Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chapter 6: "You're dead punk." I waited to be dead. Dead was better.

San Francisco & Tacoma, Washington
February-August, 1968

The ambulance arrived and I was taken to San Francisco County Hospital to be treated for the gunshot.  That was a circus.  The media was all over me.  Newspapers, television, this was the event of the day in San Francisco.  I made the front page of the Chronicle but they had my name wrong.  My current identity was Kevin Fortier.  After treating my leg, I was taken to City Prison and booked.  I'm sticking with Kevin Fortier and hoping I can make bail before my prints come back.  As I'm standing in front of the booking desk, a parole agent who happened to be there made me.

"You're Windes", he said.

"No I'm not", I said, "my name's Fortier".

"No.  You're Kenneth Windes", he said excitedly.  He looked like he'd just had an orgasm.

"Place a parole hold on him", he instructed the desk Sargent as he made a beeline for the phone to call the parole office.  So much for bail.

They took me to a cell.  In the cell already was Moon, who worked for me, and three other runners.

"What happened?"

Moon replied, "The guys had just come by to make a pickup and I told them you would be back soon so they were hanging around.  There was a knock on the door and I asked who it was. Somebody said  'Federal agents' and I thought it was somebody kidding.  I picked up the .32 and opened the door.  There were two of them standing there with big guns pointed at me.  So I dropped my gun and here we are. Then they tore the place apart looking for counterfeit money.  They found the dope but no money.  So what’s going on?"

I told them about the morning's events and we started trying to figure out where the money had come from.  I thought it had been passed on to one of the runners, but they all said no to that.  Finally Moon told me that he'd lied about only giving drugs to runners.  He'd also sold to Dennis a friend of his, because he and Dennis had been tight in Quentin.  So we now knew where the counterfeit money had come from.

The next day, we were all going into withdrawal from heroin.  The whole cell was sick.  I had a heavier habit than any of them but I wasn't going to act like a sick junky in front of my employees so I was just toughing it out while they were acting like something out of a bad movie.  I'd seen "The Man With The Golden Arm" when I was a kid.  Frank Sinatra player a junky card dealer and there were scenes of him kicking cold-turkey that were very dramatic.  I'd kick a couple of small habits before and had gone through all the histronics that I'd seen Sinatra play.  I thought that was what you were supposed to do but I wasn't going to do it this time.  At least, not yet.  I wasn’t that sick yet. That afternoon, the short parole officer from the "special parole" department showed up in front of the cell.  He had the bullets from my .25 automatic.

"Dum-dums", he said.  "You were serious".  I didn't say anything.

"You look like you're in withdrawal", he continued. "Have you been using?"

I still didn't say anything.

"I'm taking you downstairs for testing," he said, and signaled a guard to let me out of the cell. They escorted me to the drug testing clinic in the basement of the jail and the doctor gave me a shot of Naline and measured my eyes.  If you had opiates in your system, Naline would counter them and put you into mild withdrawal and your eyes would get big.  They waited 15 minutes then measured my eyes again.  They were very big.  The parole officer commented that I had a heavy habit and told the doctor to give me a shot of morphine.  That got me well for a few hours.  They took me back upstairs.  I still hadn't said anything. Over the next few days I kicked the habit cold-turkey, standing up.  I learned something.  Kicking heroin is like having a bad case of the flu.  A really bad case but still just the flu.  Your nose runs and your body aches but the histronics aren't necessary.  It ain't that bad.

The feds finally bought that none of us knew anything about the money and they cut the runners loose.  Jimmy was charged with Possession of Heroin.  I was charged with Kidnapping a Federal Agent and Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Federal Agent.  We both also had parole violations.

I worked out a deal with the federal prosecutor.  I would plead guilty to Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Federal Agent and they would drop the Kidnapping charge.

I also worked out a deal with the California authorities.  I had served a total of about four years on convictions for Burglary and Forgery.  They carried an indeterminate sentence of 1 to 15 years.  The court gave you the indeterminate sentence and the California Adult Authority, which was the prison and parole board, decided how much time you would serve on that sentence.  Mine had originally been set at three years, 18 months in and 18 months on parole.  But I had immediately violated parole and it had been reset to five years, 30 months in and 30 months on parole.  Now it was back to fifteen years and I still had 11 to serve.

