fluorescent lights were never

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

turned off, and I was not given a toothbrush, toothpaste, or a wash

cloth during those initial days spent in the holding cell.
Many people, both native born citizens and non-citizens
alike, have no idea of the real condition of Americas jails and
prisons, a country priding itself on being the world leader in human
rights and respect for individual rights and personal dignity.
Alexandria County jail guards were generally decent and
professional people, but the general jail conditions were very rough,
and very primitive.
Mohammed, the courteous Somalian man situated closest to
me in the holding cell, eventually dozed off for an afternoon snooze,
though I cant be sure it was an afternoon snooze because in that
environment and with the lights never turned off day and night blend
into a vague sense of it all seeming to be the same. This small man
Mohammed began making a sound which resembled a heavily
breathing, mortally wounded cow of some type. My brain couldn't
register the sound that my ears were sending it, in fact my brain
initially refused to accept that this huge and primal sound was
coming from this very small man. But this was Moharnrned, and he
lay only a few feet away from me in the cell so there was no escaping
him or his snore.
I enough my Uncle Otis had snored as a child, but compared
to Mohammed my Uncle Otis had just been humming. It was
literally the loudest snore I had ever heard emitted from a human
being's throat, so loud in fact that it seemed the concrete floor was
vibrating rhythmically to each exhale. I tried stuffing toilet paper

into each of my ears, and I tried wrapping my head in my thin

blanket, all to no avail. Without fair warning Yusuf, another
Somalian laying across the cell from me, began a snore nearly equal
in ear-splitting intensity, and at that point all I could do was laugh at
the situation I found myself in. Just that morning I had been on my
back porch on a beautiful August morning, watching that squirrel
navigate the top tree branches through the morning rays of sunlight.
Just hours later I lay on the cold floor of a county jail with four
alleged Kat importers, two of whom were a cinch to win the
Guinness Book of world records for the loudest snore ever recorded.
We tend to live under the illusion of a stability and a
permanence to this life, but the reality is that this life is wildly
unpredictable and indeterminable. The closer and more accurate
truth is that each day is a miracle, a gift, and an opportunity that we
unfortunately usually only corner to fully appreciate after some form
of true loss or tragedy. When such a realization of life is truly
perceived, that person's life often takes on a dream like quality, and
calls to mind the old saying that see to see the mountain clearly you
must first observe it from the vantage point of the valley where it
can be seen much clearer. From the valley the contours of the
mountain can be seen, including the trees, the valleys, and of course
the highest and lowest peaks.
After three days on the floor with my fellow Somalian
prisoners, I had thoroughly lost track of time and space. On the
morning of the fourth day, a guard loudly called my name through

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

the slot in the heavy metal door which kept us from leaving that cell.
Adrenaline caused me to stand up faster than I had intended and
faster than necessary, startling my bemused cellmates. I put my ear
to the slot and the guard informed me that my lawyers were here to
see me, and before I could respond another guard was coming
towards me leading three of my attorneys towards the cell I had been
in four days.
My lead attorney, Todd Mason, was a very pleasant and
efficient young attorney who had been the prosecutor for Stafford
County Virginia before becoming a criminal defense attorney with
the US Public Defender's Office. He was sharp, he had a calm
bearing, and he and I got along well . When we met we usually shook
hands and exchanged pleasantries or jokes to lighten the air. I
respected and liked Todd, as well as his associate on the case, Rema
Ahmed. This time as I approached Todd in the jail corridor he
returned my smile with his own, but his hand never left his briefcase.
That day he had no intention of shaking my hand, and it was obvious.
I had failed to realize how I must have looked and maybe smelled to
this well-kept and well-dressed man, I who hadn't showered or
shaved, or brushed my teeth for four days. His reaction to me that
day was a valuable early lesson at the reality of how 1 stood to be
perceived in other's eyes while I was a prisoner. I would have to be
mindful of my new perception in the eyes of others, and of the new
dimensions and boundaries of my interactions, even with my own


My lawyers and I were taken to a very small room,

whereupon Todd immediately informed me that the government was
not only seeking this time to revoke my bail, they also sought to
supersede my existing indictment with a host of new and additional
criminal counts. No matter how I argued against his prognosis, he
didn't look swayed in any way by my comments. He also told me
that I would likely be held like this until the trial and that AUSA
Sam Kiplinger, who headed the government's case for the Eastern
District of Virginia, told him that he was in fact convening a
new grand jury as soon as possible to hand down my indictment for
the new charges. Todd promised to call AUSA Kiplinger and to try
and reason with him, but he made clear that through this arrest for
violating my bail the government effectively had me on ice and the
upper hand and that he felt they were going to stick it to me as hard
as they could. Todd left after telling me that 1 would have a hearing
in 2 or 3 days before Judge O'Connell, and that Judge O'Connell
would make the call as to whether I was held or released pending
Three days later I was taken from the county jail to the US
Courthouse down the street to learn my fate. Three of my lawyers
were present, but the huge courthouse was empty save myself, my
lawyers, AUSA Kiplinger, and agents Rozette and Bonds. I will
never forget that almost as soon as I entered the courtroom an
ominous sense of foreboding arose in my soul, a type of dread and
negative energy I had never before encountered. It wasn't fear, and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

it wasnt anxiety, it was more akin to a feeling of something unclean,

and strangely I felt this almost as tangibly as the taste of coffee or
chocolate. I have always had the ability to be very directly in touch
with the other people's energies and vibrations, "tasting" them the
way some people taste foods or rather experiencing their energy the
same way I experience tastes in foods. People close to me know this
about me, and are never surprised by my reactions to meeting and
interacting with others, which I often experience as feelings in my
stomach and other areas. I had obviously felt negative energy
emanating from many people and situations during the course of my
life, but this was negative energy on a different level than I had ever
encountered, something just felt really and terribly bad about this
situation and the people assembled.
I slowly took in the sight of Judge O'Connell before me, and
the government team to my immediate and rear left. My case was
quickly called and AUSA Kiplinger began making his argument for
fully revoking my pre-trial bail terms and imprisoning me for good
until the trial began. AUSA Kiplinger told Judge O 'Connell that
while 1 was on pre-trial release I had allegedly assumed one of my
investor's identities and signed his name without his consent to some
bankruptcy documents in relation to a property that I owed which
that investor had been paid for to be a credit enhancement partner.
Kiplinger then referred to Sharbanoo and statements from her
indicating that I was an international flight risk candidate due to my
status of owning 18 different homes in 18 different nations around
the world. He then further alleged that based on Sharbanoos

statements he had reason to believe that I had attempted to move or

had moved large sums of money into overseas bank accounts. None
of these allegations were true, but as I said earlier the truth often has
little to do with the outcome of US federal legal proceedings, and as
Kiplinger made his case for locking me up I carefully watched Judge
OConnells facial expression and body language. To put the
situation in romantic terms, Kiplinger 'had" Judge O'Connell at the
stolen identity portion of his argument, whereupon Judge O'Connell
began to shift his weight back and forth in his chair and against his
desk. The remainder of Kiplinger's harangue was unnecessary and
overkill, Judge O'Connell's impatience in waiting to pronounce his
decision was obvious, and things didn't look to good for defendant
However, under the federal court rules for such hearings, my
lead attorney Todd Mason would be provided an opportunity to
counter Kiplinger's hysterical falsehoods. Under the circumstances
of having to follow Kiplinger's professionally dramatized argument,
Todd actually managed to do a pretty good job at tearing away and
exposing the obvious absurdities to what Kiplinger had alleged,
especially the 18 homes in 18 different nations folly. The
government had offered no evidence of any kinds to support their
allegation except the selfserving statements of Sharbanoo trying
to earn her freedom from this matter my helping AUSA Kiplinger
and Pince in their case against me.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

For a moment, it even looked like Todd had turned the tide
in my favor and was edging close to prevailing at the hearing. Judge
O'Connell had set up straight in his chair and seemed momentarily
torn between the conflicting versions of the truth before him.
However, after Todd had finished his very well put together rebuttal,
the federal court rules also permitted the government to have the last
word. Given the last word and an opportunity to try and undo some
of the damage Todd had done to his argument, Kiplinger played it
safe and honed in on the flight risk argument, thinking it was most
likely to way on Judge OConnells decision. Kiplinger railed and
railed about that topic, sticking to it with his molar teeth as the
expression goes, and managed to make a strong closing statement.
At the conclusion of Kiplingers argument, Judge O'Connell made a
few sentences about the action of removing me from society right
before trial being a drastic step, but that because he felt the
government had clearly met its burden he was left with no alternative
short of taking that drastic step and completely revoking my pre
trial release. Judge O' Connell then casually remanded me back to
the custody of the US Marshall, and I was returned to the Alexandria
County Detention Center to reside their until my trial.
As I left the courtroom and waited in the US Marshalls
holding cell to be returned to the Alexandria County jail, the bad
feeling that had overcame me in the courtroom persisted. There was
also something about the look in Judge O'Grady's eyes as he
remanded me to the Marshall's custody. I believe that if we can quiet
our minds and listen to our bodies we can perceive many things

beyond the normal range of commonly accepted feelings. Just as

there is a logic and a system to our physical selves, there is an
accompanying logic to things emotional and spiritual, except things
emotional and spiritual are often subtler. If you are a religious person
I would also add the creator's signs to that list of messages, warnings,
and nudging.
My body and spirit spoke loudly to me during and after that
hearing, and something was telling me that I should not allow this
case to go to trial, that there was something ominous awaiting me on
that course. I was left with a clear feeling that despite the strength of
my evidence and my knowledge that much of the government's
testimony from Sharbanoo was false, the court would side with
Kiplinger and Pince and I would be left with a sentence that my
family unit wouldn't be able to survive. The feeling told me that I
was clearly in danger, there were lesser alternatives to what I stood
to face, and a powerful feeling overcame me to call Todd as soon as
I reached the jail and to tell him to immediately seek a plea deal for
me. This feeling told me that this plea deal was very important to the
overall course of my life and that because I was so close to trial I
should not waste any time in securing it before the opportunity was
My sudden decision to plead guilty and avoid a trial would
likely come as a shock to Todd and my other lawyers, who knew my
stirring resolve to resist and oppose the governments case and
charges against me. While that was clear to me also knew that in

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

such a critical decision I had to consider my welfare and that of my

wife and young kids above all else. If this meant I had to eat crow I
would simply have to eat crow, no matter how untimely or illogical
my decision appeared to others. My very life and future were at
stake, and I had to be strong and decisive in my deliberations.
By the time the Marshall's van finally showed up later that
Friday afternoon I had firmly resolved to follow through on the plea
deal, and as soon as I arrived back to the day room I went to the
telephone area and began trying to reach Todd on his cell phone. It
was late on a Friday and he was reluctant to take my call after such
an obviously grueling day in court and week itself. Nonetheless I
kept calling, and a calm voice finally said hello and eventually
accepted the pre-paid call.
Todd, I need to change directions in light of the outcome of
today's hearing", I began with.
A1ex, you had a long day, and I'm sure you are not happy
with the judge's ruling, but I think for now the best thing for you to
do is to relax and get as much rest as you can and let us take some
time to decide how to best proceed, said Todd.
Mr. Matthews, you know that I did my best for you in there
today", he said. "Todd, you did a great job in there today, and my
decision has nothing to do with your performance today.
"Alex I thought you entering into a plea deal was not an
option at this late date. "
Yeah, I know what I said, but something became manifest
to me today in that courtroom, and at this moment pleading guilty

under plea agreement is the path I have chosen to take and the path
in the best interests of my wife and kids.

You really should take the weekend and mull all of this over,
its very normal for you to have such a reaction after losing your
freedom", he said.
Todd, please respect my decision. I know you don't work
on weekends, but given the time factor in light of us being so close
to trial, email Kiplinger this weekend for me please and firmly
propose a deal to him and tell him that I would like to have that draft
plea in my hands by Monday to review.
I'm really serious about this, and I'm not going to change
my mind.
Ok Alex, I think you are overreacting somewhat but if you
insist I will call or email Kiplinger and see what I can work out for
you... look for a call from me Monday on the attorney phone at the
That Monday morning I was pleasantly surprised to get not
a call but a visit from
Todd and Rema concerning the plea deal I had asked for.
Getting Kiplinger to consider a plea deal had obviously not been as
difficult as Todd had envisioned. However, after Todd and Rema
reviewed the initial plea agreement terms with me it seemed that
AUSA Kiplinger had forgotten about the bargain" part of the phrase
"plea bargain". The deal offered by Kiplinger was very stiff and
called for a guideline range sentence as well as for five additional

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

enhancements to that sentence, enhancements being things tacked

onto a base sentence to cause that base sentence to be longer. The
plea bargain" by Kiplinger essentially offered me what I would
receive if I was found guilty at trial, and on top of that it had five
significant enhancements to that sentence.
I had good reasons for being concerned about taking the feds
to trial. The first one is that in the current federal legal system, a
defendant is punished severely for the right of asking that he be tried
before a jury of his peers, that core constitutional right guaranteed
to us by the 5th Amendment. Despite that, prosecutors currently
expect all demand most criminal defendants to forego that core 5th
Amendment right to assert one's innocence and demand a jury trial,
and expect defendants to admit their guilt and save the US
government the time and money it takes to conduct a criminal trial.
Consistent with this expectation, when a defendant goes to trial and
is found guilty, our current system punishes that person by adding
on additional points to their sentence under the premise that the
conviction of guilt means he or she was lying while testifying on
their own behalf. The district courts and US prosecutors ask that a
defendant who is found guilty after a jury trial receive a much
harsher sentence than a person who voluntarily pleads guilty to the
same criminal charge under the same case or circumstances. It boils
down to the fact that in today's federal legal system a criminal
defendant is punished for the exercise of a constitutionally protected
right, which is a perverse, fundamentally unfair, and obviously
unconstitutional practice.

Among federal inmates the Feds current practice of handing

down draconian sentences to those who take their case to a jury trial
is called getting knocked upside the head with a two by four",
wherein under such a sentence it will likely be so long before you
see the streets again that when you do it will be as if you just arrived
on earth from another planet.
At the start of the case in the District of Maryland, Pince had
called Lisi in to engage in early plea negotiations that would have
very likely obtained a very light sentence for me. However, Lisi was
pre-occupied at that time with the conflict of interest he faced
concerning his prior representation of Sharbanoo, and he was too
distracted by the conflict to properly engage in effective plea
negotiations and blew the early opportunity for a plea for me.
AUS Pince left the DOJ as the Virginia case was about to
go to trial, and Kiplinger was now handling both cases out of his
Virginia office. Kiplinger and his back-office prosecutors at the
DOJ were angry that I had waited so long and so close to trial to
engage them in a plea deal, and his attitude was basically to give me
a plea that I asked for but to also stick it to me for making that deal
so late in the case. Under a plea deal 3 points would be taken off my
sentence, but the 5 enhancements came right back and added 11 or
12 points right back on. To anyone that would not be a bargain, but
the aforementioned risks would entail me taking my case to trial,
along with the danger inherent in that made so clear to me by my
sixth sense. This all made the ultimate decision to plead guilty to a

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

plea agreement the wisest decision I could have made at that time.
The dirty tricks, lies, and false witnesses used by the Feds leads them
to a conviction rate of almost 97 percent, another factor I had to
weigh in deciding whether or not to go to trial. With a young family
I could not afford to roll such expensive dice, and would be better
knowing roughly what my fate would be as opposed to getting hit
upside the head with a two by four" and face not being with my
family for twenty years or more.
Under Kiplinger's deal he was asking the Judge to give me
9-12 years, which was itself a period of time I could not conceive of
surviving away from my wife and kids. Attorneys felt that due to my
case being a white collar matter it was quite possible that the judge
would depart from the guidelines and give me a lower sentence than
what the guidelines called for, but given O'Connell's record it was
an unlikely outcome.
There were many errors in the plea agreement that had to be
corrected, and the government's basic charges and conclusions were
not based on what had actually occurred, but in such a predicament
with a federal case you either to agree to their version of the case
and your role or roll the dice and go to trial and risk getting a
sentence that will certainly hit you upside your head. There is not
much room in between, because the US prosecutor wants things to
be wrapped up as neatly and as cohesively as possible, even if that
neat package is far from the reality of what happened. The US
prosecutor wants to look as heroic as possible and when they give
you a plea deal they want you to basically just agree to what they

want you to accept as your role and responsibility and it's a package
deal where you can't normally pick and choose what you want to cop
to. You basically have to agree to a blanket confession that the
prosecutor has spun as the narrative of the case. The reality is of
course that most cases or things life generally are not that simple or
neat, but the deal is supposed to be that in exchange for you sparing
the prosecutor a trial and a lot of hard work, they grant you leniency.
In my case, there were over 18 professional people involved
including mortgage loan officers, title company agents, lawyers,
appraisers, and bankers. The case also involved two of the most
expensive and technologically advanced homes in Fairfax County.
Even if I had sought to, there is no way that I could have
singularly committed all or even most of the actions Kiplinger was
holding me accountable for, and there is no way that all of the 18
other professionals involved could not be in some way culpable for
I what I alone was charged and convicted of doing. I was not the
actual mortgage loan borrower on either the 1036 Leigh Mill Road
loan or the 12995 Wyckland Drive loan. Nonetheless, AUSA Pince
and Kiplinger and their teams decided that I was the only person to
be prosecuted and convicted.
For several weeks, my attorneys went back and forth with
Kiplinger to try and reduce the charges I was being asked to plead
guilty to, as well as to try and reduce the number of enhancements.
Kiplinger made little effort to negotiate any of this feeling and
knowing that he had me in a vulnerable position. In fact, he made it

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

clear to Todd that he sought to punish me for this matter and for
other matters that he felt I had been let off the hook for previously.
It made no sense to me, but this was the idea motivating Kiplinger
by his own admission, and that is what we were up against in our
negotiations. In his sentencing memo to Judge O'Connell Kiplinger
spoke of his belief that 1 had been given a pass by law enforcement
all my adult life and that it was time in this case to punish me for all
present and pass wrongdoings. This invented case narrative was
false and absurd, but it was effective because it gave his already
farfetched theory of the case an added sense of purpose and
meaning, as well as drama.
I need to be clear that I by no means write this book under
the premise that I had not ever taken shortcuts in my business
dealings, those shortcuts having been in some cases in violation of
the law. It is also no excuse to say that almost everyone else in my
business routinely took the same shortcuts that I did, for that does
not excuse my actions. The problem is that I was not in fact guilty
of the actions that the government had charged me with in this case...
and AUSA Kiplinger and Pince were steadfastly uninterested in
reliable evidence that other participants had committed the actions
for which I was charged. In our current legal system, this happens
far too often, where instead of engaging in a fair and objective
investigation the government begins with a conclusion and works
backwards to make the facts comport with the already reached
conclusion. AUSA Pince and Kiplinger didn't want to be confused
by the facts, and they were not.

