My new sports related crime novel, Psychic Reprieve, tells the story of Raunold Choquet (a.k.a. R.C.) a stellar pitcher who accepted a baseball scholarship to Milwaukee State. During a hazing prank gone bad, investigators learned of R.C.’s role in the plot. He is suspended from the university and charged, in federal court, with a violation of USA Patriot Act involving a bomb scare.
For your enjoyment, I have made this excerpt from Chapter 14 of the novel available. This portion of the book explains the court process and the difficulties confronting R.C. as he makes his way through the criminal justice system.
Chapter 14 of the novel PSYCHIC REPRIEVE
SENTENCED TO SURVIVE
The formalities had ended. Assistant U.S. Attorney Gretchen Zeiler asked the court for 16 months. Leo Staver, as part of the plea agreement, argued for probation. Seated to his attorney’s left, Raunold Choquet hoped for the best. A single sentence uttered by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Callaghan sealed the defendant’s fate. “The conduct here cries out for prison.”
Raunold’s head drooped as Judge Callaghan glanced down at the paperwork in front of him. “Until this point, the defendant led an exemplary life—an honor student, the dean’s list, and, by all accounts, a leader. No additional points were recommended as a part of the sentence by the government. In order to protect the community from this type of hooliganism, the court needs to send a message. On the other hand, having reviewed the record, Mr. Choquet has shown remorse and has agreed to reimburse the city for some expenses. He has been expelled from college and lost an athletic scholarship. In a sense, he has already paid a heavy price for his conduct. Considering these factors, I hereby order that the defendant serve 14 months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Sandstone, Minnesota—a minimum security penitentiary. I further remand Mr. Choquet into the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s service.”
Leo Staver quickly turned to his client. “Two months less than we expected, although we didn’t get the prison camp. Behave, and, in eight months, you’ll be in a halfway house. Good luck.”
Two deputy U.S. Marshals approached and instructed the convict to stand. As one of the agents slapped on a set of handcuffs, Ruanold turned to his right and caught a glimpse of his grandmother sobbing in his grandfather’s arms. Russell Choquet momentarily stared at his grandson and then nodded, acknowledging that it was time to go. “Be good, son.”
* * *
After waiting for what seemed like hours, a man wearing a blue sport coat appeared at the door of the sparse holding room. “It may not seem like it, but, in a sense, it’s your lucky day.”
“Why’s that?” Raunold asked.
“Usually, we take prisoners awaiting transport to the county, where they sometimes sit for up to a week before we can arrange a ride,” explained the agent. “Believe me, when I say the county lock-up sucks. Within an hour, a transport van with one open seat will convey you to the Twin Cities.”
“Is that where the prison is?” Raunold asked. “I don’t know much about Minnesota.”
“No, Sandstone is about 100 miles north of the cities. My guess is you’ll spend the night at the federal correctional center in Minneapolis or the Ramsey County lock-up.”
* * *
What seemed like the longest day of his life was coming to an end. At 1AM, the transport van carrying Raunold and seven others, four of which were unseemly and smelly, pulled into the sally port of the Ramsey County Detention Center. After sitting handcuffed to a bench for 45 minutes, a correctional officer ordered Raunold to step into a small room, where he was stripped searched and given a fresh set of sky blue jail apparel.
The officer then pointed down a corridor. “Mr. Choquet, follow the yellow line on the floor until I tell you to stop.” Thirty-feet later, the line turned to the left and traveled down another corridor. “Stop right here.” A thick, tan-colored steel door slid open. “Step inside. Chow starts at seven.” Raunold walked into the holding room, secured by thick glass windows, and the door slammed behind him.
To his surprise, the only person in the room was and older white man lying on a bed while watching a small television monitor mounted to the wall. The man’s face was wrinkled and weathered—his arms peppered with faded tattoos. “It’s about time they give me some damn company,” the man scowled. “What’d they call yah, son?”
“R.C.,” Raunold cautiously replied. “And you?”
“I’m your worst fuckin’ enemy,” the man laughed, “which is why I’m wonderin’ why they put your sorry ass in here with me. Name’s Mick. Nah, don’t worry, I’m too old to hurt anyone now—just a corruptin’ influence. What yah in for, embezzling from the church choir?”
Ruanold frowned. “Committing a terroristic threat.”
A strange look came over the man’s face. “Are you one of Uncle Louie’s black muslim converts?”
“Nah, nothing like that. Just a prank I pulled with some dudes from my baseball team. I put a package at a bus stop outside an Islamic community’s crib with a note that said, “Get your gas masks. Stop blaming Israel.” Long story short, the other dudes shot some video and the cops got their hands on it. They were white and got probation, but, being the black guy, they put a federal case on me.”
The man snickered. “So you’re kind of an accidental terrorist. Beats being accused of the real thing, I guess. Where the feds sending you?”
“Some place called Sandstone. It’s low security.”
