We thought we were the only ones
By Lyndell Shaw, father of a prisoner of the drug war
We were in shock and disbelief at the FBI's treatment of our son, James. There were people in and around our small town using and dealing in narcotics, like most small towns. The FBI came on the scene like gangbusters of old. Arrests were made. Headlines sprawled across the front pages of our local newspaper, and the big Oklahoma City paper as well. The wild drug charges trumped up, and stories they wrote, were almost laughable.
Suddenly, 30 people with drug possession charges hanging over them received letters to appear in Federal Court in January 2000. The FBI went personally to defendant's homes, (with no attorney present) and made deals. They could trade testimony against others, and go free or win significantly reduced sentences.
All agreed to testify against their friends except James Lee Shaw. At the trial, there were so many discrepancies in testimony that he was forced to keep and study his own numerous notes. Despite such contradictory testimony, he was convicted, and the judge was required by the guidelines, with the appearance of much satisfaction, to give Lee a sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Of the "co-defendants," who were really just confidential informants for the federal police, all went free after Lee's trial and conviction, except for one. The only other person to receive any time for this fantastic, and huge, so-called drug conspiracy was the witness who also told the court that the FBI had come to his house and made "a secret deal between me and you," he testified on the stand. This man received 10 years in prison for his "deal."
A FBI agent later told me, "Sorry about all this, just doing my job." Lee has been sitting in a dark, stinking, overcrowded jail in Oklahoma City since January awaiting room for him in an overcrowded federal prison somewhere. Without your information published in the Razor Wire, we would still be wondering what happened!
We were a simple family with simple lives and simple jobs. My wife, Fran, has been a secretary of a school for 28 years. I run a small tire shop, and Lee had a service rig and fixed large tractor flats out on farms. Government agents used the news media to state several times in our local, compliant newspaper that they confiscated $1.5 million. This is a flat-out lie, and it came out in front-page headlines several times 100% lies.
We are not speakers or writers, and we are not radical, crazy people. But at this time we are a very torn-up, desperate family and, until recently, thought we were the only ones. Our prayers go out daily to all who have been unjustly affected by these drug war laws.
We feel that our son was guilty of less than 10% of what he was sentenced for, and sentenced for drug law violations that were committed by over 30 other people also, most of whom went free after testifying for the government. His lawyer told me he had never seen a case where all informants were set free, and some paid big money. From all this attorney has told me, if Lee had been unable to show that testimony was conflicting, he could have received life in prison.
I still did not think he would get sentenced to 20 years. We had never been in a courtroom, and never even talked to a lawyer in our life before all of this. We thought that judges were neutral as they tried the facts, and it has taken time to absorb and sort out things. In Lee's case the judge and pre-sentence investigator were, plain and simple, government puppets. In this case I personally sat and watched justice, lie after lie, completely overlooked, and at sentencing the constitution might as well be a Donald Duck funny book.
The judge's exact words the day of sentencing were, "Mr. Shaw, several prominent people are wanting you to have a second chance. But since you did not cooperate to government satisfaction, and we have spent all this money on trial, I feel I owe the government a maximum sentence of 20 years."
Maybe mandatory sentencing was a good idea at one time, but over the years it has been shown time and again to be the most stupid, harsh, half-witted, dumb set of philosophies ever imposed on anyone, anytime, anywhere. Months ago we thought we could do something, but after hundreds of letters we realize you can't communicate with rogue elephants operating out of control, arrogant beasts who make no mistakes, and allow no embarrassments to cause them to show any remorse.
We got back from visiting Lee today, and in our case I think an overdose of drugs wouldn't be any worse than a sentence overdose. When we leave down there, as several in our shoes know, it is comparable to a funeral, but we hear that passing of time helps.
Up until a few months ago, had I read the Razor Wire, I'm sure I would have thought you were anti-government militia or something. It is hard to get people with common sense to believe what the government is doing to us until they nab you then it is too late. When I got involved in understanding these ridiculous laws and watched the outrageous conduct of our government officials, what they call justice to me it is a plain and simple disgrace to human intelligence. I can understand "counterfeit politicians" coming up with such laws, but it is hard for me to understand where they can come up with enough violations to require enforcing these laws, and know for a fact they are having problems with some of them.
We can't find out why, but one of the FBI agents who worked Lee's case quit his job when this trial was over. Another agent came by our house after the trial. My wife said he let her know he had nothing to do with turning all the other "codefendants" loose. I was not home at the time and didn't get to visit with him. He said he would come back, but last I heard he was transferred to another state.
Although our son was involved in drugs, we have not had to apologize to any of our customers and friends for stealing. He carried keys to several barns and farms in the area due to his work, but his name has never been mentioned in theft, break-ins or burglaries. Several informants released in the name of justice had theft charges. Lee is no more a threat to society than a two-day-old duck, and we are collecting letters of support. Our family appreciates and thanks November Coalition for publishing the Razor Wire.