I had been nothing even near to the central actions of fraud

alleged by the government and attributed to me, and I not only
proclaimed my innocence, I had presented private emails to me from
Sharbanoo, their chief witness against me, where she says to me in
plain English that we had no knowledge of and didn't create the false
income documents at the center of the case against us. I had also
obtained hard evidence showing that loan officer Femi Achebe in
fact used his accountant to create those false documents at the center
of the government case. The government only sought to obscure and
minimize that material, because it impeached the canard which
Kiplinger had so skillfully weaved to the judge and in his sentencing
memo. US Prosecutors have this system of minimization and
obfuscation down to a science, and it is very difficult to overcome
such a false narrative once the US Government plants its seeds.
Mark Twain once said famously that a lie gets halfway around the
world before the truth can get its trousers on, and I was to see this
maxim in practice time and again during my prosecution. When a
federal prosecutor can get the evidence, his witnesses, and even the
judge to buy into whatever theory he is proceeding under, he has
effectively lined up all the stars behind him and its very difficult to
stop that locomotive. I'm not saying it's impossible, but its very
difficult, and takes more internal fortitude than most criminal
defendants or their lawyers can muster. Such practices reduce the
incredible "adversarial testing system lying at the heart of our
judicial philosophy to a one-sided rout where most defendants stand

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

no chance to get justice and a fair opportunity to defend himself or

herself, and this runs contrary to our most cherished values and
principles as a nation. We fought the British Empire and its King to
rid ourselves of such heavy-handed tyranny and abuses. This
practice brings shame upon the countless Americans who have
sacrificed their lives in defense of our principles and who likely had
no clue the degree to which our legal rights have deteriorated in the
federal courtrooms of this nation. Many US prosecutors know that
the power granted to them in our current scheme gives them the
ability and arrogance to do as they please with little or no oversight
from the DOJ. Given the natural human tendency to be corrupted by
unchecked power, we have basically created a monster and are now
unsure how to rein in the actions of that monster who could at any
time turn his hysterical tendencies upon any one of us unlucky
enough to draw his attention.
The Eastern District of Virginia portion of my case had the
same problems as the District of Maryland portion. Kiplinger had
also ignored the government's own discovery evidence wherein
Tariq Hamdi had sworn under penalty of perjury at a bankruptcy
deposition that he himself came up with the inflated "stated income"
figure used to obtain the loan for 1036 Leigh Mill Road, he having
been the one contractually obligated to obtain that loan under the
terms of our partnership agreement. Kiplinger had himself directly
inserted false evidence into his sentencing memo to Judge
O'Connell, evidence with absolutely no factual basis to stand on. In
violation of my 5th Amendment right to the equal protection of the

laws and to equal treatment I had been selectively chosen and

prosecuted in the face of all reason, logic, and the law, and to the
exclusion of all other 18 equally culpable individuals. Kiplinger had
taken a misdemeanor assault case against me that had been
dismissed long ago and revived it as a case for which I should be
seen as a danger to the community, in spite of the fact that the case
has been dismissed and that I was never even charged with, much
less found guilty of, the charge that he was attributing to me. AUSA
Pince had knowingly concealed from the court an actual conflict that
he knew Lisi was under in relation to Sharbanoo, and Pince allowed
Lisi to continue to represent me under such a conflict through all the
critical stages of my criminal proceeding.
Since AUSA Pince and Kiplinger had decided I was the only
person to be prosecuted and imprisoned in this case, they had to put
forth a theory of the case that had to conform with that decision, and
that had little to do with the truth of what had transpired. As matter
of practice, almost all white collar criminal investigations, especially
mortgage and real estate case, entail multiple prosecutions due to the
nature of those cases which demands group efforts for the
participants to achieve their goals. In a real estate or mortgage fraud
case you have the borrower, the loan officer, the loan processor, the
underwriter, the appraiser, the title company, the title company
agent, and one or more lawyers involved for both sides, as well as
real estate agents and brokers. I have never heard of a mortgage
fraud case where only one person is indicted and prosecuted, that

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

one person not even the actual borrower on any of the loans in
question. It flies in the face of the reality of how real estate
transactions are carried out.
Lisi had always told me that FBI Agent Dirk Hentort and
attorney Bob Brown had it in for me in a way he had never seen, and
that attorney Browns animus had managed to seriously infect my
image and character in the mind of AUSA Pince and Kiplinger.
All this notwithstanding, the deal in the form of the plea was
what it was, and there was no way for me to make it conform to the
truth. The government had the upper hand, they were not interested
in the truth, they were only interested in getting a conviction against
me in as neat a package as possible. My alternative, which was to
close my eyes and roll the dice, was not an option for me. Like in
many things in life, I had to choose the seeming lesser of two evils,
and I had to take it on the chin like a man. It wasnt perfect, but I
knew the truth, and I would have an opportunity to reveal that truth
in later appeal and collateral attack proceedings, as well as in civil
suits and bar complaints.
I accepted Kiplinger's plea deal, and three weeks later I went
before Judge O'Connell to formally enter my guilty plea in open
court, in a proceeding called a plea hearing. It was at times akin to
an out of body experience, standing there accepting the blame for
each and every action Judge O'Connell alleged, but I had to do what
I had to do. Judge O'Connell set my sentencing hearing for
September 30, 2011, now that I had formally entered a guilty plea
and there was no need for a trial, and at my sentencing hearing I

finally would come to know what my punishment would be in this

case. The only good news was that things really couldn't get much
worse than they already were.

September 30, 2011, was a memorable day in my life. I was
awakening at 4:30 am to take a shower and have breakfast so that I
could be transported to the courtroom several hours in advance of
the hearing set for 9 am. After arriving to the court early, I sat in the
US Marshall's holding cell for hours reviewing the case in my mind
and rehearsing what I would say to the judge when he allowed me
an opportunity to address both he and the court and its attendees.
After many hours of silence in that cell I was startled by the heavy
metal clinks of the cell door opening, and a pleasant and smiling US
Marshall told me that the judge was ready for me now and that it
was time to make my appearance.
After pleading guilty I had fired all of my attorneys because
there was no need for them now that there wouldn't be a trial. I had
decided to hire just one attorney to represent me at sentencing,
attorney Pam Martin. My mom had told me that many of my family
members would be in attendance, but none of them had summoned
the courage to make a statement on my behalf, which I found
disappointing, but I decided not to press the issue. I had invited some
of my business colleagues to attend and make statements on my
behalf, and they had all promised to attend and support me with


statements, but a day or two before the hearing they had all cancelled
due to one reason or another. The old saying is that we come into
this world alone and leave here alone, and I would add to that, that
we also face many of life's most greatest challenges alone also,
because at the end of the day I had no one to speak on my behalf
except myself. All the people I had helped financially and otherwise,
all the people who had enjoyed my generosity and largesse, the
many people who had been as close to me as my own family, no one
was there at that moment to speak on my behalf.
As I entered the courtroom I was temporarily blinded by the
bright lights, but also surprised to come out right in front of a rather
packed courtroom, most of the people being members of my family
and other friends who had at least supported me by showing up. My
entrance happened so quickly that I could only catch fleeting glances
of the people but I did manage to register the face of my mom and
The court clerk quickly called the court to order, and Judge
Connell motioned Kiplinger to commence his argument for what he
thought my sentence should be.
Kiplinger did not beat around the bush on that day, and went
straight for the kill. He began by giving the court a history of my
case from his point of view, and he then proceeded to recount a
laundry list of my alleged crimes in the case. Without any warning
to my lawyer, and in spite of the terms of our signed plea agreement,
he dispatched with the agreed upon guideline range sentence of 9-

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

12 years, and he argued that due to the circumstances underlying my

actions and the seeming impunity with which I carried chose actions
out, he now argued that the judge should give me a sentence of 15
years, which he said would be "sufficient, but not "greater than
necessary, to serve as both a just punishment to me as well as a
deterrent to other white collar criminals. He spoke of my life of
crime and my abuse of the criminal justice system which I had
managed to evade, and argued that this case was the time and
opportunity to bring me to justice for my past crimes which I had
not been called to account for heretofore.
Kiplinger spoke with contempt and spoke of me in such
negative terms that he made me sound like one of the world's most
notorious criminals that he had been able to rid mankind of and save
from my future evil designs. I was surprised at his performance, but
not shocked because by this point I had lost most of my naivet for
what I was really up against and the arsenal of tactics I stood to face.
My family, however, was not prepared as I was, and to this day I can
still remember the shock on their faces at hearing Kiplinger's
harangue. My attorneys turn was next, and she began by asking
Judge O'Connell to not be swayed by the many over broad
generalizations and conclusions reached by Kiplinger during his
argument. Unlike Kiplinger, she tried to remain civil and dignified
in her remarks, and like most defense attorneys she avoided coming
across too strong in a way that may offend the judge and find her in
contempt. Though I wanted her to be more forceful and to be more
direct, I understood her methods and her manners, and I thought she

did an excellent job. Yet despite the moderation of her tone, Judge
O'Connell seemed to feel that even such mildly adversarial remarks
in my defense were too much, and he sternly warned her against
further pursuing her line of reasoning.
I was bewildered that Judge OConnell had allowed
Kiplinger free rein in his harangue, yet had forcefully restrained my
attorney's mild argument in rebuttal when it seemed she was being
most effective. Such is the practice of many judges in federal
courtrooms, and it is neither fair nor judicial that federal prosecutors
are given such latitude while defense attorneys are scrutinized by the
court itself in shaping their own arguments. If it was not outright
bias, it certainly gave the appearance of bias, which is forbidden
under the applicable rules for conduct of federal judges and
proceedings before them.
It allows for unfair and non-adversarial confrontations
between the two sides but it is exactly what went before me in my
sentencing hearing.
After being halted by Judge 0Connell, my attorney was
reluctant in her argument, and ended up on a much weaker level than
she would have had she been allowed to complete her well put
together presentation. Kiplinger was allowed the last word under the
rules, but apparently was satisfied with his previous remarks and
saw no need to speak for a second time. One of the cornerstones of
Kiplinger's argument was that I had committed a prior very serious
offense for which I had escaped justice, that offense he referenced

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

having been allegedly committed against my former wife. The

problem was that he was making up the entire offense from the air,
because in fact I had and have never in my life been charged for that
offense in any way, shape, or form. The lesser offense itself that I
had been charged with by my ex-wife was a misdemeanor charge
which had been itself dismissed. Kiplinger took hearsay statements
from that ease, actually double hearsay statements, statements that
had not been allowed by the court because the court knew they came
from a contentious divorce proceeding and their accuracy and
reliability couldn't be established. Knowing this full well, and
knowing that my attorney had pointed out the falsity of the hearsay
prior to the sentencing hearing, Kiplinger attempted to further
negatively influence Judge O'Connell's opinion of me by claiming
that I committed what he termed an action "tantamount" to rape
against my exwife.
Not only was this a malicious and false public slander of me
before my entire gathered family, such hearsay is inadmissible in
federal proceedings which Kiplinger clearly knew. Yet he felt
unrestrained by those rules and by the law and made those false
allegations in an attempt to get Judge O'Connell to give me a harsher
sentence. He knew very well what he was doing, and who he was
doing it with. He also knew how the allegations would be perceived
by the court and by my loved ones. Yet O' Connell failed to
investigate the matter, even after my own attorney stood up and
properly made objection to it as entitled to pursuant to Federal Ru1e
Of Criminal Procedure 32.

What made the entire matter even more odd was that the
hearsay itself at the center of Kiplingers comments didnt make
reference to allegations by exwife that I had had sexual
intercourse with her. Her statement was that she had allegedly seen
me somehow ejaculate into a condom while sitting on top of her
during an argument. If that statement makes no sense to you, you
aren't alone because the Judge couldn't make any sense of it either
during that proceeding. My ex-wife and I had a very heated and
contentious divorce which lasted over a period of several years.
During such proceedings and accusations flare and both sides often
say things in an attempt to hurt the other side, those things often
regretted later. Those statements were not allowed by the previous
judge, and I was never charged for what Kiplinger tried to find me
convicted of. While still in shock from Kiplinger's falsehoods made
in front of my parents and entire gathered family, I also couldn't see
how it was possible that a federal judge had the power to summarily
interrupt a criminal defense lawyer when that lawyer is squarely
during doing her job to defend me by asserting mitigating factors to
my actions and other factors which counterbalanced the
governments allegations. Yet right before my eyes I saw it happen.
Although I had heard the stories of federal judges being openly
hostile, belligerent, and overbearing, it is quite an experience to
witness in person. It is an amazing and disturbing spectacle to
behold, more so when you are the criminal defendant whose life is
on the line, and it is a common occurrence in federal courtrooms

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

which greatly demeans the search for truth and adversarial testing
process our system is built upon.
In his interruption of attorney Martin, Judge O'Connell made
reference to the Dodd Frank Act of 2010, which is a stricter
sentencing code for securities and financial crimes enacted by
Congress after the 2007-2008 financial crises.
His reference had no logical application to attorney Martin's
argument, other than to in effect say that she should forget about
trying to make your client look reasonable in any manner and that
I'm going to give him what I want to give him and no one will be
allowed to argue anything to the contrary. Both the Dodd Frank Act
of 2010 and the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 had greatly increased
the statutory maximums and minimums for while collar crimes such
as the one I had been convicted of. Ms. Martin's line of argument
bore no connection to Dodd Frank, this was simply another example
of a judge stifling a proceeding when it veered in a direction he didn't
like, but as a matter of law Ms. Martin had every legal and
constitutional right to defend my position in the manner that she had.
We have seemingly conferred dictatorial powers on federal judges,
when in reality they are our trusted servants and arbiters and defense
lawyers shouldn't be cowered before federal judges in the manner
they are. The US Supreme Court passed in Imbler v. Pachtman the
law which effectively grants prosecutors absolute immunity from
suits for monetary damages and for immunity from prosecution,
even when they violate our laws and the Constitution. Judges
already have that same absolute immunity, under the theory that

given the job judges and prosecutors do in protecting us and

enforcing our laws, they shouldn't have to constantly "look over their
shoulders" and should be able to do their jobs unimpeded by such
considerations. We have given them a get out of jail card, but it
violates all that we know about human nature because more than
anyone our nation knows the danger of putting any person above the
law and giving them virtually absolute power is a disaster waiting to
happen. No one is entitled to such powers, certainly not those we
have selected to decide the issues collectively facing us as nation is
also a violation of our highest law itself, because the First
Amendment gives us a right to redress against any person who
would violate our rights and our nations laws governing those
rights. We have thus violated our own safeguard and we are paying
the price each day for that transgression by the actions of litany
rogue federal prosecutors and judges who feel themselves above the
Judge OConnell should have permitted attorney Martin to
complete her argument, I mean my very life was on the line. We
allow judges to batter defense attorneys defending their clients, we
have veered far off course. Yet this happens every day in the federal
courtrooms of America, many of those courtrooms empty anyway
because federal inmates are unable or unwilling to exercise their
constitutional right to a jury trial with our federal government, one
of our most essential and fundamental legal rights.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Nothing is perfect, and certainly no legal system is perfect,

but when a person's life is at stake they or their attorney should be
given an unhindered opportunity to at least argue their point of view.
Instead, attorney Martin halted her argument as the judge had told
her, and she still managed to do a very admirable job under the
circumstances. When attorney Martin had finished AUSA Kiplinger
was given the last word, but he had no further slander in his arsenal
that day, so Judge OConnell asked me if I had any comments I
would like to make before him and the assembled gathering.
I told him that I would like to speak, and for maybe five
minutes I tried my best both to express contrition for any hurt or
damage I had caused my investors and others involved with me, and
to subtly reiterate that I had never sought to harm anyone financially
or otherwise, contrary to how AUSA Pince and Kiplinger had sought
to portray me. I looked very calmly and directly at Judge O'Connell
as I spoke, and spoke with as much sincerity amid determination as
I could muster. Attorney Martin had warned me to not attempt to
explain my actions when making my statement before the court. She
explained that such an attempt would only anger the judge, him
seeing such statements as an attempt to try and rationalize my
actions. Basically, she was telling me that the judge, and the federal
legal system, doesn't give a damn about how the defendant really
feels about his actions, or the truth as to what has led him or her to
this point. What the judge wanted was an uncomplicated conviction,
unadorned with the truth or that defendant's true feelings about what
had occurred. Our federal system is in many ways mindless,

soulless, and devoid of reason and logic, but despite knowing this
we all tend to go along with it and accommodate it, even as it
inwardly abhors many lawyers, social workers, prosecutors, and
judges. This is the beast we have created, our own federal version of
Frankenstein. When I had finished, Judge OConnell leaned forward
in his chair and made sure I had no further comments. Without
warning, he suddenly glared at me and squinted his eyes, erupting in
anger. He told me that I had been lying the whole time, and that I
had acted with concern for only myself. He told me that I had
absolutely no regard for the good people who had invested in my
ventures. He spoke to me in a manner which confirmed the
correctness of my decision a few months prior to plead guilty and
not risk going to trial before this man. Despite all the positive letters
of support that had been sent in on my behalf, he never mentioned
any of them and only spoke fleetingly of efforts I had made in the
1990s as a clinical therapist to help at- risk young men. He had
nothing good or encouraging to say about me, he spoke of nothing
redeeming about me, I who all my life had tried to help others and
to be there for my wife and kids.
Judge O'Connell didnt know me, and AUSA Pince and
Kiplinger were largely to blame for the picture they had painted of
me, including the exaggerations, willful failures to follow the facts,
and outright falsehoods they made against me. But beyond the
machinations of Pince and Kiplinger, there was something else in
Judge O' Connell 's tone and manners, something which we African

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Americans can clearly feel and detect, something rooted deeply in

the history of this nation and its people. Sensing it and clearly seeing
it come to life before me, I knew that this man would never give me
the benefit of the doubt, and that sadly it was a waste of my time to
even attempt to speak to him as a fellow human being. To Judge
Connell, he and I didnt share a common humanity, we were not of
the same world. To him I was only a criminal defendant, and a
person undeserving of his empathy or understanding. To him I was
a number, not a human being with a heart and a soul, and I knew at
that moment exactly who this man was that almost had the power of
life and death over me. His personal contempt for my person was
palpable, and my mother would later describe just how obvious he
had made it, totally obvious and shocking to those who witnessed it.
He snarled and snapped, and told me that he would make an
example out of me for other real estate professionals. He then
announced then announced that he was sentencing me to 10 years in
federal prison, and he smiled at me told me not to worry, that I would
still be a young man when I had finished my sentence. I couldn't
believe that a federal judge would make such a snide and taunting
remark after separating a man from his wife and kids for a decade,
but I still had a lot to learn about federal judges.
He told me that he would recommend that I be sent to a
facility close enough for my family to visit occasionally, but that it
was only a recommendation and that the BOP had the power to send
me where they chose to send me. Before I knew it the hearing was
over, and I never had an opportunity to look behind me at my family,

it was all just a blur in the end. Off I went into the great ether, into
the inner bowels of the system. Right out of the script of how black
men have historically been viewed by the American legal system,
all of the boxes had been checked by both judge O'Connell and
AUSA Kiplinger; Kiplinger had argued at sentencing that I had
somehow managed to ''escape" being brought to justice all of my
life, that I had committed some type of sexual assault on my first
wife, and that I was an out of control criminal mastermind that
needed to be brought under control.
Doing his part, Judge O' Connell made sure at sentencing to
tell me that he looked at the entire record of my life and could see
no redeeming qualities of actions with the sole exception of some
work I had done early in my career as a therapist working with at-
risk kids, that my statement to him was but a series of lies, that I had
no regard for my fellow citizens and only thought of myself, and that
he would of course need to make an example out of me to show
others what can happen to black men in his court who run afoul of
the law. Judge O'Connell looked at my entire life, and all the letters
of support from my family and friends stating what kind of a man,
father, and human I was, and could find nothing good or redeemable,
he even taking the time in his remarks to tell me that he actually
worked hard to find anything, but couldnt.
Whether he had done so consciously or unconsciously, Judge
O'Connell's remarks and view of me confirmed to me that as hard it
seems to accept, in many ways not much has changed in our legal

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

system when it comes to how black men are viewed, even educated
black men from decent family backgrounds. There would be no
consideration of my young family and their dependence on me, there
would be no benefit of the doubt, there would be no negotiation
allowed, and when my attorney even tried to put my case into
perspective as was her job judge O'Connell had sternly halted her
and warned her against attempting that line of defense in his
courtroom. And despite each of AUSA Kiplinger's arguments
mentioned above being false and without any justification, Judge
O'Connell had allowed AUSA Kiplinger to make those false
accusations and allowed them to be entered the official record of the
case. I would later have to litigate to get those falsehoods stricken
from the court's record, filing civil suits to get those corrections.
Standing there, in that moment before Judge O'Connell, faced with
the total viciousness and brutal nature of his attack upon my person,
taught me more in those few minutes than I could ever learn in years
of studying and trying to understand our country; none of us black
men are safe in terms of what could happen when we found
ourselves in a court of law. I had just been given a personal lesson
about how our system invariably demonizes us in ways wholly
unrelated to our actions. In effect, Judge O'Connell had skillfully
portrayed me as the irredeemable, incorrigible, morally degenerate,
lying, sexually immoral, untrustworthy, very smart, clever yet
calculating and scheming, dangerous other" that the American legal
system has historically seen black men as. What also hit me hard
was the obvious fact that I had been so portrayed even though I was

a white collar defendant whose case was unrelated to violence or

drugs; I could only imagine how hard black men are hit and
thoroughly demonized when they have any violence or drugs in their
case, or God forbid if they have violence against white people,
especially white women. The coldhearted and brutal nature of our
system had been laid bare that day for one to see; there would be no
good news of any sort; judge O'Connell basically gave me a pole
and a rope, and told me this was the end the road.
That day judge O'Connell, and of course AUSA Kiplinger
and his team, had attempted to rob me of the very humanity that
flowed in my heart and soul, and had tried to place all the love and
goodwill in me under a dark cloud. It's quite a feeling to hear
yourself publicly so defamed, and accused wrongly, when you know
the truth, and you see the opposite of that truth being presented to
the world and to those closest to you. I knew, and God knew, how
hard I had worked for years, nights on end, to finish my medium
term note project so that I could pay my investors and all my
obligations in full. I knew, and God knew, how hard I had worked
to build and sell 1036 Leigh Mill Road and 12995 Wyckland Drive,
often working so hard that my wife wondered If 1 had gone off the
deep end. I had been determined to succeed, and had a plan of
opening a series of orphanages and aid centers to help children in
the United States and Africa, utilizing the excess profits from what
I would make in the medium term note business. I was not the person
that 1 had been cast to be in fact the people who had just tried to ruin

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

my name had no idea of the love I had for humanity and my plans to
make a difference in the lives of others.
I would come to know later that Kiplinger had been even
more devious in his plan to ruin my name that I dreamed. In a
document he had sent to Judge O'Connell, in which he stated the
governments recommendation as to what my sentence should be,
he had soundly crossed the line on propriety and truth. He had
submitted a victim impact statement to Judge O'Connell at the last
day of my sentencing hearing from a middle eastern man that was of
Lebanese origins but who had changed his name to an odd Italian
name. This man had been introduced to me a few years back and we
had not seen eye to eye on an investment property he tried to get me
to buy. Kiplinger now presented this man as person that had been
involved in my business, and had gotten a statement from this person
where that person swore that I was not even an American, but rather
a foreign national of Ethiopian" origins who had been converted to
Islam by a very notorious and dangerous radical Islamic sheikh.
Kiplinger had lost his damn mind, and had brazenly used outright
lies seeking to ruin my name before Judge Connell and the world. I
certainly am not a foreign national, and I most certainly was not
converted to Islam on the hands of any radical Islamist sheikh nor
have I ever in any way, shape or form been associated with or had
sympathies with an enemy of this nation. I would later file suit
against Kiplinger for these malicious lies, and he would come to
deeply regret having attempted such false and reprehensible tactics
against me.

