[Clifton, Arizona] • Until he actually got sentenced in 2003, Paul never really believed he’d end up in prison. Even though he was charged with two Class 3 felonies—his fifth DWI, and the credit card fraud—by the time the court date came up, he’d already waited six months in custody at the San Juan County Jail. The public defender in Farmington told him he’d be crazy to turn down the plea. He had no prior felonies, had never done anything violent, the judge would probably release him that day on time already served.
By then, Paul had already been sober eight months. Although really, if you took out the relapse that lasted barely six weeks – the six weeks when both of these felonies occurred—he’d been sober for two or three years. County Jail was a breeze. It wasn’t hard getting them to put him on work release, which meant he left five days a week to work at his friends Larry and Tif’s furniture store. Paul took the plea. His days at the store gave him plenty of time to prepare for the sentencing date. He called people up, arranged a whole stack of letters on his behalf. He was not going to leave this to the public defender.
Ten people showed up on the sentencing date to speak to the judge on Paul’s behalf. There was his caseworker, the pastor who led Bible Study at jail, his AA sponsor, his sponsor’s wife, his employers Larry and Tif, and several friends from AA. None of these people were heard. Paul stood next to the public defender in front of the judge, and before he knew what was happening, the judge—a white man in his 50s— narrowed his eyes and sentenced Paul to three years. So much for the letters. The judge never opened the file. Paul’s mouth dropped, the public defender shrugged, and then they led him away.
There was a world of difference between prison and jail. Jail was nothing new. You don’t get four DWIs without spending some time in jail, and since the DWIs of course happened when he was drinking, these were the times he was usually broke, and had no one to give him money for lawyers and bail. Still, he’d often managed to swing work release during these stints. He’d even met—or rather, re-met—his second wife, Crystal, while he was on pre-trial release. When he was finally sentenced, they gave him work release the entire six months. The times Crystal picked him up from the jail to drive him “to work” and they’d head for her trailer instead of the furniture store were the best times they’d had together … as she’d later say. And Larry, his boss, understood. He’d done jail time himself (attempted rape, dropped; DWIs and possession) almost as often as Paul.
Jail was for fuck-ups and drunks—loud-mouthed drunks and well-meaning drunks, people who’d yelled at a cop or decked other people in bars. Prison was something else. Prison was bad motherfuckers, guys strutting around who did not share Paul’s awareness that it was all, on some very deep level, a joke. The people you met in a prison did not place much of a value on life. (Years ago, when Paul was 18, before he became a bona-fide drunk, he took a hard look at the drug and alcohol world and decided he’d enter that world as a tourist. It seemed like a good place to visit, but not one where he’d remain.
It was bad enough being sentenced to prison. But to
make matters worse, while Paul was waiting for sentencing, the string of bad checks he’d written during his relapse got sent back from the bank, and now another San Juan County prosecutor was pressing charges on the plaintiff’s behalf … High Noon Grille … $163.50. High Noon Grille … $41.85 … High Noon Grille … $62.00. There were also a few checks for groceries he’d written at Smith’s.
Paul by this point in his relapse had taken up smoking crack, and there was so much bad shit there to think about, the missions, the binges, the guilt, the devil taking over his body ‘til he was crawling around looking for crumbs of the rock on the floor, well, he could not.
Luckily he’d never been actually busted for crack, or even been tested. And then (also a plus) this prosecutor promised a misdemeanor that would be dropped when restitution was paid because the guy who’d accepted the checks knew Paul in a casual way and wasn’t out for his blood. And Paul had started paying them off from his work release checks. But even so, with these charges pending, he couldn’t be sent to a Level 1 prison with other non-violent offenders. Until the check thing got sorted out, Paul was sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico, a Level 3, on a scale of 1-5.
On his fourth night in Las Lunas, Paul attended chapel. On his fifth night, he was awoken by his own crying after a dream where someone he knew was pinned under a truck. After this, he went to Bible Study Group meetings and began fasting for God.
The Christians told him his incarceration was part of God’s plan. God was trying to get his attention. God had something in mind for the rest of Paul’s life, and he had to go through this now, so he’d be ready to listen.
