ERIC MAGEARY ISN'T GOING ANYWHERE
I drove to the Arizona State Prison at Florence last week to watch the Board of Pardons and Paroles in action.
Anyone who spends much time as a reporter will visit quite a few prisons and hear many inmates' tales. I have talked to killers, gang leaders, bank robbers, drug dealers and rapists in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New Mexico, as well as Arizona.
I've witnessed the terror of prison riots in New Mexico and Illinois and the despair of the aftermath. I have sat and listened while shackled inmates attempted to con me into believing they were innocent men who were victims of a frame-up.
Once or twice, I even believed them.
Two years ago, I went down to Florence and wrote a story about a young man who had served more than ten years for his part in a murder committed while he was a teenager.
Now he was a grown man with skills developed in prison that made it possible for him to get a job on the outside. Settled happily into civilian life, he did two things.
First, he got married. Then he bumped into an old prison buddy whose expertise was bank robbery. He tried his hand at robbing a bank with his buddy. They got caught. Now he's back behind bars.
But this was the first time I went inside a prison to actually watch an inmate plead his case before a parole board.
For 19 years at Florence, Eric Mageary has been without a name. His number has been 332017.
Briefly, his name surfaced in the newspapers during the famous escape from prison of the Gary Tison gang.
Mageary had befriended serial killer Randy Greenawalt while both were in the Coconino County Jail awaiting trial. Greenawalt was charged with killing four truck drivers.
Greenawalt developed a romance with Mageary's mother, Kathy Ehrmentraut, who viewed Greenawalt as misunderstood. Greenawalt and Mrs. Ehrmentraut began exchanging letters, and she regularly visited both her son and Greenawalt at the prison in Florence.
The Tison gang, which included Greenawalt, escaped from Florence on July 30, 1978. The men killed seven people in a rampage that ranged across Arizona and neighboring states until they were stopped just short of the Mexican border.
During this time, Greenawalt brought them to hide out in Mrs. Ehrmentraut's home in Flagstaff. For this she was later charged with conspiracy and placed on probation for a year.
Greenawalt, who killed several more people during the escape, is now on death row. Gary Tison died in the desert. His two sons, Ricky and Ray Tison, who helped him escape, are also now on death row.
Mageary has spent most of his time in prison lifting weights, collecting wives--he is now on his seventh--and attempting to convince the parole board he is a changed man.
Mageary was convicted of first-degree rape in 1974. He was sentenced to 25 years to life for a crime police described at the time as being so vicious it was "a failed murder."
Mageary met a young woman in a Flagstaff bar on a winter's night and offered her a ride to her car. Once he got her into his truck, Mageary drove the woman, then a virgin, to a secluded spot and not only raped her, but almost beat her to death with his fists.
Her jaw was shattered. One ear was almost bitten off. A breast was nearly severed by a sharp instrument. He left her in critical condition. Then he came back and beat her again.
Patricia Pollard has never recovered from the terror of that night. While Mageary has been in prison, she has been in one created by her own mind and her dreadful memories.
She has spent her 19 years as a shadowy figure who deliberately sought not to excel in any job, because it might attract attention to her. She left Arizona.
She changed her name, fearful that if Mageary ever got out of prison, he might find her again. She has never been able to trust anyone, and moves frequently from place to place.
Her jaw is still disfigured. She wears a wig, she says, because she does not want anyone to recognize her. Unmarried, she still feels shame, she says, believing that people must somehow blame her for what happened.
Mageary has been before the parole board 23 times. In his most recent hearing, the board decided to release him to what is called home arrest.
But Terry Hance, the Coconino County attorney, protested the decision. He contacted Governor J. Fife Symington III. Hance also sent Fred Newton, his chief deputy, to the state Court of Appeals seeking to stay the release. Newton, one of the top prosecuting attorneys in the state, was successful.
County Attorney Hance assigned investigator Byron Allen to find Patricia Pollard and attempt to bring her to Arizona for the next hearing. Pollard found her in northern California and convinced her to come to Florence for the hearing.
It turned out this was the first time she had ever known of any of the parole hearings held for the man who attacked her.
When Governor Symington heard about this, he leaped to the forefront, gaining himself maximum publicity as the friend of all crime victims. He began making announcements about the outrage of it all as fast as he could.
Symington loves to step forward on issues like this. They make voters forget that anyone who has ever done business with him has come out second best.
