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HARD LIFE

THE LESLIE VASS STORY.

Starting this book, I try to remember back as far as I can, even though the exact dates and years I don’t
recall, Ostend Street when my Uncle Bunion (James Vass Jr.) climbed through my bedroom window to
get into our home in South Baltimore located near the “Cats Paw Factory”, near the
Baltimore/Washington Parkway.

I remember my mother Clara Mae Vass, argued with Uncle Bunion about him breaking into our home but
I was too young to tell her I saw him do it. Later, I remember my mother’s boyfriend, James R. Hughes,
whose mother owned a store located in the basement of the building where we lived. Clara Mae {as she
was known to those in South Baltimore} was a single Black Southern Mother whom could cook, and fight,
if necessary, James is a witness to this, because I remember when they’d have arguments James would
get beat down really good for raising his hand to Momma.

A particular fight I vividly remember took place while we were in James car over an argument I am
uncertain of and Clara Mae hit James as he was driving the car, why he didn’t crash I’ll never know to this
day, but I now understand the saying “God takes care of children and fools” ... Both were in that car on
Lee Street near the old General Henry Lee Junior High School # 72, which I later would attend prior to my
experience with the Maryland State Judiciary System.

The memories of my childhood are vague, but my immediate family consisted of Momma and me living on
South Carey Street in an apartment near Fayette Street. There was a young lady whom lived in the
second floor apartment whom used to play the violin I recall, but her name I don’t remember, James used
to still come around and spend time with Momma and I, which was the norm of life for poor Black families
in the early 60’s, I learned early how to cuss, and being realistic, now I realize that our parents had a lot to
cuss about then, or at least I think they did.

One Christmas, I remember James coming to our apartment and he and Clara Mae argued, the next
thing I recall is her throwing his record collection and clothes out the third floor window into the snow—
this lesson taught me how to evict someone without going up and down the steps... Way to go Momma,
don’t take no shit... Up to this point, I’d never met this one person who I was truly curious about...My
biological father, James Brailsford, all I’ve ever known about him was he came from North Carolina, was
nineteen years old when I was born, and that is it, maybe later in the course of my story I will get to meet
this mysterious person...If not, so be it and I shall continue forth.

The next part of my childhood I recall is when we moved into 2632 Kent Street, which was a two-bedroom
house in the Westport Projects, this is where I lived at when I wasn’t shuffled back and forth between my
Godmother, Shirley Elizabeth Forbes house in South Baltimore, near the horse stables.

Before my trips to relative’s homes in different states. I remember that Clara Mae used to take me down
into South Baltimore around Hamburg and Sharpe Street where Mr. Louis owned the City Barbershop on
the corner and Jumbo’s Ice-cream shop was on the other corner by the old Hamburg Street Bridge and
the playground was across the street, caddy—corner from Jacks’ bar, man them were the days...After
getting my haircut, I would run up and down Hamburg Street playing with Christine, Chris, Dee-Dee,
Chicken Little, & Toby, whom were the children of Mrs. Dot, a friend of my mothers’ and her husband Mr.
Willis whom everyone called “Cow-Killer”, he was the one whom ran the ‘skin-joint’, a place where all the
old hustlers used to hang out, play cards, shoot craps, drink, party hard and tell lies to each other and
chase women. I remember Mr. Ben Davis, the only dude I ever saw who always had a new Lincoln
Continental but never a job, so that’s that. Need not say any more.

There was another lil’ girl I used to play with named “Jackie” whom lived next door to Christine and her
family, she had a brother named Skeeter and another brother Andre, but their Moms’ passed away while
they were young and they ended up fending for themselves because their father drove cabs, and was a
so-called preacher, to this day, it bothers me a great deal about this man because of an accusation made
back then, but God judges, not me. To this day Jackie is like the little sister I never had, and I love her
very much and miss her dearly, later in years after my episode with the criminal justice system we
connected in a very special way.

During my times with Clara Mae in South Baltimore, I found it a joy running around with my childhood
friends, and those memories are what sustained me in the devastating and inhumane conditions I
experienced for the next ten [10] years of my life.

When we moved to the Westport community, I started attending the Elementary School #225 [Westport
Elementary] and each morning my responsibility would be to walk my little brother Craig, and Jeffrey to
the Nursery School, located in the Old Projects by the Black-Top. One particular morning I was
confronted by this fellow whom everyone called “Beaver” and his gang of so-called bullies, he and I had
been calling each other names the previous day in school, and were supposed to have fought after
school, but never got it on, so he and I ended up tussling and punching each other, and the dirt on the
ground, more than we did each other, but in my Baby Brother Jeffrey’s eyes, his Big Brother had stood up
against the big bad bully and his mob, but you know how them lil’ brothers are, they got to tell on you,
can’t keep their mouths closed and this particular day Clara Mae had dressed me in a pair of new pants
and they got torn in the fight. Craig told Clara Mae about my fight and she whipped my butt. I couldn’t
believe she was whipping me for standing up for myself, now you know whenever you get your butt beat
you’re punished and not allowed to go outside, but because Clara Mae worked from three in the evening
until eleven at night I felt as though I was cool, and I hid Craig’s’ crayons too, since he liked to snitch so
much, chump.

See, I’d forgotten that Clara Mae used to call next door to her friend, Mrs. Ida Mae Brickus house, a lady
we called “Mrs. Mick”, this was her way to make sure everything was good to go in our house while she
was at work, that’s how the neighborhood was back then, one family looked out for the other, now a day, I
don’t know what to say has happened.

Clara Mae always had a job of some sort and now that we lived in the Westport Community, she was
employed for the Baltimore County Board of Education as a Custodian. By the time my brothers and I got
in from school, she would be leaving for work and I would be responsible for heating up our food, doing
our homework and taking care of the house until she came home around 11:30 at night.

During those days, I can say that we always never saw a day without food or the necessities we desired
for, I look back and realize that things were very hard for my Moms’ raising three boys by herself and I am
extremely proud of her for what she endured and the sacrifices she made to provide for us. Once we’d
finish eating dinner we’d go outside and play in the neighborhood, there was no such thing as locking
your doors for fear of anyone breaking in, nor any children being kidnaped, because the other mothers
were our mother’s eyes and ears when they were not at home. Jeffrey would go across the street and
play with his lil friends, Benj., Marty, Curtis, Mann, Stepney and Craig would spend his time in the house
watching television, reading or drawing with his crayons. There was a lady whom lived directly across
from us named Mrs. Pallis and her husband, Mr. Benny, Mrs. Pallis was known as the snitch of the
neighborhood, man she would always get you in some kind of trouble, telling your Mother what you did
while she wasn’t home, but she never saw what her children did, and she had some lil’ bad ass sons,
Major, Benj. and Marty used to hop the freight trains that came through Westport, and they lived right by
the train tracks, but it was all good though, no one ever got hurt, as I recall.

It was during this era that I started learning how to “pat that rock”, (play basketball for those of you whom
are not familiar with the term) and I used to “pat that rock” from the time I got home from school, until it
was time to for Clara Mae to get home from work. Man, in those days, all I wanted to do was be the “Walt
Frazier” of Baltimore, then one day I was taken to a Baltimore Bullets Basketball game at the Civic Center
and I watched this fellow named Earl Monroe AKA “The Pearl” doing his thing, and I cared less about
Frazier, now I wanted to play like this awesome brother. I started concentrating on my outside shots and
penetrating to the hoop instead of my inside game, which was tighter than tight anyway, yeah, I’m like
that and more.

