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You Only Live Once

This past weekend my family and I celebrated my son's Bar Mitzva. For those who are not familiar with what a Bar Mitzvah is, it is when a boy turns 13 and "becomes a man." It is a time for celebration and is the most important milestone in a young man's life. In other words, it is kind of a big deal.

Now I am not saying that my son's bar mitzvah was more of a big deal than another child's. However, my time in prison gave me a little more appreciation for the day than those who are lucky enough to not have to deal with it. It was not always a forgone conclusion that I would be there and it was certainly not a certainty that even if I was there that I would be able to fully enjoy the experience. When I was indicted in 2015,  my son was almost 10; three years shy of his bar mitzvah. My initial indictment had multiple counts with each one carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years. On paper at least, I was facing a potential prison term of over 100 years. Now obviou…
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I'VE BEEN SCROOGLED (SCREWED BY GOOGLE)

I hate Google. I mean I really hate Google.

What do you do when you meet someone? You google him. There was a time when looking into the background of every person you met was considered borderline stalking. Now, it is almost an obligation to google any and every person you meet anywhere. Yes, I am guilty as well. Within two minutes of googling someone, I can see their Facebook profile, LinkedIn profile, and any article both good and bad that has been written about him. I also get to see who hates him so much that they decided to write about him on a message board to say how bad of a boyfriend he was in college.
This is the new normal.

For the recently released felon, this is a major impediment to resuming some sense of normalcy. My name is Michael Szafranski. Yes, it is spelled S Z A F R A N S K I. Yes, the Z is silent. No, I do not know why it is there. Yes, I know in Polish SZ is actually SH, but I make it silent. No, I did not think of changing it to make it easier for OTHER peopl…

The Farmer in the Hell: State Senator Gary Farmer

Why do the good suffer while the evil prosper? Questions such as these have been asked by theologians and religious scholars since the beginning of time. Is it random or is it all part of a master plan?  aIf it is a plan then it is a plan that is bigger than us and beyond our comprehension to understand. The man of faith will certainly opt for the latter while the atheist will opt for the former approach. The fact remains that from our simplistic point of view, we cannot ascertain the reason and attempting to understand the complexities of the universe will likely drive a person insane.

The criminal justice system is not very different. In many ways it is a microcosm on the universe itself in that it seems that prosecutions are handed down at random. As was pointed out in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, if we are to become over zealous in prosecuting politicians, we will find that almost every American has violated some law at some point.

However, I am not even referrin…

The Aleph Institute-Advocates For Prisoners Everywhere

I have not really talked about what happens once you are actually in prison. I am referring to what life is like once a prisoner is finally settled into his new residence. Unfortunately, a prisoner has to adjust to a whole host of new realities. One of the harshest realities that is learned rather quickly is that, quite simply, you do not matter and for all practical purposes you have no rights. Are you sick? No one cares. Did a guard discriminate you based on race or religion? No one cares. Religious rights? Well I was once told to go pray in the bathroom, because "G-d doesn't matter in here". Is it supposed to be this way? No, but it is. And why you ask? Well really who cares about prisoners? Realistically, the rights of prisoners is not a cause that resonates with most citizens.  Even for those for whom the cause does resonate it certainly is not a priority. The reality is that for the most part, those running the prison can get away with just about anything they want…

INDICTED!

On February 5, 2015 I was indicted. I have mentioned before that for every defendant, or former prisoner there are those personal dates that hold a, shall we say, ever lasting significance. Indictment day is certainly one of them. I really never had the chance to reflect back on that day since my case moved so quickly. Then again, who really wants to reflect on the bad days anyway? But sitting here, three years later and post incarceration, I realize that while indictment does certainly change a person's status from "Citizen" to "Defendant", for myself and I imagine most white collar defendants, it is really the most uneventful and unimportant legal event as it is really more procedure than anything else.

To be fair, I had known it was coming for a few weeks. On some level I probably knew it was coming for over five years.  For at least the prior nine months my lawyers and I had been in regular communication with the prosecutors. They had even tried to get me t…

Jew Haters Be Gone!

I try not to get angry. There are a few reasons for this but I have come to realize than getting angry produces few if any tangible results. However, I am not perfect (shocking, I know) and when I see blatant hatred stemming from ignorance and self righteousness I do get angry. I am not naive. I know anti-semitism exists and have come to accept it. I no longer get angry when I see other races making the most ridiculous and incorrect statements about Jews. I just do not care. However, what does anger me to no end is when I see the same type of anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from within the Jewish community. I am well aware this is completely off topic when compared to my other entries, but I do think that as I write it, a message that transcends religion and the underlying theme of anti semitism will emerge.

Last week I wrote about the release of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin. I spoke about how happy I was to see him reunited with his family and how in many ways he was a true hero. That is my op…

RUBASHKIN

People are connected. I am not talking about personal relationships with friends and family. Often times we are connected to people we do not even know.  This can be through any sort of medium such a race, religion, professional affiliation of political affiliation. Even though we do not know each other, we are "connected".  As a Jew, I feel connected and sympathize with the plight of another Jew in distress even if I do not know him. The African American community came together to protest what they viewed as widespread discrimination by law enforcement even though 99.9% of those protesting had never even met or heard of the perceived victim.

