From Ritz to Writs

I know that you, the reading, voting, taxpaying public, have many questions regarding the fate of our fallen governor, J. Fife Symington III. Some of these questions are profound. Others are profane. As a public service, I will employ the handy Arizona Republic-style Q and A format to address a few of your queries. This "user-friendly" format works best when read aloud, preferably altering your voice to assume different personae. If, by chance, you aren't alone, different people can read different parts. It's a great quality-time activity.

Let's get started, shall we? Ask away.
Q: Okay. Will Fife get raped in prison?
A. I was wondering when you would ask that. Many people--several of my colleagues included--will be disappointed to learn that white-collar criminals and first-time offenders sentenced to federal minimum- and low-security prisons are not often subjected to such indignities.

There aren't herds of violent sexual predators prowling such prison "camps," some of which feature "dormitories." Q: If Donna Hamm of the prisoner advocacy group Middle Ground agrees with your assessment, would she say why?

A: Yes, she would. "I think the combination of the fact that he is not a small or a slight man and is an older man who'll be essentially confronted by other white-collar offenders," Hamm says, adding that sexual assaults are "much more prevalent in the higher custody levels of state prisons."

On the other hand, there's don't-ask/don't-tell.
Q: Fife has been awful mean to Donna Hamm and Middle Ground. Do you think she'd help Fife the inmate?

A: She says she would.
Q: What percentage of inmates in federal prisons are in for violent crimes?
A; 8 percent.

Q: That's not too many. Do we really need to lock up so many nonviolent criminals?

A; Well, Fife has always favored harsh treatment.
Q: Really? Has Fife said something he'll regret?
A: In spades.
Q: Do tell.

A: "Whether they are juveniles or adults, the criminals of America have found too many faithful friends in judges."

Q: Anything else?
A: Of course. How about this one? "The public seems to perceive, and I agree with them, that criminal defendants as a class are faring pretty well in the justice system--certainly much better than their victims."

Q: Wow.
A: Wait, there's more: "I am not prepared to adopt the rehabilitation theory of punishment as Arizona's purpose or justification for imposing criminal penalties. . . . Our purposes for punishment are retribution, which is to say justice; and deterrence."

Q: Do you think he's changed his mind?
A: Odds are better that he's simply forgotten. Why, I asked John Dowd that very question. "Upon further review," the barrister responded, "my client was under the influence of Jay Heiler when he made those ill-advised remarks."

Q: Is there any chance Fife could be a target because of his pronouncements?
A: Yes. There's a chance he would require protective custody.
Q: Oh, that's good.

A: Well, not really. Protective custody means you're put alone in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Q: Tell me about other indignities.
A: Well, even if he's in a minimum-security facility, he'll be shackled if he ever travels to court or anywhere else.

Q: Go on.
A: Well, I'll let the aforementioned Hamm say it: "It's going to be a humbling experience for someone like Fife Symington. He will have to share a dormitory or cell space with another person. . . . He will be subject to strip searches. He will still be handcuffed and placed in leg shackles when he is transported. The process of depersonalization will begin to take place, and he will have to be known by his prison identification number and wear a uniform.

"His privacy will obviously become a precious commodity, even when performing routine bodily functions. He'll have minimal access to telephones and reading materials. His phone calls will be taped and or monitored, except for [those with] his attorney."

Q: Bummer. What do friends of Fife think of his chances?
A: If George Leckie knows anything about our justice system--and he does have experience--Symington won't even go to prison. During an impromptu soliloquy at the Ritz-Carlton on the evening of conviction, Leckie brazenly predicted that Symington would do no time because U.S. District Judge Roger B. Strand lacked the fortitude to send Symington there.

"Strand's a fucking wimp," Leckie said.
Q: Holy potty mouth.
A: I know. My parents will read this.
Q: Well how, exactly, did he say this?
A: He spat it.
Q: Does George remind you of any specific animal? A bird, perhaps?
A: Yes. A plucked bantam rooster.
Q: Did he say anything else?

A: Yes. Leckie maintained that he was acquitted of federal bid-rigging charges because the judge on his case, Earl Carroll, isn't a wimp. He suggested vaguely that if Strand were Carroll's equal, Symington also would have skated.

Q: Yeah, so?
A: Under federal sentencing guidelines--a set of draconian rules imposed during the Reagan administration by law-and-order politicians like Symington--our disgraced governor is ineligible for probation on two of the seven counts on which he was convicted.

Unless Strand departs from those sentencing guidelines, Arizona's 19th governor is going to prison.

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