07/19/09 - Lawrence Garrison

Century of Lies

Lawrence Garrison, who spent more than 10 years behind bars on a bogus cocaine conspiracy charge + Ali Muhammad who lost his social worker status on a bogus marijuana charge +DTN UPDATES

Audio file

Century of Lies, July 19, 2009

The failure of Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

Welcome to this edition of Century of Lies. I’m so glad that you could be with us for this special edition. Here in just a few moments we’ll bring in our guest for this evening, Mr. Lawrence Garrison, who’s spent more than ten years behind bars on a ‘cocaine conspiracy’ charge. But first up, I have some big news for the affiliates and for the listeners, all along the Drug Truth Network.

Pacifica, in it’s infinite wisdom is changing our time slots, on the ’mother-ship’ station of the Drug Truth Network. This gives us a chance to reach out and include all the Drug Truth Network affiliate listener’s in the US, Canada and Australia. It’s no big deal to the network, but the 420 Drug War News on the ‘mother-ship’ station is moving, from it’s God given time slot and will now be heard at 2:58PM.

Cultural Baggage is moving to Sunday’s at 6:30PM (Central) and here’s the important part for Drug Truth Listener’s around the world. We want to hear from you. Century of Lies will be produced immediately following the Cultural Baggage program at 7PM (Central). Immediately following the Cultural Baggage program, where I’ll interview our guests, and then at 7PM (Central) we will feature a brand new segment, on the Century of Lies show.

‘It’s time… to face… the Inquisition.’

Yes, we will all face the Inquisition. Listener’s in the US and Canada will be able to call in their question’s ’toll free’ by calling 1.877.9420.420. You can listen in ‘live’ on the web at www.kpft.org. This is your chance to interact with the judge, cop, scientist, doctor or author, ’LIVE’. Both shows will still be twenty-nine minutes each and will be available by Monday morning, along with the latest 420 Drug War News reports on our website, www.drugtruth.net.

Again, listener’s in US and Canada can help us ‘Face the Inquisition’ on Sunday evenings during the Cultural Baggage and Century of Lies programs. Starting at 7:30 Eastern / 6:30 Central / 5:30 Mountain and 4:30 on the West coast. Tune into kpft.org and be sure to call ‘toll free’ 1.877.9420.420. Working together, we will soon bring this Drug War to an end.

Alright, hope you were paying attention there folks. Now, before we bring in our guest, Lawrence Garrison, I hope you remember back in November of ‘07 his mother, Karen Garrison, came on our show to talk about the situation regarding her two twin boys.

Dean Becker: Tell us about your sons.

Ms. Karen Garrison: Well my son’s, Lawrence and Lamont were convicted of one count cocaine conspiracy. There were no drugs, no guns. I think they had fourteen dollars between them when they arrested them. They arrested them in April. They graduated from Howard University and Political Science in May.

In June they went to trial and September they were suppose to be sentenced, but I thought it would be better to get a paid attorney because the two ‘court appointed’ lawyers literally did nothing. So they rescheduled it for October and in October they were sentenced to fifteen and a half years for Lawrence and nineteen and a half years for Lamont. They were only suppose to get ten years.

Dean Becker: This situation is sadly not rare. It has happened hundreds of thousands of times across America and we have our prison’s so overcrowded, that now the Federal Sentencing Commission is starting to look at the disparity.

Karen Lawrence: Well, I think they are giving everyone an opportunity to put things in, to tell they why we should not have the disparity of crack and powder and why we should give these people that are in prison, a little time cut with the twenty to one; making my son’s come home maybe three and four years earlier then they would anyway. So it gives them the opportunity to come out and get on with their lives.

Dean Becker: OK, as I said, that was in November of ‘07 and in December of 2007, the United States Sentencing Commission submitted recommendations to Congress to reduce the guidelines, which gave Lawrence and Lamont the first glimmer of hope of freedom from their harsh sentencing and with that, let’s go ahead and bring in our guest, Mr. Lawrence Garrison. Hello, Sir.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: How you doing Mr. Becker? How you doing today?

Dean Becker: It’s real good to hear your voice Lawrence, to hear you on the outside here, with us. But your heart’s still on the inside, there with your brother and some friends you left behind, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, yes. My twin brother has another seventeen months before he’s released to a half-way house. Right now, we’re working toward commutation for my twin brother, so hopefully he can be joining us soon, on this program.

