Federal Prison Camp
NOTES FROM FEDERAL PRISON
After writing about new year’s resolutions in my January
1st column, several readers e-mailed to ask if I had also resolved
never again talk to the FBI. It would be an easy resolution
to make and keep.
all, the facts clearly show that the FBI set me up and the agent
gave false testimony at my trial, directly contradicted by his
own handwritten notes. But, as you well know, I was denied the
notes that would have set me free.
I would follow the advice of Louisiana’s leading newspapers,
I definitely should never, ever talk to the FBI, under any circumstances.
Here is the advice they have given me.
Brown was the victim of an FBI trick, which may not meet
the legal definition of entrapment, but will strike any fair-
minded layman as dirty pool. The feds did notch up one
success and they should be ashamed of it.
The Times Picayune, 10/12/00
Years from now, they’re going to call it the Jim Brown
if you’re a public official in Louisiana, do not talk
to the FBI.
Not under any circumstances. Not even if you’re innocent
have nothing to hide. Especially if you’re innocent and
nothing to hide. There’s little justice to be found in
Gambit Weekly, New Orleans, 10/17/00
The government, fond of saying they “send a message”
public with convictions succeeded only in sending the message
that no one should talk to any FBI agent…but, again, the
out of all of this is don’t ever talk to an FBI agent.
Monroe News-Star, 11/11/01
Whether he wins or loses his appeal, Jim Brown got a raw deal
his federal trial last year. Evidently Brown, not having committed
any criminal offenses, did not suspect a trap. Poor sap. He
have learned at his mother’s knee that, innocent or guilty,
ever take chances with the FBI. Brown had no obvious reason
since, as the jury verdict later established, he had nothing
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, 11/09/01
It’s alarming because Brown was convicted because the
jury took the
word of the FBI agent over his. So? Well, FBI agents, for the
part, take handwritten notes of interviews, and in the Brown
notes were transcribed three days later. Neither Brown nor his
was allowed to see the handwritten notes. That is frightening.
lesson here, perhaps is that Brown should never have talked
to the FBI
Town Talk, 10/15/00
The case has been an embarrassment for the government from day
one. If the law does not give Brown the right to Burton’s
the law is a bigger ass than we thought.
The Times-Picayune, 1/19/01
Pretty strong stuff. An overwhelming consensus that I was set
up, and that I should never talk to the FBI. But wait! We are
all good citizens and want to do the right thing. If we can
be of assistance in solving a crime, should not we volunteer
and offer to help? Isn’t it our duty to share whatever
information we have that might prove beneficial?
have thought long and hard about what I would do if such a choice
ever faced me again. After much soul searching (one has time
to look into the depths of one’s soul while passing hour
upon hour of boredom in prison), I have made a decision.
asked to be interviewed in the future, I will talk to the FBI.
you see a smirk crossing my face?)…..there would be some
ground rules. I will insist on the following conditions.
The entire interview must be recorded, both with audio and video.
I will be
allowed to have my own recording group there (to be sure there
is no high tech tampering) to do the recording.
If notes are to be taken, both sides will review each other’s
notes for accuracy
and will initial each set of notes.
and did I mention witnesses? There will certainly be witnesses.
I would want my own attorney along with a court stenographer.
But in addition, I would insist on other witnesses. We all know
how the FBI can pile it on.
Typical witnesses I would ask to be present would include the
Catholic Bishop of Baton Rouge (The Most Reverend Robert W.
Muench), Rabbi Barry L. Weinstein of Congregation B’nai
Israel of Baton Rouge, and the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana,
(The Right Reverend Charles E. Jenkins).
think with these protections, I would consider being interviewed.
If the motives of the FBI agent are honorable and for the sole
purpose of finding the truth, there should be no objection.
do you think the chances are of their agreeing to my terms?
Don’t hold your breath. But to answer the several e-mails,
I will add this new resolution of being ready to cooperate.
That is, under the right terms that generate the truth. Not
the kangaroo injustice I received in my last interview.
* * * * * * * * * *
I have passed the half-way point of my sentence with now less
than three months to go. When I get depressed about the hours
of drudgery, I only have to look around me at fellow inmates
who, in some cases, have six years or more left to serve out
their term. So I can make the best of three months. I hope to
pick up my exercise routine. I’m adding the stationary
bike to my jogging, stretching and lifting program. With the
colder January weather, I can move the smaller bike indoors.
far, I’ve been fortunate in warding off winter colds.
There is a limited choice of vitamins available for sale through
the commissary. A multi-vitamin (much weaker than I take at
home), Vitamin C (500 mgs. I take one capsule three times a
day), and Vitamin E (100 IU. Weak dose so I take four capsules
each day). So far, this combination is getting me by although
I’ll be anxious to return to my extensive vitamin routine
when I return home. I’ll list the entire group of vitamins
I used to take and why in a few weeks.
the arrival of cold weather, I have noticed more joint pain
in my fingers, shoulders, elbows and knees. While at home, I
was regularly taking calcium, magnesium and glucosamine. These
minerals made a big difference in relieving joint pain, particularly
during heavy exercising. I am making do with ibuprofen, but
will be glad to get back to the minerals that work for me when
I am home in April.
* * * * * * * * * *
Lesson Before Dying is an Oprah Book Club selection about
rural segregated Louisiana in the 1940’s, written by New
Roads, Louisiana native Ernest Gaines.
read the book for the first time last week. But I had listened
to the author lecture about his work in the mid-1980’s.
I had driven over the Lafayette from Baton Rouge one fall Saturday
morning to sit in on some lectures that were part of the University
of Southwestern Louisiana’s annual writers’ conference.
My main reason for attending was to hear Gus Weill, a real Louisiana
literary treasure, talk about his work in progress. One of Gus’
plays, Geese, had made it to Broadway, and he was working
on a new book with south Louisiana artist George Rodrigue.
was living in San Francisco at the time, through he now is writer-in-residence
at USL, now called ULL (University of Louisiana at Lafayette).
He wore a beret and a big smile and talked about his numerous
works of fiction including A Gathering of Old Men and
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
to the present. His best known book, A Lesson Before Dying,
is required reading in many high school English classes. I have
just gotten around to reading it, and I’m sorry I waited
story takes place in the small Louisiana community of Bayonne,
the fictional name in all Gaines’ work for his hometown
in New Roads, some 20 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. A retarded
African-American youth is about to go to the electric chair
I was not there, yet I was there. No, I did not go to
trial, I did not hear the verdict, because I knew all time
what it would be…
the narrator begins as Gaines explores race, injustice and resistance
in this powerful novel that won the National Book Critics Circle
Award for fiction.
narrator had left his hometown for the university and has reluctantly
returned to teach at a small plantation school. He is persuaded
to visit the condemned young man in jail, and convince him that
there is still dignity to acquire even just before his death.
a lot of action, and more emotional tension rather than physical.
Not a long book (some 200 pages), well written with good dialogue.
I’m glad I read Gaines’ bittersweet story of my
home state. It is a particularly good book to share and read
along with young adults in your family. I recommend it.
* * * * * * * * * *
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy.
Dr. Martin Luther King
Peace and justice to you and your family with hopes for a prosperous