Mrs. Mick, our neighbor had a large family, which consisted of John, Joanne, Lamont, Henry [whom we
called Rome], Laverne, Ava and Sheila, and seriously they were and still remain my friends to this day,
even though we’ve not seen each other in years, but via our mothers’ friendship, we still have our bond,
May God-Allah, Most Compassionate watch over and protect them forever. Laverne and Ava were both
near my age and secretly I had this minor crush on Laverne and Ava but was scared to death to ever
admit it, until this day. Talk about some beautiful young women, they were it, real fine.

Directly across the street from our house there lived the “Lemon Family”. Mrs. Lemon, Mr. Charles, their
children, Gwen, Bruce, Earl, Shirley and Dorothy. Bruce, Earl and I used to skate together, play
basketball, football, baseball and shoot skillet. Their sister Shirley Lemon was tall and skinny when we
were growing up, she and Laverne were best friends and always tried to outdo us boys of the hood.

Down the street, on the opposite side was Miles and Bordy Guest and his mother and father, his Sisters,
Janice and the other one forgot her name, but we were all friends of the neighborhood and played forever
together and fought when we did not get our ways, but always remained friends.

As I grew up in Westport, there were times I’d go stay with my God-Mother, whom now moved to
Brooklyn New York, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant projects located on Fulton Street between Ralph and
Buffalo Avenues, there I learned to ride the subways across New York and enter myself into the
basketball tournaments played in the square, between the buildings, also in school, when I attended
there, my little God-Sister, Dondra and I would fight with each other for Momma Shirley’s attention, but I
realized now how positive her influence upon me has been in later years after my imprisonment.

Prior to my God-Mother moving into the projects, I remember she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a
Brownstone on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn and the lady whom rented the apartment was Mrs. Dot, whom
had three daughters named Lynn, Pudding and Gail. Being the little devil, I was, I started an argument
between Lynn and my older God-Sister Joyce and ran into the apartment when the three girls jumped on
Joyce and locked the door. I could hear them girls out there whipping Joyce butt really good, and my
God-Mother was yelling “Leslie what’s’ going on out there”, Nothing, was my natural reply. Finally, she
opened the door and Joyce fell into the apartment, looking beat down really bad, but she wanted to beat
me up for locking her in the hallway, now I laugh about that butt-beating she got, it definitely wasn’t funny
then. Joyce naturally had big eyes, but when she came into the apartment, her eyes were really big and
wild looking. Joyce, if you read this book, please forgive me and I love you Sister, plus I am very proud of
you and all that you have accomplished. Don’t ever feel I’ve lost sight of our past, because I never could.
God, how I wish for those moments again.

My God-Mother was a lil’ short woman and I loved this lady for her spiritual and moral support she gave to
me over the years I was blessed to have her on this earth with me. Support, that I felt I had lost from my
biological mother after my brothers were born, yet I never understood that love emanating from her to me
in ways I could not see, at those times of past.

My Godfather, Charles Ray, was “cool”, he drank anything which had a trace of alcohol in it, and came in
a bottle, later on in life when I experimented with getting “messed up”, I acknowledge the fact his of
strength by following his example enrolling in N/A and becoming sane again. Getting “messed up” is a
term I use because there is no such thing as “getting high” off of drugs or any other substance which
alters your total being and destroys your life, which is what using can and will do, a plain fact which
cannot be disputed.

When I was indulging in drugs, and alcohol, my main objective was to get it into me as fast as possible,
and as much as possible, then after it was all gone, I’d sit there pissed off that I had spent all my money
on something which did not last forever, and my problems and worries were far more than before, if
you’ve been there, you know exactly what I am saying, if you are honest with yourself, and not planning
on using again. Now I know the “HIGH” I searched for then, is my Spiritual High, which comes from Our
Father Most Merciful, not a vial, bag, pill or bottle.

My Godfather, Charlie Woo [my nickname for him] used to be a trip when he was drinking. He’d be beat
up and beat down and forget how to come home, then when he did come home, he’d look like something
the dogs brought in. His clothes would be ripped off of him, eyes all swollen up and he’d have this smell
that there is no description for. One New Year’s Eve in the early 1970’s, he started drinking with this lady
we called Aunt Stella, and they both got drunk and fell asleep on the sofa sitting side by side. I remember
getting some lipstick from my Godmother and smearing it around his lips and some baking flour and
powdered him and Aunt Stella, then my Godmother and I took pictures of them both looking like real
clowns, what a sight, we laughed like crazy. New Year’s morning my Godmother woke them up and
asked me to walk Aunt Stella home, but when she got up off the sofa, she had a great big pee-stain on
her pants and on the sofa, I begged my Godmother, please don’t make me walk Aunt Stella out in the
streets looking like that, aw man. Later Charlie Woo got up went into the bathroom and came out with this
new outfit on and a new pair of platform heel shoes, he must have looked at too many Superfly movies
because he thought he was the Mack. He said, “I’m going out” and he was gone. God momma and I
talked a lot about anything and everything and I could tell she was hurt that Charlie Woo didn’t stay home
with us, but I told her that he’d probably get his butt beat down again, just words of a man-child trying to
soothe the hurt I saw in her eyes.

Around three in the morning, we awakened to this loud banging on the apartment door and we couldn’t
understand what the person outside the door was saying, so I got my 44 ounce Louisville Slugger and
told my God momma to open the door, as soon as she did, Charlie Woo fell into the apartment and boy
oh boy, he looked like whoever beat that butt, beat him out of his coat, shirt and ripped his pockets off his
pants. I mean he had pants on but the pockets were completely gone from the pants themselves and you
could see the skin of his legs where his pockets “used to be”, but what really took the cake was when I
looked down at his feet, his platform shoes now had the heels gone and the long nails that used to hold
the heels on the shoes were sticking out like a pair of baseball spikes, I died laughing. I said Charlie Woo
they beat you out your shoe heels too, later he started talking this “Big Shot” talk about beating on my
Godmother and definitely was a no-no. Usually I’d get real nervous whenever he started arguing with my
Godmother but this particular time Charlie Woo pushed my God momma and I told him if he put his hands
on her again I was going to whip his ass myself. To this day I never understood why he struck out at my
Godmother for laughing at the way he looked, but the very next thing I remember is her screaming
“Leslie, please no don’t do it, please “. I had somehow grabbed him and was forcing him out the window
of the apartment. After that situation taking place I returned back to Baltimore, but whenever I spoke with
my Godmother over the phone she told me that Charlie Woo had stopped drinking, was attending A/A
meetings and to this day he has not drank any

Alcoholic beverages. IT WORKS...

Upon my return to Baltimore, I fell right back in with my old neighborhood friends and started attending
Junior High School # 72 in South Baltimore. I was an average student whom did my class work and
continued to hone my basketball skills, I played in the newly started Baltimore Neighborhood Basketball
League [BNBL] for the Westport Team, 18 and under, and by me being tall for my age my advantage was
apparent and I started establishing a name for myself.