One problem in getting Pollard to testify was the fact that she was still terrified of Mageary. She was afraid to face him.
Newton, the chief deputy county attorney, arranged for a screen to be placed between the victim and Mageary, so she would never have to look into his eyes during the hearing, which was to last three hours.
@body:The hearing began promptly at 2 p.m., shortly after Mageary was led into the room through a metal door directly behind the parole panel.
Mageary wore blue denims and white jogging shoes. During his years of weightlifting, he has developed a massive torso and looks more like a circus strongman than a longtime inmate in a maximum-security prison.
There were half a dozen television cameras set up in the rear of the room. For security reasons, prison officials refused to allow the cameras to move to the front of the room, where they might have focused on the faces of the two key witnesses, Mageary and his victim.
Throughout the hearing, the cameras remained focused on the faces of the three members of the pardons and paroles board as they questioned the two witnesses.
It became a sort of minitrial to determine the validity of Mageary's transformation.
At the previous hearing last May, board members Stan Turley and Richard Leyva voted to grant Mageary home arrest, which would have ended his time in prison. Only Anna May Riddell voted against him.
Turley spoke first.
Turley is a former state legislator. He is the man who described fellow Mormon and then-governor Evan Mecham as "an ethical pygmy."
"Why do you think you should be paroled at this time?" Turley asked Mageary.
It was clear that Mageary was both tense and well-prepared. As he spoke, he frequently glanced down at written notes before him.
"I'm not God," Mageary began. "I can't change what happened 20 years ago. But I have proven to myself that I have changed within that time. I wish I could tell the victim how sorry I am about what happened."
I noticed that Mageary did not mention the victim's name. Curiously, neither Mageary nor any of the witnesses who testified on his behalf would ever refer to Patricia Pollard during this hearing as anything other than "the victim."
"I have to live with what I have done to the victim for the rest of my life," Mageary said. "Every day when I wake up, I know why I am in prison. It's because of the horrible crime of 1974. I can't change the crime. But I've changed me. I believe in my heart that you did not make a mistake when you voted to release me back in May."
After Mageary made his opening statement, parole-board member Riddell told him that because of newspaper articles about him, the board had received 77 telephone calls from members of the public demanding that he be kept in jail.
"We received only a single call that was in your favor," Riddell added.
Mageary nodded his head, and his face flushed in anger. Turley then quizzed Mageary about one of his previous wives, referred to as Pauline, who had been writing letters to the board for several years opposing his release.
"When did you meet Pauline?" Turley asked.
"I met her in 1982, through an acquaintance in prison," Mageary said. "We were married for four or five years."
"How did you meet your present wife?" Turley asked.
"Her sister-in-law was visiting the prison and she came along," Mageary said. "I was serving Cokes and drinks, and that's how we met."
"You accused your former wife, Pauline, of blackmailing you, is that right?"
"Do you want my honest feelings on that, sir?" Mageary asked Turley.
"I want your honest feelings on everything I ask you."
Mageary took a deep breath and then spoke rapidly:
"My ex-wife Pauline started this whole thing because she's jealous. That's why she wants to keep me in prison. When I divorced her, she vowed to get revenge. She wrote letters five times telling prison officials I was planning to escape. None of that was true."
Mageary picked up a letter and held it in his hand.
"I'd like to read this letter from her son, Dennis, written on November 18th of last year."
The letter read:
"I am in the custody of the Department of Corrections. I have never had a single incident with Mr. Mageary and have always received the utmost respect from him. My mother always spoke highly of Mr. Mageary until the divorce.
"She has developed a growing obsession about him. I have tried to get her to realize that he is in a new and productive phase of his life and that he no longer wants anything to do with her. I notice that when she comes to visit me, she will always go up to Mr. Mageary and try to start a conversation.
"He will have nothing to say to her, and then she makes threats. I believe she has become dangerously obsessed with Mr. Mageary and that if anyone's life is in danger, it is Mr. Mageary's. I believe she will stop at nothing until she wins him back or ruins his life. She has become like that woman in the movie Fatal Attraction."
Board member Leyva questioned Mageary next.
"The last time you were before this board," Leyva said, "you made a strong point out of the fact that the victim has never bothered to come before this board to oppose your release.
"Today, she is here. I want to know, after all these years, what you would tell the victim about how you feel in your heart. How would you explain it to her?"