The Adult Authority told my attorney that they would dismiss the remaining 11 years if I got a reasonable sentence on the federal charge.  Reasonable meant eight to ten years.

I entered a guilty plea and asked for immediate sentencing.  There were no objection from the prosecutor so the judge sentenced me to five years in a federal prison.

"Your Honor", I said, "you have to give me more time than that."

"Why?", he asked.  So I explained the arrangement I'd made with California.  He asked my attorney if he was OK with this and then changed the sentence to ten years.  On ten years, I was eligible for parole in three and, if I didn't get a parole, with good time I could walk out in six.  I was good at getting them to parole me though.  I had a lot of experience.  I figured I'd do three or four years and that I was not in bad shape, all things considered.

There was a news reporter in the courtroom and the morning paper carried the conversation between the judge and me on the second page.  They got my name right this time.  The Adult Authority was embarrassed about having the deal advertised in the newspaper.  My attorney informed me they had reneged.  I still owed California eleven years and they would be waiting for me when I completed the federal sentence.  Now I was in bad shape.                              

In the morning a few days later, I was told get my stuff together and taken to a holding cell.  There were two other convicts in the cell.  They told me U.S. Marshalls were picking us up for transfer to McNeil Island Penitentiary.  McNeil Island was an island in Puget Sound in the state of Washington.  The convicts were Joe Crispo, who I didn't know, and Juan, a mexican who been in San Quentin with me.  Juan and his partner, Johnny Van, had gotten 20 years for robbing a bank after they got out of Quentin.  Johnny was already at McNeil Island.

Joe Crispo introduced himself and told me his story.  He'd been serving 20 years in Leavenworth Penitentiary for Bank Robbery when they found another bank he'd robbed in Sacramento, California.  He'd been transferred to the Sacramento jail to stand trial.  When he went to court, he was found 'not guilty' of that robbery.  When they took him back to the jail after the trial, the Deputy read the court document down to where it said 'not guilty' and saw the order releasing Joe on that charge.  So the Deputy released him.  Joe found himself standing outside the jail, free.  He got out of town before they realized their mistake.

He went to L.A. and hooked up with a friend named Tommy and they started on a spree of bank and supermarket robberies that lasted about a year.  Tommy had gotten busted on a supermarket and was in San Quentin doing 5 to life.  They'd gotten Joe a couple of months later coming out of a bank.  He now had eighty years to serve and was on his way back to Leavenworth via McNeil Island.

As we talked, it turned out that Joe's partner, Tommy, was an old friend of mine who'd grown up with me in the reform schools.  I hadn't seen him in a few years but we had been tight as kids.  So Joe and I had some rapport.

"If I get a chance, I'm going", said Joe.

"Me too".

Juan said, "I got an appeal going so I don't want to escape but I won't get in the way."

After an hour or so, the Marshalls arrived.  They handcuffed us to body chains wrapped around our waists, put us in the back seat of a private automobile and we took off.

It turned out that the driver was a U.S. Marshall and his companion was his next door neighbor.  The Marshalls were permitted to employ anyone to serve as guards while transporting prisoners and his neighbor was a plumber who was out on strike so the Marshall was doing him a favor and giving him a few days of work.

The plumber looked like a wimp so I wasn't concerned about him.  The Marshall, on the other hand, looked like a tackle off a football team.  He wouldn't be so easy.  We were riding comfortably in the back seat and the Marshall was open and friendly.  Joe and I kept a running conversation going with him to build a little rapport and put him at ease about us.  We were both trying to work our hands out of the handcuffs but, while they weren't uncomfortably tight, we couldn't get loose.

The way prisoners were transported around the country was the way we were being transported.  You were chained up and put in the back seat of a car.  They drove as far toward the destination as they could in one day, then booked you into a local jail overnight.  You'd get a meal that night, a bed to sleep on, then breakfast in the morning.  They then picked you up, put you back in the car, and you drove on.  This continued for as many days as it took to get you where you were going.  Our trip was scheduled to take two days.