Paul knew this was cliché, but the way some of them said it, an old Navajo pastor, gave it some weight. He liked the idea that he was God’s agent. He liked the idea of surrender. And even though the Christians in no way condoned Paul’s petty crimes or even the relapse, they could relate to its cause. His girlfriend Rowena had left him, but not before letting him know she’d gotten pregnant and (given that she had two kids already and was in the midst of a messy divorce) would be having a first trimester abortion. Paul had no kids at all and when he heard this he went through the roof. He’d been sober two years, had a good job with Halliburton, driving (despite the 4 DWIs) a big Class B truck, but something that day drew him over to Gary’s, where he knew there’d be crack. (Actually come to think of it the relapse started with crack, he’d sat in his car and thought long and hard before he took the first drink.) And then came the bad checks, and he stopped going to work, used the gas credit card, and then, the DWI. All these things happened in Farmington, an oil-rich desert town in northeast New Mexico where there was nothing to buy except for dirt bikes and trucks, cars and four-wheelers, and the rich were the kind of rich who favored the 45 drive north to Durango over the one and a half hour drive south to Taos and Santa Fe to spend money or ski, and these things happened a long time ago.
Paul was locked up in the San Juan County Jail awaiting trial the day Rowena aborted his child. And how do you handle that? How do you even think about it? The Christians in prison—the other inmates, that is—turned out to be hypocrites, but reading the Bible gave him some peace.
Bumper Stickers and Billboards Observed in Arizona, June 2006:
God Bless America
God Bless Our Troops
God Bless Our Troops and Our President
Pray For Our Troops
Pray For Our President
Be Afraid. Or Be Ready.
Report All Suspicious Activity to Homeland Security
Who Would Jesus Deport?
Attorney Jayce Krayman’s office is located three blocks away from the Gainey Suites Inn in Scottsdale, in a building across the street from an upscale mall with a men’s store, a sushi bar and a Borders.
Phoenix and Scottsdale are in fact the same city (like Los Angeles, Phoenix swallowed up its adjacent municipalities to accommodate sprawl) but they might as well be two different worlds. Scottsdale is SMoCA, a noteworthy museum of contemporary art, Scottsdale is Whole Foods and golf and the Humane Borders people, who hike out into the desert and leave water for Mexican migrants. I have often wondered how the people in Scottsdale live with the fact that their County jail (defendant in eight recent human rights lawsuits) has sixteen restraining chairs, a tent city and chain gangs. To the people of Scottsdale, these things are ‘regrettable’ in the same way as mass starvation in Darfur. An ex-student from Scottsdale claims to have “never seen” a homeless person before arriving in California, but there are plenty of shelters in downtown and west Phoenix, just eight miles away.
Krayman runs a mid-sized law practice (three partners, eight associates) that does mostly criminal defense. He’s handled everything from murder to shoplifting, although his bread and butter seems to be repeat offender DWIs. Krayman charges a flat-fee retainer of $35,000 for all felonies, payable in advance of any services rendered, although the firm does assure you this fee will take you straight through the trial. Of course it won’t come to trial, not if Jayce Krayman can help it. What lawyer in his right mind would opt for a trial if he can talk his client into accepting the plea? As a client, you know this … And in this sense, the lawyer is no better than a public defender, but you take it on faith that corruption will work in your favor, that at least part of your $35K will be spent on whatever it takes for the firm to be offered a much better plea.
Joe Belen, the first attorney I met with in Phoenix, charges only $12K for a felony and then an additional $15-17,000 should it go to trial. Belen had a framed, autographed photo of Ronald Reagan above his desk. His office was two shabby rooms and a secretary, and his pitch confused me. He seemed to think the case might go to trial, and he was quick to point out all the hidden costs: the expert witnesses, the medical experts, the accident reconstruction team.
