The Fatal Glass of Beer

Or, in this case, line of cocaine.

Randall had a good life. Loving wife. Good job. Sweet daughter. No debt. Toys- motorcycle, boat. Friends.

It all ended 14 years ago with a felony conviction for drug trafficking, with gun enhancement and a 16 year sentence.

How did this happen?

Both he and his wife had good paying jobs at a top furniture manufacturer. Randall had interned there while in high school. He continued to work for the company while also working on his business degree, but dropped out of college with a year left, to work full-time.

Weekends were for boating and fishing with his Harley-riding buddies. He knew they were into something besides the beer guzzling, but they didn’t invite him to partake, and he was happy with the beer. Eventually though, he wanted to be part of it, and they showed him how to do a line of cocaine.

Not everyone is prone to addiction, but it didn’t take long before Randall was going on binges. With the money he and his wife made, he could handle the cost for a while. She wanted nothing to do with it, but being the compliant type, and hoping for the best, she was a pretty good enabler.

The company figured out the “why ” behind the frequent work absences, and not wanting to lose Randall (or his wife) they arranged for a stint in a rehab program. He learned a great deal about his problem, which helped him to cope for a while. Around the year 2000, the bottom fell out of the U.S. furniture industry, as many companies switched to cheaper labor overseas.

With both he and his wife out of their jobs, his drug dealer offered him a “sales” position. He took to dealing the way he took to cocaine, meaning, he liked it and was good at it.

When Randall tells this story now, he has to stop every so often and say, “I wasn’t a choir boy.” There is no sense of anything other than shame as he continues with the story. He wants me to know that none of this reflects on the family he grew up in. He lost his mother while in here, but his father, now 88, continues to visit him here from time to time.

He says its amazing to him now, how the drugs affected his reasoning. He says the craziest things seemed completely rational to him.

Randall is a big white guy, but his main money-maker was a drug house in a very black neighborhood. He would show up on a Friday and camp out in the basement, with enough dope (coke, meth, and opioids) and enough cash to maximize the upstairs operation. The trick was to make his way out of there and back home at the end of the weekend, without getting robbed. He always succeeded.

One regular of the drug house was the wife of a very prominent local businessman. A country club wife, playing cards with her friends was her usual alibi. After awhile her husband caught wind, and divorced her. She kept coming for her drugs. Randall even tried to talk her out of it. After she used up all her money, she brought her teenage daughter with her and tricked her out for drugs.

The end for Randall was the sudden appearance at his home by the feds. They found 3lbs of pot and $30,000 cash laid out on a bed. Randall was a gun collector but was smart enough to have a friend keep them for him, in case of a raid such as this.

He had forgotten though, that a month prior to this raid, his supplier had come to his house and had brought a gun with him. It struck him as odd at the time, that when he tried to include the gun as part of their deal, the guy phoned his “buddy” (whose gun it supposedly was) and mentioned Randall by name. When the feds found the gun in the kitchen cabinet where Randall had absent-mindedly put it, it seemed to him that they exchanged knowing smiles, as if they had both seen that gun before. They had, of course.

At county lockup together with his supplier (“B”) and the Mexican who was the source of all the drugs (“A”), Randall and them agreed the best way to keep their stories straight was to just tell the truth. The feds, as per usual, highly encouraged each to snitch on the others. Randall wouldn’t do it. Both A and B snitched on him.

They all took plea deals. Even though it was known that A was the “kingpin”, he got 10 years. B got 15. Randall, for being uncooperative, got 16 yrs. Randall had no priors, nothing ever more than a speeding ticket.

In all my conversations with my fellow inmates, what interests me most is the relation between their sentences and what it seems to me (and them) to be a fair sentence, given their crime and its circumstances. Randall says the first 5 years were rehabilitative, but the last 8 added nothing other than to make him a weaker man.

It’s also of interest to me to ponder- who suffered more by his addiction and crime- society or his family. His daughter emails him three times a day. What do you think?