Prison Race - Clarence "Rudy" Brown

Uploaded by calpolypomona on 11.07.2011

Reese:Hi. My name is Renford Reese. I'm a professor in the political science
department and the director of the Colorful Flags Program at Cal Poly Pomona.
We're here today as a part of the Prison Race series to have a candid discussion
with Mr. Clarence Ruby Brown. A person who has spent 15 years in the Federal
Prison system. I want to talk to him about this youth. I want to talk to him
about the offences that lead to him to be incarcerated. I want to talk to him
about the culture in the Federal Prison system and finally I want to fast
forward and talk to him about adjusting to life in the free world. He has just
been paroled 8 months ago and he is facing the challenges that all paroles face.
Rudy glad to have you with us.Brown:Thanks for having me.Reese:
So first of all tell me about what it was like growing up in Pomona in the
1970's?Brown:It was a great time. I'm a child a product of Pomona. My father
preached here my mom they had a church here in Pomona. I went the Elementary
schools, Junior High's High Schools. I had a great life a two parent family.
Reese:So you mom and your father were preachers?Brown:Yes. My mother is
evangelist still in the teaching mode at 80 right now.Reese:
So what type of person what type of kid what type of student were you growing
up?Brown:I was probably an excellent student in Elementary and Junior High. High
school wasn't too great. Not because I didn't have the sense I just didn't go to
school like I should have. I was an athlete.Reese:So you were an athlete. Your
father was a preacher and your mother was in the church also. And so I would
imagine they were strict disciplinarians.Brown:Oh Yeah definitely.
Reese:How did you get around not going to school?Brown:Just barley making it
going when I needed to. I graduated high school I just didn't apply myself as I
did at getting my higher education.Reese:So what were you doing if you weren't
going to school what were you doing?Brown:Just ditching basically. I was working
as a senior, playing sports and working and I had a child as a senior in high
school so I didn't' apply myself as a student.Reese:How does fatherhood you had
a child when you were 17 years old. How did fatherhood, did it change you at all
or were you doing the same types of things?Brown:It changed me. I went to the
military to get stability I was already disciplined I knew what disciplined
was. My parents were very I needed my own job my own stability my own manhood
you might say. Be able to take care of my child.Reese:You said you were an
athlete. What sports did you play?Brown:I played all basketball football
baseball. Basketball was my favorite though.Reese:You had aspirations of going
to play college.Brown:I did I was always told I was too short. So when I went to
the military I played in Germany for 3 years. I was exempt from duty and I just
traveled around on the division team.Reese:How long did you serve in the
military?Brown:Just four years, well actually 8 years total.
Reese:What was that experience like?Brown:It was great. I enjoyed it. I was able
to meet friends that I still have today and we stay in touch.
Reese:You seem like a very balanced a very disciplined person especially in the
later part of your youth especially if you've spent 8 years in the military. So
it's kind of odd to hear someone who has lived and experienced the military
service to have gone to prison for 15 years. So can you back track and give us
some kind of chronology of what happen when you came out of the military.
Brown:I'm not the typical so called drug dealer as the courts call them. But
what I did I began to help connect the dots with people introduce the people who
were in the drug culture and so because the drug dealer per say did not want to
meet the other people but they knew me so I was the middle man. So that's how it
began just helping people.Reese:So when did it happen, give me a time line.
Brown:In 1988 I became involved.Reese:So when did you come out of the military
Brown:1986 Reese:So 2 years after the military you started to get involved.
Brown:Yes I was working every day for a cable TV company. I met a man who began
to work I trained him to work with us at the cable company. He started telling
me -Hey I have some people I have friends that might want to get involved do you
have a connect do you know any body? And at that point we were only making only
$6.50 per hour and I felt like I don't have to do anything. I don't have to get
my hands dirty really so I felt like oh it was ok and that's how I began to
connect people together. And I never had any other criminal history I think I
had maybe 2 tickets in my life.Reese:So in 1988 that's when you got introduced
to the culture and how long was it before you had the drug offence?
Brown:1988 to 1994 Reese:So you were involved from 1988 to 1994 before you were
charged with the drug offence?Brown:Yes off and on for those 6 years.
Reese:If you could be candid with us and tell us what type of money you were
making at the time.Brown:In the beginning it was just a few hundred dollars at
the time. Just sending small amounts of cocaine from California to Georgia it
was nothing just make a few hundred dollars extra and then it began to multiply
and eventually we would make 85 thousand in 5 minutes profit at one time. That's
the type of money that came through in later years. There's time when 2 to 3
hundred thousand was nothing. I lost 400 thousand at the airport at one time.
Reese:What do you mean you lost 400 thousand?Brown:The DA took it.
Reese:They didn't arrest you?Brown:It wasn't on me it was on someone else
travelling but the point is that was the type of money that I was moving across
the country.Reese:So what were you doing with all this money you were making a
lot of money.Brown:You had to pay the man you might say. I have to pay the
suppliers. I got into a position where I was actually getting everything. I was
what you called"fronting" everything.At the time drugs were going anywhere from
18 thousand over the years to 10 thousand of kilo of Cocaine. I wasn't typical I
didn't sell on the street I kinda fell into a connect who had kilos. I didn't
sell on the corner or out of houses I didn't' do that I was basically sending it
out of state in bulk.Reese:How did you - did you mail it?Brown:
We mailed it - we flew it anyway you can think about getting it out of the
state.Reese:Did you disguise it or how did you it?Brown:Oh yeah it was always
Reese:What were some of the ways you camouflaged it Brown:Different wrappings
different using regular products from a store any type of way you would like to
send it. Any way you can imagine to send it we get it there.
Reese:It was primarily cocaine just cocaine.Brown:At times we would send -- I
remember one time we had we sent 50 pounds of weed on the airplane in a
suitcase.Reese:It was easy.Brown:Back then but it became tough later because a
lot of people started using the method and got catch so therefore the DA was
really heavy and hard at the airports. They had dogs. And if you knew people who
worked at the airport you would know when to come and when not to come. So those
were the other advantages if you knew people.Reese:What about crack. You know
this disparity it was just reformed but the disparately where a person being
caught with 5 grams of crack first time offence they get 5 years in prison and
you needed 100 times the amount to get the power cocaine to get the same
sentence for the first time offence.Brown:Yes- I actually benefited from the law
in 2007. The law was changed and I actually got 44 months of my sentence. It
wasn't just me it was everyone in the system who qualified. In the Federal
System who qualified who had who was sentenced to 4.5 kilograms or less of crack
and had no career offence. They were able to get a 2 point reduction in their
sentencing scale. So I was level 38 in turn I was given level 36 which went from
235 to 292 months in my sentencing down to 204 - 208. So I went down instead of
21 years as a first time offence I was resentenced to 17 years 4 months.
Reese:Let's fast forward. Let's come up to your offence. Can you just walk us
through what was the process of you being arrested and convicted?
Brown:I was arrested in Pomona at my house and there was an investigation in
Georgia for 2 years and I was not in part of that investigation however when
they did arrest those people in Georgia they found a Federal Express packing
slip in one of the gentleman's car. Two days later they came to California and
hit my house.They didn't find anything. I was aware of what went down but they
didn't' find anything but 5 months later they came with an indictment. What I
found out after getting discovery was that they had a lot of historical
information from 1988 until 1994 about me but they could never put me in the
same state or put me city or with anyone so they just had information and even
the FBI and the DA in California didn't know anything about me because I didn't
sell drugs in the street or even in California rarely. It was always sent out of
state. They arrested me October 1994 and basically it was a conspiracy. And this
is what many people don't understand about conspiracy you don't have to have
been caught with anything which I was never caught with drugs with money with
guns nothing and I was sentenced to 21 years as a first time non- violent
offender.Reese:What does the conspiracy in tale?Brown:A conspiracy in tales two
or more individuals speaking about planning and what they call the furthence of
the act when you act upon something. If you and I say we want to go to McDonalds
we have to get in the car and go we have a conspiracy to eat a hamburger because
the furtherst of the act to go get the money and go get that product.
Reese:So tell me about how you felt when you were arrested. Did you feel it was
coming? When you were out and pushing drugs did you always know it was coming at
some point in time.Brown:I know because how I was moving and how I was
operating. I never operated typically of the normal drug dealer you might see on
the television and on the street corner. I operated in airplanes different
methods postal service UPS anything you could imagine I operated that way.
Reese:Did you ever take cocaine on the airplane with you?Brown:
Oh yes there was a time I got drunk. I took almost a kilo of crack cocaine on
the spur of the moment. I paid cash for the ticket and went out of state.
Reese:And there was no one to stop you.Brown:I was fortunate not to make it. But
I probably would have got less time if I would have got caught with it than I do
with conspiracy because possession you get less time for possession that you do
for conspiracy.Reese:How much time would you have gotten if you got caught with
possession of a kilo of cocaine?Brown:Probably anywhere from 5-10 depending on
whether it was cocaine or crack powder which is no different which they finally
came to the realization that there is no difference.Reese:Tell me about your
process tell me about your lawyer. I asked earlier in a discussion with you did
they offer you a plea?Brown:No, they didn't offer a plea I never spoke to them.