Dean Becker: I would love that situation. It would be a great day, wouldn’t it?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, it would. It’s been eleven years and two months since I’ve physically seen my brother.

Dean Becker: You are one of the lucky ones. So many times, prisoners get in there and develop a hard heart; they don’t want to see their relatives or their relatives just throw up their hands and forget about them. But your mother cares. Your mother was there for you guys, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Well, yes. Every breath of the way, she was there; my mother, my grandmother, my great uncle, they were there. I could say, every minute that I spoke to her on the phone was preparation of building me up to this moment, here. I’ve never sat inside and not thought of, ‘what I could do to change the things; change my circumstance; change my brother and I circumstance and I have vowed to help my constituents, in and out of prison, to bring some type of justice, to this harsh sentencing, of crack, that has changed the African American community, as a whole.

Dean Becker: Has it not? I agree with you, Sir. It’s outrageous, the racial discrimination that goes on in, I think, all states and certainly in some states, like Illinois, it’s like nine to one, in this type of sentencing.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: Who was in the first prison you went in there? What faces did you see?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Well, there was mostly African American males, nineteen to twenty-five years old and the average sentence was twenty years. You had a very, very low percentile of white American’s there, that were drug convictions. Later on, in completing my sentence, I found out that the lower you go, the more color you see, as far as white Americans. This is…

Dean Becker: Explain that for us, ‘The lower you go’.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Well, the lower you go; I had to… At the beginning of my sentence, which was originally fifteen years and eight months, I started out at FCI Allenwood. So what that meant was, I had fifteen points and fifteen points on the point system, is very high. Because at the time, my crime was considered a crime of violence, even though no one got hurt. There was never any guns or any type of force; no one was threatened, my crime was still a crime of violence.

At that time I was a first time offender and I just came into the system, twenty-five years old. So they put me in a situation, put my brother and I both in a situation where there were men that had a lot more time; a lot more violent history, than my brother and I. But they still put us in a situation like that, because of our skin color.

As we went down; with good behavior, as you work your way down the system into the security levels, when I got to a minimum, which is a camp which was supposedly no fence, I saw more white Americans. Mostly white collar crime. A few drug offences, where they were sentences under guidelines for users; not carriers, not drug king-pin’s or anything like that, and mostly never crack. But I met more white American’s in the minimum levels.

Dean Becker: OK now, I want to back up for a second though, to when you were in the maximum security, you say it’s mostly young, black males…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes.

Dean Becker: …were they drug king-pin’s? Did they have the boat loads, the plane loads?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: No, most of these young men didn’t have the equivalent of fifty dollars of crack cocaine. Most of them are there for ’conspiracy’, hearsay, which could give you a range from ten to life, in sentencing, just according to someone’s testimony. Not physically having crack or cocaine, just someone saying; getting on the stand and pointing their finger and saying they gave you a gram each day for a year. That’s for 365 grams, which can get you fifteen years.

Dean Becker: This is all based on the word of somebody who’s already caught up in the criminal justice system; somebody who’s trying to negate his sentence; somebody who’s trying to hand it off to somebody who, maybe didn’t do anything, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right, and what they do, they use the prosecutor. This is a tool, a powerful tool for the prosecutor. They use this man or woman as a tool and this person has something given to them, so the judge can show leniency towards them, and the prosecutor’s totally in control of the situation. The judge is not in control. I mean, besides what you’ve heard, the prosecutor’s in control, because from the time that you step in that courtroom, they already know how much time they’re going to give you. They already know.

Your lawyer will already tell you you’re facing at least ten years, so that means automatically you’re going to be gone almost a decade, if you’re a black man. So, once you go in there and then they say ’crack’, you know it’s over ten years, automatically. Fifty grams triggered that mandatory minimum of ten years and there’s not that many black men I met, that didn’t trigger that mandatory minimum for ten years, for fifty grams or over, that was there for ‘hearsay‘, using conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; and that’s what it was, cocaine base.

Dean Becker: Now, I want to back up here a second. You say fifty grams and most of American’s not very metric oriented…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: …that’s about the weight of a candy bar, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, yes, the weight of a candy bar; and this weight of a candy bar is calculated a hundred times, towards cocaine. So one size of a candy bar would be equal to fifty pounds of cocaine, which crack is thereby, times by one hundred. This is where the Citizen Commission stepped in and made it twenty to one instead of one hundred to one, and here I am because the retro-activity because of the 706 Crack Amendment.

