Chapter 1

In the Beginning

For most people, Brooklyn is an interesting city with many popular restaurants, galleries, museums and other artistic endeavors.  There are huge sprawling neighborhoods and within each one are tiny little districts.  You can literally drive between neighborhoods and feel like you have just gone on a world tour- every different country seems to have its own representation.  To me, Brooklyn consists of five places- Marine Park and Manhattan Beach where I have family, Cadman Plaza… a.k.a. the Federal Courthouse, MDC Brooklyn and a halfway house.  For this part of the story, my focus is only on the courthouse.  

After five years of legal battles, terror, financial strain, emotional meltdowns and seeing the interior of more court rooms in Brooklyn than anyone should ever be subjected to, it had all come down to this one moment.  It is jarring to be able to point at a specific time on a specific date in a specific place and recognize it as a defining moment in your lifetime. This was it. Dan and I stood next to each other, holding hands.

The Judge picked up the notes his clerk had written the night before, peered down at us from his perch behind the bench and read the prepared paragraph he held in his hands aloud.  I stopped listening after he cleared his throat, Not purposely but I mean honestly, how bad could it be, my mind started to drift…they really should redo the walls in here- it’s so dreary, and what’s with the “In God We Trust” logo?  I thought church and state were separate,  I guess it doesn’t apply in Federal Court…wait, the Judge just said something about fifty seven months…well, that’s not so bad, that’s nothing, that’s twelve and twelve is 24…wait, I suck at math that’s…OH MY GOD FIVE YEARS!

With that one mathematical calculation, the chaos that had enveloped me since the day my husband was arrested teetered on the wobbly precipice between reality, nightmare as the planet seemed to stop spinning, and for the first time in years, my world finally stood still.
Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe- wait- exhale!
Do not pass out,
I grabbed Dan’s arm tighter and knew I had heard correctly.  After years of wending our way through the intense labyrinth known as the Federal Justice System, gaining an in depth knowledge of the law that could rival the education offered at most Ivy League law schools in the country, we had our answer.
We had been screwed.  

FBI agents arrested Dan in his extremely upscale office located on the 50th floor of the Chrysler Building in Midtown Manhattan on October 3, 2003.  The agents stormed into the office, guns drawn. (In my head I imagine them saying “Sir!  Back away from the financial statement!)  They interrupted his conference, asked him to step into the main room and then they cuffed him.  Out of the kindness of their hearts, the agents who only minutes earlier had burst in with guns drawn, allowed him to use the restroom first.  They also allowed him to be cuffed with his hands in front of his body instead of behind his back and to drape his suit jacket over the cuffs so the media they had alerted, who were waiting outside for the ‘Walk of Shame’ shot wouldn’t have much to see (thanks guys, your superb handling of this matter did not go unnoticed.  Besides, the media got a much sweeter shot later- when you called them AGAIN!).  I was randomly in the office that day, visiting my future spouse.  As they took Dan away, he leaned over, kissed me on the cheek and smiled.  “I’ll be home for dinner sweetheart, everything will be fine” he called out as they marched him out of the room.  Ignorance truly is bliss.

That day is seared is my memory.  I could never have imagined the extent of the journey that lay ahead, neither of us could.  I knew he was innocent, he knew he was innocent, but more to the point the FBI knew it too and were just using him as bait to catch a bigger fish.  We learned the hard way that the most expensive attorneys do not always bring the most sought after results.  We also learned that when you (or your significant other) are arrested, you immediately become persona non grata in practically every facet of your life.  Not to worry, your mother will definitely still call- to yell at you- when she sees the picture of you and yours plastered on the second page of the Post with the caption “Playboy banker and unknown leggy brunette leaving courthouse after arrest.”  Yeah- that money shot.  Thanks again guys.

Fast forward through the case, the fee happy lawyers, the savage career hungry DA’s, the ever-irritated Judge and shifty FBI agents, our wedding, not to mention the thousands and thousands of documents filed and sorted by yours truly, to the actual sentencing.  We were prepared for the worst and hoping for the best.  In my mind, that meant 55 years was the worst and an apology was the best.  You know, they would suddenly realize this had all been a giant mistake and say "So sorry this has happened to you, you obviously did no wrong, why on earth didn’t we see that sooner, you are free to go- please remember to pick up your passport on the way out".  

Instead, Dan was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and we had only a few short months to prepare.  Word to the wise; never trust your lawyer to know what he is doing after the sentencing.  Most attorneys simply have no idea what happens after their client walks out of the courtroom.  There are actual companies and lawyers who specifically cater to individuals who have just been sentenced- it is a great niche industry.  You can find them online and they charge a fortune to tell you exactly what you would find out if you search the many blogs that people have put up for this purpose.  It does not really matter though, unless you have been through it before, you will stumble your way through it and mess up somehow, that is just how the system works.

Do They Take AMEX in Prison?

