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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Off Lockdown -- May 7, 2008

Today, my cell house finally came off "lockdown". Lockdown means that prisoners are in their cells 24/7 except for emergency sick calls. We are not allowed to use telephones or get commissary. After 48 hours, visitations are usually allowed, and after one week, we are allowed a shower. All lockdowns begin on a "level 1", but they can be brought down to a "level 4". A level 4 means we get full phone and commissary privileges. It also means that workers are allowed to go to their details, and health care passes are permitted.

During level 1 lockdowns, guards must pass out our meals, but on level 4, cell house workers must do this as well as clean up the galleries, which are often very dirty after being neglected for the most part. Guards seem to be happy when we come off a level 1 lockdown because they don't have to do the work that they think is lowly or beneath their status.

The prison was put on lockdown on April 14th when an inmate attempted to attack a sergeant. Although the incident took place on my gallery, I did not witness it. All I saw was the aftermath: a mob of guards on top of a prisoner, beating and kicking him. Even a guard who is friendly and you would not expect to act in such a way, was kicking the subdued inmate. After being beaten for several minutes, the handcuffed prisoner was quickly escorted to segregation and passed by my cell. He was moved so forcefully and so fast that his feet, for the most part, did not touch the floor. Possibly, he was not able to walk. He did not look in good shape and probably looked in worse shape before he finally got to his segregation cell.

From what I was told afterward, the inmate threw a punch at the sergeant and missing him, went to hit the lieutenant. The motivation for this attack is a mystery for he had just been moved to this cell house and never had contact with the 2nd shift sergeant nor the lieutenant before. I know the sergeant to be a fair and easy going man, but also a fan of mixed martial arts fighting. The inmate could have "bugged up". To "bug up" means to go crazy from the prison environment. I asked a guard who was involved why he thought the prisoner went after the sergeant, and he said, only half jokingly, that he probably did not get his meds. Normally, I would be suspicious of an inmate who attacked a guard for no reason, but in this case, I tend to believe it.

Stateville is often on lockdown, and some years I think we spent more time on lockdown status than not. So far this year we have been on lockdown 8 weeks out of 18. However, summer is approaching and for the last 3 years we have spent most, if not all, of our days in our cells. We were surprised to get off lockdown this morning. We were given no notice--it was just announced in the morning as: "regular operations." I was a little unsettled to try to adjust to being outside my cell, and the different routines. I don't like all the changes.

My Arrest - April 28, 2009

Sixteen years ago on this date, I was arrested. Every April 28th I remember back to that day when my life was turned upside down, and for most practical purposes, ended. I remember my arrest vividly, despite the time that has gone by. It is a day I will never forget.
 
The morning of April 28, 1993, I was helping my older cousin, Michael, with the rehab of a house he had been hired to do. About mid-day we decided to break for lunch and return to our grandparents' home. On the way, we happened to see a friend of Michael's who lived down the block. He asked me if I would give him a ride; I agreed and told him to get in. As I passed my grandparents' home, I noticed a suspicious white van that began following us. From my rear view mirror, I watched as the van turned right, left, then left again. It was following us.

The van concerned me as I drove. Could it be one of my former friend's criminal associates? Could it be the police? Considering the type of vehicle, I ascertained it was the police. I was not under the impression they were going to arrest me, but were merely keeping an eye on me.

On April 19, 1993, federal agents attacked a compound in Waco, Texas. There was a fire fight between the Branch Davidians and numerous government forces which reminded me of a small army. An assault vehicle resembling a tank rammed the building finally, firing incendiary grenades that set off an enormous blaze engulfing the compound and killing almost everyone within. It was this news I was following and the aftermath when I saw that my former friend, Robert Faraci, had been arrested for murder, and was also a suspect or at least had information on the notorious Brown's Chicken restaurant murders in Palatine, Illinois, where seven people were brutally murdered and stacked in a freezer. The news coverage of Waco quickly went to the Palatine massacre and allegedly new developments in that case.

At the time of the Palatine massacre, I was living with Bob Faraci and his wife. It did not take me long from watching the in depth and continuous news coverage to think that police would be interested in talking to me. However, little did I realize that Bob Faraci and his wife had fingered me in the mass murder as well as a murder dismemberment case in Barrington.
 
When I stopped at a red light at the intersection of Archer and Cicero (two busy streets in southwest Chicago), my car was surrounded by numerous gun-wielding task force police and FBI agents. They shouted at us to get our "fucking hands up in the air." We complied. As police moved in closer, there was another shout to get out of the car. At that point, I realized my car was in drive, and I had to reach down to shift into park. Noticing red laser dots from every angle over my body and Michael's, I made the decision to leave the car in drive.
 
Slowly, with my left hand, I opened the door. A cop quickly grabbed me as I was exiting, and all I said was "I want a lawyer"! He ignored me and forced me to the ground. He kneeled on me, or stepped on me, as I was handcuffed behind my back. On the ground, I noticed my car rolling into the intersection. Someone ran for it, but I believe it struck one of the police cars and stopped before causing an accident on Cicero Avenue.

I was pulled up off the ground and roughly handled. I was shoved into the back seat of an unmarked squad car. I did not see my cousin or his friend. An FBI agent came to the car door and told me that I was lucky to be alive. I believe he spoke the truth, and the heavily armed police were looking for an excuse to shoot me. At the time I thought I made the correct decision not to put my car into the parking gear, but years later I often question my decision.