One day as I was leaving school for my trip home by the # 28 transit bus , my friend and ace-in the hole,
Jimmy McBride pulled up to the bus stop in a car and told me to jump in he was going home, now I knew
that Jimmy did not have a driver license, but what the heck I thought, we were not far from Westport and
another fellow was in the car, so I jumped in and he took off when the light turned green, suddenly from
behind us this police car appeared and flashed the lights on Jimmy, he yelled at us to hold on and blasted
the gas, man I was scared to death and was praying that Jimmy did not kill us in that car, but he handled
his business, when we reached the Westport exit off the Baltimore/Washington parkway, Jimmy was in
the fast passing lane when the police car bumped us from behind and I realized that this police was trying
to crash us, suddenly Jimmy cut across the lanes into the Westport curve and the car was screaming,
tires and me too. Jimmy said as soon as he stopped the car everyone would have to jump out and run,
there was a wooded area right in front of us and that’s where we ran, but Mrs. Pallis [neighborhood
snitch] was watching us running and started yelling “Leslie, Jimmy McBride, I’m going to tell your mother
on you”, right then I could have slapped her silly, running her damn mouth. The police helicopter had also
been involved in this chase and when we exited the wooded area we ended up in the old projects near
the blacktop where I used to take my little brothers to nursery school, this police car drove pass me slowly
then the officer jumped out and grabbed me, little did I know it but Jimmy had already been caught, the
officers took us to Glen Burnie’s police station and was asking us allot of questions, then they brought this
older fellow into the room and said that he was the third person who was in the car, but I told him them
that I did not know this man, for some reason they refused to believe me. By Jimmy and I being juveniles,
they called our homes, my mother was at work and did not know what had taken place, so I had to wait
until they contacted her, and I knew I was going to get beat to death for getting into that car with Jimmy
McBride. His older Sister Patty McBride picked him up. Finally, when Clara Mae came to get me I wanted
to tell the officers to keep me, but she did not say anything but “Leslie, you know better than this shit”.
Later while I was asleep, she crept into the bedroom and beat my butt good. Waking up to a butt beating
is a very shocking way to awaken, you don’t know which way to turn to run.

Upon my return from New York, my mother now had a friend who used to live with us, his name was Mr.
Johnny, and I hated that sucker. He was an auto mechanic with his own jack leg shop, but he also
worked at the Key Highway Shipyard as a Longshoreman, and my relationship with him was real strained
because he was sneaky to me, but that was her friend and Clara Mae did not allow us to be disrespectful
to any adults, regardless. I remember him trying to verbally discipline me for something I might have
done, and I would look at him like he had lost his mind.

I started spending my weekends at my Grandfather’s [ James Vass Sr.] house on Hanover Street near
Hamburg Street, so on Fridays, I would catch the bus there and hang out with Christopher Jones and
Toby, just shooting’ the breeze and listening to the “so-called Big Shots” in the skin-joint. I would run
errands for Mr. Morris L. Carter [whom I thought of as my step-father]. Now Mr. Morris was cooler than
cool, he made Ben Davis and the rest of them chumps back up when he came in the skin-joint [my man].
He used to run numbers [street lottery] and carried a big wad of cash, dressed dapper and took no crap
from anyone. I admired this tall thin cool man and hold the highest respect for him because he and my
Moms’ were real good friends from days gone by. I do not know whether they ever had a thing going on
and only know that he respected her and cared for her well, and in my eyesight, that was that.

I was now attending Southern High School in South Baltimore and on the Varsity Basketball Team, my
coach was Mr. Mel Washington, and he used to tell me how much talent I had, and how I would likely play
pro ball if I continued as I was. I used to hear about this other fellow from East Baltimore, named Allen
“Skip Wise” and another fellow named “Larry Gibson”, both played on the team for Dunbar High School,
their coach was a man I respected and liked, his name was Mr. Sugar Cane, but we had not run into each
other on the courts at that time, once we were scheduled to play against each other in the BNBL league,
but the game was postponed, I anticipated having the opportunity to throw down against these two
because I was hearing too much about what they could do.

Two doors away from my Grandfather’s house lived a girl by the name of Pauline Williams, she and I
used to talk with each other when I was at my Grandfather’s house on the weekends and I used to get
her to braid my hair for me, nothing more really happened between us. My Aunt Clarissa Vass lived with
my Grandfather and she used to tell me that Pauline liked me, but Pauline liked a lot of other fellows and I
had one main interest “BASKETBALL”, I was very shy around girls and really had no interaction with them
except casual conversation.

I remember Christine’s family used to let them have parties in their basement with the blue light on and it
ended up the boys were on one side of the wall, and the girls on the other side, until the slow records
came on, I held the wall up always... Scared to death someone would ask me to dance, because I did not
know anything about that...Until later.
During the week, I would stay at home out Westport, attend Southern High School, and hang out with my
childhood friends, usually after school we would have basketball practice, and after that I got my first job
working at Muhley’s Bakery, on the corner of Cross St. and South Charles near the Cross-St. Market.
That proved hard on me, so it did not last long, but it was experience that I still have because I like to
bake and cook and definitely eat.

Pauline came out Westport several times and when we saw each other we would speak, but she was
visiting her friends and associates out there, one time she stopped at my mother’s house talking with me
about a fellow who lived down the street from us, Harrison Conyers, then when he came to our house
they left. I am explaining this for a reason which later in this story you will find amazing.

On weekends, I’d be back in South Baltimore playing with Christine and her family, I had started liking
Christine, she was small built but well equipped, and I liked her like that, we would spend time talking and
finally it got around to us holding hands and taking walks together throughout the community and then it
became known that “Christine and Leslie” go together. Life in the 70’s was like that, but one day Mrs. Dot,
Christine’s mother told me to come in and have a seat, and she was real blunt. Christine isn’t any good
Leslie and you deserve better than her. I then found out that Christine was pregnant by a fellow she was
seeing during the week whom lived on Fremont Avenue, a light skinned fellow named Kenneth Jones.
Crushed, I was totaled. Not Christine, now being realistic, I had not put my hand nowhere other than in
her hand, how she got pregnant was amazing to me, that is how naive’ I was.

Pauline started teasing me about Christine being pregnant by someone else, and I used to hate her for it,
because she thought she was all that; Pauline, was one of those light skinned, long haired, thought she
was too cute for her own shit to stink young girls. She just did not appeal to me because of her attitude of
putting others down, plus I’d heard from several other fellows in school she was easy, and I did not like
what I was hearing about her.

In February 1975, I went to the Westport Pharmacy to purchase Clara Mae’s newspaper with my friend
Harrison Conyers and spoke to Mr. Clarence and the owner of the Pharmacy a man we knew as “Doc” at
the rear of the drug store, in the liquor department. Mr. Clarence used to stop at this lady’s house down
the street from my house on Kent St and whenever he saw me, he and I would talk about my last game.
After purchasing the paper, Harrison and I exited the front of the store and was standing on the corner
when I heard this voice behind us say “You, with the leather coat, stop, put your hands up against the
wall”. I turned around and there was a police officer walking towards us standing on the corner. I took
another step off the sidewalk and the Officer said “you, go put your hands against the wall, I then pointed
at myself and he said, yes you, so I walked to the drug store building and placed my hands against the
wall. I heard the officer say “ are you sure”, then he said, put your hands behind you, you’re under arrest.
I asked him what for, and he said for robbing the drug store, I said “man, I just came out of the drug store,
ask Doc and Mr. Clarence. He told me to shut up and place my hands behind my back and I could tell it to
the Judge.

