Thursday, September 10, 2020


More than a year has passed since my concurrent friendships with Paul Manafort and Jeffrey Epstein were cultivated at MCC federal prison where I served 311 days for tax fraud and surreally found myself with Paulie as my celly, and Jeffrey as a suicidal inmate I watched and spent hours of one on one time part in parcel of my position as inmate companion coordinator. Notwithstanding the passage of time, both continue to be front and center in today's news.

I'm sure there are a reasonable number of people who knew them both - and even at the same time. But I doubt there are many who knew the duo at a time when both were whisked from their lofty societal positions and transformed into rock bottom felons and guests of the federal government. So what were these two guys really like behind bars when the going got tough and the tough had to get going?

The two couldn't have been more different. For starters, Paul was a self-assured and institutionalized inmate. Jeffrey was a scared rook. I remember when I first met Paulie upon returning from my kitchen job right after dinnertime. He was surrounded by gangbanger types who were testing him: "Yo! You Trump's boy?" asked one threatening prisoner as he invaded Paul's personal space. "Listen! I'm just like you. I came from the streets," Paul responded without missing a beat or blinking an eye. 

The boys knew immediately he was a force to be reckoned with. Plus, all the inmates were aware he didn't snitch on his boss. And in prison, guys who refuse to cooperate are put on a pedestal. Paul wasn't an exception.

Jeffrey on the other hand, was scared to death of the other inmates. After just a day or two in general population, he requested protective custody. And once he got a look at that nightmare, Jeffrey turned suicidal - which is how I met him. Epstein's fixation on how to deal with prison and its inmates was palpable. The subject arose countless times in our conversations. 

To be fair, Paul had a head start when it came to dealing with prison life and other inmates. He'd already served 11 months in federal prisons before he was moved into my cell. Jeffrey was new to the Fed. But still...Paul was a much tougher guy. Jeffrey confessed to me he'd been bullied by black guys throughout his youth in Coney Island. Paul made no such revelation.

Another manner in which they were in sharp contrast in their attitude toward other prisoners. Paul was kind of an entitled user who fed off sycophants. Anybody who kissed his ass was fair game. As such, he'd have Chino do his laundry and then not pay him. Or have Rob bring him a salad from the kitchen and stiff him as well. And then when somebody gave him something he didn't want, he'd regift whatever it was in payment. Not the best optics. Guys began to complain about his MO just before he was shipped out and didn't have to answer for his entitlement.

Jeffrey never asked for anything of me - or anybody else who knew him from suicide watch. He just wasn't that kind of guy. Epstein never complained about his living conditions (which were spartan I assure you). Without all the news coverage, you would never know by his attitude that he was a multi multi millionaire with friends in the upper crust of society.

And finally, Paul displayed a superior attitude that Jeffrey did not. I wouldn't say Paulie was insufferable, but I could feel his condescension. And if he did issue a compliment, it was almost grudgingly. I remember during one conversation Paul telling me "that was very well put." But the way he said it oozed a subtext that suggested "I'm surprised an inmate would actually be able to articulate his thoughts so coherently."

Conversely, Jeffrey seemed to treat everybody as an equal. Maybe it was because he was so concerned with his present and prospective future that he could think of nothing else. Or maybe he was just a regular likable guy who attracted high and mighty friends simply because he was approachable and affable. Super rich didn't hurt either I'm sure.

In prison, inmates judge each other in part based on their crimes. And in that bizarro world, murderers are more popular than sex offenders. I didn't judge my fellow inmates in that manner. It was hard enough finding somebody with whom to relate. I couldn't afford to be selective in that arena. Plus, we were all criminals. Who were we to judge?

Many inmates shunned Epstein for his crimes. Chomos (child molesters) lie on the bottom of the food chain in lockup. Paulie? Not so much. No inmate gives a shit about guys who money-launder, cheat on their taxes, or lie on a loan application. 

But for me, whose criteria differed from most of my fellow inmates, I preferred Jeffrey. Even though Paul's crimes were much more similar to mine - and Jeffrey's somewhat abhorrent - Epstein was the nicer guy. Given the choice as to which I was allowed to mingle with, I'd choose Jeffrey. 

But having said that, Paul still ranked high on my list of favorite inmates...which might be more a reflection on my fellow inmates and Paul's intelligence and educational level - than on my fondness for Manafort. Make no mistake about it. Paul was a smart guy with whom I could have a meaningful conversation. He just wasn't as friendly or down to earth as Epstein.

1 comment:

  1. I think Epstein could have been a smart guy if he wasn't just a complete headcase that was exacerbated by prison conditions. If he had a different fetish like fucking sheep or something, he'd probably just be considered another eccentric rich guy. I mean look at how much of a nutjob Elon Musk is. There's no way that guy isn't fucking something weird