Dean Becker: Let’s talk about something here. You and your brother were both charged for the same crime and yet, he wound up getting four more years added to his sentence.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes.

Dean Becker: Tell us why?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, my brother received forty-six months in ‘Enhancement’, because of obstruction of justice. He testified in our defense, to simple questions: ‘Where did he live?’ ‘Where did he work?’ ‘Had he ever sold drugs?’ Simple questions that he answered, ’No’ to, of course, as far as our crime. But he was truthful to the best of his knowledge and they punished him for being truthful; for exercising his Constitutional Rights.

Most of the time these judges don’t O.K. this enhancement. But because of the vindictiveness of the prosecutor, they pressed, and they got forty-six months additional to my brother’s fifteen years, eight months. They got an additional forty-six months, which made him receive a sentence of nineteen years and eight months.

Dean Becker: Good gosh! I want folks to understand this. The man did what we think is an ‘American Right‘.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: He took the stand in defense of his own actions…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes.

Dean Becker: …and yet, because of that, it was called ’Obstruction of Justice’…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes.

Dean Becker: …and four more years were added to his sentence.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, Sir. They consider this as, ‘Everything you’ve testified, is false.” When you’re found convicted in a court of law, in federal court, you’re convicted of lying. Even though you told the truth; you gave your address, you gave were you worked, these simple questions, but all those allow. Once you’re convicted, the government considers this as a lie and they can seek a forty-six month ‘Enhancement’, for obstruction of justice.

Dean Becker: Now, I want to go back to that day in June 1998. You and your brother were graduating Howard University, right?…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, yes, Sir.

Dean Becker: …and you were ready to launch your careers, go out and be productive citizens and then, this fell on your heads, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, surprisingly this fell on my head, but a grand jury met June 2nd and came back with an indictment, to charge us with “Conspiracy to distribute cocaine,” unbeknownst to my brother. We were waiting to walk across the stage on May 8th 1998 to receive our degrees of Political Science, which we did, but we were on pre-trial when we walked through… on the stage of Howard University. But we had also had aspired, from the beginning of our education, to be Attorney’s.

Dean Becker: It’s sad to say, I think in Texas, because of the conviction; I know in Texas you couldn’t become an attorney. What’s the status in Washington D.C?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: In Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland, it’s a case by case basis. I can still seek and obtain my Juris Doctorate Degree, but I would not be barred because of my felony in say, the state of Virginia, because of my felony. I received a Federal felony. If it was a state felony, I probably would be able to still obtain my certificate to practice in say, Virginia or Maryland or D.C. But because I had a Federal crime, it basically bars me out, for life.

Dean Becker: OK, now. The gentleman who turned you two in; the guy who claimed the conspiracy…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Um-hmm.

Dean Becker: What was the prison sentence for him?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Could you repeat that, Sir?

Dean Becker: The gentleman who snitched on… that went informant for the Feds, what was his prison sentence?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: His original prison sentence war for one hundred and thirty-five months. Which for his testimony he received leniency, which he only did eighteen month.

Dean Becker: Wow!

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: Wow, so the more the king-pin, did one tenth the time that you guys are doing; that y’all had to do. It’s just outrageous.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: Again, I want to underline the fact. When they arrested you guy’s, you had no drugs, you had no guns, no big piles of money…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: No.

Dean Becker: …no indications that you were involved in the drug trade at all. Right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right. No, we were never involved in any criminal activities. When they came and got us in my mother’s house, at four-thirty in the morning, they handcuffed my mother. They handcuffed my uncle - at that time he was seventy-eight years old…

Dean Becker: Gosh!

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: …and handcuffed my brother and I, put us all on the living room like we were terrorists’ and they never presented a warrant, in writing. Never. They showed us an indictment and asked us, ‘Do we know these people?’ and I told, ‘I don’t know anybody. I’ve never been to Virginia.’

They asked my mother, ‘could they search?’ and my mother asked to see a warrant. They never produced a warrant, she told them, ’No, get out of her house,’ and they took us, that day. It was almost six hours later we were *PR’d out on bond and we were sitting on pre-trial, until we completed our degree program and we walked May 8th, during pre-trial. We were waiting to go to trial at the time.