I remember Harrison Conyers telling me that he was going to tell my mother the police were arresting me
and he took off running towards the opening in the fence which led to the Westport Projects. The police
cruiser came and I was transported to the old Southern Police Station, all the way during the ride I was
saying to myself “I don’t believe this is happening to me”, later after being processed for the robbery
charge I was taken in to see the court commissioner and was released into the custody of my mother
because I was a juvenile with no prior criminal record. When I first saw Clara Mae, it appeared that she
was upset, but I could not understand this because all I did was go to the store and buy her newspaper as
usual. Once we got into the car on the way back home I explained to her how I was arrested. Mr. Johnny
did not say anything at all, which was cool with me, later he took Clara Mae and I to an attorney whom
had handled his nephew’s case, a man by the name of Mr. Robert P. Conrad, and from the very first
meeting with this attorney, I felt that he was going to send me to jail, my mother had no knowledge or
understanding of the criminal law process and neither did I.
The very first time I went to see him alone, his first question was “did your mother send me the check” ?
He never at any time explain any of the facts about the charge to me, or inform me that the robbery I was
accused of had originally taken place in November 1974 [my arrest was February 15 th, 1975], nor did he
inform me that the robbery was of a delivery driver, Mr. Joseph Frederick Chester, whom worked part-
time on weekends and not of the drug store itself, the main information he never told me about was that
the robbery was committed by three (3) men, and two (2) had already been identified prior to my arrest.
All of these vital pieces of information would have prepared my trial defense, which was held July 2, 1975,
before Honorable Judge James A. Perrott, in the then Supreme Bench of Baltimore City.

The day I was scheduled for court, Clara Mae and I went, rode the bus downtown, while we were riding
we talked about different things, and it was at this time I really began to realize my mother was scared
and afraid for me, but we faced this together and wanted to over with. I had already told her that I did not
trust Mr. Conrad, because his main concern was whatever money she owed him, and he never discussed
the facts of the robbery with me, which was something later I learned he was supposed to have informed
me of. Prior to commencement of trial.

When Clara Mae and I reached the courtroom, we sat in the back of the courtroom and I noticed that this
man with a red plaid lumberjack shirt sat down directly behind us with two [2] white men and they were
looking into a yellow folder, and then looked at me. Mr. Conrad suddenly appeared in the courtroom and
he and the two [2] men whom were seated behind me started talking. In my last meeting with Mr. Conrad,
at his office, he had told me that when the Judge asked me what type of trial I wanted, I was to ask for a
trial by the court, and not jury, as my mother had told me to do, when I informed her of this she told me
that the lawyer knew best and to follow his instructions.

Finally, when my case was called, I was told to sit somewhere in the courtroom, then the man with the red
lumberjack shirt got on the witness stand, I was shocked, earlier I told my mother I had peeked back at
him and the two men he was speaking with and saw my photo, which was taken at Southern Police
Station, the day of my arrest, in the yellow folder one of the men was holding earlier. Just prior to the case
being called, I asked Mr. Conrad if the man I was accused of robbing was in the courtroom, he then said,
don’t turn around but it is the man seated behind you, with the “red-checkered shirt” on, he then looked at
me and asked, “you never saw the man who was robbed”? I told him no, because the officer told me to
face the wall of the drug store and had his gun at the back of my head. I told Mr. Conrad that I did not
know this man whom was testifying, and I did not remember him from the drug store. The white man
whom was sitting in back of us with him turned out to be the States Attorney [S/A hereinafter], and he
asked Mr. Chester did he see the man in the courtroom whom robbed him the night of November 2,
1974., and at first he said “yes, he looks like the man that robbed me, the S/A then told him “Mr. Chester,
you have to say for sure that is the man who robbed you, not look like him”, he [Mr. Chester] then said
“that is him”. Mr. Conrad did not object to this line of questioning at all. Mr. Chester then went on to
explain that he was attempting to deliver an order of alcohol to a location in the Cherry Hill section of
Baltimore when he was robbed of One Hundred and Twenty Dollars.

As I sat in the courtroom, listening to this man describe being robbed, I had a lot of conflicting emotions
and thoughts, because all along I was under the impression that the drug store had been robbed, one of
the conditions of my release was that I not patronize the drug store, so this stipulation prevented me from
speaking with “Doc” the owner of the drug store, and I never saw Mr. Clarence McCleary, in the
neighborhood, like he used to come around. All these things were running through my mind as he
described a robbery I knew nothing about, and it was terrifying. He described three men whose ages he
described as in their twenties standing outside of an apartment building as he entered carrying the order
which was called into the liquor department, after not getting an answer at the apartment door, he started
returning to his vehicle but as he passed the three men, one of them pulled a handgun, and placed it
against his head and asked him what he had on him, another man then went into his pant pockets and
removed the money, and the other man stood in the background and did nothing.

He testified that he got into his vehicle and drove to the gas station on Cherry Hill Road and called the
police advising them that he had been held up, this is where they responded to. The only question that
Mr. Conrad asked of him was whether he had been robbed before, which the S/A objected to, and that
made me wonder why he questioned him on this issue. Judge Perrott, then called for the noon-time
recess, and told us to return to court an hour later.

Clara Mae and I walked to Baltimore Street, not far from the court house ,where we ordered hot dogs and
sodas, then we walked back to the little park across from the courthouse on the Lexington St. side and
sat down to eat our lunch, as I looked at my mother, this strong serious positive black goddess looked
very confused and frightened, and I told her, “I love you Momma”, but what I really wanted to do was run,
because my inner being was saying this is not right.

When we returned to the courtroom, I was called to the stand and identified myself, then the S/A started
asking me questions regarding the case, to which I constantly told him I knew nothing about, I explained
to him that I attended Southern High School located in South Baltimore and had not been in the Cherry
Hill section of the city because I did not know anyone in that area. The S/A asked me whether I knew a
man by the name of “Joe Lewis” and “Claude McKnight”, to which I told him no, he then told me these
were the two men I was with the night Mr. Chester was robbed. I then said, “where are they at, I don’t
know them and have never met these men”, he replied they’re already in jail doing time. He asked me
where I was at on November 2, 1974, and I told him that this was supposed to have been on a weekend,
on weekends, I spent them at my Grandfathers’ home. He asked me where was my witnesses that I
stayed there, I told him that Mr. Conrad never spoke with my friends, their family members or others to
verify I spent weekends there. He then said “right”. Now prior to my trial ever starting and the last time I
spoke with Mr. Conrad at his office, he told me that if the Judge found me guilty he was going to give me
twenty years.

That was all my trial consisted of, then Judge Perrott told me to stand up and he said “Leslie Vass, after
considering the evidence presented by the State, I find they have proven beyond a reasonable
doubt that you are guilty of committing robbery in the first degree and use of a handgun in the
commission of a felony. He then said that I am remanding you to the custody of the Baltimore City Jail
until sentencing and ordering a Pre - Sentence Investigation report be submitted. My first reaction was
“Guilty of what, I did not rob anyone and don’t know anything about this crime, you have the
wrong man”. There was a lot of confusion in the courtroom after his verdict and when I looked at Mr.
Conrad, he had a smile on his face and I started screaming at him that he helped these people do this. It
was very ugly; my mother was upset, and I saw her crying. Judge Perrott then said that he was setting
sentencing for July 18th, 1975., and I was approached by the bailiff whom asked me to place my hands
behind my back, which was the wrong thing to ask me to do for something I did not know about so he
grabbed me and he and I started tussling in the courtroom, Judge Perrott then said “young man, you’re
going to make matters more worse on yourself if you continue to act like that.

“I told him, how much worse can it get when you’re sending me to jail for a crime I did not commit and
know nothing about”. As I was led from the courtroom, my mother called to me and said that she would
be there to visit me as soon as they would let her, I nodded my head.

On the way to the Baltimore City Jail, fellows in the transportation van were talking like they were going
away on a vacation, but all I could do was cry, and cry...” Guilty”, Guilty of what, being Black, naive
enough to think that “Justice would prevail and I’d be set free”, There was no such thing as justice -
Fuck that Justice Crap, was what I thought and felt...