That false information about me having committed sexual

assault that he had put in my presentence report would be sent to the
BOP, and would cause them to falsely classify me when I arrived at
FCI Fort Dix. I would have to file administrative remedies to the
BOP's upper administration to get them to realize the falsity of the
information, and they would later conclude in a written report that it
was false and that even the actual misdemeanor case underlying it
had been dismissed. But the damage and confusion it caused me in
the BOP would be bad and take years to remove.
This was all very Orwellian, and maddening. Even most
members of my family seemingly had bought wholesale into
Kiplinger's story, because almost no one in my family ever wrote me
or emailed me asking to tell my side of the story as to what really
had occurred. Everyone seemed sadly resigned to the sad story they
had just been told. Here I was, at the age of 46, east as a fraud and a
cheat who had sought to callously enrich myself at other's expense.
Well it was not true, and that day I vowed to avenge this
attempt to destroy who I am as a person, a man, and a father and
husband... I made that vow to God, to myself, and to my wife and
kids. I also vowed that I would endure whatever work and sacrifice
it took to achieve that goal. Although at that point I felt singled out,
I would come to know that such heavy-handed and mean - spirited
tactics and the general tendency towards totally demonizing and
casting that person into opprobrium, is far too common in today's
federal legal proceedings. Lies, exaggerations. slander, and deceit

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

are often seen as par for the course with the result of your conviction
justifying the means employed. Most people are powerless against
such a total assault upon their person, and at that moment I too was
lost in the proverbial sauce I really had no idea where to begin the
process of pushing back against what had just happened to me.
Never in life had I been in such a difficult and daunting
predicament. What I did know for sure was that there was no way in
this lifetime or the next 50 lifetimes that I would ever acquiesce to
what had just happened.
I hate injustice, both for myself and for others, and I have
been given a strong will and stamina in resisting it.
For myself and for those in my shoes but unable to express
their story in words,
I would study the law and study this federal system and the
glorious constitution it is built upon. There was no magic, and no
easy victory to what I sought, it would take patience, steadfastness,
and forbearance. It would take a tremendous amount of old
fashioned effort, and a ruthless enthusiasm to stay the course no
matter the obstacles and apparent defeats along the way to the
ultimate victory. But I didn't care about how difficult it would be,
my children and wife deserved nothing less from me.
My mission began that day, at that hearing on September
30th, 2011. Kiplinger thought he had left me on the courtroom floor
that day, but I would try to prove him wrong. Our federal system is
designed to neutralize a person and to alienate from him or her from
all that they hold dear.... but I would never be broken by this system,

instead I would use what resources I had in prison to translate the

wisdom I gained from this ordeal to further my life's ambitions and
goals. The idiocy, mindlessness, and hopelessness spawned by such
a system can let men I've seen be able to bench press 500 pounds
easily, yet in the next breath express fear and doubt as to whether
they can make it in the outside world. This insane system has
somehow penetrated their psyche and sadly been able to convince
them that they now dont have what it takes to live in their natural
state of being, which is as a free person! The poison of selfdoubt
and dependence is bread in prison, sown into the minds of . Prison
too often creates a dependent and stagnant psychological stance in
the mind of weak and uneducated, thus crippling grown men rather
than helping them. It mindlessly warehouses, overcrowds, and
perversely seeks to provide for a man's every need from food to
clothing, getting men to actually be comfortable under such a
welfare-like and psychologically and self-esteem stunting
I had a lot to learn, and the innards of the federal system
would be my university and law school for the next few years. I
would always remain inspired by the men and women founders of
this nation who had the courage and wisdom to question and stand
up to authority. In the strongest terms, I encourage all Americans
and all people to believe in themselves and in their truth, and if a
judge or anyone else dares to try and suppress or defile the truth
within you or your case, to vigorously exercise your right to legal

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

redress and to appeal that matter if you arent initially successful.

We as humans are all fallible and subject to error much more than it
seems possible, yet many judges act is if they are beyond error and
beyond personal bias dont fall for such a stance, its simply untrue
and not borne out by life's lessons or even our own constitution and
laws. If we could trust judges and prosecutors and federal agents our
wise Founders wouldn't have given us the Bill of Rights to protect
us from those very people. We in America had a revolution precisely
in opposition to the King and his agents who had disabused us of
such rights and basic safeguards against human tyranny and hubris,
and I offer you that the current means to such resistance when
needed is still available to you via the many dynamic laws and
means of redress available to us. I am not saying that successfully
applying these laws is easy, but most things in life aren't easy either,
and you will have to be willing to work and sacrifice to put these
available rights and laws into practice.
Question all aspects of your case, never blindly accept or
follow what you are told by your lawyer or the judge or anyone else.
Remember judges are human beings, and as human beings we make
mistakes and actions that need to be questioned. Follow your own
instincts and truth, for a failure to vigorously do so can be a terrible
and life damaging error. Stand up firmly to the forces that would
suppress the truth in your case, don't back down or ever blindly
accept what you know is not true.
The night of my sentencing hearing 09/30/2011 found me
completely spent from the content of what had happened that day,

and from being physically exhausted from waiting in the cold cell
for hours before and after the hearing. When I was finally returned
to Alexandria County jail I was in a very unusual state of mind, one
in which my mind didn't know how to get itself around the fact of
just having been given a 10-year sentence.
I had no appetite when I was called to eat the meal that had
been saved for me. I called my wife and tried to assuage her fears,
but I didn't so a very good job, likely because I hadn't at that point
come anywhere near to assuaging my own. It seemed that the only
thing 1 could think to do was to try to go to my cell and put myself
to sleep as quickly as I could. However, when I tried to sleep my
mind was in no mood for it, and somehow told me to call my dad,
the one person whom I could think of to offer me solace. I didnt
admit it to myself consciously at the time, but I really needed some
words of affirmation to help me deal with my concern and anxiety
as to how I would survive this matter. When my dad answered, I led
him in the conversation and into what it was I wanted to hear him
say, asking him his frank opinion on what he thought about what he
had seen meted out to me earlier that day. As I communicated, my
dad interrupted me and said that he couldn't really give me accurate
feedback because that day his hearing aid had been malfunctioning
and it had caused him to miss hearing a lot of what had been said.
As he responded I detected another tone in my dad's voice, one
where he was letting me know that he really didn't seek to have this
conversation on this phone. My dad doesn't trust phones and other

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

such types of devices as it is, and on jail and prison phones it is made
clear at the start of each call that that call is subject to recording and
monitoring. My dad continued to talk, and as he spoke it became
clearer and clearer to me that I would not get that day from him the
solace I had sought. His words and tone clashed, and told me that
what my beloved dad was really saying to me was that I must have
lost my mind if I expected him to talk adversely on that very much
recorded line about that federal judge, no matter how much my heart
needed consoling. His hearing aid was fine, and at 78 my dad
remained as mentally sharp as a razor. My dad is from the old school,
and notoriously suspicious of the government and authorities. He
had grown up in a different time and place, and had seen things most
of us only read about in the history books. Being a target of the Feds
causes all types alienation from friends and family, and I had to
smile to myself as I realized my old man wouldn't be giving me the
consolation I desired, and I couldn't hold it against him. I was on my
own, and walked myself back up the stairs and closed my cell door.

In prison the use of the word nigga is both ubiquitous and
boundless. If any further proof is needed that we human beings are
totally screwed up in our collective minds, prison provides
conclusive truth that we are. In prison, there are "regular niggas,
mexican niggas, "dominican niggas" and even chinese niggas.
There are jive niggas, "fake niggas, real niggas, faggot
niggas, ,"sucker-ass niggas, bitch-ass niggas, and keeping it
real type niggas,. Prison is a place where the unrestrained conscious
and unconscious impulses of a society are allowed free rein in a
repository and museum for Americas often repressed 500-year
racial consciousness. That, all coupled with the influences of rap
culture and BET videos, makes prison an outlet for all things racial
and scatological. However, for my generation and upbringing, to
look another black man in the eye and call him a nigga would elicit
in me the strongest feelings of shame, embarrassment, and pain.
Knowing the sordid and hate-filled history of the word, and how it
was used in an attempt to dehumanize my race, I cannot and will not
ever refer to another black man as a ''nigga".
But maybe things are changing, and maybe rap culture has
taken the sting out of the word. Maybe everyone referring to each

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

other as niggas has democratized its meaning, and served to de-

fang the word. I don't have all the answers, and my aim here is to
relate to you the reality of what I saw and let you make your own
conclusions. I do know that then I first heard the word used so
relentlessly and perniciously in prison, mainly by young black men,
it did then and still does nauseate me and makes me desire to
confront that person and ask them if they are aware of what it is they
are saying. I want to ask them whether the cruel irony of using that
word, while being an imprisoned black man in the year 21st century,
is totally lost on them. I have studied African and African-American
history all of my life, and I wanted to ask them if they have any
awareness of the black race and its seminal contributions to
humanity. I want to ask them if they are aware of the black races
gift to the world of ancient Egypt, despite the Western world's
attempt to obscure that truth over the past few hundred years which
had began out of their need to try to justify slavery. I wondered if
they had ever been taught that our history didnt began with slavery,
and that in the ancient world their was no racial prejudice of the type
we have today. That there were black emperors of Rome like
Septimus Severus and his son Caracalla, that Pushkin was the black
father of Russian literature, and that there were early black fathers
of Christianity like Tertullian, Cyprian, and St. Augustine. That the
Ancients were unanimous in their records as to ancient Egypt's
blackness, the original Egypt before the Hyksos, before the Persians,
Ptolemies, Macedonians, French, Arabs, and other invaders.
Herodotus, the Father of History, visited Egypt in the 4th century

B.C. and reported that the Egyptians had black skin and wooly hair,
making the observation several times in his Histories. Herodotus
reported that Egyptians said that they believed the Colchians to be
descended from the army of Sesostris. My own conjectures were
founded, first, on the fact that they are blackskinned and have
wooly hair. Another Ancient, Diodorus of Sicily, wrote that the
Ethiopians say that the Egyptians are one of their colonies... and
that it is from them the Egyptians have learned to honor kings as
gods and bury them as such, also telling us that sculpture and
writing were invented by the Ethiopians.


The Bible even states that Egypt was peopled by the

offspring of Ham, ancestor of the black race, the bible referring to
one of Ham's sons as Mizraim, which is still used to refer to Egypt
in many parts of the world. French Egyptologist Abbe Emile
Amelineau wrote in his Prolegomenes A L'etude de la Religion
Egyptienne that from various Egyptian legends he had been able to
conclude that the first people settled in the Nile Valley were blacks.
The very busts of Pharaohs Ramses II, Thutmoses II, Taharqa, and
Menes himself, first pharoah of Egypt, give evidence to the
Egyptian's black race.
In the introduction to Martin Bernal's Black Athena,
historian Basil Davidson wrote that the ancient Egyptians blackness
is a fact which has been denied in Europe since about 1830, not

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

before. In his The Ruins of Empire, French historian Count C.F.

wrote that It was, then, borders of the Upper Nile, among
a black race of men, that was first organized the complicated system
of the worship of the stars, considered in relation to the productions
of the earth and the labors of agriculture," blacks responsible for
giving the world the sciences, math, arts, writing, complicated
sculpture, dam building, irrigation, agriculture, and cosmogony .
This is not about black or white supremacy, there is no such thing,
this is about the facts of history and the fact that all people have a
historical tradition, the black race in fact having a incredible
historical legacy that doesnt get taught to black people.
How could the black race go from those heights to now
commonly and openly calling each other the word nigger? For me it
is unfathomable, despite the psychological chains and ghosts left as
a legacy of slavery and a concerted attempt to dehumanize blacks
over the past 500 years; if anything, blacks should be more
conscious about using such a filthy, sordid term, referencing only
ignorance and hatred. No other race on earth refers to each other by
the very pejorative that race's putative conqueror used in an attempt
to dehumanize them.
Hearing that word at times brought tears to my eyes, to hear
repeatedly this epithet day in and day out hurt me. I tried
discouraging its use among those I knew but they would not stop.
They would acknowledge my point, then resort back to it, whether
consciously or unconsciously. At some point, I took to wearing

industrial use earplugs to keep the word out of my awareness, I just

found it that hard to stomach. I never grew used to it in any way, I
could never accept it, but I couldn't keep my earplugs on all day, and
when I was forced to take them out, I usually found the
conversations around me liberally sprinkled with the word, me being
certain that our black ancestors were turning over their graves
hearing such speech. I was hurt even more by my knowledge and
training in psychology that was really occurring that black men were
unconsciously parroting both their own and the larger societys very
contempt against them, the contempt being so complete that these
men seemed to lack the resistance to not defame their own essence.
A typical conversation using the word "nigga" may sound
something like this ; Yo nigga, did you see that nigga the police
just put in the hole? Thats my nigga from around the way, him and
this white nigga was beefing ever since they brought him in the
pound. Yo my nigga, Im tellin you these niggas started beefin off
the rip, he was beefin with this spanish nigga just brought here from
Texas, I think that nigga was a Latin King, and was one of those
niggas who be puttin in work. Nigga u serious? Yo nigga, Im
tellin you that Spanish nigga is willing to push that knife, and right
now all them Latin King niggas are massed up on the yard ready to
crack a nigga's head.
If Aristotle himself was brought back to life and given the
sole task of deciphering the meaning and subtext of the above
conversation, specifically the intended use of the word nigga and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

its differing contextual gradations, he would have a very difficult

time. Such communications are seemingly taking place at some
subconscious area of the psyche, and to be clear it's not just black
men conversing like that.
In prison men of all nationalities have often adopted this
mode of communication. I am in no way having this discussion to
belittle or mock this pattern of speech, it is an adopted mode of
speech for a significant portion of our population, only in prison it
is refined and given an especially wide berth and acceptance.
When I was transferred from New Jersey to a federal prison
camp in New Hampshire, the word was still used incessantly, but
here I discovered that the men had inexplicably managed to reach
deeper into our nation's treasure chest of racial epithets and revived
the word coon" to be used in creative combinations with nigga.
At the New Hampshire camp, we now had coon niggas,
white coons, white coon niggas, straight coons, Spanish coons, and
even Chinese coons. In person, you cant be fooled by appearances,
because you can be easily thrown for a loop attempting to. The rap
culture has spread its tentacles globally through music and video. A
Cambodian kid, no more than 20 years old, was once brought to my
block, or unit. Some people had told me he was looking for me,
because apparently we were from the same city, and even the same
neighborhood in that city, where his parents ran their business. Upon
meeting him initially, before we had spoken, he looked like a typical
Asian young man, smallish and slightly built. Yet when he began
speaking, he spoke to me perfectly as a black ran from the streets,

with the proper hand gestures, mannerisms, and intonations. We

black men in America have always had the ability to speak both
black English and proper English, and this young Cambodian man
had caused me to switch from my standard English mode back to
my Black English mode, because it would have been very awkward
responding to him in any other manner. He was too cool, and there
was no way for me to tell him to stop acting black and correct
himself... for all intents and purposes I was talking to a black person.
I can't leave the Italians out of this discussion. Some of my
best friends in prison are Italian, they have a certain logic and
realism to them that I find very endearing, the way that they just
reduce things to the very essence. Some of their conversations on
the exercise yard can offer moments that I know are adding to the
effusive and sublime body of universal wisdom, such as Stop
busting my friggin balls, cocksucker, or Get a load of this frickin
guy... you gotta be shittin me right, or The balls on this guy,
fuggetaboutit, this guy has balls like friggin church bells.
On a personal note, prison is probably the closest to a real
democracy as we human beings will ever achieve. First of all, the
most basic and universally agreed upon rule in prison is respect, in
fact there is more respect between people in prison than I have ever
seen in regular society. With the threat of violence so palpable and
with so many people so obviously capable of inflicting that violence
on others, it has a made for respect under the mutually assured
destruction" doctrine. No one really wants to get stabbed or killed if

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

they can help it, and no one wants to get put in the hole for such a
disciplinary infraction if they can help it.
Prison is very organized and regimented, and due to the
cramped living quarters, men try to deal with matters with fairness
and equality. In prison, there are regular town hall meetings where
men are encouraged to offer their frank input. Being in prison
removes from a person all the comforts and belongings that they
have taken for granted their entire lives. Try to imagine having
everything you have ever loved and worked for taken away from
you all at one time, including your wife, husband, children, home,
friends, work and/or business, your cell phone, laptop, and any and
all of standing you held as a human being. Imagine being confined
to a cold prison cell and being forced to exert superhuman feats of
patience and resolve just to make a phone call to your family, that
family you have been so close with for years or decades. Imagine
your kids asking you when you are coming back home whenever
you talk to them, and your wife telling you that she walked into your
closet the other day she found your 6-year-old smelling your scarves
and sweaters to remember your cologne and scent. Imagine being a
successful father and entrepreneur with an organized life, and then
suddenly one day having not one iota of control over your home,
business, or family affairs, being helpless to protect and support the
family who depends totally on you and whom you spent years of
your life building and molding.
There is a wise saying that a persons life doesn't truly begin
until the day they come to understand how truly short life is. Being

in prison forces that realization and reality on a person like nothing

else, and makes you long for the people who you love to just know
how much they mean to you. Time is a weird serum, an elixir which
takes longing and loneliness and molds it into one of the deepest
lessons that can be learned on the meaning of life, on the meaning
of love, and on the utterly unpredictable nature of this ordeal we call
So many suffering and longing souls condemned to co-exist
would seemingly make for perpetual strife and turmoil, but
surprisingly, and in a testament to the beauty of the human soul,
prison is a place of unbelievable acts of kindness and even love. In
prison, all we really have is each other, and most of us can really
only rely and depend on each other due to being abandoned and
alienated from our families. So, relationships are forged in the worst
and harshest of predicaments, those relationships necessarily being
based on true honesty and loyalty as your very life can depend on
the strength of that relationship. And I am speaking of real man and
brotherly closeness, the kind of love men have for their fathers,
brothers, sons, and comrades in battle. Someone there for you in
your worst moments will likely be trusted to be there when things
are going well, so prison gave me a new understanding of what real
brotherhood and friendship is.
In prison the other men are your wealth and your resource,
and everyone plays a role in how we live and survive. I studied
federal law and became the jailhouse lawyer to countless men along

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

the way, even to actual lawyers who had practiced law but had no
familiarity with the vagaries and particularity of federal law. We had
world class chefs among us who made desserts from scant
ingredients taste like it came from a bakery, we had typists, tailors,
radio technicians to fix our portable radios and headphones, we had
wine-makers for those indulged, financial planners for those needing
financial advice, and thieves whos jobs in various units of the jail
made sure we had needed medicines, antibiotics, and pain relievers
when the prison medical building was closed. There were drugs of
all types readily available, as well all types of cell phones and even
tablets. Working together as a team, there wasn't much that we
couldnt manage to get our hands on for the right price, and what
you couldnt pay for you could usually barter for with some other
needed commodity. In prison, packages of fresh mackerel and
cigarettes are substituted for money, with each prison setting its own
exchange rate. The most learned men gave seminars and held classes
on their topics of expertise, so if you really wanted to broaden your
horizon on a topic there were always new classes being taught,
subjects ranging from physics to small business 101 and guitar.
Being in prison means being subjected to a constant dull
pain, painful in the manner spoken of by Kahlil Gibran when he
described pain as the breaking of the shell that holds one's
understanding. All that we have been taught is challenged and tested,
and the people we thought we knew so well become someone else -
their true selves minus the pretense and the outer cover. You see
nakedly and understand the capacity for betrayal and self-interest

that lies within us all, prison being the truth serum that very neatly
and sharply exposes who the people where you lived among and
interacted with for extended periods of life. But that realization is a
double-edged sword for prison also forces the imprisoned person to
come face to face with their own deeply unappreciated blessings that
took the form of various people around us. Until we have our lives
and liberty taken from us we as human beings often fail to be amazed
by the utter beauty, magic, and frailty of this Life. Slowed down and
taken away from the hectic pace of modern life, we feel the true
depth of the love we have for many that we took too often took for
granted when we had the time to show them that love and
appreciation prior to being imprisoned. So while we see that lack of
real gratitude in many among us, we also come face to face with our
own lack of proper gratitude for many of the people in our lives... In
many ways prison is an emotional time of reckoning and coming to
terms with our deepest feelings for the people we call family and
close friends.