That night we were booked into the jail at Roseburg, Oregon, a small town with a small jail.  As we were being booked in, I stole a ballpoint pen from the booking desk.  They fed us a great hot meal in a warm comfortable cell.  Small town jails are usually pretty homey.

After things had settled down that evening, Joe and I went to work.  We took the metal filler from the ballpoint pen and, using a pair of fingernail clippers as a tool, we fashioned the filler into a key for the handcuffs.  Handcuff keys were simple but you had to have something with a hole in it to fit over a little metal pip in the middle of the keyhole.  The pen filler was perfect.  We didn't have any handcuffs to try it on so we just did the best we could and came up with a key that was about an inch and a half long.

After breakfast the next morning, Joe put the key under his tongue because we had to go through a strip search.  Then we were back in the car, travelling north to Washington.  Joe hassled with the key for a couple of hours, reworking it in the back seat with the fingernail clippers.  He finally got it to work and got his cuffs open.  I had been carrying on a running conversation with the Marshall and the plumber to keep them distracted from Joe.  He'd chime in once in awhile.  Juan was aware of what was happening but he was sitting quietly on my left.  I was in the middle which put Joe on the right, behind the plumber.

He passed me the key and I started working with it.  It took about three hours for me to get the cuffs open but I finally did it. We kept the cuffs loosely about our wrists so it looked like we were still restrained.  Then we waited for an opening.

After a while the Marshall said, "We're about five miles from the prison.  Would you guys like a hamburger and a cup of coffee before you go in?"

"Sure", we said. He pulled into a roadside hamburger stand.

Joe and I just ordered coffee.  I was thinking we have to make a play soon.  Five miles isn't very far.  The plumber got the food and coffee and came back and handed the coffee to us over the back of the seat.  Juan got a hamburger with his.  We had to accept the coffee carefully so the cuffs didn't fall off.   The Marshall had stayed in the car, behind the wheel.  He started eating his hamburger.

I thought this was the best it was going to get so I said something to the Marshall.  He turned around to look at me and I threw the hot coffee in his face, grabbed him around the neck and reached across him take his gun.  The plumber panicked and started trying to get his door open.  Joe was also trying to get the back door open.  Juan was squeezed down in his seat, trying to stay out of the way. The Marshall reached up and grabbed my arm, freeing himself, and rolled out of the car.  His door had been ajar.  He came up off the ground, pulled his gun, reached in and put it against my head and cocked it.

"You're dead, punk", he said.

And I sat there waiting to be dead.  I felt very calm about it.  My sentences totalled twenty-one years.  Dead was better.

I don't know what went through his mind but he didn't pull the trigger.  He had the plumber get a bunch of chains from the trunk of the car.  Joe had managed to get his cuffs refastened around his wrists and he's sitting there looking as innocent as possible.  The Marshall didn't buy it.  He chained both us with leg irons and several sets of handcuffs.  He put leg irons on Juan too.

We drove the rest of the five miles with him cussin' and threatening me.  He was pretty mad.  We got to the ferry landing and had to walk a hundred yards from the car to the ferry to make the trip to the island.  Leg irons hurt when you're walking.  And he was making us walk fast, which was really painful.

When we got to the Island, all three of us were put in the hole.  Juan was released a couple of days later because they determined he had nothing to do with the escape.  I told them Joe had nothing to do with it either but the Marshall had seen Joe free of the cuffs.  We were in isolation for about 60 days, with a couple of trips over to the city of Tacoma where we were tried in federal court for Attempted Escape.  I had an additional charge of Assault on a Federal Agent.  I got on the stand and swore Joe had nothing to do with it but they convicted us both anyway.  I got an additional five years.  Total: 26 years.

After the sentencing we were released into general population.  I moved into an eight man cell with some guys from California.  Joe and I were on Maximum Custody status which meant that we couldn't be out of our cells at night and, during the day, we had to report to the yard Sargeant every hour.

McNeil Island didn't look that tough.  It was foggy a lot.  There was only one fence, with guntowers spaced around it.  But in the fog, they were blind.  I couldn't see that getting out of the prison would be that hard.  The problem was that it was two miles to shore.  But I could swim well.  I started jogging in the yard everyday to build up my stamina.  It was July, middle of the summer.  The cons who'd been there awhile told me that the fog was very heavy in the fall and winter so I figured I had a few months to get into shape.

