Catchy opening line

"I am not in prison! At least not yet, not for a few more weeks and hopefully never," John Stodder says in a Dear Friends email to city staffers, friends and acquaintances.

The former Fleishman Hillard executive who worked under Doug Dowie was convicted with his ex-boss of wire fraud in the DWP billing case. Both men's date with the federal penal system is fast approaching, unless their sentences get stayed during appeals. Stodder has not addressed his situation lately on his generally thoughtful blog, but gave his OK to quote the email here. He quotes Boss Tweed after the jump, to make a point about zealous federal prosecution.

I thought it might be a good idea to update my friends and former colleagues on my situation. As you might know, I was sentenced in January to serve 15 months at a minimum security federal prison camp. Subsequently, the camp to which I’m supposed to surrender was identified: CI Taft. It is located about 40 miles southeast of Bakersfield. It is a privately-run facility that has 1500 low security inmates, and 500 minimum security “campers.” (I’d be among the latter.) If I go there, my mailing address will be:

John Stodder, #31236-112
P.O. BOX 7001
TAFT, CA 93268

At issue now is whether I should be granted bail during my appeal.

In the District Court, Judge Feess denied me bail, which means he believes I should serve my sentence while my appeal works its way through the Ninth District appellate court. Effectively, this means I would serve my entire sentence before getting a result on my appeal. The federal prosecutors and the judge have taken the position that because they see no merit to my appeal, there is no reason to delay my incarceration. I believe there is considerable merit to my appeal, and that it would be unfair to force me to serve a sentence that is likely to be overturned. However, as I’ve done more homework on the way the federal system works, it is not unusual for this to happen. Some defendants in my position get bail, some do not. There is no easily discernable pattern. I believe it has to do with the merits of each case.

If my request for bail is successful, I will be able to continue with my life and my job until the appeal is decided, which is one or two years down the road. At that point, there are myriad possible outcomes, ranging from total exoneration to affirmation of my conviction – which would mean I serve my sentence.

In preparation for the possibility of serving this sentence, I have found the following site of great help: It is full of very specific information about the Taft facility (using the search engine.) But it also is a huge lesson in understanding my own situation, putting it into context of what is happening to a lot of our fellow Americans in an era when both parties seem to be in a competition over whether the Democrats or Republicans can throw more of us in prison. (I think the Republicans have an edge, but not by much.) It doesn’t take a knee-jerk liberal to see injustice when it stares you in the face. Browse around this site and you’ll find plenty of it.

Sure, we need prisons to separate us from violent people, predators, victimizers of children, habitual criminals and egregious violators of the public trust. But we need to take down the scoreboards that encourage prosecution for the sake of prosecution – to make the prosecutors look good by how many they indict, how many they convict, how many pounds are seized, etc. etc. There’s a scene in Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York that perfectly encapsulates what I’m trying to say:

Boss Tweed: Bill, I can't get a days work done for all the good citizens coming in here to harass me about crime in the Points. Some even go so far as to accuse Tammany of connivance in this so-called rampant criminality. What am I to do? I can't have this. Something has to be done.
Bill: What do you have in mind?
Boss Tweed: I don't know. I think maybe we should hang someone.
Bill: Who?
Boss Tweed: No one important, necessarily. Average men will do. Back alley amusers with no affiliations.
Bill: How many?
Boss Tweed: Three or four.
Bill: Which?
Boss Tweed: Four.

Thanks for all your support during these difficult years. My family and I are so grateful for the many expressions of support. I’m sorry I haven’t been out and about as much recently – this imprisonment hanging over my head has me mostly focused on my family and my work. When I know whether I have more time, I hope to be calling folks for lunch and coffee, and resuming our years of collegial friendship. Please write back if you have a moment – I would love to know what you’re doing.

With all my best wishes,

John Stodder

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