Miami Herald Article on Gary B. Waid

Miami Herald
Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Steve Bousquet
Capital Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE - A convicted marijuana smuggler serving time in Florida was moved over the weekend from a low-security work camp to a high-security lockup amid accusations that he used the prison's computer to write letters to The Herald and other newspapers.

In those letters, inmate Gary Brooks Waid, 49, joined the chorus of prisoners accusing guards of brutality. And in the tense atmosphere following the fatal beating of Death Row prisoner Frank Valdes, Waid's charges are being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and his temporary transfer has drawn intense scrutiny.

Late Monday, Waid was back at the work camp with other white-collar criminals, away from the killers and rapists down the road at Florida State Prison - the place where Valdez died a month ago after a confrontation with guards. Waid's brief journey speaks volumes about the climate in the Florida prison system since Valdes died.

Shortly after Waid was moved last Friday, his lawyer was demanding explanations, and a friend, Kay "Grandma" Lee of Key West, was sending urgent e-mail messages to Florida newspapers and to inmates-rights groups around the country, pleading with them to take up Waid's cause.

Prison officials took pains Monday to describe Waid's three-day transfer to the closest prison as a necessary move while they look into charges of misuse of state property - a computer in the work camp law library.

"He is not a security risk at the moment. We're moving him back to O Unit," said Florida State Prison Warden James Crosby, using prison jargon for the work camp. "We wanted him separated from any access to the computer until we could have someone go through the computer and check it. We have everything he had on the computer. We had to remove him over the weekend until we could get an expert to look at it."

Letter not typical

Prisoners' letters to the outside often are written in painstakingly precise handwriting, a reflection of the amount of time inmates have.

Not Waid's.

His three-page letter to The Herald on July 28 is neatly typewritten and articulately phrased, with key words italicized for emphasis. Describing himself as an apprentice law clerk, Waid said that since Valdes' death, "more and more inmates are coming to me to help them with their affidavits."

"They don't like a prisoner who's able to articulate himself," said Waid's lawyer, Donald Cohn of Miami. "He's one of the people they don't like because he's exercising the rights he has. This was, in effect, a form of punishment that was given to Gary because he's not the kind of inmate you normally get."

Waid, formerly of Merritt Island on Florida's Space Coast, was convicted four years ago of conspiring to smuggle two tons of marijuana on a fishing trawler from Jamaica to Florida over several years. He got a nine-year sentence in a federal prison and wasn't supposed to be in state custody in the first place.

He was one of about 30 minimum-security federal prisoners swapped last November for 30 violent state offenders, many of them murderers who came to the United States during the 1980 Mariel Boatlift. The prisoner swap had been advocated by state officials.

Miami Herald Article

Record Defended

His lawyer says Waid had an unblemished record while in federal custody and that he'd probably be in a halfway house by now if he hadn't been transferred to Florida State Prison's work camp last November.

"We're now in the process of doing whatever we can to get him out of there and get him back into federal custody," Cohn said. "He was in the worst place they could have put him."

Corrections spokesman, C.J. Drake said some e-mails on Waid's behalf came from people involved in efforts to legalize marijuana use. But, he said, Waid's transfer back to the camp was not a result of any complaints made by Waid's supporters on the outside.

"There's a heightened sense of awareness by prison management when it comes to conducting internal investigations," Drake said. "The Valdes incident has created an environment in which prisoners feel they have a forum to rehash allegations against the prison system."

Waid's Internet home page, set up by his friend, Kay Lee, is entitled "A Smuggler's Tales From Jails." On it, Waid describes Florida's prisons as "factories of hate and violence."

A biography written by his brother says Waid was a promising musician - a onetime professional trombonist with the Florida Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra who got into shrimping and from there "became enticed into the marijuana trade."

Thursday, June 17, 2010


An update on the investigations into guard violence
at Florida State Prison and its work (Satellite) camp.


Kay Lee
It seems the D.O.C. is mounting an investigation of sorts.   Send a copy of this letter to whomever you wish.  Maybe Michael Moore (Sec. of DOC) needs one.  And the Miami Herald. Take Care,
Gary Brooks Waid
On a hot, humid afternoon a few days ago, I was summoned to the administration building to be interviewed by an investigator from the Florida Department of Corrections.  He had copies of some of my letters to the Miami Herald, and, I suppose, the FBI.  He claimed to be from Gainesville and to be interested in getting at the truth.

Sadly, when the ensuing interview was over, I decided he had not been entirely truthful with me.  The interview was at the very least unproductive.  It actually scared me at one point.  It now seems, based on the actions of this guy, that the Florida D.O.C. intends to investigate the wrong things.  They want to discredit the messenger and those who aided him (me, you, and my lawyer).

And the guy was so Angry! Why was he so angry?  What should I have known beforehand to allay his anger?

He introduced himself, ordered me into a room with a desk and two chairs, swore me in and turned on his tape recorder.  He looked at his notes and told me what he expected.  He had an agenda.  He was, by turns, preoccupied, testy, indifferent or hostile to my opinions, rude, supercilious, and oddly myopic with respect to possible wrong doing by D.O.C. employees.  I thought then that this would not be easy.  I was nervous, actually, and afraid.  As some of you know, I'd been punished before for my thoughts. 

"Am I going to be hurt by this?" I asked.

"Lets hope not," he said, which served to heighten the tension.

There is, in prison, an unspoken but nonetheless tangible threat in many inmate-staff interactions.  If the threat is not overt it's implied.  ALWAYS. 

