What was your life like before being penned an LSD kingpin by the government?
I sold drugs, I partied, I went to different colleges to check out the scenes and followed the Grateful Dead a little bit. I was just a regular suburban youth who got caught up in the drug scene. I never carried a gun and I wasn't prone to violence. I didn't even consider myself a criminal really. I wasn't out to hurt anyone or take anything from anybody or rough anybody off or anything like that. I came from a good home with good parents who installed good morals and ideals in me I just got caught up in the drug scene and fancied myself a sort of stoner outlaw. But I didn't have any kind of Scarface mentality. I was just supplying LSD and marijuana to my friends from high school who went off to a bunch of colleges on the East Coast. I was originally from California and grew up a military brat and when my dad retired we settled in Northern Virginia where he got a job with a defense contractor. It was a real lily white and affluent area and I was the new guy and I found that when I proved I could get a hold of drugs I became real popular real quick. So that is how it went. I started selling drugs at a young age and it just progressed and by the age of 19 I was supplying about 15 colleges in 5 states with marijuana and LSD. But still in the big scheme of things I was a small time drug dealer maybe making $20 grand or so a month.
2. Were you overcharged?
I would say so. I was a first-time, non-violent offender and I got slammed with 304 months or a 25 year sentence with no possibility of parole. It was right when the feds had just started their War on Drugs in the early 90s and plus being right outside of DC they made it like my case was this big thing, it was like a witch-hunt really. But in all actuality it was just some kids partying and doing drugs at colleges just like they are still doing today. It was no organization, really it was unorganized and chaotic. I was just the dude with the best contacts and when I refused to snitch they threw the book at me but I realize now I made matters worse by taking off and becoming a fugitive for 2 years. But I was barely 20 years old and I had some money and I wasn't trying to snitch anyone out or go to prison so at that time it seemed taking off was my only choice. But now I have been in prison 19 years for crimes largely committed while I was a teenager that didn't involve any type of violence.
3. I found a great review of one of your books from a well known magazine that said you glamorized the gangster lifestyle to show the reader's why the drug problems are so alluring to the youth, but that in the end that life is a one way ticket to hell. How do you balance it out?
I do glorify and romanticize the stuff I write about. It is kind of glamorous in a way and people are interested in it. So I perpetuate the myths and legends but I do it in a way that it all comes from my perspective and it comes through my eyes and experiences. I am not doing anything new. They have been glamorizing this type of stuff since Billy the Kid and the Wild, Wild West. I am just doing it in my style and putting a more modern flavor to it. How outlaws and gangsters live and the things they do are amazing and people are very interested in reading about it all and watching the Hollywood version of the stories in movies and stuff like that. So I go with it. I am not fighting what is already there. People have been enamored with outlaw heroes since Robin Hood. I am myself. This is my passion. This is why I write about this stuff and bring these stories to life. When I first came to prison I read every prison and gangster book I could and then when I exhausted what I wanted to read I started writing my own stories from my own experiences and from the people I met and was doing time with. Everything I have done, book wise has been done before, I am just putting my twist on it. Reality is reality and I lay it all out but I still glorify it because even though I am older and in hindsight I know it is the wrong road it is still romantic in its own way, that is why gangster and prison stuff is such a big sell in popular culture.
4. can you give me a timeline on how your prison stretch started, to when you started writings and publishing to how it grew to when you finally get out of prison?
I got caught in 1993 and have remained incarcerated since then. So I have 19 years in now. I had always wrote songs and poems and stuff and dabbled in creating little stories and fantasy worlds (check out felons rage on myspace it has some of my songs I recorded in prison), but when I came to prison I got a job in the recreation department and I started helping to run the intramural sports leagues and that included writing a little sports newsletter on what was going on with the leagues and the standings and statistics and stuff like that and I started writing commentary and dudes in here really liked it and I made my name writing about prison basketball games for Slam, Don Diva and other magazines and websites like hoopshype.come and that led to writing about prison issues for magazines like Vice and then to writing my first novel Prison Stories and then doing the gangster interviews for Don Diva and F.E.D.S. and the Street Legends book series and now I am writing about the Drug War and drug addiction and recovery for thefix.com and continuing to do pieces for my blog/column on gorillaconvict.com. This all happened gradually throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s and then I got more serious about my writing in 2005 and got the website built and started the publishing house also to put out my own books. So we have been online and selling books since 2005 and we have developed our name and reputation and web presence. I couldn't have done it without the assistance of my beautiful and talented wife Diane who has enabled me to do all of this from her. Without her I wouldn't have accomplished any of what I have, so really it is all down to her. When I come home I want to continue doing what I am doing but I want to get into the visual aspect of it and start doing documentaries and films also. Plus more merchandise like we have on the gorillaconvict.com website now with the t-shirts, stickers and posters. But I have a lot of plans and ideas to implement and get going once I get home.
5. I see that you have some powerful reviews from a bunch of magazines and well known sources. How have you managed to make those connections while locked in prison?
I am relentless I just write and write and write and I send out a tremendous amount of mail. I mail out 100 of letters at a time sometimes every week and in it I am constantly promoting and showing what I am doing that is new. I send the stuff out to magazine editors and websites and anyone who I think might be interested in my stuff and now since we have email I contact and email as many people as I can to market and promote my stuff. So I have done it basically through email and the mail and being relentless and never giving up. I have created and built something from nothing and now I have an audience and people who like my work and who buy my books and check out my website. But also another main reason is content. I keep creating new content. I write, write and write some more. I promote, promote and promote some more and I make connections and I cultivate them and I find out how I can help them and how they can help me and I make it work and I keep my word and do what I say I am going to do.
6. What is your vision for the next five years?
I get out in 21 months and then I have to go through the halfway house probation routine so I have to be on point for that and not violate because I am not trying to come back to prison but when I can move and work for my own company gorillaconvict.com I will work and network and do the same thing I have been doing from in here but I will have much more access and I will be able to do all types of radio interviews and pod casts and make little commercials and youtube promos. I am really looking forward to it. I have a tremendous drive and ambition and I am relentless in pursuit of my goals and most importantly I am not afraid to put in the hard work that is necessary for success. So in five years I plan to be making movies and have my own production company.
7. Do you believe prisoners can be redeemed?
Yes, I do but they have to want it because if they want to stay in the same criminal lifestyle they will only be going back to prison. In our country right now there is no emphasis on rehabilitation and a lot of men are going home ill prepared and with no tools to deal with society plus when you just throw them back into the same environments they came out of with no tools what do you expect? Why do you think recidivism is so high? But I have taken the time and effort to do what I need to do to prepare for my future and eventual release back into society and I am ready for the challenge and I am confident that I can redeem myself and be successful and become a productive member of society and bring my unique vision to the world.
8. How would you change the system to make redemption more common?
Education is mandatory. Prisoners need to learn and open and expand their minds. Those capable should be allowed to enroll and take college courses and function in an environment which cultivates that. Others should be allowed to learn and practice a trade so that they have skills when they come home so that don't have to revert to the only thing that they knew prior to coming to prison- crime. But basically we have to give prisoners some hope and show them that yes you can turn your life around and change. I did and I am the better man for it.
gorillaconvict.comand amazon.com and read my blog at gorillaconvict.com which posts a new story every week and gives the 411 on street legends, prison gangs, hip-hop and hustling, the mafia and life in the belly of the beast. Also check out my weekly news blogs and columns at thefix.com