Being put in the Baltimore City Jail in 1975, was a crazy time and I recognized that my main objective was
to survive and not be a victim to anyone ever again...I remember calling Christine and crying, I told her
that I was found guilty of the robbery I knew nothing about and she laughed like it was a joke and hung up
the phone. To this day I still do not know what made her do that to me, but her response made me
become very bitter towards her. Clara Mae came to see me, and we talked, and she told me that she was
getting me another lawyer to handle the appeal and to be careful there, which I was definitely aware of by
this time.
On July 18, 1975., I appeared before Judge James A. Perrott, for sentencing and when it came time for
imposition of the term he informed me that on the first count of the criminal information the term was
fifteen (15) years for the Armed Robbery charge and on the ninth count the term was five (5) years for
Use of Handgun in the Commission of a Felony, said sentence was to be served consecutively, meaning
a total of Twenty [20] Years. Mr. Conrad had informed me just prior to sentencing that he had told my
mother that she should not attend the hearing because it would not be good, damn right it wasn’t good, I
started fighting with the bailiff as soon as he approached me to place the hand cuffs on me and return me
to Baltimore City Jail. Judge Perrott again started that “Boy you’re going to make things worse for yourself
and this time I said “fuck you, you give me twenty years for a crime I don’t know anything about, well you
will get it back “. I did not know what I meant by that, but God is Great and All Knowing.

Mr. Conrad put his hand on my shoulder and I pushed him away from me and told him that I know you
and those two [2] State Attorneys “railroaded” me into prison but I’m going to learn the law and give this
sentence back to you, watch.

At that time I did not realize it but Mr. Robert P. Conrad was extremely prejudice, years later when I
learned the law and how it was “supposed to be administered” I filed a claim against him and at the
conclusion of that hearing he walked over and whispered to me “Your Blackass will not get out ‘til that
sentence is served”, and I whispered back to him “I don’t have life you low-life red neck”.

Directly after my sentencing, Clara Mae came to visit me at the Baltimore City Jail before my transfer to
the Maryland Diagnostic Center, which was located inside the Maryland State Penitentiary at 954 Forrest
St off Greenmount Avenue. I did not ask her what had happen to Mr. Johnny, but I was aware that her
relationship with him had ended and I am certain it was regarding my imprisonment and him taking us to
Mr. Robert P. Conrad.

When I was found guilty of the robbery charge on July 2, 1975, I was returned to the Baltimore City Jail
facility, I was housed on O-section. A fellow I knew from East Baltimore, by the name of George
“Junebug” Thomas, was being held there after being convicted of a murder, in the commission of a
robbery, he had just been sentenced to Forty-Five [45] years and had acquired the nickname of “Shorty
45”. George and I became extremely close in the streets and I used to visit him and his family in the Flagg
Projects long before my arrest but had drifted apart over the years. During my time at the Baltimore City
Jail, I spent my time walking around the court yard area, thinking, hoping and praying for God to take this
unbearable pain away. I used to watch the other fellows playing basketball in the courtyard, lifting weights
and telling lies about their crime sprees, etc., but as much as I loved the game of basketball, I could not
bring myself to touch a “pill” [basketball]. My dreams died, my hopes faded and the will to survive started
slipping away. Each day I awaken to hear slamming doors, fellows crying out, “Momma, please help me,
oh God” and whenever you’d hear someone cry out for help, you’d hear another voice say, “Shut up
Punk”

After being sentenced in July 1975, one night I awaken in the cell soak and wet in a cold sweat, and
terrified. I dreamed I saw myself walking through this large steel door where rows and rows of cells
stacked upon one another was at with inmates screaming and yelling at one another as I walked past. I
lay on that bunk [bed] and asked God to help me get through this terrible experience, I told God if you
loved me, “why would you allow me to be put in prison for another persons’ crime I knew nothing about”.

Several days later Officer Harris came to the cell door and said “Leslie Vass, bag -n baggage” which was
a slang term for pack up, you’re being transferred to another institution or section, but because of me
being sentenced, I was now considered DOC [ Division of Corrections] material. As for this transfer, I was
kind of afraid because there were various rumors going around concerning what happened to young boys
going into the penitentiary.

Once in the holding area those inmates whom were transferring were shackled with chains around the
waist and feet, then we were marched to the awaiting bus and vans for transfers to the assigned
institutions. The white inmates would have tears running down their faces like faucets, they’ve offer you
their breakfast, lunch and dinner just to be alright with you, later I learned this was their way of getting
protection on the sly, but I did not want no extra food, conversation or association, I wanted the heck out
of that degrading inhumane environment, nothing else.

Once I reached the Maryland Penitentiary, I was classified and issued my institutional identification
number 134460, this number was more important than my name. Next we were ordered to strip down to
our naked asses, lift up our arms, open our mouths, squat down and cough, stand up and spread the
cheeks of your buttocks, wait a minute man, I’m not spreading my ass for you and no one else, what the
fuck is your problem was my response, the officer left me alone and came back with another officer whom
told me that this was procedure, but I told him the other inmates were standing there peeking through a
hole in the wall, they then told me to get my clothes on and go take my shower]. After being in the
penitentiary for a while, I learned that the officers would allow that type of shit to take place knowing
exactly what would happen to some of those other inmates whom showed weakness.

Prior to entering the cell block area, we took our showers and were sprayed with rid [ lice insecticide] and
given a yellow jumpsuit with the letters MRDCC stenciled on the back of it. There was this old man
issuing the jumpsuits, so I asked him whether he knew a fellow by the name of George Thomas, and he
said, “Shorty 45” yeah I know him, so I told him to let George know that I had been transferred to the Doc
House today and he said he’d do that at feed up time [ lunch time].

When the Officer open the steel door which led into the housing area, I froze in my tracks because there
was my dream right in front of me, there were stacks of cells on the left side which stood five stories high
and it ran the length of the building, all you could hear were fellows screaming and hollering at each
other, inmates running around on the lower level which later I came to know as the “flats”, men standing
in front of other cells talking with inmates in the cells as if they were on the street corner. After regaining
myself I stepped out into this mad, mad world of prison life, as we were being led to our assigned cells
this fellow with a dress on in his cell called out “hi Slim, I like you come over here so I can talk to you, I
knew this dude wasn’t talking to me, he couldn’t be” I pointed at myself and he said “no not you, him,
speaking about the fellow in front of me, man I was very relieved this character wasn’t trying to bring me
no move.

Leslie Vass, A-125-Top Bunk, I stopped in front of this drab dreary cell which faced a brick wall, you could
hear the sounds of cars passing, people talking and children playing games, children like me playing
games I not so long ago played, I stepped into this hole in the wall and bam clink went the door and it
took awhile for my eyes to adjust to the blackness of the cell, but immediately I noticed this lump on the
bottom bed, so I asked whether it was cool to turn the light on, and the lump said “yeah Kid, turn it on”,
now I was not to happy with this “kid” crap, but I felt it was best to feel this situation out, I noticed a
wooden cane propped against the cell wall in the rear , suddenly the lump pulled the covers off of his
head and it was a little short older fellow. He introduced himself to me as “Hardy Herring” but everyone
called him “Spanky”. I told him my name and he said ok “Slim Vass”, and there was my prison label
name.

Spanky, was serving Natural Life and some other number behind it, but true fully I never cared about the
figure because natural life was enough for me. I was housed under the death row inmates on the second
tier in A-Block and they were not permitted to come in direct contact with the general population, meaning
these brothers stayed locked on that tier 24 hours a day. Most spent their time looking out the windows
across from their cells, reading law books and playing chess with the fellows by numbers, which I learned
later on.

