I woke yesterday to a text that read, “My life is ruined again, and again it is not my fault. I’m literally glued to my phone waiting for you to call me. Oh yeah your videos rock.”
Anyone who schedules a call with me knows that I’m giving of my time. That was unlike my career as a broker. When I was a stockbroker, I was very opportunistic. In other words, if you couldn’t advance my interests, I would pay no attention to you. That’s right: Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Traversing the criminal justice system can be traumatic. For that reason, I always dedicate time to help those who have the courage to reach out to me. And on those calls I do not sell, but teach, and offer advice.
A summary of our call, which I knew would deal with a probation issue, follows:
“Hi, this is Justin Paperny. Thanks for your text message. I called as soon as I could. Let’s not waste time: Who screwed you?”
“First off it is totally cool to share this story with your followers. If I can help someone it will make this nightmare easier.”
“Thank you. Now can you tell me who screwed you?”
“My ex wife called my probation officer to tell him that I had a couple of guns in the house. What’s crazy is that I went to prison for a tax crime, and I’m not even allowed to have my guns. Whatever. All I know is I upset her and to get back at me she called my probation officer. He has initiated proceedings to return me to prison because I am a felon in possession of a firearm. That might mean a new charge. What a joke. Bill Clinton can impede criminal investigation’s by getting on Loretta Lynch’s plane, but he or his wife don’t get arrested. No, it’s the little guy like me who takes the fall.”
“May I ask you some questions?”
“Shoot” he said, with no pun intended.
“Upon your release from prison did you sign a form, as I did, stating that as a convicted felon you would not possess any firearms?”
“If you watch my videos and are aware of my work, do you think I’ll accept that your ex-wife is to blame for your current troubles?
“Had she not called him, I would not be in this predicament. It’s that simple. Do I need to explain it to you again?”
“No, once was enough.”
“I am curious. If you signed a form stating that you knew you could no longer possess guns, and if you knew the consequences for keeping your guns could lead to a new criminal charge, why did you keep them?”
“I’ve been around guns my whole life. My father and grandfather took me to the driving ranges in Vegas. I’ve always been very careful with my guns. I’ve always kept them away from my children. I’ve always been a responsible gun over. In fact, I even support some of the new gun legislation. Dude, I just love my guns and never felt that it was appropriate to have them taken from me, considering I plead guilty to a white-collar crime. Plus I haven’t even taken them out of the house. They are here with me, for protection.
“Protection from whom? The 65 year old grandfather and former accountant you cooperated against? Sure, some white collar crime turns to red collar crime, but I am not sure this is one of those cases. Plus you told me 2 minutes ago you live in a gated community. I am not a buyer of the protection approach. Better we stay on point.”
“Ok fine, the truth is I just didn’t want to give up my guns man. You think I should go to prison for that? What are your thoughts, what do I tell probation? Am I totally screwed or what? I know I am. It’s fine. I know you don’t lie. What is the play here, the angle? I got money, just need that strategy. Why do you think I did this?”
“I think it’s important we first identify why you did it. Then we can reverse engineer our way to answering the other questions.
“Got it. Not sure what that means or where you are going, but got it. What up?
“This is simply a values play.”
“Here comes your ethics shtick.”
“That’s correct. And it is not a shtick. This is your life. You don’t need to hear my ethics talk to know that this was a values play. It was of higher value to you to break your probation and hold on to your guns, rather than follow the rules of your probation and ensure that you never endure the life of a prisoner again. You valued your guns more than your freedom. And to make yourself feel better you are blaming your ex wife. It’s really that simple. Do you really view it any differently?”
“Those guns were a part of my past that I miss.”
“I understand. Selling stocks and getting million dollar bonuses was a part of my past, but I learned to let it go. If you’re not changing or adapting, you’re failing. In the past I would Google my name to see that I was a distinguished athlete. Now, googling my name tells the tale of my crimes. Sure, I write blogs, have done a lot of media, even had a show about me. But it does not change my past: Like you, I’m a convicted felon. You’re my brother, though we have never met. I wish to help you, but I cannot unless you stop blaming others and re access your values. You had time to figure this out in prison, but you failed. Nietzsche said it simply enough, “we reserve the right to identify new values.” You failed to identify or re access your values, and now you are tormented with thoughts of returning to confinement and doing it again. Once you own it, I can help you.”
“I’m in. How much?”
“No, no. We are not ready to talk $. We will not discuss money on this call. I only want to know what your plans are to make this right? I have 90 minutes until I go to my mom’s for our annual 4th of July party to talk about it. You talk, and I’ll take notes.”
This might sound off putting, but I have reached a point in my career (I thought I was there post prison, but I was not), where I can speak extremely honestly to people. At times, it may cost me the business, but that’s okay. My work is not right for everyone. My relationships with clients last years, and certainly long after I have been paid. It has to be the right fit. I cannot placate or just tell people what they want to hear. I won’t scare people or entice them to act out of fear. I won’t sell through emotion, even though data suggests I would have a higher close rate. Nope, just good old reality, logic. His values were out of whack, and they might lead to a new charge and a return to federal prison.
For clarity, many of the people who hire me have no issues with ethics. Zero. They are not criminals, nor did they have criminal intent. In fact, they did nothing wrong!! Many should never have been prosecuted, and they only took deals because the odds of prevailing at trial were so small. They have no need for my values talk, nor have they hired me to hear it. They have hired me to ensure they serve the shortest sentence in the most favorable institution.
But some, including this gentlemen, do need to understand how their values relate to the lives they wish to lead. Rather than run from the truth, or blame away his culpability, his only chance here is to own it. “The truth shall set you free,” my first bunkie in prison liked to recite from the bible. Never have so few words been so profound.
I will help this terrific father of three tell the truth, as bad as it might be. Only then can he emerge with his dignity in tact and potentially his freedom.
P.S. My most successful clients started by scheduling a call with me.
P.S.S. To learn more about Red Collar Crime I attach a short video my friend and professor Rich Brody filmed. He has written extensively on the subjeect. I also discussed it with his students a few years ago when I lectured at University of New Mexico.
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