Joe was very impressed with the way I'd tried to take the fall for the escape by myself.  I'd never been in a federal pen so was relatively unknown.  Joe was well regarded so I was getting good words said about me.  That's always helpful.  There were a few people I knew from the California prisons and I was making contacts and settling into the routine of prison life while getting ready to go for a swim in the winter.

I had been out of isolation about two weeks when I learned I was being scheduled for a transfer to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois.  Some of the guys began telling me about Marion.  It didn't sound like any place I wanted to be.  I talked to a couple of guys who had been there and they told me to forget about escaping from Marion.  If they got me there I was going to stay there.   I put in a request to see the Warden.

"Sir, I'd like to be allowed to do my time here at McNeil.  If you send me to Illinois, I'll never be able to see my family.  I've lived in California all my life and at least here I know a few people."

"Windes," he said, "you assault federal officers and you're intent on escaping.  Marion was built for you."

"I can't escape from here.  I don't even know to swim," I replied.  "And", I continued, "You've got some good vocational programs here that I'd like to take advantage of.  I hear Marion isn't big on vocational programs."

"You're right", he said with a laugh, "Marion isn't big on vocational programs.  You'll have to find some other way to occupy your time."  End of interview.  I was going to Marion.

I was now twenty-five years old and had twenty-six years of sentences to serve at the most maximum security prison in America.

Copyright 1994-2010 Liana Di Stefano & Ken Windes

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chapter 5: “But Officer I’m innocent. I didn’t know the drug money was counterfeit”

February, 1968

Bobby had to go to jail.  His court date had come up.  His brother had been paroled while I was in Soledad and he and Bobby had been pulling burglaries around the city.  One of their favorite things was to work the obituary columns in the newspaper.  They'd look up when someone was getting buried, then rip off the dead person's house while the funeral was going on, figuring everyone would be at the funeral. One of the places they hit was a retired cop who had died.  When they ripped off his house, they brought a lot of heat on themselves.  Every cop in the city was outraged and put a lot of attention on busting the operation.  The police figured out the pattern and set a trap.  Bobby and his brother walked right into it.  The brother, John, was on parole from a five to life for Armed Robbery.  Since he already had a life top, they didn't prosecute him but just revoked his parole and sent him to Folsom State Prison, the most maximum joint California had at that time.  Bobby was charged with second degree burglary.  He had no prior record so would normally have gotten probation as a first offender.  But, as I said, he'd ripped off the wrong house and the cops wanted him to do time.

With Bobby down for a year, I was on my own.  It was January 1967 and I had been out about five months. My record for being out of prison was ten months but I got arrested three or four times during that period and spent a few days in jail each time.  So five months out of a cell was a long time for me.

The money was now rolling in regularly from the drug business.  I was making the flights to LA once a week and everything was smooth.  I'd stopped the credit scam after Christmas was over and the runners were picking up dope and dropping off money everyday.  Lippy had finished the dry out and was back in business.  Maria had wanted me to begin scoring through Lippy but I told her I didn't want to pay the mark up.  Since I was doing good volume, she agreed to leave things the way they were.

I'd connected with a ring of "boosters" or professional shoplifters. One of them was a Mexican woman about 28 years old who had a wooden leg and was about 7 months pregnant.  She and her husband scored smack and crank from me regularly.  She'd gotten into the habit of dropping by my apartment each day and taking an order from me.  I'd order clothes or whatever items I wanted and she would spend the day boosting them from stores all over the city.  She'd deliver the stuff to me the next day in return for dope.  If she had an unsuccessful day, she'd trade me a blow job for the dope.  I'd sell the merchandise she got for me to a fence.  I'd gotten a new fence that had a TV store a couple of blocks from me so it was convenient.  He paid OK and took almost everything I brought him.