After Spanky and I became more familiar with each other, he started telling me things concerning his
case, he was convicted of shooting a police office to death on Brunt Street in the West Baltimore
community, and he claimed that he really was not the one who committed the shooting but was in the
automobile when it was done.
I explained to him about the robbery I was convicted of, and the facts that I knew of, he and the other
fellows on death row started asking me whether I had the original police offense report, whether I had
been indicted or was a criminal information filed, several of the death row inmates wrote letters requesting
documents for me and showed me how to file motions, petitions and FOI [Freedom Of Information]
requests to obtain information that would be pertinent to my defense and future attacks of the conviction.
During this period Clara Mae was visiting me every weekend, and we would discuss things which was
taking place in the Westport Community and with my childhood friends and I would feel miserable
because I was being denied my opportunity to grow with them and experience things which a developing
youth should be able to experience, and the question always came up in my mind, “why”.

Shorty 45 would come around to my cell and we’d talk about how his family was doing and he’d put me
down with the activities of the prison because as an inmate on DOC side, we could not go out into the
general population, at least that’s what the administration thought. When Spanky was placed directly into
the population, he and Shorty 45 would bring me a set of clothes to change into, then they would pop the
lock on my cell, so I could run around with my partner to the law library court yard and other areas of the
Maryland Penitentiary. I became familiar with men whom I had heard about in the news such as the
Veney Brothers, Apex, Big Head Brother, Elmer “Fatman” Gross, Lil’ Melvin, Clyde Dixon, Gangster
Webster, Big Reds and this fellow whom took me under his wing and raised me as a “Comrade”. This
fellow was Mr. Nathaniel Lee Johnson AKA Junior Bunk. When I first met this Brother, the first thing he
said to me was “Shorty, you belong on the basketball court not here with these fools”. He and I would talk
about sports and legal issues, we’ve debated cases just as college students would in classes, he instilled
in me the strength to fight the injustice which was perpetrated against me by learning the law as it was
written, not as I wanted it to be. Another fellow whom was confined with us was an attorney prior to him
committing the crime he was imprisoned for, and he taught us very well. Even though the law material we
had was limited, these fellows would research issues and order cases from the LASI system [ Library
Assistance State Institutions].

September 7, 1975., I turned eighteen years old in the Maryland Penitentiary and had no idea what the
future would hold for me, I received mail from my childhood friends and pictures which would cause me to
hurt so much for freedom, but there was a letter which I received from the young girl who used to do my
hair that caused me great of confusion. Pauline wrote to tell me that she was now pregnant by a man
whom lived with her older brother Isaac, whom was a cook at the Baltimore City Jail facility, this man was
a correctional officer at the jail and his name is “Chitter” and was married, they lived over the Auto Supply
store on Cross and Hanover Streets. She went on to say that her mother, Mrs. Avis Williams told her to
put my name down as the father of her child, because I was locked up and nothing would be done to me.
I was devastated to hear that this girl I barely knew would be so cruel to lie as she was going to do. My
Aunt, Clarissa told my mother that this was not my child, and I remember sending the letter home to my
mother because Clara Mae had been told by Pauline she was pregnant by me, which definitely untrue.

On October 17th, 1975, the transportation officer came to my cell and advised me that I was classified to
go to the Maryland Correctional Institute facility located in Hagerstown Maryland, this facility is known as
the “Old Jail” and true fully, I did not want to go there because of the beatings and racial slurs I’d heard
was wide spread there. Finally, I was loaded up to leave the Pen and the fellows from Death row and the
legal department told me to keep in touch and not to allow myself to get caught up in the activities in
Hagerstown. “Don’t let the time do you Slim Vass” was their advice, take advantage of the programs
and training they offer there and get your High School Diploma, there is nothing here in the Pen but
death, this I remember vividly, and it was as if I was sent another world away. When the bus finally
reached Hagerstown the first thing I noticed was there were no Black Officers, male or female, the
second thing I remember is us being escorted into the main front door of the institution and this big white
officer talking crazy. The first section we were taken to was F-2 and our status was called Orientation /
Classification, this area was where you remanded until you saw a counselor whom would advise you of
the institutional rules and regulations, you then were classified to the educational, training or work
departments based upon your background. My counselor asked me various questions concerning my
imprisonment, the crime itself and the facts surrounding my alleged role in the commission of the robbery.
When I informed him that I had been wrongfully imprisoned, he acted as if I had lied to him and he had a
serious attitude concerning me not admitting I participated in the robbery, therefore I was determined to
be a rebellious nigger from the City. He referred me to see the psychologist and told me he was placing
me on the laundry detail.

I was still focusing on my case and found that the library here in Hagerstown was far better equipped than
the one in the Penitentiary, my mother was now driving and had her own car so every other week she
would drive that long distance to visit with me and make my day. Clara Mae came up one weekend and
she told me “Leslie, I got you another lawyer to handle your appeal”, now I had had it with the lawyers
from Maryland, but I loved this proud woman and appreciated everything that she was doing for me. She
told me that this lawyer had been retained several months ago, and I flipped out, I asked her who is this
attorney and his address because I had never received any correspondence advising me he was my
counselor, I started explaining to my mother that I had been studying law when I was in the Maryland
Penitentiary, and was becoming familiar with the procedure of an attorney/client relationship.

The attorney name was Gerald Kroop, and he was well known in the legal profession, but he also was
dealing with a client whom had no trust in lawyers. As soon as I got back to my cell I started writing a
letter to him after I obtained his address from another inmate housed with me. Several days later he
responded that he felt that he did not have to speak with me to file the appeal of my case because he had
obtained the records from the court and filed based on the information it contained. I responded that Mr.
Conrad had not did any pretrial investigation, interviews of my witnesses nor did he attempt to ascertain
whether I was known to the other two men whom had actually admitted robbing Mr. Chester, the victim
prior to my arrest. These facts would directly relate to Mr. Conrad’s ineffectiveness at trial, which was a
ground for relief and reversal of the conviction.

At the Hagerstown facility, if you stepped outside of the line in the dining room, you’d get hit with the large
keys that the officers carried on their belts with long chains attached to them, they would wind these keys
up and sling them at you like a yo-yo, it was becoming very clear to me that the stories I’d heard about
the brutality here was true. There were officers at this facility whom made it known they were Ku Klux
Klansmen. They would come onto a section and turn all the lights out, so no one could see them, then
they would open a cell and drag the inmate out to the area called the “hole”, where he would be beaten
stomped and whatever else they felt like. There was Captain Clingan, and Major Stein two real rednecks,
who seem to thrive on abusiveness towards inmates, regardless what their color was, Captain Clingan
would stand in front of you and say in a country drawl “you’ s one of them Pennsylvania Avenue niggers
ain’t cha boy, you got one of them gold tooth’s, open your mouth, POW, he’d punch you in the mouth and
then laugh and say he missed knocking out your tooth. Sick ass people.

Several years after being in the “Old Jail” a report was made about a fellow whom was charged with
killing two [2] white Officers in the Upper Marlboro area, this fellow was a young black child, age fourteen,
he was sentenced to a term of thirty years and ended up coming to the Hagerstown facility, which
everyone hoped he wouldn’t because the Officers there had already discussed what they were going to
do to him because of the crime he was convicted of. He was beaten, assaulted, both sexually and
physically and humiliated in the worse manners I have ever seen someone treated, but he persisted, and
we ended up in the same college classes at that facility reaching for our degree and freedom. I shall call
him T.J, and I know nothing about his case other than the things we discussed and that could have been
just talk, but he was a fellow I associated myself with because he was like me, a victim of the system, not
the law. He received letters from Congressmen, Senators and other top elected Officials and would share
the letters with me, in turn I would write to these Officials asking them to please investigate my case, but
each and every one of the people I wrote would respond that there was nothing they could do to help me,
this particular Congressman wrote me saying that because of him being a member of Congress, he could
not intercede in State matters, yet he was in the news with this same fellow advocating for the abuse he
endured in the custody of the police he was accused of killing.

