The Continuing Saga of Gary and Judy White
For first-time readers, Gary White was a county commissioner in Jefferson County, Alabama. Good friends with Les Siegelman, he introduced Les's brother, [former] Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to Richard Scrushy, a local Republican businessman. Because of this, White became inextricably intertwined with Siegelman, who was one of the biggest targets of the Rove-directed, heavily politicized Department of Justice.
Scrushy and Siegelman were later indicted and convicted on charges stemming from that relationship. According to affidavits provided by Gary [and Judy, who was also in the room] White was asked to perjure himself before a Grand Jury in order to make the case against Siegelman and Scrushy. White refused and the very next day, the DOJ started delivering subpoenas to build a case against him. White is now serving ten years. During that time, he has been shunted from one federal facility to another. The recent passage and signing of the First Step Act was supposed to result in the release of Gary and 4,000 other inmates. Siegelman has been out of prison since February, 2017. Gary was finally released recently to home confinement until his sentence is done on July 19th. This is installment #38 of our ongoing series*.
My guest is frequent OpEdNews contributor, Judy White.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Judy. A lot has happened since we did our last installment, February 23rd. We have someone 'new' joining us today. Welcome to OpEdNews, Gary. What a pleasure it is to be able to include you in the conversation! I've been looking forward to this moment for a long, long time. You've been our silent partner all these years. Who wants to get the ball rolling, catching us up on everything we've missed since last time.
Judy White: Gary says "Hi" and he is very thankful for all your encouragement and support over all these years. We are sorry that he is unable to speak directly and look forward to future discussions in which he is able to share first-hand. Unfortunately, Gary continues to be unlawfully imprisoned, even though he is now on home confinement, as the BOP continues to obsessively control everything they can, and chilling the right to free speech is at or near the top of their list. Keeping the public in the dark about what goes on within the BOP is paramount to them. So Gary is effectively, although unwillingly, "chilled" and silenced. But then there's US - you and me - and we must continue to try to shine light in the darkness.
JB: Agreed. Before we continue, please expand on your comment about "chilling the right to free speech," please. This may seem like a tangent, but I think it's crucial for us all to more fully grasp just how the system 'works'.
JW: "Chilling the right to free speech" is language used by courts in finding violations of the First Amendment. Prisoners have First Amendment rights, including free speech, specifically, as courts have established that "prisoners have the right to make known the conditions of their confinement." BUT when prisoners have exercised that recognized right, they have very often been subjected to "First Amendment Retaliation," when is illegal and violates federal law. Not only have courts found such retaliation unlawful, they have found that acts or threats or patterns that prevent the exercise of a right is unlawful "chilling" of that right and in violation of the right. Prisoners, especially Gary, have experienced outrageous abuse upon telling the truth about what goes on in prisons. For example, the two times Gary was given unlawful fabricated disciplinary punishments, and the two times he was sent to solitary confinement - 28 days the first time and over 30 days the second time - along with all the times he was moved, to higher security prisons and further from home were direct results of our writing about and exposing wrongdoing in the prisons where Gary was.
JB: More examples, please.
Sure. In Edgefield, you may recall the assistant warden/prison camp director saying to Gary, "What did you expect?" after he - William Mackelburg - had called me three times on the phone trying to get me to stop writing about what was going on there, saying, "The institution is uncomfortable with the negative public attention you are causing to be focused on the institution," and other not-so-veiled threats. During one call, I told him about a threat one of the prison guards had told Gary to relay to me, and Mackelburg told me if I wanted to insist there had been a threat - and there had been - that they would put Gary in solitary confinement "for his protection." The same thing happened at Millington, when I was directly asked to stop writing and Gary was told by one of their thug employees to stop me from writing. When Gary was in solitary confinement, freezing with no heat in January, the dead of winter, and allowed one single phone call on a recorded line after being told he would not be allowed to call me again for at least a month, he called me and said, "Don't stop. Don't ever stop." The call was terminated, and Gary was moved to a higher security prison further from home in Forrest City, Arkansas, over five hours away each way, meaning I had to drive for over ten hours to see my husband for maybe four hours across a minimum of three feet between us without even being allowed to hold hands. There are two federal prisons for men in Alabama and the judge had ordered that Gary be as close to home as possible, but because of the BOP's open defiance and retaliation, I had to drive more than halfway across Alabama, through the entire state of Mississippi, part of Tennessee and an hour into Arkansas once I COULD see him.
After that, Gary lost all of his privileges - no visits, no phone calls, no email, no commissary for six months, with no appeal. On the very day the full six months of horrible punishment had been carried out in full, Gary was finally handed the form required for him to be allowed to appeal, which he did, and the higher level appeal resulted in the BOP saying the actions were "unfounded and unsupported," and ordering the record expunged of the bogus charges against Gary.
JB: But how do you "expunge" six months of such brain-washing and extreme abuse?
JW: Good question. How do you "expunge" six months of having no visits, not a single visit or phone call or even an email with your wife? You can't. That is abuse that can never be erased. And while they reversed and expunged, they left Gary in a higher security prison, despite federal law prohibiting prisoners from being in any higher security facility than dictated by their security classification, and Gary has never been anything but absolutely no security risk whatsoever, with the exception of having a wife who refuses to be silenced or complicit in the abuses of prisoners in federal prisons. And while they reversed and expunged, they left Gary's punishment intact, including the loss of good time, which is what they have used to continue to keep him in prison beyond his lawful sentence. I could go on endlessly, but it's traumatic to relive the horrors.
JB: I bet. Although truthfully, I can't imagine.
JW: We have so much more to share. And we will. Most importantly, Gary is home! But also most importantly, Gary's health issues and medical needs are very urgent, as the BOP continues to unlawfully withhold and control Gary's access to desperately-needed medical care. And during all of it, I continue to learn and to be shocked - who even thought it was possible to be shocked at this point after all we have been through? - and now I have halfway house experiences and corruption to share with you, along with unbelievable intimidation of "independent" non-BOP doctors, interference with doctor-patient relationships, and some just plain meanness with a touch of criminality. There are lots of new characters in this ongoing drama. So where would you like to begin? And while we have enough material for a whole series of books, what we can't get to here is safely preserved for future installments. And maybe a book is in the future as well!
JB: Wow. A whole lot to talk about, to be sure! I'm so glad Gary is at home, finally. Let's start with how Gary got "sprung" from federal prison and how that went. The many readers who have been following your never-ending saga and cheering you on will want to hear all about it. Fill us in, please.