And the discomfort is encouraged by the agency directives towards prisoners.  They never acknowledge us by anything more conciliatory than our last names, spoken flatly, with contempt. An expulsion as in: "Wade, sit down! This is your big chance, Waid! Just do as you're told! Don't make me go over it and over it, Waid! "...etc...

It's part of being a prisoner and one of the reasons a true investigation by D.O.C. is impossible. 

If you have to sit for a lecture from someone who distrusts you, is afraid of your opinions, wants to discredit you in some way or hurt you, and is theatrical in his approach as he misquotes you (sighing, sucking his teeth), there's a tendency to become uncooperative.  Maybe they know that. Maybe it's what they want.

Imagine you're a little kid and the meanest man in town is yelling at you. The natural inclination is to clam up.  It can't be helped.  Every angry question might be designed to trip you up or elicit a response unrelated to the subject of the interview.

In this case, when the questions began I became more and more reticent, more and more conscious of the pauses and the white noise between utterances, more and more afraid I was missing something. This is not an inquiry, I thought, and wondered if the D.O.C. officers would be done this 'a way when their time came.

He said I'd made "serious allegations" in my letters to the Miami Herald.

I said no sir, I'd alleged nothing.  I'd heard and reported, I said, and I explained how I'd been working in the Law Library. I was helping inmates, which was my job. Since the beating death of a prisoner at F.S.P., inmates were coming forward, many of them swallowing their fears.  I'd taken a number of affidavits in which brutal, illegal acts were recalled in detail, and I was disturbed enough by them and by other rumors to want to report it.  It was information that needed to get out. I was a scribe and an editorializer, and I wrote letters to the paper, to judges, the Bureau of Prisons (federal), the FBI etc., based on the unbelievably detailed transcriptions. I believed the inmates, of course, and tried to explain why.

I'd seen these men explaining. I'd watched the fear and hesitancy. I've been down for five years now, and never in all that time in the feds had I witnessed anything remotely like it.

But the investigator said cool it; just answer the questions:

"Did you see such-and-such happen?"
"How 'bout this thing here?"
"Were you present when this allegedly happened?"
"No, of course not.".

Then I tried to explain what Testimony means. I mean, I'm in jail on a conspiracy rap. I should know how a proper investigation can sometimes disclose a compelling scenario based on several diverse testimonies. The feds build whole cases on points of similarity, details, and the probability factor. Eyewitnesses aren't required.

But he wouldn't entertain my "theories." 

"Don't you see," I wanted to say, "the affidavits are too complete. Stephen King couldn't make all this up!" 

He didn't want to hear me though, and indeed, ordered me to "just answer the questions." His pillar, his rock and the rock that D.O.C. obstinacy must be built upon is the certainly that if no one saw anything it didn't happen. A wall of silence, as they say.

Next he asked me about my lawyer, Don Cohn. He bore in, unrelenting. He seemed bent on attacking me for procedural violations (like typing) in my whistle-blowing activities, and wanted to blame those who helped me.  

Please tell me, someone, why should the Florida D.O.C. investigators attack the procedures and insist on the minutiae about How affidavits get into FBI or Miami Herald hands, rather than investigate the actual substance of the allegations?  What are they so afraid of?

Shouldn't they be trying to get at the truth rather than peck around at silly rules violations?  Are they exploring ways to shore up the wall of silence? Are they going to make even more arcane, protectionist regulations I must abide by? 
Today I am not allowed to type. Tomorrow I may not be allowed to write at all!  Already they inspect my mail (in the feds I was allowed to type and seal my outgoing letters, but not here). And the regulations go on endlessly, difficult to recall for their sheer volume, designed to dissuade guys like me from risking disclosure or censure. 

The regulations are the Reason no one knows what goes on in prisons. They're Why some officers feel free to beat on inmates. The stifling secrecy is the PROBLEM! 

The investigator wanted me to produce copies of the affidavits. When I said I had none, he ordered my personal property searched - page by page. He wanted all the names of the inmates claiming abuse. I told him I couldn't do that; I had no permission. It wasn't ethical. 

He shouted: "I'll tell you what's ethical! I'll tell you what you can and can't do..." 
But ethics is not high on the D.O.C. list of priorities. Just ask me. I've been reprimanded, thrown in the hole at F.S.P., given a Disciplinary Report for typing, transferred to a close-custody prison for my "own protection," given another D.R., this time a bogus one for "Lying to Staff," all because of my activities in the law library, activities I was supposed to be doing on behalf of the inmates. It's why I was afraid.  So to hell with D.O.C. ethics. Maybe the investigator was upset because of something unrelated to me. maybe his integrity was under fire. Maybe it Should have been under fire. 

Or maybe, as I've said, he had an agenda. According to the St. Petersburg Times, more than one in six guards employed at F.S.P. (there are more than 500 of them) have criminal records, including arrests for manslaughter and child abuse. Getting at the truth may be secondary to finding a suitable political solution...or a scapegoat.  

...on a personal note then, U.S.A. Today reported recently that former Florida House Speaker Balley Johnson, once one of the state's most influential politicians, began a two-year term recently for tax evasion. He reported to the minimum-security federal camp at Eglin A.F.B.  

I wonder if Balley Johnson is allowed to use a typewriter.

9/8/99 by Gary Waid, Federal Inmate, illegally housed now at
*New River Correctional Institution West,
a close-custody state joint for
mostly violent inmates.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Culture Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory