In the Federal Judicial Center's 1994 publication entitled "The Consequences of Mandatory Minimum Prison Terms: A Summary of Recent Findings," Table 3 disclosed that 72% of their case studies of drug trafficking offenders had "no" repeat, no "role" in the offense. Fred Galiatsatos is one of those cases. Fred had the misfortune of being a flight instructor to a future cocaine/marijuana smuggler. Compounding that misfortune, he introduced that student to an airport acquaintance who, unbeknownst to Fred, later became the student's mentor and partner in crime.
Ten years ago, a story in the Miami Herald reported that federal agents had arrested 13 members of a drug ring that brought more than five tons of marijuana and nearly six tons of cocaine into South Florida over a 17 month period. Fred was among those arrested. Here is what the newspaper accounts left out.
A S.W.A.T. team hit Fred's home in a terrorizing, pre-dawn raid on his daughter's 17th birthday. There were no drugs or cash found in the raid, but Fred was arrested and indicted anyway. Fred's first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. Again, protesting his innocence, he refused to plea bargain and the case was set for a retrial. Prosecutors offered him a "plea agreement" " say you're guilty and be out of prison in "one-to-five" but, being a principled and innocent man, he plead not-guilty. Free on bond, it would be five years from the date of arrest before a jury convicted him on one count each of conspiracy to import marijuana and cocaine.
During that time, ringleader "Tito" Dominguez, facing life and millions of dollars in fines had spent four years in jail and was now "cooperating" with agents and prosecutors. Jack Brackett, the former flight student, had also "cooperated" with the government, so much that they persuaded the Federal Aviation Administration to reinstate his pilot's license despite the fact he was a confessed cocaine addict and convicted smuggler of the same. Because of the fact that the war on drugs has reduced the Constitution and Bill of Rights to nothing more than faded relics in the National Archives, the testimony of the indicted individuals was all the government needed for conviction. The witnesses told the jury that Fred had set up landing strips in the Bahamas and flown a load or two from Colombia until the others took over regular operations. There was never any physical evidence linking Fred to any controlled substances.
Fred has, thus far, spent the last five of his 59 years as an involuntary guest of Uncle Sam's because, being neither a drug-dealer nor smuggler, he was both unable and unwilling to "cooperate" with the authorities. Without explanation, the judge imposed two 20 year consecutive sentences on him40 years! He just might as well have handed down a life sentence! Being completely innocent, Fred erroneously expected that the United States' judicial system was capable of administering justice and would acquit him.
During his trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cornell told the court of Fred's "previous brush with the law," a brush which, in actuality, was one in 1974 when Fred had been duped into flying a load of marijuana disguised as vitamins. All charges were quickly dropped once it was revealed that it had all been a set-up wherein DEA agents had stolen seized cash and contraband. Agents had forgotten to take into account that, for obvious safety reasons, a pilot must know the exact weight of the cargo and there was a discrepancy in the manifest. Having survived the attempt to make him a fall-guy once, Fred subsequently exercised extreme discretion and caution regarding all cargo he was contracted to transport in his capacity as a charter pilot.
Fred had few assets and was forced to settle for a public defender. His co-defendants were wealthy enough to afford a costly defense. In that same FJC report, Judge Stanley Sporkin, of the DC District is quoted as saying that, "too often . . . this Court and other district courts find themselves sentencing underlings to substantial sentences while the drug overlords remain (free)." He recognized the problem of zealous agents and ambitious prosecutors using defendants such as Fred as stand-ins for drug kingpins simply because those genuinely deserving of harsh sentences are not before (a judge on charges commensurate with their culpability). It is no secret among inmates or criminal justice scholars that those who know the least about a supposed drug "conspiracy" end up serving the most time.
Fred knows that the tragedy that has befallen him can happen to anyone. Therefore, he is generally reluctant to share unrelated specifics of his personal history. Not in deference to Fred, but for the enlightenment of our readers we would like to share them here.
