Want to spend less time? A prison consultant might be able to help.
When the rapper Stat Quo was arrested for participating in a scheme to steal millions of frequent flyer miles, naturally he hired a lawyer, but he was still freaking out. “So I went to YouTube. And I was just looking, you know, ‘What do you do when you’ve been named in an indictment?’ “Stat Quo, legally Stanley Benton, came across the same videos Mejia found and began, in his words, “binge-watching.” Every topic that haunted him — what to do when you’re actually charged, choosing a lawyer, preparing a sentencing memorandum — each had its own video, told with Paperny’s trademark confidence. “OK,” Stat Quo recalls, “that guy knows what he’s talking about.” So he hired him.
The morning I caught up with Stat Quo, he had just returned from a kitchen in Pasadena where he cooked breakfast for the homeless three mornings a week. He started doing it years ago, long before he got in trouble, and he stuck with it. “Actually, it’s important for me to see that, you know what I mean?” Because you know that Hollywood thing I’m into – sometimes you lose sight of reality, you know. My friends’ houses look like malls.
His full story was perfect. He had never come into contact with the law before and he has a family. Yet he had the usual endless view of his own innocence (his friend had offered him discounted plane tickets, and he had bought them unaware that this friend had obtained them by hacking into other people’s accounts and stealing their miles). But when Stat Quo sat down to work on its narrative, it totally got it. He knew that anyone who shows up for a pre-sentencing interview is presumed to be a hardened criminal, but a black rapper?
“My case was out of Dallas, Texas. And let’s be honest here,” he said, “that’s not the most progressive state for a black man. And listen, I’m not Drake Black. I’m, like, Shaka Zulu black. Do you know what I’m saying?” Three of the other defendants who used those stolen miles got the actual time. “A guy came up there trying to explain all sorts of [expletive] and find excuses. It’s the wrong thing to do. But he had no one to tell, because it’s just your natural instinct when you find yourself in front of someone. “Judge, wait a minute, man. I’m not doing anything. So go. Wait, man. You know I’m right here ‘- slam.” This guy was sentenced to two and a half years.
“My judge saw me differently,” he said. “She says, ‘From what I’ve read about you, you shouldn’t even be here. Then she said, “I’d like to give you six months probation, but I can’t. Then she turned to a court officer for clarification. “Should I give him,” she asked, “a year’s probation? Told that the guidelines called for at least a year of probation, she imposed exactly that. “It’s because she was able to read my story,” he says.
Much of Paperny’s advice comes from his own attempts to avoid jail time when the Ponzi scheme he activated fell apart. After he was caught, he figured he’d outwit the feds with a series of clever dodges and deceptions. In the midst of building this web of lies, Paperny insisted that he take a lie detector test. “I immediately googled information about polygraph examinations,” Paperny wrote in his self-published confessional, “Lessons from prison.” He found a $350 online course, which taught him all the “seemingly proven techniques” for evading the polygraph. “By tightening my sphincter when answering questions,” he wrote, “I could supposedly manipulate the machine’s findings of truth to suit my purpose.” And yet, even though he “trained so fervently” and then “squeezed my bowels when necessary”, the polygraph administrator later informed him that “the machine indicated with superior measurement accuracy 99.99%” that he was lying.
“Justin,” he added, “you’re going to jail.”
Once that reality set in, Paperny prepared the same way everyone else does, and as his clients always do – Google “what happens when you go to jail?” He learned a jumble of information, but the day has come. Paperny traveled to Taft Federal Prison Camp in California, changing his street clothes into prison attire. He quickly discovered that there are a lot of rules in jail that Quora doesn’t have the answers to, and routines that you have to figure out on your own.