Dean Becker: I want to talk about the fact that your mother saw this situation, realized the seriousness of it and worked on your behalf. She’s currently working for Families Against Mandatory Minimums and as I understand it, you’re now doing Community Development Organization yourself, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right, right, and currently I’m working closely with FAMM, OSI (Open Society Institute), Citizen Project, these places; on re-entry issues. Because now, that’s what’s really what I’m going through right now, and because of the Second Chance Act and what it did not do for myself and others.

First hand, I see the importance of a good base for a re-entering citizen as far as getting a job, getting successful housing, things like that that we really need when we come home. We need a strong base, and a lot of them don’t have what I have. I have a Grandmother, a Mother, a Great-Uncle, a Great-Aunt and other Great-Uncle’s that care…

Dean Becker: Yes.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: …that ask me, ‘What do I need?’ when I come home. I know I needed a job. I know I needed clothes, I needed certain things. I needed transportation, because I had been gone more than a decade. Things had changed, so I had to rely on someone. But, you know, thank God I had someone that really to rely on and they’ve been there the whole time, through my sentence.

Dean Becker: Like I eluded to earlier, so many prisoner’s get in there and get a hard heart and just kind of turn off the relationship with their families and when they come out, they’re pretty much on their own and little wonder that so much recidivism…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right

Dean Becker: …is going on, so many people get caught up and sent right back, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, and that’s the really sad thing, because I can say first hand, how many men get on the phone and call their mother every day. Or how many men get on the phone and call their father, or their sister’s and brother’s. They had no one.

They had no one to send them money for commissary to buy simple things, like deodorant, soap, you know, all these things. Regardless of what theses men have done in the past, I don’t believe that there’s anyone that can justify someone getting locked up for a piece of crack, the size of a candy bar, and getting two or three decades…

Dean Becker: Yeah.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: …‘cause they had a record, and no one deserves that. You know, they don’t deserve that.

Dean Becker: Well, that’s so true. Friends, we’re speaking with Mr. Lawrence Garrison, a gentleman who got out… What was that you got out, Lawrence?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: January 15th, 2009

Dean Becker: …who’s been out now, I guess, six / seven months and there’s some changes out here that I guess that after being gone for a decade. Was it still recognizable?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Well, something’s… far as the streets and something’s have changed physically, but I noticed that the people haven’t changed. The viciousness of the local police and government police, far as park policeman… I witnessed this firsthand by, when I had to come home from work late and they had the street blocked off of my street and park police just shot a young man in his back, seven times…

Dean Becker: Hmmm.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: …getting out of his car. Young black man, twenty-one years old. You know, if I hadn’t witnessed it, that really brought me back, ‘Oh, things really haven’t changed.’ They’ve gotten worse actually. Because they’re still shooting and killing us in the street, like they were before.

Dean Becker: Yeah, yeah. We’ve got to get rid of this idea that we’re going to control our fellow man. Through violence, if necessary. We’ve got to find ways to create jobs and education and just understanding and cooperation, right?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: I want to say, violence solves nothing, even inside. The pen is much mightier than the sword. Even inside.

Dean Becker: Exactly, it is. Lawrence, I think about… in my youth, I spent a few thirty day segments behind bars and…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: …and I was always missing real food and breathing clean air and just feeling relaxed, for a moment…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: …and it feels pretty good, does it now?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Oh, yes, yes. My freedom; I’m still adjusting, ’cause I’ve been gone for awhile, but it feels good to get up and see my mother every morning. Or be able to see my uncle, which he just turned eighty-seven years old, July 4th. Being able to see them alive and not going to visit a grave site. It feels good, it feels good, it feels good. It really does.

Dean Becker: Now, as I understand it, here in Texas they just recently allowed prisoner’s to start making phone calls, but as I understand, your brother Lamont, is occasionally able to access the internet. You want to relay a quick thought to him?

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: He doesn’t actually get on the internet, but through email, we keep in contact.

Dean Becker: OK.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Through email.

Dean Becker: OK. Well, fair enough. As I told your mother and I want to tell you, I believe change is afoot. I believe we are going to curtail the madness here, very soon…

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Right.