Mageary swallowed deeply. The victim, sitting out of sight on the other side of the screen, covered her face with her hands.
Mageary began hesitatingly:
"I would ask her to try and picture a man that was an alcoholic and on speed. I did not seek the victim out. It wasn't planned.
"I would ask her to try to forgive me. It would probably be very hard for her to do so. I know I ruined her life. But I ruined mine, also.
"I have bettered my life in prison. I am truly sorry for what I done to her and I'm very glad, seriously, that she has come forward, because she has a right to be heard. I'm not denying that.
"But I would tell her that I'm a changed man and she has nothing to fear from me. I can't take back what I done to her. I thought often about how I ruined her life. But I hope and pray that someday she will forgive me."
Board member Riddell, sitting in the middle of the three-person panel, took over.
"National attention has been drawn to this hearing," she said.
"There's a scared community outside because of all the publicity. Some people believe you should stay in prison for the rest of your life. What do you say to them?"
Mageary shook his head.
"I know there's a lot of people who haven't given me a chance," he said. "I would say to Mr. Joe Public, 'Let me get to work, let me be a citizen. Then form an opinion.' I know I can make it on the outside with what I have learned in all these years in prison."
"Some people fear you might explode when you take alcohol," Riddell said. "They fear your explosive rages."
Mageary denied he is a victim of sudden rages any longer. He said that years of counseling in prison have cured those tendencies for good.
Deputy prosecutor Newton rose to his full six feet nine inches to speak.
"Be very sure of yourselves before you hand this man his release," Newton said in a booming voice.
"Two of the doctors who examined him wrote that they were afraid he was about to attack them. This is a man who has a convenient alibi for everything that happens to him. He never takes responsibility.
"This is a totally manipulative person. He told his original questioners that he had an IQ of only 50 to 75. You heard him today. You can see he's totally normal. He's a man who's been able to manipulate the system.
"How do you think the Tisons found their way to his mother's house when they escaped? How much did he have to do with that escape?
"I just don't think the general public should be made guinea pigs for this man."
When Patricia Pollard finally spoke, she did so in soft, barely discernible tones. It was clear that she was nervous, even frightened of Mageary. Not once during the entire hearing did she ever look in Mageary's direction.
"The main reason I'm here," she said, "is because I don't want anyone else to experience that kind of violence from this person. He says he was blacked out when this happened.
"He wasn't blacked out. I was there. "The sexual part made me feel so humiliated and dirty and degraded. You don't want a violent person like him out where he can do it again."
For at least ten minutes, she spoke softly of the ordeal of the rape and of the injuries suffered and of her time attempting to recover. She has never gotten over the trauma.
"I have never been able to trust anyone again," she said.
Her statement clearly moved the members of the panel.
Turley, who would be the only board member to vote to give Mageary his release, spoke most harshly to him.
"There are no winners here," Turley said. "I have enormous empathy for the victim. It required great courage for her to come here today.
"This crime was so heinous that if I had been the judge, I would have sent you to the gas chamber. I'm not sure that a thousand years would be enough to serve. A man who commits a crime like this forfeits his right to live in society. But this is where the old ranchers used to say that the horse hits the gopher hole."
Turley added that prisons are supposed to reform and change inmates so they are prepared for a return to society.
"The question is whether or not I think you are reformed to the point where I would feel at ease if you moved in next door to my own home.
"I feel you are. This is my fourth hearing with you, and I make a motion that you be paroled."
Board member Leyva voted next.
"I think that you have changed," Leyva said to Mageary, "but the problem is that we have a victim here who is still suffering from the trauma. I had hoped she would come to this hearing at peace with herself. She has not."
So Leyva voted against a parole for Mageary. The second vote turning down his parole was cast by Riddell.
After it was over, the victim spoke briefly to reporters.
"I'm relieved," she said. "There is justice, after all."
Mageary's wife told reporters she was disappointed, but felt enormous sympathy for the victim.
"I would like to give her a hug," she said.
Moments later, Mageary's wife walked over to the victim and introduced herself. Then she gave her a hug and whispered something in her ear.
It made a great photo opportunity.
An hour later, the victim was still trying to figure out why she had been hugged.
"She did it for the publicity," Pollard said. "They were using me, weren't they?"
But so was Governor Symington.
Mageary will be eligible for another parole hearing in six months. Until that time, he remains No. 332017.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.