James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Peter McWilliams Case - In His Own Words

The basic facts of the case through 02-02-2000. Click here for the full account with all the links. Here are excerpts:

In mid-March 1996, I was diagnosed with AIDS and an AIDS-related cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, on the same day. (Beware the Ides of March, indeed.)

The chemotherapy and radiation for the cancer and combination therapy for the AIDS caused extreme nausea. If you can't keep the life-saving pills in the system, they do no good. After trying all the prescription anti-nausea medications my doctors had to offer, I turned to medical marijuana.

The medical marijuana ended the nausea within minutes, and I was able to continue treatment. The cancer went into remission. My AIDS viral load dropped from 12,500 to undetectable and remained undetectable from April 1996 until my arrest in July 1998.
I told myself that, if I lived, I would devote my life to getting medical marijuana to all the sick people who needed it. I lived, and I began my campaign.
I was questioned by four DEA Special Agents. They gave me an interesting--and telling--piece of information. All four said they had known about me for some time, because most every bust they go on, they find a copy of my book Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country. They didn't say it, but it was clear that, to them, I was the guy who wrote the bestselling book against the Vietnam War, the DEA Special Agents were the Green Berets. I was a traitor to their cause, and I was spreading my treachery through the written word. My recollection of DEA questioning.
On December 1, 1997, I published as an advertisement in Variety a two-page essay highly critical of then-DEA Administrator Constantine's harsh criticism of the sitcom character Murphy Brown's use of medical marijuana to quell the nausea of chemotherapy. Variety ad.
As you can yell by even a quick skim of the Variety ad, the DEA was not happy with moi. Seventeen days later, on December 17, 1999, nine DEA agents came a-callin' with the IRS and a search warrant in tow. I was handcuffed, sat in a chair, and watched as they spend the next three hours going through every piece of paper, sheet by sheet, in my home. They found an ounce or two of medical marijuana, but they didn't seem to be looking for drugs; they were looking for information.

The DEA and IRS agents then repeated this at my brother's house and at the office of my publishing company, Prelude Press, Inc. Of eight computers they had to choose from, they took only my personal computer, the one with my unfinished books on it. Their reason for taking this was that they were looking for records of drug transactions. If this were the case, why didn't they take the computer in the accounting department at Prelude Press? Could they have been looking for something else, such as that book critical of the DEA I told them I was working on? They also took "eight plastic bags" of documents that I was not allowed to see and which have not yet been returned.
When the computer containing all my books-in-progress was returned to me a month later, it had somehow caught a pernicious virus that took six weeks, several thousand dollars, and the purchase of a new computer to eliminate. The gap this caused in my publishing business was financially devastating.

Then began the Starr Treatment. One after another, federal grand jury subpoenas began arriving at my home and publishing company--some were for records, some were for people. During the next seven months every current employee, an unknown number of past employees, all my friends, my neighbor, and my electrician were called to testify before the grand jury. I was never called nor was I ever given an opportunity to present my side of the story. It's called a grand jury because it's a grand time for prosecutors. My medical records were subpoenaed. My accountant was ordered to produce overnight, in the middle of the tax season, all references in his files about me. This was quite a request, as he had been my account for thirty years. (After this, understandably, my accountant chose to no longer represent me. All but one of my employees have left as well.)