When I got arrested I never spoke to any DA any FBI because my lawyer was the
buffer and when he told me -his word to me was this "I'm a criminal trial
specialist I do not cooperate with the government I got to trial." In my
arrogance I liked that. At the time I really thought I am going to fight this
you fight in the courts I will fight in the street basically was my attitude. So
I loved that about him and from that point on we went to trial there was no need
to come to me to talk because I was going to trial regardless.
Reese:So tell me about the trial and being convicted and being sentenced.
Brown:Well the trail to me was racist because I was in a small town in Augusta
Georgia and I was not among any of my peers. They dismissed the Blacks off the
jury. The jury was sequestered which is not typical of a drug trial that's only
typical in capital murder trials. So they were sequestered in a hotel could not
go home.The judge said this trial will be over in 5 days and we went to trial
from 8 in the morning until sometimes 9 at night everyday and I was convicted
that Friday.It was pushed it was rushed. We had excellent lawyers excellent
lawyers. There were 3 of us who actually went to trial but there was so much I
think it was people the naivety of the juries because there was no evidence
against me. I never lived in the city. They had no drugs no anything to connect
me but the testimony against me was just simply that they knew me and they knew
of me and the dead guy who was one of my old friends who died that he was my
connect he was my person the man in the city they might call him but he was dead
so they used his name quite often in the trial. There was no one to really saw
the yes I actually purchased the drugs directly from me.Reese:
So how much did they give you initially?Brown:252 months which is 21 years as a
first time non violent offender. Never been in jail never had any criminal
history nothing.Reese:So how did you feel when you heard the judge say.
Brown:It didn't sink in it didn't really hit me at the time. I didn't even think
about it. All I thought about I told my lawyer we are going to appeal it. My
wife and my mother and father were in the audience it didn't really hit me until
later.Reese:When did it hit you?Brown:When I learned my father broke down I
think that's when it really hit me it all came crashing down that my father took
it really hard and he's a strong man and being a pastor for 45 years a preacher
for 60 years prior to his death he always demonstrated strength. And when I
learned that he really broke down and devastated him that he lost his son to the
system I think that just really came crashing down on me emotionally and I began
literally cry that I hurt my family.That's what really hit me at first I didn't
take responsible yet for my crime but at that point.Reese:That's what I wanted
to get at. I'm from Georgia, McDonough Georgia about an hour and a half from
Augusta and you say the jury the jurors were racially biased. And you said there
were procedural flaws. But if you look at the big picture Rudy you already
admitted guilt that you were involved in the drug trade the drug sales.
Brown:Not at the time but yes now yes now I went to trial there's nothing to
hide now it was all brought out.Reese:But what I'm saying is your talking about
procedural flaws the evidence that they did not have but at actuality you were
guilty.Brown:Oh yes that's why I always knew I would go to prison.
Reese:Ok so that's what I'm trying to get at you say that you didn't take
responsibility when you broke down you started to take responsibility for what
you were involved in.Brown:Well not even then I didn't even take responsibility
until one night about 3 in the morning several months later when 2 youngsters we
were in the county jail pending my transfer to the federal system and 2 young
kids were in jail for just petty drug crimes and they learned who I was. They
were like you're the California Connect you're the guy they used to call the
Ghost they had nick names for me. I like yeah what ever so they started telling
me all their exploits of how they sold drugs and how they treated people. What
really got to me is how they treated woman and how they told me some stories of
what they were doing to the woman and how they were making them do things
sexually and all types of stuff for drugs and about 3 in the morning its like
something was overwhelming and I cried like baby and at that point my life
changed. That's when I was truly sorry for what I did. I didn't understand the
concept that moving drugs from one city to another state and the impact that it
had on the community I did not understand the impact until later as I became
more educated I started to understand that I was just as bad as a murder or
anyone else in the system because the effect of drugs devastated like August
Georgia for instance it devastated 70% of the city at one time. Violence and
people lost their jobs homes and you would go down there are so many projects.