Mick sat up on the edge of his bed. “R.C., I’m tellin’ you, don’t be believe that low security shit. I’ve been in-and-out of the joint since I’ve been 13 — been in all kinds of jails and prisons. I’m tellin’ you, people get killed in so-called low security institutions. True, you’ve got some size on you, but these assholes are goin’ to test you.”
“What you mean?” Raunold asked. “Like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption?”
“Somethin’ like that,” Mick explained. “If you take what these pricks dish out, then you’ll be their bitch. They’ll walk all over you.” Mick lifted his blue shirt. “See this scar, the one that’s about six inches long. Got that in 1982 inside of Joliet—bastard thought I’d scream like a stuck pig. In a blink of an eye I beat his Mexican ass bloody. Then, the word got out: fuck with this guy and you gotta be prepared to bleed. I found out that if you hurt people, they’ll leave you alone.”
“Thanks for your advice,” Raunold said, rather nonchalantly. “I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. So, what you in for?”
“Murder — I’m never gettin’ out. Beat a guy’s head in with a 12 inch pipe over a $5 hand of poker about 15-years ago. Now they think I’ve got prostate cancer. Goin’ to take me to a medical center for some tests and then back to the infirmary to die.”
* * *
At 7 AM, two corrections officers stood in the narrow corridor as the doors to each holding room slid open. “If you want chow, step out to the yellow line.”
Mick, Raunold, and a dozen other men soon mustered in the corridor.
“Walk single file,” shouted an officer in a stern, controlling voice, “and follow the yellow line to the chow hall.”
The men snaked through a series of corridors before stopping at the entrance to the detention center’s food service area. Already served, dozens of prisoners sat on bench seats at long tables. It took ten minutes to move to the front of the line. Raunold reached for a tray, approached a server, and accepted an offering of cold scrambled eggs. Moving through the line, he placed a powdery white donut and a box of milk on the tray. Eyeing an empty table in the far corner of the mess hall, Raunold made his way down a narrow aisle that separated the tables. To his right, a group of heavily tattooed white prisoners steadied an angry gaze. To the left, a table of loud, black inmates sized him up. “Come sit your ass down ov’r here, brother,” one of the men at the end of the table shouted. Raunold ignored the cat call; however, the same man reached over and grabbed the donut from the passerby’s tray. “I be needed it more than a cornball brother.”
Mick, now standing just ten feet away, was right—they were testing his metal. Within a second, Raunold had to make a decision: should he simply keep walking or make a statement. He turned the tray to the side and tossed its contents towards his antagonist’s face; then, he reached back and, as quickly as he could, launched a punch that collided with the left side of the thief’s cheek bone.
“You punk ass motherfucker!” the man yelled as he fell to the floor. Three other black inmates then surrounded an attacked Raunold, who delivered a series of blows that knocked one the men to ground. A counterpunch from an attacker landed squarely on his left temple. As Raunold collapsed to the floor, four other men kicked him in the face and stomped on his head. Mick ran towards one of the assailants and delivered a crushing left hand that sent one of the attackers over a table, but he, too, was soon surrounded, forced to the ground, and pummeled. Within 30 seconds, six correctional officers moved in to break-up the melee. The damage, however, had already been done. Mick suffered a broken nose and Raunold slipped in-and-out of consciousness.
* * *
As his vision slowly focused, Ruanold saw a nurse reading a chart at the foot of the bed. Twisting to the left, a sharp pain shot-up the side of his neck. “Ahhhhhhh.”
The nurse put down the chart. “Look whose back with us.”
“Ahhhh, where am I?”
“You’re an inpatient at the Hennepin County Medical Center,” the nurse replied. “You’ve been here for a little over a day now. Do you have any recall of how you got here?”
“Last thing I remember is someone stompin’ on my face.”
A middle-aged man wearing a white smock entered the room.
“Ah, Mr. Choquet, it is nice to finally speak with you. I’m Dr. Greenburg—the neurologist overseeing your care here. How are you feeling?”
Raunold peered through the openings of his still swollen eyes. “Like I just got run over by a city bus.”
“During the fight at the jail you sustained a subdural hematoma—a hemorrhage to the brain. The swelling from this type of injury causes intracranial pressure to build within the skull. To relieve the pressure, I drilled a few burr holes in your skull so the blood would drain.”
Raunold appeared confused. “I don’t remember too much about the whole thing, Doc.”
“Short term amnesia is common with these types of injuries,” the doctor noted. “Someday, you might recall bits and pieces of what happened. The main thing is that it appears you’re out of danger. We’ll need to run some more tests, but, from what I saw from the MRI, you should make a full recovery.”
“Cool. Do you know what happened to the white dude who was with me?”
“I don’t know the specific details of the entire ordeal, although an investigator from the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department has called several times to check on you. Once you get cleaned-up and we run a few tests, I’ll give her a call and the two of you can chat.”