Dean Becker: …and just, if you will, send your wishes to my brother, that we could expedite the day he’s out here, with you.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Yes, yes, definitely. I’m looking forward to seeing my brother and I know that through my due diligence and through my mom’s due diligence, we’re going to get him home soon. We’ve been working on this commutation to get him home and hopefully sooner than seventeen months, but I look forward to seeing my brother again, and I vow to many others that were left behind, to do something about this.

I believe that I went to prison, for a reason. I presume my innocence, my brother and I still ‘not guilty’ of this crime and I want to remind everybody of that and this is not an isolated incident. This is for a reason. Black, young men are still targeted with harsh crack sentences and I can’t put it anymore simpler than that.

Dean Becker: Yeah, they’re targeted. You bet they are. Everyday of the week, all across this country.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Everyday of the week.

Dean Becker: Lawrence, thank you so much for being with us. I look forward to the day I could bring you and your brother back and we can kick this around again.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: Well, I look forward to speaking with you again, Mr. Becker.

Dean Becker: Alright, thank you so much.

Mr. Lawrence Garrison: OK.

Alright my friends, we have another story. It’s breaking here in the ‘mother-ship’ city. This gentleman didn’t loose his freedom, but he did loose his occupation and perhaps his future. This, despite the fact that the charges against him were eventually dropped.

My name is Ali Muhammad. I use to be a social worker for Communities In Schools. A drop out prevention program.

Dean Becker: Ali, you, like dozens of other educator’s in the Houston area, were caught up in an ongoing ‘sting’ if you will, out in the parking lot. Please tell us a bit about what happened to you.

Ali Muhammad: OK. That day, I think it was December the 8th. So I volunteered to tutor the whole year, this is about five days out of the week. Like I said it was strictly voluntarily; and so one day I went in to do my tutoring at 7:30 in the morning, the classes start at 8:30. So as I got through tutoring, I was heading out to the parking lot to get my briefcase. At that point, the policemen were out there and they was… I guess they were locking gates and all that stuff, so you couldn’t leave.

So I got my bag, went up to my office and when I made it to my office as soon as I sat down, it seemed like two or three minutes after I made it there, someone from the high school, her position was a cafeteria monitor, that day she was playing policewoman, for some reason and the officer asked me the same question, “Why did I come downstairs to get my bag?” and I told him, “It was my bag.“

I forgot it, so we went upstairs to get the bag and he took the bag from me and placed me in front of my vehicle and from that moment, it seemed like about ten minutes, I didn’t know where that bag was. They searched my vehicle, never said a word.

When they got ready to search my bag, the officer called me over there. I have craft books, books on Prophet Mohamed, sketch of my family history, some prayer beads and some dietary supplement. Went about forty-five yards away from me, with her back turned to me, her and another officer, they came back and placed handcuffs on me.

My nightmare started. They sent me… I went to the county jail for twenty-two hours and once I was released, I contacted a lawyer. He advised me to go get a drug test. Of course I went to get the drug test. Passed. Everything was negative. In other words, you passed everything. Of course they’re not, ‘cause I never smoked drugs. I never did. I don’t even drink alcohol.

My job, for some reason Communities In Schools, I want to make that very clear, Communities In Schools, after I took the test , just so happens Communities In Schools called me and told me that my services will no longer be needed.

Dean Becker: Following numerous court delays, Ali Muhammad’s case was finally brought to trial, where the charges were dropped, for the possession of less than 100th of an ounce of marijuana, as were most of these dozens of these educator’s charges’ dropped.

Reefer Madness lives.

Yes, Reefer Madness / Drug War madness lives. We’ve got just about a minute left. I want to remind you that starting next week, Sunday night July 26th, Cultural Baggage will start at 6:30PM (Central), followed immediately by Century of Lies at 7:00 (Central). Our guest will be Paul Armentano, to do the bulk of the hour. He’s with National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, co-author of a brand new book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”

We’ll also be talking about the forthcoming conference for NORML, and again, you can tune in. I want you to listen LIVE at KPFT, Kansas Pacific Freight Train, kpft.org and you can call your question’s in, to 1.877.9420.420...

…and as always, there’s no truth, justice, logic. There’s no reason for this Drug War to exist. Please do your part to end this madness. Visit our website, endprohibition.org

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

*PR’d = personal recognizance

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org