There's people everywhere unemployed single family homes addicts it was
devastating but you don't realize it you don't realize it because your not in
the street and I was never in the street. But when I began to understand it is
when I took responsibility for it and that when I changed my life that's when I
began to study to get educated to start preaching and teaching that drugs were
wrong and they still are wrong because it's still bad people don't understand
that.Reese:So do you think that 15 years do you think that was disproportionate
or do you think you deserve to spend 15 years in prison?Brown:
I don't think I ever deserve 15 years. It didn't take that long for me to learn
and it was disproportionate compared to the people who bring the drugs in the
country. You have people here I knew pilots who would fly tons of drugs
commercial pilots who were bring drugs into the country from Mexico from
Colombia from other countries from Jamaica. I know people who were sentenced to
5 years and their paper work reads literally reads they imported and flew as a
pilot 5 -6 -7 tons of cocaine and they got 5 years.Reese:So what was it like can
you just take us inside the Federal Prison. In this show we've talked to a lot
of people who have gone to State Prison but you tell us what its like to be in a
Federal Prison system.Brown:The Feds operate slightly different than the state
system it's not as crowded obviously but it is crowded comparatively but the
ratio of staff to inmates a little more and it's more based there are more
educated people in the Feds because you have so much more White Collar criminals
in there. And the internet has taken that to another level there are people
getting charged for internet crimes. But the penitentiary there must be the
respect level just like in the state. There has to be because there can be the
potential for any violence in any level. But in the pen in my opinion there are
Black and Hispanic in the Feds just like the state.Reese:But disproportionately
you have executives and CEO that are involved in White Collar crimes aren't they
white.Brown:Yes majority Reese:So why do you have the majority of the Black or
the majority of people in the Federal prison who are Black and Hispanic?
Brown:That's what I told you it is a racist system.Reese:Even the Federal
System?Brown:Even the Federal System that is what I told the juries they are so
naïve because the preponderance of evidence or when you go to trial which most
people are afraid to they are afraid of the Feds. They are afraid of the
government they will not face a jury they are so afraid because they are so used
to hearing -your going to get 30 years your going to get 30 years so they just
go and pled guilty to what ever and they will do the time and the majority of
the time there is no evidence against them and this is sad in the system.
Reese:So do you have in the Federal Prison do you always have to watch your back
do you have to be paranoid the same way as the State.Brown:I don't believe so I
don't think it's that way. Certain situations there are times when there's gang
violence. There's a lot of stuff going on in the Feds just like the state. It's
not as bad but in the last 10 years the system is changing because of the
immigration factors. It's changing because the system has taken anybody off the
streets. Uneducated the smallest guy on the street with one $20. piece of rock
cocaine and putting him in prison for 10 years in the Feds when all they had to
do is put them in a rehab center of half way house and get them retrained give
them some education get them a GED. Instead of doing that they send them to
prison for 10 years because of the war machine the war on drugs. The failed war
on drugs.Reese:I want you to fast forward to now. I want you to tell me what
you're doing now and some of the challenges of trying to make adjustments in the
free world after spending 15 years in prison.Brown:I came out angry, bitter
because the system is a failure the system is racist.You go all way back to the
history of cocaine in this country why it was outlawed. It was actually legal
just like Heroin it was legal they sold it but the policies in the system made
me really angry. I studied Law in the system I got 3 college degrees while I was
in 2 associate degrees and a bachelors' in psychology and I came out bitter at
the system however I was prepared to come home. I prepared my mind from day one
when they let me on that yard they're not going to kill me they're not going to
take my life from me. So I came home day one I was able to leave the half way
house to go look for a job or get a license I started doing everything in my
power to circumvent every rule to keep and extra hour out to be on a computer to
learn how to operate the internet navigate look for a job and because I had a
support system my family which was a blessing it made it a little easier the
transition to actually look for a job and to make contact with people and
employers and work on my child support issues and get my drivers license and all
these things that you need when you get home just to be legal in the city. To
walk around with a drivers license ID. I had to do all these things in a short
period of time.Reese:So you eventually got a job?Brown:Fortunately I was hired
as a job developer for a parolee project ironically at a college and that was
the most amazing thing and it's been a great experience ever since. And I am
involved in the largest correctional educational library in
the world for Cal State San Bernardino.Reese:So tell me what are you plans what
are your 3 year goals?Brown:The 3 years goal is to get my masters degree that's
what I'm trying to bark upon now. Find a school that I can get into and develop
a non profit to actually teach people teach youngsters about the system. And
there is a lot of funding right now coming through Work Force Investment Act for
reintegration for DRC's and things of this nature they are reporting centers. In
stead of sending people to prison there's a change of atmosphere now. There
involving churches and community organizations now to put people in some life
skills training to prevent them to going to prison and this is necessary today
because the prison system is overcrowded and were trying to get involved.
Reese:Rudy I want to thank you for coming in you have an inspirational story
your mind is very sharp very analytical very articulate and I want to commend
you for making that transition and that transformation in your life and I think
you could be a shinning light for a lot of people out there not just parolees
people and I want to thank you again for coming in today.