Religion is very important in prison, and is not taken lightly

in any way.


Giving a man 10, 20, 30 years away from his family is likely
to push him inward and upward in search of deeper meanings and
purposes to existence. I cannot say that I am happy that I came to

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

prison, but I must be candid in saying that the wisdom about life and
myself and people around me that I've learned in prison is a wisdom
I wouldnt have learned in the next 30 years in life on the street.
Sometimes, to get a deeper meaning of something it takes stepping
out of it or being deprived of it. Prison makes you see and appreciate
the beauty of life and forces you to get to know others very different
from you in a deeper way than I ever did on the street. Prison
humbles you, for no matter how successful a person you were on the
outside, in prison we all suffer the same hardships and deprivations.
Prison tends to age a man's soul beyond his years, and the
violence in prison is not as gratuitous as television often portrays it
to be. There normally are clear rules for engagement, and even rules
for the posturing that precedes actual violence. Verbal altercations
are thus usually measured, often just a way of letting off steam, and
most people are wise enough to let it go before it escalates beyond
the point of no return. We as a species have a tendency to only reveal
one or limited aspects of ourselves to people we interact with, but
there's something about prison that tends to reveal a person's true
self very quickly, especially his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Honesty, straightforwardness, and reliability are highly valued in
prison, and a failure to be honest and straightforward will cause you
to be quickly labeled a liar and a person not to be taken seriously.
Prison is not a game, it is something to be dealt with very
seriously and with extreme caution and never be taken lightly. In a
prison situation men often try each other to establish a pecking order,
in an attempt to enhance his own "status". If a man does try you, you

must nip it in the bud at once, or face giving the wrong impression
and allowing things to get out of hand. You have to know and
recognize who you are and try to stay in your lane" so that you are
not put in a situation that you "are not built for," as the prison lingo
expresses. I knew that all my life I was a leader amongst my peers,
and that I have a dominant male personality. Knowing this about
myself, I had to accept that aspect of who I am while trying to avoid
as much as possible letting it get me into unnecessary conflicts that
had no upside. I am also by nature often quiet and to myself, so what
I ended up doing was staying to myself and my studies as much as
possible and avoiding situations that could be problematic. I was
basically successful at my strategy, but nonetheless did cross certain
personalities that brought out the aggressive or tough aspect to my
personality. In all tilt one situation when the person came face to
face with the inner resolve that was maybe masked by my calm
exterior, things quickly dissipated and that person become friendly
towards me from then on the mantra of mutual respect, things did
get out hand and I was invited to the bathroom there was a brief
violent exchange that was quickly broken up by that man's buddies
and I began getting the better of the exchange. Besides that, I think
fortunately just have the appearance that gives off the impression
that I am not the one or the type to get on the wrong side of.
In prison, I exercise daily and read voraciously. When I first
arrived to the county jail time and space ceased to exist. Going from
my home into a cramped cell with a stranger, and being kept all day

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

in a metal playroom without a chair to sit on, was an out of body

experience. I couldn't eat, constantly about what I would tell my
children about I had been taken to, and couldn't sleep.
I was forced to live with all manner of different people, some
good, sane not so good, and some extremely bad. I had no privacy,
I had to shower in a box that hot water only came out of if I pressed
the button every 15 seconds. There was no air, no sun, no breeze, no
human touch, no wife, no kids, no phone, no car, no control, no
sympathy from the outside, and family emotional support also non-
existent. My best friends on this earth had almost all disappeared. I
left behind my business and all my personal affairs and belongings,
my oldest child had spazzed out on me in anger and hurt, and it
seemed that all I had ever worked for and built was now lost.
But was wrong, all was not in fact lost. After leaving the
horrors of county jail, I was moved to a lowsecurity federal prison
on Fort Dix Army Base in New Jersey, one of the largest federal
institutions in the U.S. with over 5000 prisoners.
Instinctively I went to the law library the first day I arrived
at Fort Dix.
There were sane pretty strange looking characters haunting
that library, most of whom probably thought I looked just as crazy,
as I 'm pretty sure did look crazy walking around trying to figure out
what planet I had landed on.A11 of the legal work and evidence I
had gathered up to that point had been taken from me and destroyed
on the way to Fort Dix, never seen by me again after I was forced to


turn it over against my best instincts to a federal holding facility in

southern Virginia known as Northern Neck Regional Jail.
After that shocking and egregious theft of evidence critical
to my collateral challenge to my sentence and conviction, I had to
pull myself together and not let that deter my goals, though it was
very hard considering I had no other avenue of replacing what was
taken. there me no one else that could find and forward to me that
which I had painstakingly managed to assemble before being
No matter the setback of having my evidence taken, I had to
As an avid and lifelong boxing fan, I realized that I had just
been hit with a devastating onetwo punch in having been
prosecuted and convicted. Despite my intention of taking ray case to
trial, I had made a critical tactical decision to plead guilty to avoid a
worse. Outcome if I had been found guilty after a jury trial. Going
to that revocation hearing with Judge O'Connell, hearing him and
looking him in the eye, gave me a feeling that I would never forget.
This man was ready to harm me as much as he could, it was
something that I felt in my gut as clear as day. As in boxing when
you get hit very hard and shaken, often, its better to take a standing
eight comment, than to stand and continue getting hit and stand the
risk of getting knocked all the way out.
Sentenced after losing trial with Judge O'Connell would
have easily been 1520 years, effectively killing my marriage and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

my family. Then ten-year sentence I had ultimately received was

difficult enough as it was, and I was very thankful that it hadn't been
even harsher.
Now at Fort Dix, it was now or never for me to initiate my
plan for relief from the I had found myself. Over the next two years
I would begin a long and tedious process of studying federal law, as
it seemed to me that the only way to gain relief was through law and.
properly applying that law to expose the violations was innocent of
and what had really transpired in the case.
I would soon be totally immersed in law books and in
painstakingly reading hundreds of cases that I found that had been
adjudicated under circumstances like those in my case. The language
of federal law was very foreign to me initially, and I had to
frequently stop to translate I was reading with the law dictionary that
I had access to at the law library.


Exploring through case law one day I would meet man would
put me on the path back to all that I love in this world, and out of the
throes of my draconian sentence and oblivion. His name was Alex
Salvagno, and he was an Italian who had operated a large
environmental abatement firm with his father in New York. An
engineer by trade, the Feds had given Alex a 20 year plus sentence,
his cell mate at the time was an investment advisor from Chicago
named Timothy Sean and he had wisely given me advice to look for
Alex and to avoid the other people who purported to be able to assist

other prisoners with their legal matters. Timothy told me that Alex
really knew what he was doing, and that it was worth dealing with
his very busy schedule to have him take a look and listen to my case.


The actual time I spent with Alex looking over my case was
very brief, but in that couple of hours Alex was able to give me the
right advice about what to focus on in 3 challenging my case, and
especially what not to focus on and to steer clear of. Alex was in fact
so competent at federal law that the Fort Dis authorities would end
up shipping him all the way to Texas shortly after he and met, but
before he was transferred he ended up introducing me to another
prisoner named Caonabo Vargas from the Dominican Republic had
claims almost identical to mine. Caonabo and I would grow very
close after that introduction, and it was these two men that, from the
kindness of their hearts, truly helped me to get ray legal bearings
established treated me as a true brother, and without them I would
have never been able to achieve the hard-fought successes in my
case that I would eventually come to achieve. They both freely gave
me their time, their friendship, and their knowledge, and I could find
a way to repay then for the lifeline they threw to me while I was in
the middle of the storm.
Over time I would discover, and others would tell me, that I
had some type of knack for the law and its application. Over time I
would even grow into a "jailhouse lawyer" myself, and would help
prisoners successfully in their appeals and motions. In the fall of
My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

2012 achieve an honor most lawyers dream of but few come to

realize I would successfully draft and have issued a Writ of
Certiorari Petition. to the United States Supreme Court. A young
man from Tennessee named Michael Phyrris had to my GED class I
was an arid English tutor and told me that his attorney on the outside
had failed to file his final appeal to the U.S Supreme Court and that
he only had three days left to file it had to be done in a very particular
format and style which I had no experience with.
Seeing the man's clear sincerity and need I agreed to draft his
petition to the US Supreme Court and begin right there on the spot
since there was so little time. Due to the time constraints, after
conducting what research I could into his case I would not be left
with time to type the petition and ended up being forced to draft it
in pencil, which didn't leave me feeling very confident about the
outcome. In prison, a court document is deemed legally filed at the
moment it is turned over to the prison authorities for mailing or when
placed in the prison mail depository, not when it is filed by the court
clerk. This rule, called the mailbox rule, was established by the US
Supreme Court to remove the ambiguities prisoners face when
relying on the mail to meet sensitive deadlines for legal documents.
Under the mailbox rule, I could meet the three deadlines for the
filing, and was proud to tell Michael that all had been sent on time
and that he now would receive word in a month or two as to the
Improbably, only three weeks later the office of U.S.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote back to inform Michael that

the United States of America didn't oppose his petition, in fact the
United States had actually conceded in the letter that they had
advised the US Supreme Court to grant the petition, and to vacate
and remand Michael's case back to the lower Court of Appeals to re-
sentence him consistent with 8 of their findings and consistent with
the rule of law.
I was probable more shocked than Michael was when he read
the letter to me in my class. It was a victory I will always savor, and
an honor to have helped Michael achieve justice from our nation's
highest court. On that day, I knew, and all Fort Dix also knew, that
I had been blessed with some ability to understand and articulate
federal law. Those in prison, mostly 2255 motions return to their
families nascent abilities would be sorely put to the test in ways I
couldn't imagine.
Prison somehow increased my inner strength, while at the
same time teaching me how to let go of the illusion of control that
we think we have over events and people in our lives. We think we
have control over our lives, but it is an illusion that can all be taken
away in an instant. We must love our loved ones and ourselves with
all our might, nothing in this life is promised or predictable. A family
is a precious and infinitely fragile treasure, enjoy it and all that
comes with it, for being without one's family is a feeling I wouldn't
wish on any person. The men I befriended in prison gave me the
example and the wisdom to endure the unbearable. Their humor,
their steel, their discipline, and their refusal to deal in self-pity gave

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

me new life out of the ruins I came to prison with. God is merciful
and always makes a way for us even in our darkest hours, and don't
ever underestimate or prejudge any person, for you never really
among men can society perceive the inner strength and beauty of a
person instantly.
Most men I met in prison looked at my willingness to litigate
with the feds with deep skepticism.
The whole experience of being in the feds was such an
overwhelming negative experience that they had adopted a doubtful
view that any victory could be obtained against the system. Even
when they asked for assistance I could sense their initial doubt that
anything would ever come of the effort. Frankly, they were correct
in many way about the difficulties face in litigating in the federal
system, especially litigating to get relief in ones criminal case.
District court judges have become agents charged with maintain
their criminal judgments upon the defendants they levied those
judgments upon; in most instances, they are hostile to appeals and
other motions and writs challenging the propriety and
constitutionality of those judgements. Because of this reality that all
federal inmates are aware of, it is considered a waste of time, energy,
and emotions to get committed to the expectation of relief under the
situation; and the reality is that most lower court US district judges
do deny relief to defendants even if the defendant has stated a
meritorious claim form relief, relief coming only from the higher US
court of Appeals when it does come.


Thus, I was looked at as a somewhat unusual person to have

this willingness and this confidence to take on the feds, both in my
case, and the cases of other men. They thought I was a bit crazy. For
me, I just understood a few things and premised my actions on them.
First, all my life I have been a fighter for what I believe is right.
Second, my dad had showed me a kid his example that true facts of
willpower require much patience and c so the commitment. Third, I
did not have the luxury of worrying about what the odds of my
success were, for me my freedom and thus my kids and wifes
freedom was no amount of work necessary to achieve my goal that
could deter me from trying to reach that goal. My ancestor, the great
African General from Carthage known as Hannibal had once faced
getting across the French Alps during one of his military campaigns.
When asked how he planned to achieve this commonly presumed
impossible feat, he had calmly replied, What Alps?, refusing to
acknowledge impossible nature of what lay before him and the
enormous sacrifice and effort it would entail. I was in no way
comparing my actions to his but rather drew on his example, and I
would take on anyones case as long as I could find a non-frivolous
claimI would not file an appeal just to make a man happy,
knowing that his claim was not credible under the law; this would
be peddling in false hope, and I would never give a person false hope
who was in the same dire circumstances that I was.
My soul would had been touched to learn that in prison, of
all places, among such battered souls, there existed deep acts of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

kindness, generosity, and humanity. But my soul had also found

incredible acts of bravery, courage, dignity, and iron willpower. By
becoming a fighter for myself and other men of all races, languages,
and nationalities, I tapped into the inner warrior that I hallways new
lived inside me. All I had was time in prison, so I would take a mans
case on and delve head and feet into it, often not coming up for air
for days on end. I loved the difficulty of the challenge, and I loved
the fact I could help someone else to fight against the extreme
punishment they been hit with under this system. I gained a deep
respect from the men for my efforts on their behalf, and the funny
thing was that the more I helped others, the more law I would
invariably pick up to apply to my own case. It really made true for
me the old maxim that when you help others, you are really helping
yourself too. I would have to apply the patience of Job to the task
before me, and I would often be lost for days in the law library, not
even making all the daily meals because I was so lost in my thoughts
and trying to figure out a case and how to approach an appeal. All
of these challenges would mold me in different ways and teach me
thing I never knew about the law and about myself and what really
occurs in criminal cases, where error and mistakes are always found
to be found if you look closely enough.
We must never lose our desire to accomplish, to dream, and
to win. Even with faced great difficulties, and fighting for relief in
the feds is about as Sisyphean a task as one can imagine, we mustnt
shy away. It is only with this attitude and willingness to take on great
difficulty that great things are achieved. We also must, and have

ethical obligation to stand up to those in this legal system would

disabuse of our rights. I once wrote to judge Merritt Lesser the letter
which follows:

Alexander Otis Matthews

Federal Prison Camp
PO Box 9000
Berlin, NH 03570


Judge Merritt Lesser

6500 Cherrywood Lane
Greenbelt, MD 20770

Re: Response To Your Memorandum Dated 7/8/2013

Honorable Judge Lesser:

With all due respect to your Memorandum, there are a few

points that I very humbly would like to remind you of.
First of all, the letters that I sent to you were not intended to
be a Bar Complaint, they were intended to be what they said they
were, letters which requested your belated assistance for matters that
occurred in your courtroom which violated certain of my applicable
rights under the U.S. Constitution. As a senior US District Judge, I
gave you the benefit of if you would treat your obvious Rule 44
commission with honesty, honesty being essential to the character
of an attorney, much less a judge. I hoped that you would try to assist

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

me. Remember Judge Lesser, you swore a solemn oath to uphold the
United States Constitution and laws of the United States, and you
bore the ultimate responsibility to make sure that those laws and my
rights were upheld in that series of hearings. I was dealing with your
omission as being inadvertent, and thought you would take my
kindness not for weakness or ignorance, but in a manner of us
mutually trying to correct a past omission, that omission having real
world damage upon my defense and thus life.
Instead, you responded in a careless manner by
comprehensively and haughtily attempting to dismiss the entire
issue. Your Memorandum was made without any mention at all the
fact that the prosecutor you are so eager to defend is under a Bar
investigation for his actions in your courtroom, and in this case. As
a sitting US Judge and "Chair, Disciplinary and Admissions
Committee, you would seemingly and ethically be bound to make
further inquiry into such actions in your courtroom. Unfortunately,
Judge OConnell took the same attitude in his order which you call
comprehensive which literally devoted more time detailing the
background of my case than addressing the claims. His
comprehensive analysis of my extensive pleadings was a mere five
pages, and managed to avoid many of my claims. That matter which
you speak of with finality is currently before the 4th Circuit, and my
aim here is not to argue the law with you because you know the law.
The issue is your seeming attachment to the judgment in this case,
something all to common these days in the courtrooms of America,
that attachment still expressed in the face of the law, logic, and basic

reason. All defendants are not ignorant Judge Lesser and as I told
you initially that while I have a great respect for our nations legal
system, I also respect myself, but sincere attempt to ask your help in
helping me with this issue was met with a supercilious
memorandum. The contemptible poverty of your memorandum and
your assertion that my issue is "devoid of any merit whatsoever",
while not saying the reasons why my correspondence is so bereft of
merit, speaks for itself. As a judge, you are obligated to safeguard
my rights in such a matter, but instead you have responded to the
issue and your failings with derision and defiance. As a judge, you
were bound under Fed.R.Crim. P. 44 to offer me certain protections
to uphold my 6th Amendment rights, but you not only failed to do
so you allowed counsel to continue to represent me at that hearing,
and then somehow allowed CJA counsel to replace that conflicted
counsel, that CJA counsel having been put in place under the
direction of my adversary, AUSA Pence.
I am neither enchanted nor enamored by your titles and your
derisive attempts to downplay my letters to you. Beneath your
judicial robes and titles, you are a man with a heart like mine, and
we put our pants on the same way each morning. You took my
trusting of you, being a judge, to do the right thing, and you have
rubbed my goodwill and my intelligence into the dirt, which you are
entitled to do even though its a perversion of your mandate as a
judge and person society relies on to fairly decide the issues which
collectively affect us. As a Judge who sits on a Disciplinary

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Committee, you have no interest whatsoever in a AUSA being

currently investigated for his actions before you in federal court, in
fact with total contempt for the DC Bar Counsel investigation you
have already decided that those issues are devoid of any merit
whatsoever", which is preposterous and absurd. You of all people
should have an interest in such developments.

Obviously, you have predetermined those issues already, and

since you by implication assume me to be ignorant of the matters
before us, I have decided to and have filed a Judicial Complaint
against you with the 4th Circuit, as well as an administrative claim
with the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, which will eventually
become a suit pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. We are all
human, we all are subject to error Judge Lesser, and out great nation
was created by men rising up against judicial tyranny of the sort you
are exhibiting. As a judge, you are a servant of the people, you are
neither a god or a lord, and you are in violation of the very principles
that men and women of this nation have fought and died for to
protect. This letter is directed to you, and not to Judge Charles Day,
because he has not responded in such a shameful manner to my
communications, and as I said we all make errors and omissions
because we are human, and that was the spirit of my letters. Do you
realize that when you violate your own statutes and laws you swore
to as a judge, you are guilty of the same things for which you so
harshly and efficiently prosecute people under?


Judge Lesser never replied to my letter.