During my classification / orientation period I saw a few fellows who lived out Westport, but my attitude
was not about socializing with anyone, but getting out, another thing I learned was that the less people I
associated myself with the less confusion I would find myself involved in. A fellow named George
Matthews was the very first person whom mentioned to me that I had been mistaken for this man named
“Bucky Nutt” whom lived in the Mount Winas community, an area on the other side of Westport, this area
I really was not familiar with. George told me that he was over the jail with Bucky Nutt in a drug program
called “Cash Program”, he went on to say that they went home on a weekend when the robbery was
committed. I listened to this fellow but I did not know what to think, later I was introduced to a fellow who
was Bucky Nutt’s step brother, and he told me that Bucky, Joe Lewis and this other fellow Claude Knight
robbed the delivery driver in Cherry Hill outside an apartment building on Spellman Road, which is the
facts I had never told anyone, this fellow went on to tell me that Bucky Nutt was an informant for the
Detectives Nelson and Detective Fisher. While in the Pen, the fellow on Death row wrote letters for me to
the Police Department requesting the original police offense report, the robbery detectives were Det.
Fisher and Det. Nelson of the Southern Police department. I then wrote a letter to the attorney, Mr. Gerald
Kroop, informing him of the information which I was told, he later wrote me back saying that he would not
do anything further in my case until my mother paid him the remainder of his mother which amounted to
five hundred dollars. Now I could not believe this crap, he was telling me he wanted money to prove I was
convicted wrongfully.

I wrote to the Office of the Public Defender, requesting an attorney, to help prepare and file a petition
known as a “Post-Conviction Application”, the attorney assigned my case informed me that he would
not use the contention of “ineffective Counsel” against Mr. Conrad because he did not see any
irregularities in his representation, it was not until later, after the hearing, that I found out Mr. Conrad was
a “General Counsel on the Attorney Grievance Commission Board”, this group was the ones whom
determined when another attorney was in violation of the rules of conduct each attorney is bound to abide
by. I was crushed to hear this no-good bastard was in such a prominent position, that is when I filed the
claim against him. My petition was heard, and my witnesses brought in to testify, but the decision was
“Relief Denied”, I had expected no less from the Maryland Judicial System.

During this time an election was up coming and a Black man by the name of Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke was
running against then State’ Attorney, William Swisher, and he won. All throughout the prisons, everyone
thought this Black Man would do more to correct the injustices committed by the Swisher Administration. I
wrote to Mr. Schmoke as soon as he was elected and spelled out in detail all the facts of my case and
asked that he review what was done also I asked that he would allow one of his investigators to obtain a
picture of the man “Bucky Nutt” and show it to the victim, Mr. Chester, to see if he could identify him as
the actual person I was mistaken for. By this time, I had been stabbed while in a fight with a fellow who
stole my radio out of my cell, and he and I had an ongoing war, each time he and I were around one
another we’d fight. Finally, the chief of security at Hagerstown transferred him back to the Maryland
Penitentiary, where my partners stabbed him. I will leave that part alone because there were criminal
charges filed against those involved, but they were not convicted of this act against him. Later he stabbed
a fellow to death in the court yard and received an additional twenty-five years for this murder. An
inmate’s life is not worth anything.

I received a letter from Mr. Clifton J. Gordy, Assistant State’s Attorney, advising me that my letter to Kurt
L. Schmoke had been received and Mr. Schmoke felt after review of my file, there was nothing their office
could or would do to assist me and I should contact the Public Defenders’ Office to file another Post
Conviction petition, again I was denied. All during my years imprisoned I wrote to elected officials asking
their review and help concerning my wrongful imprisonment but all I received was denials and excuses
why they could not assist me in proving my innocence. My resolve now was to go to the Federal Court
System for relief because it was clear that the State Court system was deaf to my pleas.

I had researched my issues very well because I had promised myself that if I filed this Habeas Corpus
petition in the Federal Courts it would be self-explaining and concise and factually based on supporting
law, not frivolous.

Finally, my petition to the Federal Courts was prepared and I submitted it to their Clerk. I received
acknowledgement of it and the case number etc. I then decided to focus on occupying myself to avoid
what I saw so many others go through, hanging themselves because they could not mentally deal with
the imprisonment, drugging themselves up to escape their pains and just giving up and ending up in the
mental wards of the institutional hospitals.

From the very first year I reached Hagerstown, I was playing basketball on the Institutional Team, the
officers liked to bet on our games against the other institutions we played against and they would promise
me cartons of cigarettes, sodas, and other commissary items if I would score a certain amount of points
against certain jails. And I produced without a problem. Finally, we were to play against the College team
from West Virginia whom had a center who was six -eleven. This game was permitted as a scrimmage
game for them, and our introduction into community relations by the Department of Corrections. The
evening of the game, the Officers told me they felt we would lose against this team, because of them
being rated in the top ten, but we had a team of players whom played school ball and street ball.

There was Isaac “Reverend Ike” Moore, Albert “Big Reds”, Liddy “Silk man” Lyles, Jeffrey “The Wiz”
Cassell, and Me/ There were four other players on the team whom used to sub for us when we got tired
but basically, we ran the entire game. My position was and is Center, and down low is my house, no one
is permitted into my house unless I give authorization and I cared less how tall this fellow was, he got
nothing but rejection from me whenever he put the ball towards the hoop. The fellows watching the game
was cheering and the officers were slapping us on the backs telling us how proud they were on our
performance against this so-called strong team from West Virginia, after the game, the coach came to
each of us and shook our hand plus took pictures with our team. Later, I was informed that he had asked
the coach and the administration how much time I was serving, because he would love to get me on their
team. Eventually Isaac Moore was granted a court release into the custody of the coach and played there
but ended up returning to jail for another robbery he committed, his drug addiction was stronger than his
lust for freedom and life, but I wish the brother the best possible.

My days were filled with working in the SUI (State Use Industries} administrative offices where I was Head
Clerk of all shops and the apprenticeship programs because I had completed the Metalworking program,
the Body / Fender program, and the Meat cutting Program. My mind was constantly filled with thoughts of
being free.

When my mother came to visit me, I used to see other fellows with their girlfriends, wives and children
and I wanted to have those experiences and share that special feeling with some young lady I was
blessed to connect with. I spent my time reading, studying and listening to the news because I wanted
freedom in the worst way, finally I was called to the classification board and told that I would be
transferring to the Maryland Correctional Training Center, which was the “New Jail”, this facility was the
minimum-security facility located in Hagerstown area and it’s considered the next step to pre-release and
then freedom. My communications with the fellows at the pen was still going on and whenever we wanted
to see each other we’d file a small claims case, and put our friends name on it as witnesses, so that they
would be transported down to talk about what was going on in the legal matters. I filed a claim so that
Shorty 45 could come down and Old Man Pipelegg [Death row Inmate] could review the Habeas Corpus
petition I submitted, he told me that he saw no problem with it, except one, and that was the fact that I did
not resolve one issue on the petition in the State Court [lower court]. When he said that, I asked him , do
you think they’d deny my petition on that one issue alone, he told me the Fed.’s are concise, and by law
must afford the State Court the opportunity to correct their errors, prior to them issuing an opinion
reversing any case. This troubled me greatly, because I was tired mentally of being deprived of my
freedom, and watching individuals whom were released into society, and a few months later or a year
later they come right back, like they enjoyed imprisonment.