Bobby had left me a set of keys to office buildings in the city. I also had a set of keys for the San Francisco parking meters that I rented out.  The convicts made the keys at the county jail in San Bruno.  Almost everybody coming out of San Bruno had a couple of meter keys.  I had keys for every section of San Francisco. The county didn't give "gate money" when they released you so the keys were the equivalent of "gate money". You just walked down the street emptying parking meters.  For some people this was their whole hustle.  They would stake out a block or two and rent a hotel room where they could observe it.  They would wait for the meters to get full and hit them just before the city meter man was due to empty them.  They guarded them jealously.  If you tried to work the meters, they be down on you quick, willing to kill.

So everything was working kind of automatically.  The systems were in place and working and I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had begun reading books on investing and motivation.  One of them said that if you want to be rich, you have to develop a rich attitude.  It suggested going to a luxury hotel and sitting in the lobby, smoking a good cigar and reading the Wall St. Journal.  So I had started a routine of spending a hour a day in one of San Francisco's finest hotels, sitting in the lobby, smoking an expensive cigar and reading the Wall St. Journal.  Now that the money was rolling in, I wanted to learn the lifestyle.

I was also spending a couple of hours a day in a broker's office in the financial district watching the tape.  I didn't understand anything about the stock market but I was reading books and getting the idea that the market was where you got really rich.  So I'm hanging out there, trying to understand it.  I still had the office in the financial district I had rented a few months before and was trying to find a use for it.  I was keeping it so that, if I wound up back in prison, I could tell the parole board that I had operated a legitimate business with an office, etc.  I wasn't planning on going back to prison but, given my life experience up to this point, even with my gun and my commitment to die first, I couldn't entirely dismiss the possibility of prison.  It was imbedded in my psyche.

I was thinking about getting off of drugs.  My addiction had gotten outrageous.  It didn't cost me anything but I was beginning to visualize a new life and drugs didn't fit in the picture.  For the first time in my life, I could actually conceive of converting everything to legitimacy.  I'd have to continue with a different name but I could see how I could make everything legal and not have to risk at the level I had been risking.

Bobby's girlfriend in Oakland was named Linda.  After Bobby went down, I had started taking her to dinner or a show occasionally, just to keep her entertained until Bobby got out.  She was beautiful and we wound up in bed together.  So now I was having an affair with her while Bobby was in jail.  I justified it in my mind by saying that I was just taking care of her until Bobby got back.  It's amazing what lies we can tell ourselves and get away with it.

I called Linda and invited her to go to Las Vegas with me.  She agreed and we set up a trip to Vegas. I'd never been to Las Vegas before.  I'd only been out of California once and that was when I was four years old. 

Linda and I flew over to Vegas on a Friday because she had the weekend off.  Linda was a California blonde, about 5'6 and, as I mentioned, beautiful.  She was 24, divorced and had a 4 year old son.  She worked as a medical secretary and was completely straight.  No drugs.  No crime.  I didn't know why she was hanging out with losers like Bobby and me.  The only thing in our future was jail or death.  A lot of people are fascinated by criminals though.

We spent two days gambling, saw a show and ate in the gourmet room.  I lost a few hundred dollars playing Blackjack which I didn't know how to play, but I had a good time.  We stayed at El Rancho Vegas which was one of the earliest hotel casinos built on the Las Vegas Strip, following closely on the heels of Bugsy Seigal's Flamingo.

On Monday morning, we caught a 6am TWA flight back to San Francisco and then Linda took the bus back to her home.

The sun was out and the temperature was nice for February.  I had on a light sport coat and was comfortable. It was only 9:30 and the bank didn't open until 10am so I did some shopping, buying a pair of slacks at a men's store and picking up a couple of items at a drugstore.  That took up the half hour and I went into the bank and got in line for a teller to make the deposit.

When I got to the teller I handed over the deposit slip and the money.  The teller began counting the money and then picked it up, along with the deposit slip, excused herself and walked away.  I was standing there zoned on drugs, not realizing that something was wrong.  I was still standing there a few minutes later when two secret service agents show up beside me.  One of them said that some of the money I was depositing was counterfeit and they'd like to talk to me.  As he said this, he was lightly running his hands over my body to check for a gun.  My gun was in my left pants pockets and I indignantly twisted away so his hand didn’t touch it.  Then we went into the manager's office.

