Locked Up And Can’t Get Out - Page 2

By Dr. Elyk Ley 03/16/17

In this excerpt from his forthcoming book, a doctor battling addiction recounts his time in prison and the massive impact it had on his life. 

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An inmate standing inside a jail cell with his arms crossed.

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The auto theft charge against me was completely false. I was innocent so it was the least worrisome of all the charges against me. On the day that the charge was thrown out in court, there was a glitch in the court system's computers. There was no record of my remaining open cases so I was about to be set free. I could have walked out of the hearing as a free man – at least until they discovered their mistake. But I was tired of running, hiding and looking over my shoulder so I reminded the authorities that I had more business with the courts that had yet to be adjudicated.

Furthermore, I was appreciating the reprieve from the cocaine craziness. In all truth, during my first six months of incarceration, I would have refused to leave the jail if it meant returning to the madness of the drugs and crime from whence I came.

One morning, as I lay on my bunk in a pensive mood, a correctional officer informed me that I had to prepare for an outside trip. I didn’t know what it was about but I was elated just to be going outdoors and away from the jail. It was a chance to see the trees and grass and be a part of the free society—if only momentarily.

I was picked up by state detectives who took me to be arraigned on my new state charges which were consolidated with the charges from the pharmacy arrest of earlier when Dana and I were detained. We never returned for our court hearings as we were ordered to. There was a lot of commotion and conferring and I was completely baffled by what was going on.

I was assigned a public defender who didn’t know much more than me about what was going on. I was surprised that the state attorney general’s office was prosecuting my case rather than the county district attorney. This was quite intimidating because of the vast resources of the state and it signified the seriousness of my situation. They finally had me after investing a lot of time using a lot of their resources to apprehend me.

I really had no understanding about the depth of their determination to prosecute me to the fullest extent of the law until that day. It was indeed a major affair. My bail was set at $100,000 cash - no %10 - which was equivalent to a million-dollar bail! I didn’t have the money, of course, and, as I mentioned, I was in no hurry to be released.

I was shocked by the magnitude of the case. There were 234 counts of insurance fraud; 76 counts of identity theft; 97 counts of forgery and four counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. A total of 411 felony charges! I was stunned! There was also an expansion of the charges from my previous arrest. The charges were nearly all derived from their confiscation and study of my pharmacy ledger that was found in the car from the earlier arrest that involved Dana and I.

I had kept meticulous records of my pharmacy transactions to avoid errors. I never bought the ledger out of the house. It was only in the car the day the day of the arrest because I was in the process of moving. It was the most significant and most damaging piece of evidence against me.

When I returned to the county jail I knew that this was going to probably be the toughest fight of my life. I was highly motivated to begin the daunting process of learning criminal law to begin researching the defense of my case. Each of the counts carried a maximum sentence of 3 ½ to 7 years. I had 411 counts, so I was potentially facing 2,877 years in prison. Whoa! It was surreal.

And there were charges from the other cases as well that I had to account for.

I was in deep shit.

That night, I cried silently as I lay in my bunk. I needed a skillful attorney but I had no money. When I had initially learned of the state’s investigation of me, I had attempted to put aside money for an attorney but I repeatedly dipped into it for cocaine purchases until it was depleted. I had $10 in my pocket when I was arrested.

There were a few thousand dollars in refillable prescriptions that were left at my cousin’s house but Dana got a hold of them the day after my arrest and she never sent me a dime of that money. I was facing the possibility of spending the next few decades in prison with all the charges against me.

I had to fight my best fight regardless of my circumstances. I never had much interest in criminal law but I knew that I could not depend upon a public defender to diligently represent my interests because my case was enormous and would require time that public defenders just did not have and were not paid well-enough to defend. It would have been a time-consuming case of meticulous paperwork.

My initial task was to master the language of the legal profession. I remembered from my study of medicine that learning word definitions was fundamental towards understanding the concepts of any academic discipline especially in the rarefied professions of law and medicine. I took advantage of every free minute that I was allowed to go to the jail law library. No one had my interest more at heart than me. No one would fight harder for my freedom than me. I read and reviewed legal documents and literature for several hours each day and I prayed like never before.

Every night in the adjacent cell there were groans of a sexual nature heard through the separating wall. The cell was occupied by two Hispanic inmates. One actually “looked” evil and mean, like someone whose path you just wanted to avoid. The other was older, potbellied and spoke limited English. They certainly did not appear to be gay or bisexual by any measure but every night there were moans and sometimes screams emitted from their cell. My Asian cellie had to have heard them. We talked about all kinds of subjects but even in the presence of the crude vocalizations from the adjoining cell he never commented on them.

Finally, I directed the conversation toward them and he was completely reticent about it. He just said, “Yeah, so what?” I took his reluctance to mean that the topic was something that was not discussed in a jail environment. He was telling me to mind my own business especially regarding sexual matters in prison. It was a lesson in inmate etiquette and the prisoners’ code of ethics. It was my first direct exposure to the homosexual behavior in prison as a prisoner. It’s a huge public health concern for the general society.

As a prison physician years earlier, I treated an inmate who had been gang-raped in his cell because he was a convicted pedophile. His story was that a few inmates forcefully entered his cell and put a razor to his throat then proceeded to rape him. The fate of pediatric sexual offenders was always grim in prisons. They often request protective custody to isolate themselves from the general population.

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