Prison reinforces the old truth which says we are our own
worst enemy, and that we have to worry about having our affairs in
order before worrying about other peoples affairs. The reality is that
no matter how it may sometimes appear, your fellow inmate
suffering a 20-year sentence is not really your enemy, your enemy
is always yourself and your om selfcontrol, and losing that self-
control in prison can quickly land you in the "hole", or
solitary/segregated confinement.
When I was fresh off the prison bus I kept overhearing
people tell each other that some person they mutually knew had been
"locked up. I found this very odd in light of the clear fact that we
all were very much locked up". I shortly thereafter came to
understand that being locked up while already in prison refers to that
next level of incarceration, which is being sent to solitary/segregated
confinement. Being placed in a cage 23 or even 24 hours a day, alone
or with one other person, is being imprisoned on a whole new level.
If you don't have the common sense or self-control to avoid the drugs
of all types, the homemade wine and white lightning, or the
gambling and the cell phones, you will likely eventually find
yourself locked up in the hole. Those without selfcontrol or
balance will also very easily find someone else out of balance to
meet their aggression, and will also likely end up in the hole or

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Prison can be lonely, and at times feels like your life is a

radio with the sound on mute. What it deprives you of in terms of
normal human touch and interaction you learn to compensate with
conversation and by turning inward to create your own endeavors. It
slows you down to do the things you always wanted to do, like
writing or conducting some type of in-depth research and study in
some area. A lot of men don't take or choose to take the approach
that I did, and many choose to spend this time gambling, playing
sports, cards, or watching TV throughout the day. The years I have
spent prison have been the inmost cerebral and reflective of my life,
often by necessity if not by choice. When I leave prison, I would like
to look in the mirror and can say that I tried each day to make the
most of my time.
In prison, we men depend and survive because of each other,
and we do most of our own cleaning, teaching, washing, sewing,
writing, and counseling. I've been met with incredible acts of
kindness, friendship, and goodwill in prison. I've also given
tremendously of myself while in prison, and in giving of myself to
others I learned a new way to live. I learned that in this life, we don't
truly live it until we also give it away to others in the form of offering
them what we have. I learned that we can change others, and thus
our world, only when we truly enter into another persons world to
help them. In prison, I led meaning and manner of defining love.

In love and war, a fortress that embarks upon negotiation
is bound to be taken

You can't hit what you can't see

-Muhammad Ali

In hostage situations, the goal is always to keep the hostage-

taker talking as much as possible throughout the ordeal.
Communication is essential to just about everything we do as a
species, and non-communication usually served to eliminate most
options. For example, men learn early on that if you can keep a
woman talking to you, you still have sane chance of winning her
over to your affection or even to your point of view. When husbands
and wives argue, the situation can only be remedied with simple and
soothingly offered words, said as plainly straightforwardly as
possible. Once the human art of communication ends in a marriage,
it usually makes for an impossible situation for both parties. We take
for granted just how critical the art of communication is and its

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

essential role in most of our efforts, as well as the fact that to

communicate successfully both parties must contribute to the effort.
In a federal criminal proceeding, both the government and
the court are frequently most successful in defeating your claims and
arguments through a subtle process of refusing to communicate with
a person on his or her claims. The art of obfuscation, minimization,
deflection, and willful blindness has been refined to a higher art than
ever before in human history. If you think that just because your
argument is correct as a matter of law you will prevail in a federal
court you are incorrect and naive. You can rail and rail to high
heaven about the correctness of your pleadings, making the most
cogent and sagacious of arguments confident that reasonable person
could counter the reason and the legal correctness of your argument.
Yet somehow, when you read the governments reply or
objection to your argument, or even the judge's Opinion and Order,
your beautiful argument is nowhere to be found. Its amazing thing
to behold, and a sad spectacle as well, when reflected upon
considering the beauty and wisdom of the laws passed down to us
by Madison and Hamilton. Far too often the US federal legal system
has become a factory churning out as many convictions as it can
rather than the mechanism for reaching justice and truth as it was
designed to be. Far too often the government and the court will try
to obscure your argument if it is a strong one, and seek clever ways
to avoid it and suppress it through a very subtle and refined process
that they know all too well. The law itself is complex and tricky as
it is, and when in the hands of those skilled at maneuvering within

the contours of that complexity it can be a very hard target to pin

You are very naive if you look at the current US federal legal
system only through the prism of right and wrong, it is much more
complex than that and such a perspective does not serve you when
you find yourself in a federal criminal proceeding. For example, in
my case and others, 1 have too often seen that when a judge comes
face to face with a constitutional violation before him, a very clear
one, the judge clearly sees the correctness of your argument.
However, the judge may not feel that you are entitled to the relief
which our laws and the Constitution demands, and may feel that you
are not a defendant he wants to grant relief to, whether that called
for relief is lowering your sentence or overturning your entire
conviction. What the judge will do is sit on your claims for an
extended period, only to one day issue a ruling that both you and he
knows has managed to obscure and sublimate your very strong
argument into something that you dont even recognize in his ruling.
It's wrong, its unfair, and its unconstitutional, but it is a very
common experience in the current US federal legal system, and we
need to change it because its rotting the spirit and soul of our great
legal system.
This game goes on in individual cases and in cases which
affect the system as a hole. A good example of this game played
system wide which affects almost all federal defendants is current
plea bargain system employed by US prosecutors to get defendants

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

to become witnesses for the government against each other in

exchange for reduced time and other benefits. Almost all people
involved know this plea bargain business is a sordid affair, as it
incentivizes people to tell on each other or exchange for leniency in
their own cases. It infects the US federal legal system with a horrible
plague whereby prosecutors can get people to say what they need
that person to say, and then reward that person for saying what they
say that helps the government. This is the hideous and vile procedure
under which US prosecutors secure most of their convictions, and
everyone knows it stinks to high heaven and produces unreliable and
false legal outcomes, but no one really talks about it.
To illustrate how the games are played, one day a defendant
got fed up with this phenomenon, and her lawyer decided to
challenge it and call it what it is, which is government cheating.
Federal law expressly forbids bribing a witness, or paying them
anything of value in exchange for certain testimony. Defense
lawyers would be buried under the prison if caught doing it, yet the
federal courts allow government prosecutors to do this openly every
day in federal courtrooms across America. This lady, Sonya
Singleton of Kansas, has her lawyer challenge this practice in her
case. A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals saw
the merit and logic to her argument, and ruled that what the
government was getting away with was in fact bribery. In a move,
Illustrative of the sublime manner games are played by the Feds, the
US Department quickly flushed when face to face with a higher
court ruling that stood to disabuse frenzied US prosecutors of the

primary mechanism used by them to coerce and manipulate criminal

proceedings into situations where they have not only the clear upper
hand but often the only hand under such egregiously unfair
techniques. The Department of Justice quickly asked that the ruling
be reviewed by the full panel of Circuit judges comprising the Tenth
Circuit. That full Tenth Circuit panel quickly issued a ruling which
supported the handy mechanism known as "cooperation" to US
prosecutors , holding that in light of the long standing practice of
leniency for testimony, it must be that Congress had in fact intended
to make a bribery exception for US prosecutors, which is not only
game playing of the highest degree but legal gibberish that would
make Madison roll over in his grave, this display of game playing
coming down from a higher court whose duty is to serve as a
safeguard against such legal errors and clear attempts to pervert the
spirit of our laws. That panel had no right or even business trying to
read the mind of Congress, their job was to ensure that the US
Constitution and federal laws are upheld and not to find convenient
and blatantly pro-government intellectual inventions to subvert
those laws.
Such is the landscape one faces in current US legal
proceedings, and it is a considerable force to be reckoned with. One
learns quickly that our laws and our venerable US Constitution, as
well as truth and justice, are incidental and occasional factors in the
totality of what a person encounters on his or her sojourn. More often
than not, a person is faced with a sophisticated game of legal smoke

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

and mirrors than he is with truth and justice, and that game of smoke
and mirrors will be dealt to the person with a disorienting contempt
and brazenness that will be shocking in its rawness. The practice of
law is a subtle, refined, and deadly art, all the more so when you give
a prosecutor almost unlimited power and non-existent oversight.
Right before your very eyes you will see arguments appear and
disappear, your strongest arguments deflated with a counter
argument devoid of all reason and logic, but blessed somehow by
the presiding judge as if its truer than the Gospel itself. That counter
argument, and the judges interpretation of it, will reframe your
argument by managing to avoid touching your underlying premise,
and the effect it all has on your case can be life altering in its
What I am describing is the honest degree of difficulty one
has in obtaining truth and justice in their current US federal Legal
proceedings. I am not saying that all proceedings are like this, or that
a person can't get a fair shake. What Im saying is how truly difficult
it is, and how corrupted our system has become. You can get justice
if you are willing to stand up to those who deny you your rights
along the way but you to be willing to go through hell to get it, and
if you are, like I was, you may get relief. To get that relief you must
engage in countermeasures that forces the government and the court
to engage in that critical matter of communication that I started out
talking about in this chapter. They will try to shut you out, and to
deny you the communication needed to get your claims heard and
addressed. This is fatal to your cause, and must be overcome if you

are to stand any real chance of obtaining the results and justice that
you seek . This is war, and not for the weak of heart, you are dealing
with your life and those who will take your life without a blink if
you dont stand firm upon the legal rights we all have as Americans.
Dont let yours be denied, but Im here to tell you that it is much
easier said than done.
To get the communication going in my case, the vehicle I
chose was what is known as a 28 United States Code 2255 Motion,
more commonly called a 2255. In 1948, Congress created the 2255
as a version of traditional habeas corpus prisoners can challenge the
validity of the and convictions they are imprisoned under. To get
relief under a 2255 motion a federal prisoner must establish by clear
evidence that he or she has had their rights violated under federal
law or statute or the US Constitution. I realized that I had an uphill
battle before me, but I didnt have time to sit down and dwell on its
guaranteed difficulty, I had to put my petal to the metal and get my
vehicle moving on its course.
What I remembered clearly and what kept me strong was the
image of my sentencing hearing where I had been sentenced with all
family gathered in attendance. Kiplinger' s words about me been
caustic and obscene, and had been gauged to ruin my reputation and
character before those people closest to me. To this day, I still don't
think my parents have recovered from hearing their only son spoken
of in such terms, Kiplinger describing an animal that had been on
the lose all his adult life whose crime spree he had been able to bring

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

to a halt. He felt that he had left me knocked out on that courtroom

floor on the day on September 30th, 2011.
But Kiplinger was wrong and my plea was a calculated
maneuver, made under the familiar adage that discretion is the better
part of valor. My anger and ego would have taken me to trial, where
Judge OConnell would have given me 1520 years. In pleading
guilty I had to all appearances conceded my defeat and my guilt to
the case brought against me, and had done what is called laying
down in the Feds. Sometimes in a conflict you have to feign
weakness so that your enemy will underestimate your position, just
as in boxing a fighter must take a knee or an eight count to clear his
head. Failure to do so is a strategic miscalculation wherein you can
get knocked out cold all the way, and the battle will be lost for good.
I not only had to clear my head, I had to get the
communication going in my case, and just as silence is deadly in
close human relationships it is also deadly when in the midst of a
pursuit for legal redress.
If you cannot get communication going about your issues or
you allow those issues to be buried without having been exposed to
sunlight, you will never get anywhere in your efforts matter how
great your legal claims may seem. Once I had plead guilty and been
convicted and sentenced AUSA Kiplinger and Judge O Connell
wanted nothing more than for me to go lay down" and do my time
in silence. While they had their goal, my goal was to give the
appearance of laying down while studying federal law as earnestly
as possible so that my legal efforts would be as accurate as possible.

Using federal law applicable to my case, in late January of

2012, I was able to file my 2255 Petition by mailing it to Judge
OConnell using the prison mail system. I had written and typed it
on my own, and I would greatly supplement that initial filing with
other pleadings as I continued my law studies, which at that time
were pretty much all day and half the nights. My 2255 issues
involved the actual conflict of interest that my attorney Steven Lisi
had been under in my case due to his having represented both myself
and Sharbanoo in the same proceeding, and then she had turned out
to be the government's chief witness against me.
Logic and common sense would indicate that such an
obvious conflict would serve to invalidate my sentence and
conviction, but as 1 have explained having the law and logic on your
side in a federal proceeding is not by any means a guarantee of
success. My other claims alleged ineffective assistance of counsel in
light of Lisi's other errors and omissions while representing me, false
evidence having been employed by Falconer and Lisi, Brady
violations, and selective prosecution. The majority of my claims
focused on the fact that I had been charged with crimes that I had
shown were committed by other participants, and that Lisi had
gravely failed to give me the constitutionally required advice and
assistance he was required to under law.
The conflict of interest was made even stronger by the fact
that AUSA Pince had hidden the conflict Lisi was under while
representing me, and still had willfully allowed Lisi to continue

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

representing me in violation of his ethical obligation to promptly

inform the trial judge. In 2255 proceedings conflict of interest claims
and claims of attorney ineffectiveness are usually very strong claims
warranting relief from a person's sentence and conviction. Despite
this, and despite all the other errors during my proceeding that I had
been able to document, I could not rely on Judge OConnell to give
me relief based on what the law called for. Too many lawyers and
other informed inmates at Fort Dix had already warned me of what
Connell do to deny me relief based on what the law called ahead so
that I wouldnt be caught off guard unnecessarily. They had assured
me that no matter what claim was true and despite how well-
articulated it was no guarantee of me obtaining the relief I was
asking for, it just wasnt the way our federal legal system operated.
Victory was rare and extremely difficult to achieve, and they made
me understand that the Judge will normally work to find a way to
dismiss your claims rather than seek to find a way to allow your
claims to proceed. Sadly, 2255 petitions for federal prisoners along
with 2254 petitions for state prisoners, along with the traditional
2241 habeas, usually arent given the attention they are due by the
federal courts. These are the only means of relief available to a
person to seek relief based upon errors and other types of violations
that occur during criminal proceedings. Habeas is often the only
means left to help a person get back to his or her life and loved ones,
and therefore such efforts should be accorded the solemn respect and
dignity they are due. Instead, such petitions are often looked upon
with contempt and derision and not afforded the appropriate scrutiny

and vigorous effort needed to help a person get the relief they are
due. The courts dont admit it, but the truth is that judges are human,
and like all humans they commit many errors during criminal
proceedings. That is why the founders of the Americas legal system
instituted the system of legal checks and balances and mechanisms
of review made up by courts of review. In the U.S., federal legal
system, the lowest level is the US district courts, which are followed
by the U.S. Courts of Appeals. If a person is unsuccessful at the US
Court of Appeal, which is the highest level within the US federal
legal system, his last and final legal forum is the US Supreme Court,
but the Supreme Court only chooses to hear a very tiny fraction of
the cases sent to it for review, and of the cases they do hear only a
small percentage of that number are cases sent by prisoners who are
representing themselves without an attorney.
For federal prisoners seeking legal redress from violations
and errors that occurred in their legal proceedings, direct appeals and
28 USC 2255 petitions are the primary avenues of relief available to
them. Having taken my "eight count" by pleading guilty and cleared
my head, the punch I threw this time had to be a definitive one
because you don't get many chances to land your punch after being
convicted. I came up with a 3-pronged approach for being successful
in my post-conviction efforts at relief in my case.
First, again drawing upon boxing strategies as my guide, I
sought to not lead with my best punches in an effort to make my
2255 petition look weaker than it really was. If I came on too strong

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

out of the gate and let the government know all that I had they would
be alarmed and would extend more concern than I wanted them to
at my petition in the early stages of its adjudication. 1 wanted to in
some ways lull them to sleep, leaving them initially not overly
concerned about the subject matter of my 2255 petition and its
claims. My strongest argument was that my 6th amendments rights
had been violated under Lisi's egregious conflict of interest that he
labored under all the way up to 30 days from the initial trial date.
I put the conflict of interest article in my petition, but I placed
it at the end, and I spoke of it in somewhat vague terms as if I really
didn't have a full grasp of its importance and my rights under it. The
important thing was that I got it on the record. Once the government
looked at it and saw that I had made a somewhat attempt to make it
a claim, Kiplinger wouldnt bother to argue that strongly against it
and would concentrate on the other claims that I had argued hardest
for. When the right time came I would reveal to the judge the full
force and depth of that claim that I hoped the government had
somewhat overlooked.
The second part of my strategy was to make as much noise
as I could to overcome the silence and suppressive tactics federal
prisoners come up against when trying to assert their legal claims in
appeals and 2255 proceedings. As Muhammad Ali said, you can't hit
what you cant see, and to hit my target I had to get the government
to talk about what had happened in my case so that 1 could have a
target to punch at and expose its weaknesses. Accordingly, I set


about to make sure my claims were seen and heard about through
any credible means that I could employ.
The conflict of interest and its willful concealment by AUSA
Pince was my strongest claim, and was the issue I had to make the
most noise about and get under focus. This would be an uphill task
for many reasons. In the federal legal system prosecutors ate greatly
deferred to and are accorded immunity in their capacity as an
advocate for the government. This practice makes it tremendously
difficult co both sue or prosecute a prosecutor, even when his actions
are clearly unethical or unlawful.
In my case, Lisi had violated one of the central taboos under
our system of law, which is the deference and attention we give to
conflicts of interests in criminal proceedings. As codified under
federal law under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 44 (known as
Rule 44), the discernment of even a potential conflict of interest
mandates a court to take a series of actions to safeguard that
defendants 6th Amendment right to conflict free counsel. Under
Rule 44, when made aware of a conflict or even a potential conflict,
that court must investigate the conflict, offer the defendant a
knowing and intelligent waiver if her or she so desires one, to
personally advise the defendant of his rights in relation to the
conflict, and finally to conduct what is known as a Rule 44 hearing.
A court's failure to follow these directives after it has been
notified of a conflict is viewed as a violation of a defendant's
constitutional due process and his 6th Amendment rights, and the

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

government's failure to bring a conflict it knows of to the attention

of a court is also viewed as a serious ethical violation and
government misconduct, because It serves to impugn the
presumption of fairness in tie proceeding.
AUS Pince had known of Lisis conflict from the start of
the case, and had willfully withheld it from the court until 30 days
from trial, clear misconduct on his behalf, but I knew judge
O'Connell would seek to skillfully minimize the claim somehow.
This was a strong claim and a court's failure to follow Rule 44 is
held to be reversible error, which means my sentence and conviction
would have to be reversed and wiped clean, smothering that Judge
O 'Connell would rather face machine gun fire than have to grant
me. I knew that both Judge O' Connell and Kiplinger would be
determined to keep this very damaging claim under wraps in any
way that they could. I had to get this conflict in the limelight.
I spent weeks trying to figure this dilemma out. Then one day
while jogging it somehow dawned on me that while prosecutors had
immunity from lawsuits for damages and from criminal prosecution
for acts committed in their role as advocates for the government,
they were not immune from actions taken against them in their role
as lawyers.
Federal prosecutors, like all lawyers, are members of state
Bars, and are also admitted members of the various federal court
Bars that they practice before. This was the one area of vulnerability
for prosecutors that feel they can get away with misconduct
unscathed, and I set about to make the most of this option. This

would get attention on the conflict that had been suppressed and it
could get AUSA Pince sanctioned for his unethical actions against
me. I also knew that Bar associations would be reluctant take on a
federal prosecutor, but I had to go for it. this was my primary
mechanism and antidote to break the silence and Pince, Lisi, that
Kiplinger would build around my strongest calm.
As I expected, my Bar complaint to the Washington DC
Office of Bar Counsel where Pince was a member was met with rigid
opposition. Weeks turned into months, and every assertion was met
with a stiff counter assertion as to why the Bar didn't want to involve
itself in my 2255 petition's issues in relation to Pences misconduct.
After almost two months of back and forth, the Bar's responses
became more and more terse. I pressed on, having learned long ago
that most things in life, especially meaningful things, dont come
without a struggle.
One evening during the prisoner call I received a letter from
the DC Office of Bar Counsel. I assumed it was the good news I had
been waiting for, news that the Bar Counsel had agreed to open an
investigation into Pences misconduct. Instead it was a letter
informing me in no uncertain terms, that it would not investigate
Pince under any circumstances and my 2255 was still pending, and
that if there was a finding of misconduct against him they would be
happy to consider it once the court had first made that determination.
This was bunk, because there was no such rule, Bar Associations
clearly have the role arid the authority to investigate its members

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

without playing second fiddle to any court. It then followed up with

language about me seeking the assistance of a law school clinic or
pro bono lawyer, or some absurdity to that effect. They were
basically telling me to go fly a kite.
Faced with such a rebuke, I found myself taken back to my
days as a young kid with my dad on his family's farm. In those days,
my dad would keep me with him all day in the fields as he drove the
tractor while harvesting the wheat and other products we raised. I
remembered very clearly on certain days the huge combine that we
pulled behind the tractor would inexplicably brake down in that
blazing hot southeastern Virginia summer sun. Where would be a
loud pop, and then silence as my dad turned the tractor ignition off.
It was always a tense moment, and my dad as usual to proud to call
the neighboring white famers to come to his aid. Without any fanfare
or protest, my dad would calmly attend to the problem before him,
breaking out the big toolbox and oil gun that he always brought with
us to use when such mishaps occurred. He would spread out an old
tarp to lay on and before I knew it he would be underneath that
combine for hours. I would get bored silly as any young kid would,
but I would never complain to him out of respect, and I would
remain next to him ready to retrieve anything that he would ask me
to bring. Eventually he would manage to fix whatever it was that had
broken, emerging sweat drenched and oily, and we would resume
our work.
At times in my life earlier it seemed I was subject to random
challenges and difficult, my dad's example would always remind me

that this life is certainly not fair or just to any of us in many ways,
and just as we came into this world fighting and we must continue
to fight throughout this existence. I always drew strength from my
dads stoicism and courage in fixing that combine. Fathers probably
dont realize just how much their example plays in a young mans
psyche, self-confidence, and nuances later in life.
Drawing on my dads example, I shook of that rebuke from
the DC Bar Counsel and instead spent almost the entire weekend in
the law library. After being told to go away and not to come back, I
decided instead to come back with twice my previous force backed
by the strongest case law that I could find.
When I called the DC Bar Counsel office that Monday and
told them to expect new communication via the mail from me that
week, they sounded very surprised to hear from me again. When I
called that Thursday to inquire about my latest letter to them, I was
met the news that a full-scale investigation had been opened into
AUSA Pince's actions in my case, and with an admonition for me to
please dont call back and bother them further, that they would be in
touch and would send me a copy of Pinces answers to the
investigation. I gave a professional thank you, and was given the
satisfaction one gets when rewarded by sticking to one's goals and
More importantly my investigation of Pince would later bear
valuable fruit to my overall efforts to overturn my conviction and to
overcome the government's efforts to muffle my claims with silence.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

The third and last prong of my three-pronged strategy to

overcome the tactics of evasion and obfuscation in the federal legal
system was utilize the power of civil suits. Unlike the relatively
restricted nature of 28 US 2255 proceedings where the courts are
stingy in civil suits a plaintiff had the full gamut of discovery. That
gamut includes admissions interrogatories, requests for documents,
and depositions.
What that means is that in a civil suit a plaintiff is granted
whats needed to obtain all the information that the government
seeks to hide, avoid, suppress. These are the necessary tools that get
the communication flowing that is critical to obtaining relief on a
defendant 's claims.
Many prisoners underestimate and are ignorant of the power
of civil suits, and thus don't utilize our legal system.
They are our greatest weapons of obtaining the information
we need to assist us in post-conviction efforts. Prosecutors and FBI
agents often get a different attitude when they realize that they may
face having to testify under oath his or her actions during a person's
investigation and prosecution. Prosecuting a civil suit is not easy
from prison, wherein a prisoner must work ten times harder. It is not
easy, but the information you stand to obtain as well as the possible
financial payouts more than reward the efforts expended.
Government actors will cry bloody murder when the have
you have them under suit, for it is no fun hunting when the rabbit
also has a gun. Once the government knows that he or she is under
suit, their attorneys will naturally try to motion the court to dismiss

the suit by any means necessary. The important thing is to remember

that while judges generally have absolute immunity from suits for
monetary damages, prosecutors' immunity generally only extends to
actions taken by them while acting as advocates for the state.
Prosecutorial immunity may not attach also to actions taken by them
in the early investigatory stage of a criminal case, or while they were
acting in an investigatory rather than prosecutorial capacity. Never
let a court trick you into believing that prosecutors have total
immunity for all their actions taken against you, because they do not,
and FBI agents and other members of law enforcement
organizations are also only entitled to qualified immunity. Also,
while judges and prosecutors generally enjoy full immunity from
suits seeking monetary damages, they generally do not enjoy
immunity for suits seeking either injunctive or dilatory relief.


Civil suits can be time consuming, slow, and generally

draining, but the eventual upside can far outweigh the difficulties
encountered along the way. They are one of the most powerful tools
at a criminal defendant's disposal to employ against the abuses
sometimes encountered in the federal system. Some federal agents
and prosecutors feel empowered to do as they please, needless to
their own ethical standards and the Constitution. There is nothing
like having to face being questioned under oath about one's actions
to jolt a person out of his or her assumption that they can act with
impunity, and it provides for an entirely new attitude and perspective
My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

to that person. In a civil suit, agents or witnesses won't be entitled to

immunity or a coddling and sympathetic judge as often occurs in
criminal prosecutions.
The information and evidence exposed in a civil suit can go
a long ways towards restoring a reputation tarnished by a largely one
sided assault by the US government, and the potential financial
payoff only adds to the upside of pursuing civil suits as remedy for
your injuries.

Despite my best efforts and my solid 2255 claims calling for
relief from my sentence and conviction, Judge OConnell denied my
2255 motion on April 17th, 2013. I had just been transferred from
the low security FCI at Fort Dix, New Jersey to the federal prison
camp in Berlin, New Hampshire when I received the news in the
In his order denying my claims, Judge O'Connell had deftly
avoided even addressing most of my claims, acting as if I hadn't
asserted the claims before him in black and white. His order denying
my 2255 motion devoted more space to the background of my case
than it did addressing the issues presented in my claims. My 2255
motion was substantive, detailed, and exhaustive, as well as being
solidly supported by case law from the district and higher courts. My
claims were properly supported by affidavits sworn under oath, yet
the government in its reply had failed to give sworn statements in
support of their brief opposing my motion. Most critically, my
defense counsel Lisi had failed to oppose the claims in any way,
including my ineffectiveness claims against him, which normally
would have been a very strong factor in my favor.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

The only opposition to my claims came from AUSA

Kiplinger, but in 2255 proceedings its common knowledge that a
prosecutor's unsworn arguments against a petitioner can never
outweigh a petitioner's affidavits sworn under penalty of perjury. My
claims called for my sentence and conviction to be reversed, or at
minimum an evidentiary hearing. However, Judge O'Connell
employed the tactics I have made reference to that are encountered
far too often by defendants in today's federal system. Namely, he
simply ignored those claims for which the government had no
defense, and skillfully evaded having to address the heart and soul
of the remaining claims, just managing to touch their surface without
really giving them the attention they deserved. For better or worse
the law can be deftly used for almost any end by a skilled
practitioner. Knowing that they have a job for life with little
oversight, some judges abuse that power to enforce their personal
likes, biases, and agendas, and most often to keep their judgments
and convictions intact despite what the Law and evidence calls for.
After all judges are human like the rest of us, and if history has
shown us anything it has made clear that all men are fallible and that
power is an extremely corrupting influence.


Judge OConnell mentioned Lisis conflict which lay at the

center of my case and 2255 motion for relief, but he completely
avoided the issue of both Lisi and AUSA Pince concealing it for four
months from the trial judge. Judge 0 'Connell quickly dismissed the

conflict after making reference to it, holding that even if Lisi had
actively represented conflicting interests it was for "too short" a
period of time to have been prejudicial to my defense. His dismissal
was contrary to law and Fourth Circuit precedence, which in regards
to conflict held that a conflict of interest clearly has constitutionally
detrimental effects during the pre-trial phase because of what it tends
to prevent defense counsel from doing. In my case Lisi had
represented me for four months while under the conflict in the pre-
trial phase, but Judge OConnell saw absolutely no harm to my
defense under Lisi's pretrial conflicted representation.
He also ignored all but four of the almost thirty
ineffectiveness claims against Lisi, and the one ineffectiveness issue
he chose to defy was that Lisi had failed to disclose to me the terms
of AUSA Pince's initial plea offer to me. He denied the claim on the
ostensible basis that I had shown no proof of a formal plea offer"
ever having been made, which was the entire reason that an
evidentiary hearing was called for, to allow me to establish proof of
that plea with Lisi's testimony. The problem with this whole denial
is that I had never made this as a 2255 claim, this was a claim that
he somehow on his own managed to interpolate out of my pleadings,
something that he obviously felt he could easily deny.
Under the rules of 2255 proceedings as set by Congress, and
under federal court precedence, a district court has the obligation to
inquire into a petitioners 2255 claims which aren't patently
frivolous or belied by the record, and to actually facilitate a

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

petitioner in properly supporting those claims through affidavits,

discovery, and evidentiary hearings. In my 2255 proceeding
OConnell never made any effort to assist me in further developing
my claims, denying all three of my motions requesting discovery,
and denying me request for an evidentiary hearing.
He also said that I had defaulted on being able to raise my
false evidence claim because I had failed to object to the false
information at my sentencing hearing. This was not true, because my
attorney at sentencing Pam Martin had in fact objected at length to
AUSA Kiplinger's demonstrably false evidence he had introduced
against me at sentencing. The sentencing transcript even shows
Judge 0Connell objecting to the false evidence at sentencing and
stating his obligation to rule on the matter as required under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 32(c)(3)(D), which he never bothered to do.
He also totally ignored my claim of having been selectively
prosecuted, and my claim that my evidentiary rights under Brady v.
Maryland had been violated. In short, Judge O'Connell's denial of
my 2255 motion was flippant, very unrigorous, and grossly
negligent, unbefitting of a seasoned US district court judge. It also
was so rushed that he even forgot to deny or grant me a certificate
of appealability as required under Rule 11.
Most criminal defendants in the US federal legal system are
unable to appeal such ridiculous decisions as the one I had just
received, such appeals requiring either money for an attorney or a
considerable amount of legal understanding. Most are simply stuck
with such legal travesties, resigned to inaction in the face of the

difficulties that arise in challenging such matters. By the grace of

God, and through my personal efforts to understand the law that was
confining me, I could research, draft, and type my appeal to the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia. Because I
had just been transferred to New Hampshire when I received the
denial, I had to wait three weeks for my legal files to arrive before I
could begin work on that appeal. When my legal files arrived one
warm day in May 2013, I was able to get my appeal drafted and
mailed a few weeks later.
Here at the camp in New Hampshire , we are not allowed to
use computers to type or legal filings, they must all be typed on low
quality electric typewriters, which is rather ridiculous in this age of
the internet and computers. We thus have no means to store or edit
or documents, which is challenging, but manageable. In spite of the
seeming backwardness of it all while being imprisoned in the world's
most prosperous nation, I was nonetheless very grateful to have at
least been provided some means with to obtain legal redress, a right
not available to many of the world's citizens.
When it was all said, and done, I was relatively pleased with
the outcome of my appeal, though the typewritten finished product
made editing and revisions somewhat of a challenge. Here at the
camp in New Hampshire we are only allowed to purchase one copy
card a week that has fifty copies available, so I had to wait a few
weeks to be able make copies of my brief and its many attachments,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

finally mailing out what would become appeal 13-6759 in the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals.
Staying faithful to my threepronged strategy outlined in
Chapter 19, by this time I had been able to file several suits in federal
court and in the Circuit Court of Fairfax County where I had lived.
These suits included a discrimination suit against attorney Bob
Brown, several civil rights suits against AUSA Pince and Kiplinger
and their team of FBI agents, and a defamation suit against one of
the witnesses brought by AUSA Kiplinger who gave false evidence
at my sentencing. The witness who had defamed me and submitted
false evidence was a Lebanese national named Bill Parlucci Sobh
who had changed his first name and added Parlucci to his name in
an apparent attempt to obscure his Muslim or Arab background. He
submitted a false affidavit to the court at sentencing claiming that I
was not an American, but rather a foreign national who had been
converted to Islam ''on the hands of Mohamed Aolaki", his apparent
attempt at spelling and referencing the name of Anwar Al-Awlaki,
the radical Islamic preacher and enemy of America who was killed
by the CIA in a drone strike in Yemen in 2011. Of all the people I
sued, I delighted most of all at the prospect of getting this man on
under oath and under full penalty of perjury on the witness stand in
a court of law, Mr. Sobh haven given the court false information in
an attempt to retaliate against me for a soured business deal between
I had also taken my time and been able to research and file a
comprehensive tort claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act

(FTCA). A tort suit is a suit under common state law rather than
federal law, and the most common violation in tort suits is simple or
gross negligence, the standard for proving negligence being a lower
standard than that of establishing constitutional violations. My other
civil rights suits alleged violations to my constitutional rights and
rights under federal law, but the tort suit alleged negligence and
wrongful conduct. A tort suit under the FTCA is a suit against the
United States directly, based on the negligence of its Department of
Justice employees, in my case the US Assistant Attorneys, FBI
agents, and probation officers. The United States as a sovereign
generally has 11th Amendment immunity to suits, but under the
FTCA that immunity is waived if a person properly exhausts his
claims with the appropriate US Agency prior to filing suit. In my
FTCA suit I had been able to pretty well tie in the seemingly
disparate actions taken against me into a consistent narrative, and I
had read the applicable US Code so that I had properly exhausted
my administrative remedies.
My final suit was a state tort suit against a local Virginia
prison that I had been sent to stay at on my way to Fort Dix in New
Jersey. This prison had illegally seized and lost my legal files
containing critical evidence for my 2255 motion, and had committed
other negligent actions against me during my stay. In the suit I was
able to file on the prison, I had been able under state law to sue both
individuals of the prison as well as the state of Virginia itself , which
was liable for the acts of its state employees just as the United States

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

in a FTCA suit was liable for the actions of its Department of Justice
Sticking to my script as strictly as I could with my promise
to my kids and God to give my best and to obtain relief from what
had happened in my prosecution, I left no slight unaddressed. When
a Maryland federal court had consistently ignored my requests for
the transcripts of the hearings I had with AUSA Pince, I was left
with no choice but to file suit against that office. Lastly, I had filed
a traditional 2241 habeas corpus suit against the New Hampshire
federal prison camp where I was being held at in Berlin, that suit
being filed in the New Hampshire US District Court per the statute
governing 28 USC 2241 petitions. This gave additional avenue of
relief should the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals render an adverse
ruling in my pending appeal. My suits were aggressive and not for
small sums of money, and I spent as much time as I could reading
about how civil litigation is conducted so that I could hold my own
as best I could as the various stages of the suits unfolded.
While my suits were making their way through the slow
grind of the legal system, my Bar complaint to DC Office of Bar
Counsel against AUSA Pince was also ongoing, and I had went back
and added additional claims to the original complaint. Deputy Bar
Counsel Paige Anderson was not the easiest person to work with,
but I was very grateful to her for even initiating the investigation
into Pince's conduct during my prosecution. As it turned out, Pince
had retained counsel to represent him in my investigation, and had
requested a lengthy 60 day extension of the period that the DC Bar

had given him to answer. Periodically, I would call Deputy Bar

Counsel Anderson to check in on the status of his answer, but her
replies became increasingly rigid and hostile. I couldn't figure out
why she would be hostile to me as a complaining member of the
public whose rights she was supposed to defend. At times, she made
me feel like I was the person whose conduct was being reviewed,
and it just became worse over time.
Taking an Assistant United States Attorney to task for this
ethical violation is never an easy task for any defendant and they are
rarely sanctioned for their misconduct. Despite that reality, Ms.
Anderson had a public reputation as a Bar counsel whose stated
mission was to change the publics perception of US prosecutors
being above the law.
It had been difficult to get her to launch the investigation, but
after it was launched I had been hopeful that she would get results
and not give me a snow job in the face of AUSA Pince's misconduct.
When AUSA Pinces answer was finally issued, I quickly
knew that my patience had been well worth it. The answer he
provided to the DC Bar confirmed in his own words all that I had
alleged, albeit with his lawyer's attempt to spin the facts to benefit
his client. Pince conceded that he had known of Lisis conflict in the
early days of the case but gave a series of deflections in support of
his failure to inform the court. He also conceded that the conflict was
an actual conflict of interest, and that the court had run afoul of
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 44 in not investigating the

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

conflict after he had made the belated disclosure to them on

12/22/2010. AUSA Pince had taken the investigation seriously, and
knew that an attempt to lie or mislead could have very grave
consequences. Now that I had AUSA Pince admitting in his own
words what I had alleged about the conflict, I assumed it would not
be very hard to get the court to give me relief under Lisi's obvious
6th Amendment violation in representing me for so long while under
a serious conflict. I appended AUSA Pince's sworn answers to my
certificate of appealability application to the Fourth Circuit, thinking
it would serve to provide the needed support to my claims which
would compel the Fourth Circuit Court to give me relief. AUSA
Pince's answer was the government admitting in its own words what
I had so vigorously claimed.
While this was transpiring, I had also filed a discrimination
suit in both state and federal court against attorney Bob Brown who
had tried so hard to scuttle my purchase of 12995 Wyckland Drive
when the seller had informed him I was both African American and
Muslim. 1 had filed bar complaints against Mr. Brown Virginia and
Washington DC where he was a member of state Bar in those states.
My suits and Bar complaints against Mr. Brown all seemed to get
stalled out and get dismissed. Not only had I underestimated the
depth of Mr. Browns racial and religious animus, I had also
underestimated his influence as a local attorney and member of my
county's legal community. Mr. Brown was a member of the state Bar
in DC, Virginia, and Florida, but he was an admitted member of the
federal Bar in DC, Alexandria, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals,

the US Court of Claims, the US Supreme Court, and many other

federal courts. It took me some time to realize that Mr. Brown was
using his status to have my suits and complaints dismissed and to
also realize the full depths to which he had enlisted his contacts in
the US Department of Justice and the federal and state courts in his
crusade against me.
Mr. Brown had obsessively researched and monitored my
business and personal life for many years, and had made ruining me
and having me prosecuted one his major life activities. But what he
could not know about me was that I had been fortunate enough to
grow up next to my dad on our family farm and that my dad was a
man among men. The lessons he had instilled in me while taking the
time to teach me how to farm, hunt, fish, and trap were things that
would haunt me for the rest of my life. And when I say haunt, I mean
it in a positive sense. I mean it in the sense that is vital for fathers to
take the time to spend time with their sons, that those deceptively
simple lessons are in fact the psychological foundation for surviving
the many assaults a man faces during his lifetime. Those lessons
from my dad had made my spirit deep, had given me a self-
confidence and a contentment that no man or force could ever
deprive me of. The example alone of seeing my dad rise each
morning at four am to begin our day of work, seeing him put on his
overalls and straw hat, placing the firewood we had cut down in the
iron stove, there was a righteousness and an honesty in what he did
that filled me with a reserve of character that I still to this day cannot

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

explain. My dad's pleasant and easy laugh, his simple and honest
mannerisms, his undeniable strength and force of will I observed up
close each day, these are things a boy never forgets and things that
will sustain him through any ordeal.
Mr. Brown could not know that I was a living testimony to
the reality of racial hate and domination in this nation, where the
farm I grew up on with my dad bordered the farm of civil rights icon
Vernon Johns, that he and my dad's dad were good friends as well
as neighbors. He couldnt know that as I sat on the porch of the old
family homestead with my dad and his mom each evening after
supper, we ate only yards away from the family burial site of the
white family which once owned by my ancestors. That each year
they would come to visit and I would be very astounded to find my
very proud grandmother transform into another person as she
greeted the little four and five year old white girls as missy and
miss", using names and inflections from a another time in the
United States when blacks openly treated whites as their masters
and bosses Mr. Brown couldn't know that my grandmother's mom
had been a slave and that I always gazed at her picture that my
grandmother kept of her working in the fields above her bedroom
dresser, sometimes finding myself as a kid standing their for minutes
at a time trying to imagine what her life had been like.
Mr. Brown could not know that my dad had raised me to love
all men and to respect all men without regards to their race, but that
my dad was one of the toughest men I had ever known, and that
somehow, I had inherited his quiet force of will. I have never in my

life been amenable to having any one force their will on me, and that
while I am very laid back and peaceful, another side of me becomes
aroused in the face of somewhat trying to intimidate me. Its not in
my upbringing or my DNA to back clown or to be afraid, and anyone
who knows me will tell you that, whether it was in prison, in the
streets of DC, or the corporate world.
Mr. Brown could not know just how much I knew about
Virginia and its history of white men having sought to intimidate
black men who they perceived as a threat. Mr. Brown could not
imagine how much I knew about the particular brand of hate and
venom white Virginians were capable of. In Farmville, rather than
let white kids and black kids attend school together after the US
Supreme Court integrated schools in Brown v. Board of Education,
Farmville closed all schools for five years, making no secret of its
sentiments and ready to cut off its own nose to spite its face in the
face of efforts for equal schooling for blacks and whites in America.
Mr. Brown had no idea that Farmville schools were actually one of
the several actual plaintiffs in Brown v. Board Of Education, and
that Vernon Johns' sixteen year old niece in Farmville had been the
actual organizer of one of the country's first school sitins
protesting substandard conditions for black students.
Mr. Brown had no way of knowing that my dads father had
worked hard to buy our farm when few other black families had the
means to buy such a farm. And that the tract of land my dad's father
purchased was a small section of a larger plantation that was sold off

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

when the white master and owner had died. My dad had always
reminded me how his father had left Farmville to work on the
railroad in West Virginia to save money, that money spent to buy
the farm we now owned.
Mr. Brown had no way of knowing the oral history of
Virginia and race matters that I was fortunate to receive certain
evenings and nights at the kitchen table of the old homestead we
lived on. He had no idea of the wisdom passed to me those nights
from those who had been on the front lines of assault from those
whites in Virginia who sought to maintain black Americans' social,
economic, educational, and cultural inferiority.
Mr. Brown had no way of understanding that I had many
white Americans as best friends, business partners, neighbors, and
even family members, but that I wasn't the man in this lifetime to
ever let a man of any race impose his will on me and subject me to
his ideas of who and what I should be and what I should own and
Mr. Brown had no way of understanding that my rural
upbringing in Farmville in conjunction to my urban upbringing in
the streets of Washington DC, assisted by a master's degree in
clinical psychology and community psychology, had given me a
unique understanding of America's racial dynamics.
What Im saying is that men like Mr. Brown were not new
to me, and his fixation on me in the guise of my alleged criminality
was simply a common script out of our nations racial cinematic
history. I say all of this not out of hate or anger, and I do not hate

Mr. Brown, in fact I bear him no ill will, but I do hate oppression,
and I hate to see a man attempt to take from another man that which
God has bestowed on him inalienably. The strength and stoicism it
took to deal with such racial abuse was not new to me, and I often
drew upon the example of my dad's mother in the face of such
tribulation. She was a person who had dealt with the pernicious
effects of racism all of her life in Farmville, yet she had remained
the epitome of dignity and had never let it harden her heart towards
the source of the hatred she lived with. The late poet Sterling A.
Brown, once poet laureate of Howard University, captured the
essence of my grandmother's spirit in his poem

Virginian Portrait. He had written that:

The winter of her year has come to her,

This wizened woman, spare of frame, but great of heart,

erect, and undefeated yet.