"Where did you get this money" one of the agents asked.  He was about 6'2 and had a sandy crew cut.  The other one was shorter and darker.

"I just got back from Vegas. I took some money with me and won a little so I was putting it back in my account.  Here, here's my airline ticket."  I took it from the inside of my coat and handed it to him.

He looked at the ticket, then said, "I doubt that you got these bills in Vegas.  They handle a lot of money there and these wouldn't have gotten past them.  Look at it."

He held up a twenty dollar bill. 
He was right.  It wouldn't have got passed me if I hadn't been stoned when I counted the money.  The ink was too dark and the printing was crooked.  Someone had done a very poor job.  It had been just good enough to get me busted.

I was still explaining that I didn't know where they came from and I wasn't a counterfeiter.  I made up a story on the spot about a business I owned and said that maybe the bills came from there. They noticed my packages and asked if I'd paid for the purchases with $20 bills.  I said I had.  They seemed to be doubtful about my guilt.  I was playing victimized citizen but I didn't think it was going to play long and I was trying to figure a way out of this when Crewcut told his partner to go check the cash drawer at the men's shop while he took me down to federal building for questioning.

There were no handcuffs.  I wasn't placed under arrest.  I was just requested to drive down to the federal building with him to answer a few questions.  We went out and got in the car.

 There was no way I could answer any questions.  I had a gun in my pocket, warrants out for my arrest, and I got the counterfeit money in a drug transaction.

"Do you get a lot of cash in your business?" Crewcut asked, referring to the fictional business I had made up in the bank.

"Yeah it's a retail store and we take in $200 to $300 a day.  I don't know how my clerk could have taken such poor quality bills though.  That stuff's really bad".

I took a cigarette out of my shirt pocket and patted my right pants pocket as though looking for a light.  Then I patted my left pants pocket with my right hand, made as though I discovered the lighter, reached in and pulled out the .25.

Crewcut looked down, saw the gun pointed at him and said, "Oh shit".

I held the gun in my lap, pointed at him, and put my left arm across my leg to cover it so he couldn't reach over and knock it away.

"Take it easy.  I don't want to hurt you".

"Passing counterfeit doesn't carry a lot of time", he said, "this is making it a lot worse."

"I really don't know anything about the money but I got it in a drug transaction and I'm on parole from San Quentin". 

He got the "OH shit" look on his face again.  I could see he had just realized how serious I was.  We were driving up Powell Street. 

"Turn right on California," I told him. 

He turned right.  Traffic was heavy.  It took us about five minutes to get to the bottom of the hill.  I continued to reassure him that I wasn't going to hurt him and that all I wanted was to walk away.  I also told him that the bullets in the gun were dum-dums so he wouldn't disrespect the small caliber of the gun. Some people are willing to go up against a .22 or .25 and take a bullet, knowing that it probably won't be fatal.  I didn't know if he was hero material or not but I let him know that the odds were different than they looked.

We had stopped at a red light at Kearny and California.  My office was at 225 Keary, about a block away.  The streets were packed with people.  I decided to leave him at the light, blend into the crowd and get to my office.  I could plan the next step from there.  I figured if he had a gun, he wouldn't shoot into the crowd.

Opening the door, I said, "I'm leaving now.  Stay in the car".

I got out and ran into the crowd on the sidewalk. He got out of the car, pulled a gun and shot me.  So much for not shooting into a crowd. 

The bullet hit my leg and knocked me down.  My gun went spinning in the street, landing about 6 feet away.  The next thing I knew, his foot was on my back and his gun was at my head.  I couldn't move if I wanted to.  He cuffed my hands behind my back and radioed for backup and an ambulance. The Secret Service backup arrived before the ambulance.  They searched me while I was lying in the street.  My current identification had the address of my apartment on it, so they were going to find the dope. 

I knew the parole board had just passed a new ruling that any parolee caught with a gun wouldn't be eligible for parole for a minimum of five years.  They wouldn’t even talk to you for five years.  The two ounces of heroin in my apartment was good for another five.  So I was laying there in the street with a bullet in my leg facing at least ten years inside.

Copyright 1994-2010 Liana Di Stefano & Ken Windes