We had not told anyone that Dan was actually going to prison- not our family or our friends. It seemed easier to just get it over with privately, so we spent the last few days before his self-surrender date in a hotel nearby.  We also did this to avoid the chaos at my parent’s house due to my sister’s upcoming wedding in two days.  The plan was to hang around and spend time with the family, then he would self-surrender and I would attend the wedding alone, covering for him, then make my way out to California when he was on his way as well.  I had an apartment set up in Los Angeles in preparation, since we had gotten the Judge to sign an order sending him to Taft Camp out in California to serve his time.  I remember watching the Summer Olympics that were taking place in Beijing, watching diving competitions and pretending there was not this massive countdown clock going much too quickly in my head.  We had gotten married three years after his arrest, never imagining that things would turn out the way they did.  I guess we trusted that the truth would set us free and all that nonsense, and tried to be ‘normal’ even though nothing really made sense.

The dreaded day of self-surrender, August 11, 2008, arrived.  We woke up early and quietly got dressed.  There wasn't much to say. We were not exactly sure what would happen- no one gave us instructions or any directions beyond “Show up at the courthouse to start serving your 57 months, don’t bring anything you want to keep with you because you cannot”.  I remember thinking that I wanted to spend more time in bed with him just quietly holding each other, but he seemed to want to just go to Brooklyn and get it over with so I did not pressure him.  In hindsight, I constantly see examples of how naive we were the entire time- this was definitely one of them.  We could not have known how hard the physical separation would be on both of us.  There is no conjugal visiting in Federal Prison, unlike State.  Someone should file a complaint.

I pulled up in front of the courthouse and immediately my eyes welled up with tears.  Dan leaned over from the passenger seat and squeezed my arm.  He told me he would be fine, he had his money order and not to worry he would call as soon as he could.  I couldn't talk, I just sat there with tears pouring down my face and grabbed onto his hand, unable to control myself or let go.  He was wearing an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt, along with a pair of sneakers I had never really liked.  Aside from his wedding band, and the money order we had been told to bring so he would be able to buy minutes (no idea what that meant but it was stressed very strongly that it was important) that was all he was taking in with him.  He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and handed it to me.  As I stared down at it, all I kept thinking was what kind of monster DROPS OFF her husband to self-surrender for prison?  Shouldn't I at least walk him in or something? Actually, he insisted that I not get out of the car and with the sweetest smile he got out, leaned into my window and said, “Go to your mom’s house, you’ll be fine, I’ll call you when I can”.  

I nodded and watched him walk into the same building where just a few short months earlier he had been sentenced.  The same building where his fate had been decided by a bunch of people intent on furthering their own careers on the back of this name grabbing case.  I had spent so many hours waiting in fear on the benches to find out what new hell we were going to have to deal with. Like the time we learned about a great word that sounds like it could be fun, ‘remand’, but it is actually not fun at all. Just one of the many twists and turns in the nightmare of legal justice that one of the prosecutor's on his case tried to do to him, to us.

It is just brick and concrete but this building represents so much pain and sadness to me personally, and to us collectively.  I don’t think he looked back, but even if he did, I wouldn’t have seen him, the tears were taking over again and I struggled not to let out the shriek that was building up in my throat with each passing moment.  Panicked, afraid that I would never see him again, terror filling my mind. I pulled onto the main road and headed for the freeway entrance, sobbing and gripping the steering wheel like it was the only thing keeping me on earth.  
Riiiiiiiiiinnng.  My cell phone.  
Riiiiiiiiiinnnng.  Fumble, hand in purse, where is it?
Riiiiiiiiiinnnnng. Here, wait, I don’t recognize the number, let it go to voicemail this is really a bad time, well it could be important- a lawyer maybe, whatever,

“Hi sweetheart! Well, it seems we’ve hit a snag.”  
How can Dan sound so damn cheerful right now, doesn’t he realize my life just fell apart?  
Stop being so self-centered you big crybaby,
“Um, I just dropped you off five minutes ago, what could have possibly happened already?”
“Well, it seems they have no record of me having to self surrender today, but since the Judge ordered me to, they have to take me in or I will actually be breaking an order, and then they would put out a warrant and arrest me, so it might take a few hours before they figure this all out.  In the meantime, I need to mail the money order to Iowa”.
Iowa?  Aren’t you supposed to be going to California?”
“Yeah, the clerk gave me an envelope and a stamp.  Des Moines is where they deposit the inmate money into inmate accounts- except since I haven’t been processed in yet because I don’t technically exist yet in their system and therefore have no account, it might get returned, so I’m putting your mom’s address on it, ok?”
“Um, ok.  Iowa?”
“Yes, babe, so I’ll walk over to the post office and hopefully by the time I come back they’ll have worked out the whole self surrender thing.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to call you again, they gave me this quarter for the pay phone too.”
“Ok, hey babe- do they take AMEX?”  I figured I could make an online deposit or something so he would have money to call me later.
Our quarter ran out.

They do not take AMEX by the way.