Grief has been hers, before this wintry time.

Death has paid calls unmannered, uninvited;

Low mounds have swollen in the fenced off corner,

Over brown children, marked by whitewashed stones.

She has seen hopes that promised a fine harvest ,

Burnt by the drought, or bitten by the hoarfrost;

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

And as a warning blast of her own winter, Death, the harsh

overseer, shouted to her man, who answering slowly went over the
She, puffing on a jagged slow-burning pipe,
By the low hearth fire, knows her winter now. But she has
strength and steadfast hardihood.

Deep-rooted is she, even as the oaks,

Hardy as the perennials about her door.

The circle of the seasons brings no fear,

Folks all gits used to what they see so often";

And she has helps that throng her glowing fire,

Mixed with the smoke hugging her grizzled head.

Even when winter settles on her heart,

She keeps a wonted, quiet nonchalance,

A courtly dignity of speech and carriage,

Unlooked for in these distant rural ways.

She has found faith sufficient for her grief,

The song of earth for bearing heavy years,

She slows with speech, and spurts of heartfelt laughter,

Illiterate, and somehow very wise.


How could Mr. Brown know that the oral history of black
Virginians had been passed to me as a child, especially in relation to
those black men who had against all odds violently their
subjugation, men such as Nat Turner. Of his efforts to retrace Nat
Turners final movements Sterling Brown wrote in Remembering
Nat Turner" that:

As we drove from Cross Keys back to Courtland,

Along the way that Nat came down upon Jerusalem,

A watery moon was high in the could-filled heavens,

The same moon he dreaded hundred years ago,

The tree they hanged Nat on is Long gone to ashes,

The trees he dodged behind have rotted in the swamps.

The bus for Miami and the trucks boomed by,

And touring cars, their heavy tires snarling on the pavement.

Frogs piped in the marshes, and a hound dog bayed, and yellow
lights glowed from the cabin windows.

As we came back the way that Nat led his army,

Down from Cross Keys, down to Jerusalem,

We wondered if his troubled spirit still roamed the


Or if it fled with the cock-crow at daylight,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Or lay at peace with the bones in Jerusalem,

Its restlessness stifled by Southampton clay.

When we got Cross Keys, they could tell us little of him,

The Negroes had only the faintest recollections:

I aint been here so long, I come up from roan' Newsome;

Yassah, a town a few miles up the road,

The old folks who coulda told you is all

dead and gone.

I heard something, sometime; I dont jis

remember what.

Pears lak I heard that name somewheres or


So, you fought to be free. Well. You Doan


My digression here, which I have attempted to support by

invoking the spirit of late poet Sterling A. Brown, is for me a
necessary illustration. First, nothing happens in a vacuum, and a
people ignorant of their history is like a tree with no roots. My
childhood on that Virginia farm blessed me by providing a solid
window between the present and the past for me, something many


children have been cruelly deprived of. I specifically invoked

Sterling A. Brown, who Sterling Stuckey once described as being
able to speak to the spiritual state of black people. Mr. Stuckey once
marveled at how a Williams College Phi Beta kappa, a Harvard man,
a college professor and eminent writer, could have a voice with so
much of the earth and sky and sunlight and dark clouds about it; a
voice unafraid, an instrument Blues-tinged." Sterling Brown speaks
of my father and his family, and unearths the beauty and resilience
of character that I was privy to on that farm, the dignity, the pain,
and the determination which allowed black Americans to survive the
past. Not only did black Americans survive the centuries old efforts
to dehumanize them, they survived without themselves succumbing
to the hate that they resisted against. They knew, and taught me, that
there is no future or promise in hatred of your fellow man, a concept
that our nation practiced so zealously for four hundred years and that
some Americans still want to practice. This is what I speak of as
having haunted me all my life, this knowledge and this connection
to my past as a black man in this great nation. Knowing very well
what Mr. Brown represents and what he seeks in his actions against
me, I could never allow him to get away with those actions, and I
must confront him not only for me but also so that he cannot ever
also seek to dehumanize, threaten, bully and intimidate another man
out of their God given right to be equal and to be all that they can
be. I stand up for other men when they are subjected to such hate,
and it kills me to see a child subjected to such treatment, and when

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

I encounter such an attempt against me personally you might as well

kill me if you think you will proceed unchallenged. I know it very
well when I see it, and know what to do to counter it. As my luck
would have it, it turned out that Mr. Brown had enlisted the local
FBI, the US Attorney's Office, and even the local state and federal
courts in his crusade to destroy me, all based upon his anger at being
my neighbor because of my personal characteristics. He had
unleashed the lynch mob on me in every way he could, and my work
was cut out for me time and again against the forces he had
When I began appealing my case, Mr. Brown was taken
aback. He had assured I would simply lay down and dutifully do my
time, not attacking the manner in which he had goaded the feds into
prosecuting me. When I began appealing my conviction, he again
revved up his lobbying, this time not to prosecute me but to make
sure I was denied the relief due to me under the governments
misconduct, the false evidence, and the conflict of interest Lisi had
represented me under. Mr. Brown made sure that at each court he
was a member of he put the word out on me, he having very well
understood that if my case unraveled his behind the scenes
machinations and histrionics faced being revealed, as well as the
evidence with which I had which impeached most of the case against
Mr. Brown's fear of the case unraveling would be his
undoing and would afford the very break I needed to begin that
unraveling. What happened was that Mr. Brown went too far. I filed

suit on him in Fairfax County court, that court being our areas legal
headquarters where he is a very well-known court regular. That was
where the rallying ground from which he began his crusade on me,
where he had sworn to his lawyer friends that he would bring me
down and had made me out to be a menace to society. The truth
was that I was a menace to his bigoted notions of who should be his
neighbor, but he had made his case against me there, and now here
it was that I had found a way to research and file a discrimination
suit in that very court against him. When he had begun his crusade
against me, his seller at the time was so disgusted by his openly
racist conduct that he sent me many emails attempting to apologize
for Mr. Browns behavior and clearly letting me know he had no
parts in such conduct. The seller even fired Mr. Brown for his odd
fixation and obsession with me. I had fortunately saved some of
those emails, and I had attached them to my suit in support of my
claims against Mr. Brown, discrimination normally very hard to
establish but very clearly shown through those emails from his own
Caught off guard by my suit and rattled, Mr. Brown made
serious error. He had been so desperate to get the suit thrown out
that he submitted a motion to dismiss where he brazenly lied. He
didn't deny having discriminated against me, but he said he was
under no legal duty to not discriminate against me because I was not
a buyer or even a party to the sales transaction.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

Lawyers are held to strict requirements of honesty and

transparency, and for an attorney to so openly lie in open court is
very unusual. He not only lied, he asked the court to give him a
hearing to argue for his dismissal, which he used his court status to
have held with only him giving a one-sided argument. I motioned
against the hearing vigorously, but as I said earlier Mr. Brown had
managed to enlist the sympathy of many judges and other law
enforcement personnel in his actions, and incredibly that judge
allowed him to have this one-sided hearing.
When I filed a suit against Brown in the local federal court
in Alexandria, Virginia, Mr. Brown again allowed his irritation with
the suit to lead him to a very serious ethical breach. Mr. Brown
defense against the suit was that he was a state prosecutor" with the
full immunity generally accorded to government prosecutors when
they are sued for civil damages. Mr. Brown's lie to the court was a
dangerous gambit, for he is not a government prosecutor of any type
and is only a private attorney not entitled to immunities of any type.
The case was sent to Judge O'Connell, who clearly knew who Mr.
Brown was given his role in initiating the case against me. Yet, as I
have already shown , Judge O'Connell himself was violating the law
in effort to preserve his conviction against me, and he was all too
eager to look the other way in the face of Mr. Brown's machinations
before him. And so in the face of the truth and apparently feeling he
could act with impunity in so ruling, Judge O'Connell accepted Mr.
Brown's patent lie and dismissed the federal charges against him
with prejudice" in light of Mr. Brown being a "state prosecutor"

entitled to absolute immunity. Mr. Browns lies to the courts, which

the judges in both cases had accepted with a wink and a nod, were
not very well thought out maneuvers. Common sense would
seemingly have told him that such false representations would come
back one day to haunt him, but when people are under such an
animus rational thought is not always present.
Mr. Brown's temporary victories in the nascent battle were
by no means victories in the greater war he had initiated, and served
to work against him in ways he had not anticipated. Since the local
courts were protecting him, and the Local Virginia State Bar and
even the Washington DC Bar had refused to initiate investigations
into my claims, I did some research and found out that Mr. Brown
was a member of other state and federal Bar associations around the
United States. Thinking it would be difficult for him to exert the
influence on other Bars and courts that he had been able to insert
into our local Bars and courts, I decided to take a shot with the
Florida State Bar where he was also a member, and which was in a
locale far away from his main area of influence.
I prepared and sent a complaint on Mr. Brown to the Florida
Bar, detailing not only the bigoted animus he was under towards me,
but also incorporating and supporting that with the fact that he had
supplied patently false statements to the state and federal court in an
effort to avoid the consequences of my lawsuits against him. The
Florida Bar reviewed my complaint, and unlike the local Bars had
done accepted my complaint and agreed to open an investigation

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

into Mr. Browns conduct. They instructed Mr. Brown that he had
to provide both the Bar and myself written answers to my claims,
and gave him a very short period of time to do so. Mr. Brown feels
no obligation to answer for his conduct towards me, and pretty much
admitted as much in his answer. Claiming that my allegations were
too numerous to respond to, he avoided answering those allegations,
and instead sent the Florida Bar a letter detailing what he claimed
was proof of my additional criminal acts and telling the Bar that he
had found me to be a menace to society, and expressed satisfaction
at the role he had played in putting me behind bars.
A Bar investigation is a serious matter, and one that an
attorney is wise to take seriously, and the Florida Bar was not going
to allow Mr. Brown to engage in the deflections the local Bars and
courts had allowed. On top of him having refused their order
requiring his answer, he had furthered violated the Bars order by
trying to enlist them in his crusade against me, something the Bar
was not interested in and something unusual and bizarre under the
Mr. Brown had been able to avoid my efforts locally by
tapping into the sentiments of other white lawyers and jurists open
to his overtures. Many Americans are oblivious to the existence of
such racism in this day and age, but it has been well documented not
only by blacks but even by honest white jurists who have
encountered it so frequently in the course of their duties. Senior US
District Judge James C. Fox of the Fourth Circuit has written about
it, holding that Racism and all its collateral effects, is abhorrent to

any modern, civilized society. At its core, it is an act of violence - a

denial of another's right to equal dignity. Unfortunately, in not so
distant past, racism was openly acknowledged as official policy of
the United States Government. R. Kluger, Simple Justice 84 (1977).
Laws designed to ensure the inferiority of black citizens remained
on the books until well into this century.
Johnson v. Halifax County, 594 F. Supp. 161,164-65 (1984).
Fortunately, the policy of the United States government has
changed. Not-withstanding that fact, however, significant effects
and results of the previous policy still linger. Prior state-condoned
racism encouraged similar attitudes among our citizens, which have
persisted long after state policy has been reversed. Many claims of
discrimination today deal with systemic, subtle and stereotypical
practices developed when overt discrimination was lawful, and
remained embedded in the basic institutional or organizational
structures. Belton, Burdens of
Proof in Discrimination Cases: Toward A Theory of
Procedural Justice, 34 V and L. Rev. 1205, 1224 (1981). Harris et al
v. Marsh, 679 F. Supp. 1204, US Dist LEXIS 12850 (4th Cir 1987).
This was not a statement made by your local branch of the
NAACP or Urban League, it was made by one of the most senior
and respected white jurists in the United States who spoke honestly
on the state of racism in today's society. Mr. Brown was able to
easily tap into Virginia's undertow of racism and bias towards blacks
and those of other faiths, and it has allowed him to heretofore avoid

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

the results of his conduct. I quote Judge Fox only to reinforce the
fact that this undertow does still exist despite our nation's
tremendous gains, and it is a very cohesive and unified front. I know
it very well after feeling the brunt of its force these past eight years
in relation to my work as a local developer that crossed Mr. Browns
radar when I purchased 12995 Wyckland Drive. It exists in all the
places sworn to be objective and to police against racism, namely
the courts, the FBI and other law enforcement organizations, and the
prisons. My case with Judge O'Connell had not only fed into that
bias and racism, he also would openly defy the law to maintain my
conviction in the face of the law, reason, and the facts.
I detail all of this not to gain sympathy or to claim
victimhood because as I said in the beginning of this book, I don't
believe in victimhood and I am not a victim of anyone or anything.
I never stood idly by in the face of such conduct, as this books
illustrates, and 1 used what resources I had to assert my rights
despite what I encountered. But others may not have the resources
or the ability to apply what I could apply to these circumstances, and
it is important that the truth be told about what exists no matter how
unpleasant it is or who it may offend in the process. You are hearing
my story, but there are countless black men I have met in the entrails
of the federal system whose stories are worse and who don't have
the means to fight it or to expose it.
One example is the population of black men imprisoned for
crack cocaine violations. Many Americans are blind to the fact
despite crack cocaine being chemically the same substance as

powder cocaine, in 1986 Congress passed the Controlled Substances

Act. Whites primarily use powder cocaine, with blacks being the
predominant users and sellers of crack cocaine, it all being the same
substance cocaine.
In passing the Controlled Substances Act, Congress didn't
just decide to double or even triple the penalties for the sale of crack
cocaine which mostly affected young black men in blighted urban
areas; incredibly, Congress made the criminal penalties for selling
crack 100 times more severe than that for selling powder cocaine,
an act which Senator Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary
Committee has called one of the most blatantly racist laws this
nation has instituted in the past 100 years.
This law is the reason for the US Justice Department's recent
2013-2014 efforts to lower the criminal penalties for such offenses
and to lower the already existing sentences handed down to these
young men. US Attorney General Eric Holder has openly admitted
that the crack law served to decimate many parts of the black
community, leaving families without fathers and providers for
decades upon decades when their mostly white counterparts who
sold the same drug as powder received far lower sentences and are
already back in their communities. This is not some racist law from
the 1800's, this was passed by Congress in 1986 openly in full view
with the full blessing of the executive and judicial branches of
government. It is unconscionable, and I have witnessed its
pernicious effects first hand during my sojourn in federal prison,

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

something I will never forget. Applying my usual principle of acting

as opposed to just commiserating, I used the black men at my prison
as the starting class of a class action tort suit against the United
States, seeking to obtain financial redress for some of our own sons
and fathers for their treatment at the hand of our nation. We as a
nation can give aid and support to almost every nation on the plane,
lets see what Congress will do to make financial amends for its own
admittedly unfair conduct in sentencing a generation of young black
men to unheard of periods of prison time for selling the same drug
that white men received far lower prison sentences for. I personally
researched and drafted the suit, which will be filed in the federal
courts as Michael Walker et al v. United States of America, once we
have properly exhausted the required administrative remedies under
the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 USC 1346 and 2671-2680. The suit
seeks damages to be divided equally between the roughly 30-40
thousand black inmates affected by the law and who either served or
are still serving sentences they received under the law. It is the least
I could do to try and assist those whom I have encountered in the
tentacles of the US federal legal system who are largely forgotten
and who never had an opportunity to tell their story about what they
encountered in that system.

As I write this final portion of the memoir I remain in the
Berlin Federal Prison Camp, and remain in the small rom outside the
law library where I have typed most of this manuscript. I sincerely
confess that while these three years passed writing this memoir, I
often agonized over what kind of proper conclusion I would be able
to present to you, my reader.
Unconsciously, I would take my time while writing, so that
I could in the end present the legal victory that I had worked so hard
for these past years.
But time, and the practical realities of writing this memoir,
have come into play. I was able to find a publisher for the memoir,
and that publisher is bound by restraints of time and resources, and
has the memoir on a schedule to be published in Spring 2017. By the
way, my efforts described in the memoir to challenge my conviction
finally paid off; on November 5th, 2015 the Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals in Richmond vacated and remanded my case back to judge
O'Connell, putting a halt to his efforts to ignore my habeas claims.
As I write this final chapter in November of 2016, Judge O'Connell
is still silent and has wholly failed to act upon the Fourth Circuit's
11/5/2015 vacatur and remand in my case. Judge O'Connell is

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

openly violating my rights to habeas proceeding, leaving me to

languish here in prison without my sentence and conviction being
subjected to the proper review guaranteed me by our nation's laws.
He is determined to ignore the law and to deny me habeas relief, his
actions serving to drag this out so far that the clock basically runs
out on me, and that by the time, relief does come, if at all, I will have
served all of the sentence he imposed on me.
But, alas, this is in some ways a fitting end, for it is
illustrative of the dysfunction and rot in the system that I have
written this memoir for to bring attention to in the first place. I
wanted so badly to give the book a neat ending, with all the loose
ends tied and accounted for but that was naive of me, and flies in the
face of reality and the very message the memoir conveys. This
system wants convictions, not the truth, and nog accurate and
appropriate corrections to errors committed against defendants.
Judge OConnell and the government have tried at every step to
avoid and obfuscate my claims, and although the Fourth Circuit
Court of Appeals exercised their authority and ordered Judge
O'Connell to address his errors, I remain here in this small room, at
this desk, on this old typewriter, while Judge O'Connell plays
whatever legal game he is committed to, so I apologize for not being
able to give, you a neat and tidy conclusion. Books of fiction often
have nice and neat endings, but this memoir is a true story based on
the reality I have lived and breathed since 2010. Any frustration,
sense of anger or incredulity, or shock that you may have felt while
reading this work is the Constant day to day reality for what we

encounter daily in this system. The cruelty and the mindlessness of

this system are the shameful reality of what our nation's legal system
has come to embody. I want you to know that I remain committed
to getting justice in my case, and in the cases of all the men I am still
assisting. Do not succumb to despair in the face of this issue, hold
fast to hope and be strong; we must all do our part to bring light upon
this stain on our nation's moral character. I wake up each day with
renewed commitment to my cases, to justice and, the truth, and the
only way to achieve that truth and justice is through hard work,
patience, and sacrifice, we must stand up to and confront those who
act corruptly and in defiance of our nation's core values and rights.
Our legal system stands at the very center of those rights, and we
must address these issues of justice and racial inequities in our
I know, and Judge O'Connell know the truth case, habeas
claims. I worked very hard to expose those truths, and in my heart
my dedication to and eventual exposing of that truth is a hard-fought
victory, even though as I sit here I have still not reaped the ultimate
relief from that victory.
I have my ultimate goal, however, a relentless effort and
campaign to expose the truth about my prosecution, conviction, and
post collateral appeal proceedings, and to bring light to the same
dysfunction generally in the broader federal legal system; and finally
to chronicle the nature of that dysfunction in as detailed and honest
a manner as I could in this works success in meeting that goal has

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

brought a large measure of peace to my heart, and I pray has opened

the readers eyes to shatter any illusions they had, and shine the light
of reality to this subject matter.
Our federal legal system has veered far from the guarantees
of due process, transparency, and equal justice we advertise and
promote around the globe. As this memoir illustrates, we have plenty
of issues to confront here at home. The dysfunction, inequity, and
corruption affect not only the imprisoned, but their spouses,
children, and the community and nation. We have plenty of work to
and I will not waiver in mv efforts to get final justice in my case and
to bring attention to the problems have addressed.
This is a government by, for, and of the people, and not a
government of one's persons subjective whims and fancies or
personal prejudices; we must remember the many people who have
sacrificed their lives in furtherance of our systems noble guarantees,
and we must take our system back from those who with seeming
impunity arise us under that system day in and day out across our
nation. We all have a duty to do our part, because next it could be
caught up in this madness.