Life experiences also bond people. There is a bond that exists between those of us who have had the unfortunate experience of going to prison. It is a bond that transcends race and religion. When we can we help one another both inside and outside and always hope for our friends to be released and be successful upon their release from pr…

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth-King Solomon in Our Days

King Solomon at the end of of Ecclesiastes states that in the end, everything is heard. While there have been many Jewish and Christian interpretations to this verse of the past thousands of years, taken at face value, it simply means that nothing stays hidden forever and in the end everything comes out. One has to look any further than the present day to realize that while secrets may remain hidden and while sins may be dormant, ultimately everything comes into view for everyone to see. King Solomon is as right today as he was thousands of years ago when these words were written.

Entertainment, political and athletic icons are falling every day. From Bill Cosby to Charlie Rose, to Al Franken to Matt Lauer to Marshall Faulk, we have seen scions of various sectors go down in blazes of glory in a way not witnessed since in modern history. Sins that have been perpetrated for decades are finally being brought to light. The dirtiest of secrets are being revealed for all to see. Individuals …

Never Let Others Define You

Last week President Trump made an announcement that sent shock waves throughout the Middle East. By announcing the the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and would move the US embassy there, he was, in his own words acknowledging the reality that is already on the ground. The fact that this came as a surprise is itself surprising since this is essentially what he had said he would do throughout his campaign. Whether one likes Trump or hates him the one thing that is clear  is that for better or for worse, he has tried to do follow through on his campaign pledges.

The reaction to the announcement was swift. Trump's supporters, many of which are right of center Jews and Evangelical Christians cheered the announcement while muslims across the Middle East issued statements of strong condemnation and even engaged in engaged in violent protests. The leader of Hamas even called for another Intifada, ignoring the obvious truth that previous intif…

1 DAY. 2 MISTRIALS. 3 ETHNICITIES. A BAD DAY FOR PROSECUTORS

A Jew, a Black and a Hispanic walked out of court yesterday. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? Well it isn't a joke. It actually happened on November 16, 2017 in New York and New Jersey. In the first case, Senator Bob Menendez, a Cuban walked out of Federal Court when a jury could not reach a verdict on an Honest Services case that took close to 10 weeks. In the second case, Norman Seabrook, an African American and Murray Huberfeld, a Jew, walked out of Federal Court in Manhattan when a jury could not reach a verdict on whether Huberfeld bribed Seabrook, the former head of the prison guard union in New York City, to invest union money in his hedge fund. I cannot remember a time in recent history, when the champagne was corked simultaneously with Hip Hop, Salsa and shouts of L'chaim! in the background. OK, maybe I am injecting a few racial stereotypes here, but you get the point. Yesterday was a bad day for the prosecutors. A very bad day.

I guess because I u…

ANYTHING YOU HAVE WRITTEN CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU

Email is a wonderful tool. It makes business more efficient and allows us to communicate with our friends and family faster. I often marvel that there was a time, not that long ago, that business functioned without the use of email. Once upon a time if a document needed to be executed, it had to be sent via overnight mail to the recipient, and then sent back for a total of two working days. And that was if the recipient actually got it and opened it the day it was received. Now, that entire operation takes all of five minutes. We also communicate via email to iron out business transactions instead of sitting on the phone for hours ironing out those very details. Often times email is simply used to follow up on what was previously discussed on a phone.

One pitfall of our reliance on email is the sheer number of emails contained in our mailbox. In just one of my email accounts, I have 26,946 emails and most of them are from within the last eight years. Keep in mind that I delete a lot o…

The Defendant Is Hereby Remanded To Custody- My First Day In Prison

The marshals will escort the defendant. Scarier words had never been spoke to me.
October 26, 2015. Exactly two years ago today I was sentenced to 30 months (later reduced to 20) in prison. As luck would have it, I was blessed with a judge who does not believe in voluntary surrender. In other words instead of arriving at a prison camp like 90% of those who plead guilty to a white collar felony, I was escorted by the US Marshals service from the courtroom in front of family and friends who had come to support me. Not exactly my finest moment.

In many ways it is a day that I will never forget yet, paradoxically, my memory of that day is more dream like as though I was watching a Broadway show as a member of the audience when in reality I was the star. Even now, two years later it seems as though my sentencing hearing was yesterday and not so long ago. Ultimately, I spent under 11 months in actual custody, 4 months in a halfway house and two months under home confinement. Obviously, in h…

Current Events: Weiner and Rothstein

Over the course of the past year or so, I have given some opinions based on my unique experience going through the complexities of the criminal justice system. Periodically, events in the press present themselves and accentuate points that I have made in various blogs. During the last week, two completely disconnected events have been directly on point on two topics I have written about at length in the previous year.

The first event was the sentencing of the now infamous from US representative, Anthony Weiner. Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting with a minor. He also must register as a sex offender which will affect him for the rest of his life.  I think everyone will agree that this a truly depraved individual who got off relatively easy in light of the fact that he is essentially a predator who has spent the better part of the last 10 years preying on underage girls.

As discussed in http://www.whitecollarguru.com/2017/03/the-plight-of-white-collar-that-is.html ,…