* * *
The setting sun pierced the blinds of the hospital room window. Watching a rerun of a late afternoon game show, Raunold heard a knock at the door. “Come on in.”
A fit Hispanic woman in her late 30s, attired in a modest gray pantsuit, opened the thick wooden door and stopped at the foot of the bed. “Hello, Raunold, I’ve heard that you’re feeling better. My name is Maria Azcano. I’m an investigator with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. I’m reviewing the incident that took place inside our detention facility.”
Raunold forced open his swollen eyes. “I don’t remember too much about it.”
“You took quite a beating,” said the detective, as she opened a yellow steno pad, “so that’s probably not unusual. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to locate a single witness that is willing to step forward, even though over 50 people were present when the fight went down. We do have some surveillance video and the statements of the correctional officers. Still, I was hoping that you might be of some assistance.”
Raunold was skeptical. “Am I in any trouble?”
“Technically, you did break the detection center’s rules by engaging in disruptive conduct. On the other hand, I’m more interested in the party who instigated the matter. The rumor mill has it that someone removed an item from your food tray without your consent.”
“Let’s say I decide to make a bitch; that makes me a snitch, doesn’t it?”
“No doubt,” Azcano admitted, “you’d be considered a rat. On the other hand, you’d be able to avoid any further legal problems regarding the disturbance, and, while I can’t officially promise you anything, I might be able to pull some strings regarding your terms of federal confinement. I see that you’re going to serve time at Sandstone.”
“Yeahhhhhh,” the patient moaned as he turned on his side, “minimum security.”
“Let me tell you something, young man, people have been killed in federal minimum security prisons.”
“Come on now,” Raunold complained, “you’re the second person that’s told me that. Let me ask you something: why are you being so righteous about this beat down?”
Azcano took a seat in chair alongside the bed. “The man that stole that donut off your tray is Juwan Cunningham. He’s the enforcer for POWAR.”
“What’s that?” Raunold asked.
“POWAR stands for People Organized for the Welfare of the African Race. It’s a newly formed prison gang with tentacles in a number of our state’s penal institutions. Right now, Juwan is at Ramsey County Detention for a two-bit 90-day possession rap. But, if you became a complainant, I might be able to nail him for Third-Degree assault of a prisoner. With his rap sheet, he’d be off the streets for another two-years, and, better yet, probably punch a ticket to Oak Park Heights—our state’s premier maximum security facility. They have an Administrative Control Unit there that’s a perfect fit for a thug like Juwan.”
“Alright,” Raunold said cautiously, “good for you, bad for me. That’d put a target on my back. I’ve already gotten the snot kicked out of me once, and, let me tell you something, it don’t feel all that good.”
The investigator sought to reassure the victim. “I’ve got a good connection in the Federal Bureau of Prisons who might be able to pull some strings. There is a federal prison camp in Duluth. These facilities have no gates. It’s kind of like living in a college dorm. Some people call it Club Fed. Most of those there are informants, low-risk prisoners, or corrupt politicians.”
“Tell me, detective, just how good is this connection?”
“I sleep with him every night. He’s my husband.”
“Oh, I get it,” Raunold grinned, “mama’s not giving any honey if he won’t deal.”
“If you want to put it that way,” Azcano laughed, “yeah.”
Raunold cracked a partial smile until the pain caused him to stop. “Alright, I think I like my chances then. I’ll make a bitch against the dude. One thing, though, when I get out of this place, are they going to take me right back to the same jail?”
“I’ve checked your background, Raunold. A good student; an athlete; here on your first rap, and it’s not exactly the Lindbergh kidnapping. I’ll see what I can do. For now, I need to do an in-depth interview and show some photos to you. I’ll work on the specifics when I get back to the office.”
“Detective, can I ask you something before you get started?”
“Sure, Raunold, shoot.”
“Whatever happened to that white dude, Mick? One of the last things I remember is looking up and seeing him punk some gangster that was about to stomp on my face. He seemed real hardcore. I’m kind of surprised that he would put his ass on the line for some black guy he barely knew.”
“The good news is that he only suffered a minor concussion,” replied a somber Azcano. “The bad news: he got this morning—only three to six months to live. The cancer got into his bones. When I interviewed him, Mick claimed to know that he was dying and that, by coming to your aid, he could make a claim to the almighty that he did something positive before he died. Funny thing, though, how even a career criminal like Mick Mahoney—a person who’s done some very bad things to people—feels the need to seek redemption. In the process, he might have saved your life. It’s something I tell my kids everyday: the good Lord works in mysterious ways.”
PSYHIC REPRIEVE: DECEPTION AND REALITY. Copyright © 2013 by Badger Wordsmith, LLC. All Rights reserved. No part of this material may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information: Badger Wordsmith, LLC, 2809 E. Hamilton Ave. #191, Eau Claire, WI, 54701, firstname.lastname@example.org.