Jayce Krayman’s office was so much more Scottsdale. There was some passable abstract art on the walls and a big slab of exotic wood for a conference table. But what really convinced me was the Erin Brokovich-esque Cindy, who Krayman had hired as his office manager. A tough blonde in her 40s with tattoos and spiked hair, Cindy was a Farmington girl who, until recently, had competed professionally in ATV races. Farmington, Cindy claimed, was “a lot of fun.” Cheerful and competent, she was the perfect liaison between the firm and its felons. Cindy was a wildly incongruous touch, making Jayce Krayman Associates seem like Phoenix’s criminal defense answer to Chiat-Day. And while the firm had doubtless made many donations to thrice-elected Pig Sheriff Arpaio’s campaigns, the décor was blissfully free of allusions to God or Republicans. Krayman easily got the arraignment judge who set Paul’s bail bond to include California as one of the states he’d be allowed in. Paul could take classes at UCLA just as he’d planned. And even though Paul hadn’t expected to be arrested, this part of the case seemed to fall into place. “Your Honor, my client is a working professional who was on his way to a summer intensive at UCLA …” School was an excellent cover. While awaiting his court date, Jayce Krayman decided, UCLA was the best place Paul could possibly be.
“I feel it’s unfortunate that I had a relapse but I also think its part of recovery and everyone has to go through what they have to go through to be OK,” Paul wrote in his “Life Story” assignment for Business English at the Level 3 prison. Guilt and shame were negative emotions, and Paul learned by working AA’s 12 Steps to avoid them, because they could easily trigger his drinking. (Shame On Phelps Dodge! the Clifton strikers chanted outside the mine, as they watched the replacement workers file in to take over their jobs. Even then, the concept of ‘shame’ seemed like a curious anomaly.) Paul got sober two years before relapsing when he wandered into a lighted hall one evening to bum a cigarette and stumbled on an AA meeting. He was virtually homeless, squatting in an abandoned apartment complex in Farmington and barely holding on to a minimum wage job. AA saved his life. Before then, he could think of no one on the planet who would care either way if he dropped dead at that moment. According to AA, drinkers rarely get sober until they hit bottom. Paul’s bottom was loneliness.
On January 27, 1995, Detective M. Hannah of the Tempe Police Department, State of Arizona, Maricopa County, submitted the following report to his supervisor:
On 01-26-95 at approximately 2104 hours I responded to assist in the investigation of an injury hit and run collision that had occurred at McClintock and Curry. Upon arrival, Detective Hannah contacted Sergeant Tom Stubbs who advised him that a motorcyclist traveling in a southbound direction had been hit by a vehicle attempting to make a left turn. This vehicle, a rented 1995 Dodge Intrepid, immediately left the scene. The motorcyclist, identified by his Arizona Driver’s License as Judd Mason Platz, sustained multiple injuries and was taken to Scottsdale Memorial Hospital. The time of collision was reported at 20:47 hours, which was the hours of darkness. The motorcycle, a red Honda Shadow 500cc, was subsequently towed by Arizona Towing.
In checking through the Department of Motor Vehicle records it was learned that the Intrepid had been rented to Mr Pete Johnson of Albuquerque New Mexico. Mr. Johnson informed us he had loaned the vehicle to suspect Paul Garcia, who he believed was staying at the Wyndham Hotel in Chandler.
I then responded to the Wyndham Hotel at approximately 0035 hours and spoke to the subject who identified himself as MR PAUL GARCIA. I informed Mr Garcia that I wanted to speak to him in reference to 1995 Dodge Intrepid he had been driving. Garcia told me that the Intrepid had been stolen earlier that evening. In speaking with Mr Garcia. I was able to detect a distinct odor of intoxicants on his breath. I asked Mr Garcia if he had been drinking to which Garcia said he would not answer that question.
Injuries sustained by motorcyclist Judd Platz evaluated by Scottsdale Memorial Hospital are as follows: Multiple orthopedic injuries, injury to spleen, Trauma #1 concussion. Unable to move or stand, he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in guarded condition.
I drove past the home of Judd and Darlene Platz in Fall, 2006 after one of Paul’s court dates.
Located at 36 N. Cottonwood Drive in the Spanish Springs subdivision of Chandler, the house was a newly constructed, 2200 square foot two-story stucco structure with a double garage. According to public records, Platz still holds the same job—product engineer—at Motorola Corp. as he did at the time of the accident. Platz moved to the Spanish Springs house in 2002 after selling his home in Mesa. The median home price in Spanish Springs is $200,000; median income, $85,000.
It was dark out when I drove by. The neighborhood felt like a whisper. In this most generic of cities, Spanish Springs is so generic it barely exists … tending towards the ‘upper’ range of mid-level mid-income American housing only by absence of squalor. There was a light on at the back of the house. The garage door was closed. There were no cars in the driveway.