By: Donald Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on October 11, 2020
Thursday, September 24, 2020 was a great day for me, as I celebrated in the small, dingy prison cell where I am locked down 24 hours per day, seven days per week. I have been confined in this maximum-security prison cell since May 12, 2020. Yet, I still found cause to celebrate several milestone achievements.
That morning, I finished a 4-month-long daily task of organizing the notes and data I need to write up my advance math/physic team’s formal document for the phenomena that is mathematically defined as the Navier-Stokes Equation. The document that will take 3 months to write, explains the phenomena observed, predicts its frequency and duration, and presents the applied physics needed to mitigate these phenomena in order to achieve the desired military application. I am hopeful that our solutions to the complex mathematical and physics theorems presented in the Navier-Stokes Equation will earn my team of intellectuals a nomination for the Nobel Prize in physics.
In the afternoon, I spoke on the phone to my daughter, Claudia, who is preparing to leave Alabama to attend graduate school at the internationally acclaimed University of Exeter in Exeter, UK. I introduced Claudia to international business and finance when she was 15-years-old. She traveled to London with me and attended all of my business meetings as my intern. Now, Claudia is living her dreams (and mine, too).
After my call with Claudia ended, I saw my T-Dorm roommate, George Washington Dunn, Jr. Like me, George has also been in the “Hole” since May 12, 2020. George informed me that his long-awaited release from prison was imminent. I was elated. George is the first inmate I assisted in securing his freedom and is the seventh one to win his freedom since I arrived at the Talladega prison on August 28, 2019. I have written an article about George that will be published after he leaves the prison. George is a remarkable 62-year-old man who should have been released 2 years ago under the Elderly Offender Program in the First Step Act of2018.
When nightfall came, I laid across my bed and felt the cool breeze coming out of the black mold-encrusted air vent. Minutes later, a prison guard brought me a package from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham. Inside the envelope was a copy of the Government’s opposition to my pending Motion for a Compassionate Release. Even though I am represented by counsel in this matter, Birmingham federal prosecutors wanted me to see and read their words about me.
Disdain for the Federal Criminal Justice System
Once I read past the boilerplate legal arguments in the Government’s Opposition, I saw what really goads them. Beginning on page 9 of their document, these prosecutors bitterly complained about the numerous articles I have published on my website (www.donaldwatkins.com) and Facebook page (Donald V. Watkins) that criticize state and federal criminal justice systems. Under the express language of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, their systems feed the only legalized institution of “slavery” in America. Therefore, they deserve my heightened scrutiny.
The prosecutors say my articles “lay bare my disdain for the federal criminal justice system” and constitute an effort to “deceive the public about [my] actions.” Mind you, it is President Donald J. Trump who has loudly, publicly, and repeatedly proclaimed in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 that the federal criminal justice system is “rigged”, that federal prosecutors are “corrupt”, and that FBI agents are “scum”. What is more, Trump is their boss and toughest critic. Do his words express “disdain” for the federal criminal justice system?
Even though prison officials executed a Home Confinement agreement with me on April 14, 2020 and despite the fact that the prison’s Health Services Department wrote that I have serious underlying medical conditions that place me at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, prosecutors say I should remain in prison because of my “recalcitrance” in maintaining my innocence of the charges against me.
My published articles speak for themselves. The ones that are highly critical of the federal criminal justice system are based upon (a) bipartisan Congressional reports on COINTELPRO activities, (b) the Congressional Record on acknowledged prosecutorial misconduct in federal criminal cases involving former Birmingham mayor Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr., and former Birmingham U.S. District Court Judge Chief Judge, U. W. Clemon, (c) Department of Justice Office of Inspector General Reports on the racist “Good Ol’ Boys Roundup” and the flagrant abuse of the FISA warrant, (d) scholarly works on systemic prosecutorial misconduct, (e) a litany of recent court cases in which prosecutorial misconduct occurred, and (f) hundreds of cases where innocent defendants were eventually freed through the efforts of non-profit advocacy groups like Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama (www.eji.org).
The prosecutors cited two articles in particular: (a) Inmate 36223-001: The Story of a Political Prisoner”, dated December 6, 2019 and (b) COVID-19: Leveling the Playing Field” dated April 14, 2020. Yet, they did not dispute a single sentence in these articles. What is more, the prosecutors did not address the fact that prison officials openly referred to me as a “POW” and chanted “Dead Man Walking, Dead Man Walking, Dead Man Walking” when I was removed from the Camp and detained in the “Hole” from April 27-30, 2020 without any charges against me.
“Recalcitrance” Based Upon Innocence
Our history books are filled with cases where prosecutors denied the fair administration of justice to black criminal suspects who exhibited “recalcitrance” based upon their innocence. In South Carolina, 14-year-old George Stinney exhibited “recalcitrance” in 1944 after he was falsely accused of murdering two young white girls. Stinney was tried as an adult, found guilty by a jury, and electrocuted within 80 days of his arrest. Several years ago, a state court judge fully exonerated Stinney in a belated legal proceeding to clear his name.
In Alabama, the nine “Scottsboro Boys” showed “recalcitrance” after they were falsely accused of raping two white girls in 1931. The Boys were tried on rape charges three times and convicted each time. They were sentenced to death, including the two boys who were just 13-years-old at the time of their arrest. Their 45-year-old legal nightmare ended in 1976 when the state of Alabama formally admitted to Mr. Clarence Norris, the last surviving Scottsboro Boy, that all nine Boys were innocent of the charges against them.
In recent years, prosecutors used “recalcitrance” as a justification for seeking the execution of death row inmates Walter McMillian and Anthony Ray Hinton. Both men maintained their innocence, even after their convictions on murder charges. Both of them were eventually freed based upon their innocence. Sadly, Hinton spent nearly 30 years on death row before his release.
In my case, I exhibit “recalcitrance” because I embrace the outcome of a six-month federal grand jury probe of the same allegations of wire fraud and mail fraud upon which I was convicted that was first conducted in 2015 and 2016 by the Economic Criminal Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of New Jersey. This grand jury review was professionally conducted, fair and objective, and thorough. The probe was led by Andrew Kogan, one of America’s top financial crimes prosecutors. Upon completion of this probe, my name was cleared.
In contrast, Birmingham federal prosecutors subsequently targeted me, and not financial crimes. They added two bank fraud charges for loans to a business partner that were expressly authorized under applicable banking regulations. What is worse, they gave Wells Fargo bank executives a pass on 2 million acknowledged acts of bank fraud that occurred between 2012 and 2016.
As expected, there is no reference in the Government’s Opposition to my 2016 exoneration by the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey. Yet, I am the one who is accused of deceiving the public.
If I must remain in prison for exercising my First Amendment right, so be it. Nobody will ever silence my voice on matters of significant public interest, and no one will ever take my manhood from me. I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.
As the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, wrote, “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” I enjoy freedom from fear.