Just as I was writing the conclusion of this chapter I just
learned that America has just elected Donald J. Trump as our 45th
president. I am at a loss of words, finally, to convey the degree of
shock this result felt by myself and many other citizens of the United
States. There was no way for me to not address his election
considering my having often addressed the topic of race ill in this
memoir. This is no time to be self-congratulatory, this is a deep time
of reflection and concern for myself and many Americans who love
this nation and are concerned about the issues affecting us and its
citizens. But his election, if nothing else, is a serious reminder of the
forces of intolerance, bias, and resentment that still plague this
nation, which this book cites. Let us not mince words, or fool
ourselves about this; Donald J. Trump is about as offensive,
obnoxious, crude, and unlettered as one can find to be the leader of
this nation, yet in this election the white majority made their voice
loud and clear in voting him in. We don't know what to expect from
a person as unhinged as Mr. Trump, but as the New York Times
recently said in its editorial we do know that he has threatened to
imprison his political opponent Hillary Clinton, that he abhors the
free press and has announced plans to limit its function, and that he

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

regularly lies without compunction. He also regularly insults

women, minorities, and Muslims, has said climate change is a
Chinese hoax, and has vowed to dismantle the Iran nuclear deal. He
just appointed a known white nationalist as his chief advisor, and all
the while has had the vocal support of racists, white supremacists,
and anti-semites." There is much talk now that we must give him a
chance, that he will mellow, and the sort. While I agree that we have
no choice but to accept the will of the people and give him a chance
while praying for the best, Donald J. Trump never fooled me from
the start, and just as a duck looks, walks, and quacks like a duck, Mr.
Trump is that he appears to be, and what in fact he has told us he is.
But this is my America, and Mr. Trump has worked to
expose some of the hate, prejudice, and intolerance simmering
beneath the surface of this nation. This hate is real, and I have tried
to speak to it in this memoir. Certain events force it the surface of
this nation periodically in our history, it is nothing new, although
often we choose to sugarcoat it with various rationalizations. It
remains a grave challenge for this country.
A few days after Mr. Trumps election, a non-profit director,
in Clay, West Virginia, named Pamela Ramsey TayIor made a post
on Facebook in which she said it will be so refreshing to have a
classy, beautiful, dignified First Lady back in the White House", that
she was tired of seeing "a (sic) ape in high heels", speaking of First
Lady Michelle Obama. Clay Mayor Beverly Whaling commented
on Ms. Taylor's post, saying that the post had just made my day
Pam. Mayor Whaling later resigned after the posts were made

public, but Trump's election has led to over 300 post-election racist
incidents around the country. The Week, a weekly news magazine
popular in the United States, in its November 18, 2016 edition,
reported that the Trump revolution was fuelfed by overt racism,
said Jamie Bouie in, said Trump won because he
represented a restoration of white authority. With his sneering
attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and Black Lives Matter protestors,
and his winks to white nationalists, he united the white vote:
working class and college educated, young and old, rich and poor.
After eight years of a black president, white Americans wanted
their country back.
We must never cower in the face of those who seek to
extinguish the voice and sentiments of tolerance, equality, and
respect for all people without regard to race, religion, or gender. We
are one nation, and we will not let anyone divide us. Our struggle

Statistics Concerning Our Current Federal Legal System
And Final Comments

Respect for the dignity of all whom we protect reminds us

to wield law enforcement powers with restraint and to recognize the
natural human tendency to be corrupted by power and become
callous in its exercise.


Former FBI Director Louis Freeh

As the FBI Core Values Statement shows, our governments

top Federal Law Enforcement Agency is aware of the corrupting
influence of power on human behavior. Nevertheless, our systems
figures bear witness to that corruption and heavy-handedness.
Our nation imprisons more of its population than any other
nation on earth, including China and other allegedly repressive
societies. We hold 25% of the worlds prisoners in our jails and
prisons despite being less than 7% of the worlds population.


The ratio of African-American to White inmates in Federal

Prison is 9 to 1, though African Americans make up only 13 percent
of the total population in the U.S. H.R. Haldeman, one of the chief
aides to Former US President Richard M. Nixon, was recently
revealed to have admitted that the War on Drugs was originally a
pretext through which to assault Black Americans.
Between 1980 and the year 2000, the number of people in
U.S. prisons and jails increased from 300,000 to more than 2 million,
mostly African-American and Latino men.
Currently, more than 7 million Americans, one in every 31
adults, is either behind bars, on parole, or on probation.
Under the current and longstanding practice in federal courts
known as Acquitted Conduct Sentencing, defendants who go trial
can be sentenced for conduct a jury found them legally innocent of,
a hideous perversion of a citizens constitutional right to be only
sentenced based on a jurys findings.
Under what is deemed the Trial Penalty, in Federal Courts a
court most often sentences a defendant to a harsher term of
imprisonment simply for having exercised his or her right to a jury
trial of their peers.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy told the ABA
in 2003 at its annual conference that our prison resources are
misspent, our punishments too severe, and our sentence too loaded,
and added I can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

federal mandatory minimum sentences. In all too many cases,

mandatory minimum sentences are unjust.
Under the current Federal Legal System, an unpresented
number of people feel compelled to plead guilty, even if they are
innocent, simply because the jail term for the non-violent offense
with which they were charged is so draconian.
Law enforcement agencies focus almost exclusively on poor
African-American communities as sources of drug activity, and
ignore mostly white communities, when statistics paint a different
picture. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has reported that
people of all races use and sell drugs at very similar rates. In fact,
the National Institute found that white students use cocaine at seven
times the rate of black students, use crack at eight times the rate of
black students, and heroin at seven times the rate of black students.
The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse in 2000
found that white youth aged 12-17 are more than a third more likely
to have sold illegal drugs than black youth and that white youth were
the most likely of any racially ethnic group to be guilty of illegal
drug possession and sales. Social Scientist Bruce Western in 20016
published a book detailing that white youth have three times the
number of drug emergency room visits as their black youth
counterparts, meaning that the notion that drug use among black
youth is youth is more dangerous is not factually supported.
When the crack epidemic hit, which affected mostly black
communities, the nation sought super-draconian criminal sanctions
to deal with the epidemic; the current opioid crises, which affects

mostly white youth, is being dealt with not with calls for increased
criminalization, but rather with calls for therapy, social services, and
varying treatment interventions. White youth are seen a victim of
addiction needing help, while black youth were seen as predators in
the community in need of criminal sanctioning.
1 in 9 black men between twenty and thirty-five were
incarcerated in 2006. We are, unfortunately, one of the only nations
on earth that often subjects our own children to being punished under
adult laws and then send those children to adult prisons. This means
that children as young as 12 or 13 are charged with crimes meant for
adult adjudication, and we have allowed our kids to be placed on
death row and executed, or to be sentenced to life in prison with no
parole. A child of those ages is working with a brain still developing
and maturing, and subject to all types of hormonal and neurological
fluctuations. To subject a child to such a brutal and extreme
punishment is one of the most evil things imaginable that a society
can inflict on its citizens, but for years we have carried out these
heinous practices. Only in 2010 and 2012 did a nonprofit legal aid
organization run by renowned lawyer and human rights advocate
Bryan Stevenson, known as the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI),
successfully argue before the U.S. Supreme Court to have life
without parole sentences for juveniles in cases of homicide and non-
homicide declared unconstitutional.
Our society still carries out the death penalty, something
Europe and other modern Western democratic societies long ago

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

abolished. Our death row system has time and again been studied
under objective standards and found to be thoroughly biased and
racist towards black men and other minority groups, with black men
bearing almost the full brunt of the load. This death penalty system
has also been shown to be rife with errors, and many men on death
row have been found to be innocent of any crime, finding themselves
condemned to death based on ineffective legal representation, faulty
evidence, false testimony, and a racist justice system. Again, EJI has
been at the forefront of the effort to challenge inequities and errors
in our nations death penalty cases, and its efforts were well
chronicled in the NY Times best-selling memoir by Bryan
Stevenson called Just Mercy.
I shared my individual story to share the experience I had
with corrupt law enforcement officers and judges so that others can
see what really goes on, but my story is but one and there are so
many tens of thousands of men who have faced worse fates than
Something has gone very wrong in the land of the free when
most U.S. prosecutors, and many federal judges, try only to convict
you as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then maneuver to
maintain that conviction without regards for the laws that provide
for relief from that conviction when its is called for. They
conveniently forget that in America defendants are subject to the
penalties of the law when accused of violating them, but that we are
also entitled to relief from that conviction when our constitutional
rights or our rights under federal Law where violated during the

criminal proceeding, it is a two-way street, not a one-way street. All

the avenues of relief available to federal inmates, such as 2244,2244,
and 2241 motions are usually looked on with contempt and only
granted in the rarest of cases. Our Federal System has become a
conviction factory, a place where our nations cherished notions of
utmost respect to the sanctity of human rights and personal value
have long ago perished.
After rushing to convict you, most federal Judges make no
rigorous effort to examine your post-conviction appeal efforts. Such
petitions, enacted by Congress to be swift and pressing matters for
federal Courts, can take years to be ruled on. I have seen simple 2255
motions get stretched to 2 or 3 years, and a cellmate of mine had a
judge take 18 months just to tell him his 2255 was time-barred.
Habeas is there for an important purpose, not to be looked upon with
derision and contempt; it is often the only avenue a person has back
to all that is of value to them. It is there because as humans we all
err, even judges and prosecutors, and need to be held accountable
for those errors that impact another persons time on earth.
When federal judges threat habeas with contempt and scorn,
they offend the very ideals that they have taken an oath to defend. A
persons life deserves to be treated with respect, care, honesty, and
attention to detail, especially when a persons life is being altered
under that decision. It is not always an easy task, but that is the oath
they swore to uphold as legal professional of the highest echelon.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

As a nation, we must take a very serious look at the power

performance we confer on federal judges. Under the FBI CORE
VALUES statement which began this chapter, there can be no doubt
about the corrupting influence of virtually unchecked power. Add to
that power a lifetime appointment, virtually no oversight, an
effectively sequestered existence, and senility, and you have a
dangerous combination.
This is not meant to be an indictment of all federal judges,
there are many conscientious, nuanced, and independent minded
judges in our system. But there are far too many bad judges, judges
far too pro-government and hostile to defendants. I think every
federal judge should be required to spend some time in a prison cell
so that they have first-hand knowledge of what they are giving a
person and how it feels. It seems that players in the federal Legal
machinery are generally loathe to openly discuss the topic of federal
judges. We dont give our President a lifetime job for good reason.
Human nature speaks loudly against granting a person in a public
position power for a lifetime. In many ways, by giving that person a
lifetime position, we are effectively sentencing that person to a
lifetime sentence, if you will, subjecting him or her to more routine
and monotony than any normal, vibrant, human being should be
burdened under. With no malice intended, the appearance alone of
many federal judges speaks to their weary and long suffering souls,
and most tend to be joyless and sullen, as well as callous. Give these
people a break, give some fresh and young legal minds an
opportunity, someone unburdened and unscathed by years of

overwork and not enough joy. The gridlock and backlog our current
federal system is under would understandably wear anyone down
over an extended period, thus my suggestions are made partly out of
empathy for federal judges.
This overburden and stress we have on federal judges with
these lifetime positons have created jurists who are simply
obnoxious, quarrelsome, perverse, callous, and sometimes sadistic.
They are well known as terrors on the bench, and it is quite a sight
to behold, having personally seen a few in action. In our democracy,
we are not supposed to be terrorized by our government and judicial
system, this is not the system our founding fathers meant for us to
live under, we have let it go far off course.
I want to end with a frank discussion on the role I feel racism
plays in the federal system. I will start by saying that the racial
injustice in the federal system is by no means and excuse or crutch
for me, or for any person reading this, I believe in living by a code
of personal accountability whereby I must first look at my own
responsibility and culpability for whatever misfortune I encounter.
Nonetheless, racism is widespread in this federal system and we
must confront it and deal with it head-on, and never allow ourselves
to use it as an excuse. In the face of any adversity, we must work
and exert ourselves that much harder, and failure can never be
accepted. We must never let anyone or anything in this life make
you feel like you are a victim. Feeling a deep sense of self-worth and

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

self-respect is vital and is something no one can ever take from you
unless you give it to them, in weakness.
Treasure and respect your mind, and yourself, and strive to
educate and enrich your mind through scholastic achievement,
through reading books, and through self-study. Seek to understand
racism, not to make an excuse for it. When you have love for self,
those around you will have a difficult time mistreating you and
attempting to disabuse you of your rights.
As a social scientist, I have tried to look at racism in a
scientific manner . First of all we must recognise the fact of our
nation's racist foundation, which over time has been implanted in the
unconscious realm of our psyches. This can influence our outlooks,
generalizations, and fears, without us being consciously aware.
Although racism is presently looked upon as immoral and
uncivilized in our contemporary culture, this modern feeling is
belied by the reality of our history and the impression racial maters
left on our individual and collective psyches. The psychic conflict
created between the racial thinking in our subconscious and our
modern racial mores which holds racism to be repulsive, causes the
brain to repress and exclude racism from our conscious mind.
However, centuries of beliefs and practices in this country premised
on the idea of white superiority dont fade that easily in a culture and
from a nations soul, and it must be kept in mind that it has been less
than 50 years since de jure racial discrimination was banned in area
of sports, education, and housing, among other areas. These racial


concepts have become imbedded in our subconscious mind after

centuries of practice.
Modern psychoanalytic theory breaks down mental
processes into primary and secondary parts. Our primary mental
process is the Id, which is outside of our field of awareness, and is
made up of our instinctual needs and drives, for example our selfish
wishes and desires. The secondary mental process is known as the
Ego, and it is inside our conscious field of awareness, concerning
itself with matters of reason and logic. The Ego ensures that we
conform with societies mores and ethics, and the Ids selfish
thoughts and desires are not allowed to come to our conscious mind
unless the Ego first allows them to. The Ego is our minds
gatekeeper, and it rejects the Ids selfish and socially frowned upon
aims and tendencies.
When there is a conflict between the Ego and the Id, the Ego
will either block the Id by keeping undesirable thoughts from
conscious awareness, or it will try to rationalize those unacceptable
thoughts to make them palatable to the Ego. Racism is unacceptable
to the Ego, and highly irrational. Therefore, the Ego seeks to keep it
out of our conscious thought, or tries to alter it so that it is more
acceptable to ones mind. This causes the psychological basis for
racism to be largely a function of our unconscious mind. Thus many
decent people in America can be operating without realizing that
they act in racist ways.

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

An example of this for white Americans can be seen by the

fact that if 3 out of 4 young white men were involved in the criminal
justice system, as young black men are in our nations capital,
Washington, DC, a national epidemic we would declared, and
Congress and local Governments would place serious attention on
this tragedy. The current opioid crises, affecting mostly young white
men and women, is nowhere near the crises that young black men
are under in our nation, yet Congress and state governments such as
the state of New Hampshire, are already decrying the emergency and
allocating treatment funds to deal with the issue. Yet whites can see
the same thing occurring to young black men on TV day in and day
out across America and watch passively, having come to accept
young black mens tragedy as inevitable, or good riddance. The
white American psyche often has a hard time seeing the inequity in
such comparisons, and behind closed doors when they are being
frank will find a way to make such inequities more palatable to their
rational brain, or Ego. This is a largely unconscious process of
rationalization, for the reasons I have just enumerated. Racism is
hardly a thing of the past in our nation, and we need to look at this
issue from a scientific and clinical perspective and stop looking at it
from an emotional perspective.
This racism, largely unconscious, led Congress to pass the
crack laws in the 1980s which penalized crack, sold mostly by young
black men, at a rate 100 times more severe than the rate for people
who sell cocaine, who are mostly white, although crack and cocaine
are the same drug. This type of unconscious bias is also clearly

expressed in other ways typical to our culture. To wit, Fox News,

and other conservative media outlets rail day in and day out about
the Black Lives Matter movement. They see no merit in their
grievances of these largely young black activists, calling their calls
to eliminate racial bias in policing and criminal justice general
expressions of anarchy, black supremacy, and race baiting. They
express no sympathy of any kind for the goals and foundations of
that movement. However, when a man like Donald Trump or other
conservative voices stood up loud and called for Hilary Clinton to
be prosecuted for her actions concerning storing classified emails on
her private server, Fox News and related outlets saw clear bias in the
system in how Hillary was treated, and railed about such alleged
inequities day in and day out. Donald Trump even said in his
10/9/2016 debate with Hilary that if he became President he would
appoint a special prosecutor to consider her actions, even though the
FBI had fully cleared her of any wrongdoing. This unconscious
racism and bias allows a man like Trump to look at his allegations
of bias in how justice is handed down as self-evident, but to label
the similar protestations of bias from African Americans as total
nonsense and outright fantasy. Trump sees no contradiction in such
an obvious double standard, where he can allege bias in our justice
system while when Black Lives Matter makes the allegations, he is
comfortable holding the position that race bias is largely a myth in
our justice system that stems from the need to be politically correct

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

or some other term usually invoked when Blacks protest or demand

In my years of prison, I often watched news with the inmates
in the TV rooms frequented by white inmates; I got to know many
men there and establish several solid friendships. Most of these guys
were decent people, mostly white collar defendants, and they never
showed any type of racial hostility to me personally. Despite that
and even though I knew and respected many of them, when it came
to segments of the news devoted to racial bias in policing, the killing
of young Black men by police officers during non-violent stops, etc.
, less than 5 percent of them showed any sympathy for such social
problems. They were decent human beings and men, but they
couldnt find any empathy for causes devoted to addressing such
racial inequities in this nation, in fact they were often simply
dismissive and hostile to such causes. They were decent men, but
something about the unconscious nature of racism in America had
deprived them of any feeling for the unjustified murders of black
men by police; this was odd because they had been through the legal
system and had first-hand knowledge of its heavy handedness and
gross malfunctions, yet when it came to the issue of black men
protesting such biases they saw no merit to the argument. I observed
this day in and day out while serving my sentence.
This racism, largely unconscious and thus examined by the
Ego, allows the larger white collective to observe an entire
generation of young black men to be stigmatized and marginalized
under the federal system, while if a generation of young white men

had been so excluded from mainstream society and success white

society would be up in arms to fix such a social ill.
In todays America, we have blacks in mainstream society as
teachers, college presidents, legislators, generals, mayors, and even
a black president. But that is the bright side of the story, with those
successful blacks generally fleeing to suburbia, leaving behind the
majority of blacks mostly labeled us as undesirable and those that
must be kept apart and isolated from the larger society. What shall
be the fate of that segment of black America still left behind, often
caught up in the machinery of a federal legal system maniacally
efficient in imprisoning them. What shall come of these young men
sentenced to decades upon decades of imprisonment for seeking to
support themselves and their families, those young men and women
whose lives before prison having been already desolate and poverty-
ridden. How shall we as society break this vicious cycle that I have
witnessed first-hand behind these walls.
I have written this memoir in an attempt to shed light upon a
reality few Americans have any knowledge understanding about,
and to draw attention to these unfortunate realities. The young men
and women of a nation are that nations only hopes and dreams, and
we as a nation cannot continue to cannibalize our youth under this
Eric Garner died in 2015 saying he could not breathe, and
video of his dying breaths was shown to an astonished nation, and
world at large. The unconscious racism operating in our society led

My America: A Memoir on Justice and Race in the U.S. Federal Legal System

white officers to deny the reality of their own visual and auditory
sensory apparatus and claim that the choke hold we all witnessed
with our eyes was not the cause of his death. I will not and cannot
deny what my very eyes have shown me, and I think Mr. Garner's
death was a metaphor for all the American people whose breath and
lives are being choked to death under the injustices and cruelties of
our legal system. I end by asking that we as a nation work together
to fix this broken system, so that our young men and women can
breathe and not die before our very eyes under a sudden death, or
under the living death known as incarceration.