Fred was once a refugee from the most ruthless communist totalitarian regime of the former Iron Curtain; Nicolai Çeauçescu's Romania.
A brief account from Fred's childhood reads as follows; "The reasons for my father's decision for a hasty escape into the unknown was multi-faceted. Two years prior, perhaps three, he was arrested for having a pound of butter in his delicatessen store which was intended for me, but was kept at the store because we had no refrigerators (at home) then. Someone that envied my father snitched him out as trafficking in 'contraband'butter was outlawed outside government rations. He was convicted and sentenced to a year and bought his way out in six months. Then followed a change in currencydevaluation, confiscation of all private property, etc. We were reduced to a one-and-a-half room with outside toilet; (if that) wasn't enough to get him going, his mind was made up when he learned that all young children 7 years and older would be taken from their families and boarded in Communist schools."
Fred's father literally sneaked out of the country under the cover of darkness and a pile of coal inside a Greek freighter with his young son. The family was later reunited in Greece, lived as nomads, and eventually found their way to America in the mid-1950s after a church group sponsored them for U.S. citizenship.
As with countless immigrants who have come to the U.S. in search of freedom and opportunity, through hard work and determination the family successfully assimilated into middle-class America. They thought they had successfully escaped one of the major evils in the world. How wrong they were!
Towards the end of his life, the elder Galiatsatos saw an all-too-familiar pattern developing in the United States. It was very much like the one he saw in Romania and warned his son to pack up and leave before it was too late.
"That is nonsense, Dad! This is America, the land of the free. What happened back in Romania could never happen here," Fred asserted.
"Wrong, my son," he replied. "It is happening here. Only now, they put on their gloves, which they call the law, to give an illusion of legitimacy, and nobody can see the dirt except on the gloves."
Sadly, and almost prophetically, Fred was arrested a month after his father's passing.
Fred's elderly mother, Veronica Galiatsatos, originally had difficulty in believing her son's innocence. She could not believe that the U.S. government was in the business of locking people up just for the sake of doing so, but she eventually came around to the truth.
Mrs. Galiatsatos writes, "Since we came here to America, I have often thanked God, for he helped us and we escaped Communism ... At the moment, I have lost faith in the (Judicial) system here in America" is there not justice anymore? (then elsewhere?) They only hide Tyranny and oppression, this is the earth which at one time was our Savior, but now we are seeing it as a second Holocaust at the moment because it's destroying our (mine) son's life!"
Ironically, the U.S. was the first government-as-an-enemy the family had ever experienced. Before Nicolai Çeauçescu's rise to power, Romania was occupied for a period while the Nazi German army drove through Eastern Europe on their way to Russia. Being Jewish, Fred's family narrowly escaped the Nazi extermination machine because troops were ordered to hurry toward Russia. Nevertheless, the Nazi presence made their town a target of U.S. Forces and, in the days before laser-guided smart-bombs, locked-in on military targets by way of GPS or video monitor, an American bomb made its way down an elevator shaft, exploding in a basement which was being used as a civilian bomb shelter. The carnage was as would be expected.
Fred's case is but one more sad testament to the degradation of Liberty and Justice in the United States. This article is not intended to evoke sympathy for Fred. It is intended to illustrate that the propensity for evil to proliferate and thrive within governments is, to this very day, a time-proven problem of mankind. Despite vigorous efforts by our Nation's Founders to immunize future generations of Americans from such evil, our collective complacency has led to a catastrophic failure of their experiment. Our ever-evolving civilizations must reflect more closely on history in hopes that we may purge the scourge of tyranny and oppression from the face of the earth once-and-for all. For there are many other inmates, not unlike Fred, who came to America in search of a better life, or freedom from evil governments, but have tragically found a government more evil and sinister than that from which they escaped.
In honor of the memory of our Founding Fathers, as well as all those who have "for the cause of Liberty" honorably served this country militarily and, in many cases made the Supreme Sacrifice, we must not allow the scourge of this drug war to further the subversion those "certain unalienable Rights" granted us by our Creator.