The DEA, with the full cooperation of the Lexus Company, installed a tracking device on my Lexus. (The DEA came onto private property, broke the car, and when it was towed to the Lexus dealership for repair, the tracking device was installed. The device failed to work, as it turns out, so the DEA and the Lexus dealership repeated the whole charade again.) After tracking it for a few months, the DEA impounded the car overnight, thus triggering the lease revocation clause. That’s a little-known clause in every lease that says if a federal agency impounds the car, even overnight, the lease is revoked and the entire amount of the lease becomes due. I didn’t have that amount, so my credit was ruined. I wrote the president of Lexus, as the car was financed through Lexus, and asked for some compassion. Right. Janet Reno has shown me more kindness.
Nineteen days later, on July 23, 1999, nine DEA agents again came to my door at 6:00 AM. This time they didn't want my computer--they wanted me. I was arrested, handcuffed, and taken--as they say in all the cop shows--"downtown." Naturally, I was not permitted the use of medical marijuana before leaving the house, so I vomited. One of the DEA agents, genuinely concerned, asked, "Isn't there something you can take to settle your stomach?" I turned my head from the bowl long enough to give him the sort of wearily ironic look we gay folk perfected sometime around the Inquisition era, when, just before being burned at the stake, the executioner would ask, “I’m not tying these ropes too tight, am I?” The agent saw the error of his sudden burst of compassion, said, “Oh, yeah,” and continued processing my arrest with the trained indifference Hormel provides to hogs.
Although I fully expected to be arrested, the high bond was a surprise. Months before, my lawyer had written the federal prosecutors a letter saying that I knew I was going to be arrested, that I wasn’t going anywhere, and all they had to do was tell me where and when to appear for arraignment and I’d be there. Hardly the action of a flight risk. I though I would be released with little or no bail. The court’s own pretrial services recommended a bond of $50,000. The prosecutors, however, insisted on $250,000. As usual in federal court, the prosecutors got what they wanted. I was in custody four weeks while my mother and brother arranged to put up their houses as bail. The combined value of the houses was not enough, and a friend put up the rest in cash.
The conditions of my release on bail specifically prohibited the use of marijuana, a prohibition enforced by random urine testing. If I failed to meet this condition of release, my disabled mother’s and brother’s houses would be taken away and I would remain in prison until and during my trial.

The nausea caused by the AIDS medication has been unrelenting. My doctor prescribed one antinausea medication after another, to no avail. Using medical marijuana to keep down my combination therapy resulted in more than two years of an “undetectable” viral load. (The viral load is a measure of active AIDS virus per milliliter of blood.) AIDS doctors become alarmed when it rises above 10,000. When mine had reached its previous high of 12,500 in March 1996, an AIDS-related cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had already developed.

Unable to keep down my AIDS medication, my viral load rose from 279 on August 21, 1998, to 3,789 by October 20, 1998. Less than two weeks later, on November 2, 1998, it had skyrocketed to 254,600. My T-cells (helper cells central to immune-system function) fell by 26 percent. In the three months following the arrest I lost 30 pounds, 15 percent of my total body weight.
Although the ruling was a disappointment, two weeks later came glorious news. The National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. The IOM report found that (a) marijuana is medicine, (b) marijuana is not a gateway drug, (c) there is currently no alternative to smoked marijuana for some patients, (d) patients who need medical marijuana should be able to obtain approval within 24 hours, (e) if marijuana is addictive at all it is only mildly so and any withdrawal symptoms are minimal, and (f) there is no reason to believe that medical marijuana will increase recreational marijuana use.
From November 1998 onward I have not been able to hold down more than one on three doses of my AIDS medication. The high AIDS viral load feels as though I have the flu all the time. I sleep 18 to 20 hours a day. I have maybe four productive hours in every 24, most of them spent trying to keep my head financially above water. I have so much to say, so many ideas and discoveries I want to communicate, and very little time or clarity of mind to do so.
On November 5, 1999, disaster: the trial judge ruled I cannot use medical marijuana defense, nor can I mention Proposition 215, marijuana's medical usefulness, the 8 patients who get medical marijuana monthly from the federal government, or my medical condition. Press Release, November 5, 1999, Los Angeles Times/Associated Press article, November 6, 1999, New York Times Story, November 7, 1999.

Faced with judge's ruling, I pled guilty to a lesser charge so as not to spend a mandatory ten years in federal prison. My comments here. Los Angeles Times story, November 20, 1999, New York Times story, November 21, 1999, William F. Buckley, Jr., column, November 30, 1999.

2-2-2000 (what a date!) Wonderful, wonderful news! Although it costs me four hours of agony each day, my AIDS viral load is now UNDETECTABLE!

Please help keep me out of federal prison by writing a letter to the judge.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:03 AM PDT

    G'day Jimbo bwana! What a shocking story, how fknevil!!! Here in Australia, in the state of South Australia and in the Capital Territory (Canberra), pot has been decriminalised for several years. Interestingly, there has been NO INCREASE in pot usage in both these states, in fact, even those social users can grow upto 2 plants in their back yard ('tho not a good idea in the back yard unless you have a really, really big dog!). In my state, New South Wales, it is still illegal but for small quantities there is only a $200 fine. The War on Drugs is really a war on the people, no bloody State can dictate what a person does to his OWN body!!! Given that it is PROVEN that incarcerated people CAN STILL SCORE on the inside all the USA is doing is creating huge prison networks that mestatize into serious crime networks on the outside. What a story, Hate The State mate! Regards Greg.