Pauline continued writing me and now had two more children and lived with their father in South
Baltimore. One day I was awakened by the transportation officer telling me I had court this morning, but I
knew of no hearing set for me, and my hopes went up high, thinking I might be getting a court release.
Once at the Courthouse downtown, I was told that the hearing was for a paternity proceeding and I was
dumbfounded because I did not have any children, to be honest, I’d never seen what a woman had
except on a picture magazine. When I was escorted into the courtroom, here was Pauline with this little
boy on her lap, the officer told me that he would allow her to talk to me and she told me that she had to
file this because she could not get a welfare check without filing, I told her she was no damn good for
doing this to me knowing that I could get more time for a baby I had no role in making. The Judge ordered
me to make payments once I get out of jail to her of seven dollars fifty cents per week. I said nothing at
all. My mother told me that she saw the baby’s birth certificate and Pauline did not have my name right on
it, she always thought my name was “Andre Vass”. But that subject I will leave alone.

I was granted another transfer from the MCTC [ Maryland Correctional Training Center] facility, to the
“Butler Building” , which was the Pre-Release System and at this center in Hagerstown, I worked on the
Power House detail. This job consisted of us inmates running the electrical and water filtration supply
systems which ran each of the institutions in that area. I remained at this location for a period of ninety
days and then was sent to the Brockbridge Correctional Camp Center, located in Jessup Maryland,
immediately I was transferred to the Eastern Pre-Release Center located across the Bay Bridge. I was
already classified as Pre-Release qualification and that is what speeded my processing up, usually it
takes a period of three days for evaluation and approval before an inmate is moved into another status.
Once we were loaded up on the transfer van, we headed towards Route 50 and the Bay Bridge, as the
driver was crossing the wind blew the window up and it busted between us and the truck passing beside
us, the driver swerved, and everyone hollered at him to watch what he was doing. Man, I was scared to
death this Officer would drive off the bridge into that water and that would have been the end of our trip.
Once we reached the EPRU Center it was a very open spaced place, neither fences nor armed guards
watching over us. We were permitted to walk around the center, into the wooded area and other parts of
the facility’s grounds. I called my mother and told her where I was at and that weekend I was called into
the office and told I had a visitor, when I walked into the room leading outside there was my Mom’s, she
had driven this road to visit me and I had told her that she didn’t have to come over that Bridge, because I
was alright. I still continued to communicate with the fellows from the Penitentiary, these men had come
to be my friends and comrades’ in the struggle for freedom. I did not judge their crimes or the acts they
committed because that was not my position, but there was a respect between us, we did not socialize
with child molesters, child abusers or rapists. Individuals such as those characters received the wrath of
any inmate in the prison system and usually they ended up on PC [protective custody or PUNK CITY as it
was sometimes called].

I used to listen to fellows discuss how they committed their crimes and what led up to the acts they were
imprisoned for, but I remained neutral on comments, because I looked at my situation only. During the
time I was in Hagerstown, I enrolled in the Hagerstown Community College Courses given there and had
the opportunity to expand my mind instead of becoming institutionalize as I saw so many others fall prey
to. I studied Sociology and Psychology and wanted to work with at risk children and adults because of
what I had experienced, the instructors used to tell us inmates that even though we were convicted, we
still had a chance, but it was our own personal decision where we went after our release, and I
understood this very well.

While at the EPRU center, I played Basketball for their team and they carried us into the community to
play in the league there, it was fun to blow out the fellows whom had been in the streets, then the women
started giving us their phone numbers for us to call them and they would come up to the center to visit
with us, my interest was “FREEDOM” and I wanted it bad. My transfer from EPRU was brought about
because of a joke I played on a friend by pulling his bunk bed to the door of the dormitory where the
officer was seated asleep, I was returned to Brockbridge charged with “horse-playing”, when I went
before the Hearing Officer for the infraction he could not believe that I was “checked in” for that, my status
was returned to me and I was then sent to the Baltimore Pre-Release center located at 920 Greenmount
Avenue directly around the corner from the Maryland Penitentiary where I once was confined at. My mail
had finally caught up with me and I received the decision from my perdition to the Federal Courts, I was
denied the relief sought because I had not allowed the State to address that one issue. I was crushed and
felt that I had no other way to resolve this case.

The next morning, I was called by the Officer in charge of work details, and told I was assigned to clean
up the streets in front of the BPRU Center, from Greenmount Avenue and Forrest Street, down to
Greenmount and Madison Streets, and this is where I left the broom they gave me and walked away from
the Division of Corrections. I made a telephone call and caught a cab to a friend’s home in the Park
Heights section of town where I received money to catch a Greyhound Bus from Baltimore Maryland
Brooklyn New York. While residing there I used the name of “Charles Munford” and got a job working as a
clerk in a Pharmaceutical Company. I spoke with Pauline while I was in Brooklyn and she informed me
that her daughter had been molested by the son of the man she was living with. I informed her that I
would be coming back to Baltimore soon because I was still working on my case and she asked that I let
her know when I was coming because she wanted to take me to her friend’s house where I would be
safe, lies all lies. When I came to Baltimore the FBI Fugitive Warrant Apprehension Unit was waiting for
me and arrested me outside of the bus station on E. Fayette Street. Initially I told them my name was
“Charles Munford Jr.” and they acted like they believed me, after I was taken into custody they showed
me a folder which had my institutional photograph in it, and I said, “let’s get this over with”, you know who
I am. I was transported to the new classification center on Madison Street where I was held until the
adjustment hearing was scheduled in the Maryland Penitentiary.

After the hearing was held, I received six months on segregation/isolation, and advised my status was
reduced to medium security. I was then assigned to the Maryland House of Corrections, which is located
in Jessup Maryland. This jail is called “THE CUTT”. It seemed like instead of going forward I found
myself going backwards, once I reached the Cutt, I was assigned to the dormitory area and it was wild in
there, fellows running around doing drugs all day and night, people stealing from each other, fights and
stabbing taking place and the officers ignored it all, as long as you were not trying to escape, they did not
give a heck.

My best friend was a fellow named Daniel Jones whom I called “Duck”, he and I would meet each day
and sit down in the bleaches out in the yard and talk about our plans for the future once we got out of
there, this fellow and I started out together in the Hagerstown facility and became known as “partners in
crime”, we worked together and fought together, our bond was like two soldiers as one, and it carried on
until his death, which I shall speak about in the second part of my book. I was moved from the dormitories
after my tennis shoes were stolen by this fellow named “Beaver”, a young fellow who had no idea that I
had been in the system as long as I had, plus the main fact that I wasn’t to be fucked with. I had a fellow
bring me a can of flammable fluid from out in the shop area, and I poured it on him while he was asleep in
his bed, then I set him on fire, for this I received another year of isolation and was transferred back to
South Wing in the Maryland Penitentiary to serve that sentence, the year was 1983. At this period of my
confinement my mother had stopped visiting me because she felt I was wrong for escaping from the Pre-
Release system when I was so close to coming home, yet I was tired of serving a sentence I had no part
in and wanted out, at any cost, even if it meant that I died trying to escape, I just did not care and that was
that. Prior to the incident with Beaver I had been approached by a fellow named “Stanley”, who said that
he lived in the Mount Winas community, he told me that he and Bucky Nutt were cousins and that he was
aware that I had been imprisoned for the robbery that Bucky committed, then he told me that the man Mr.
Clarence knew who Bucky Nutt was, and gave me a photograph taken in the year of 1974. I contacted
the Office of the Public Defender asking that they assign an investigator to show the photograph to the
victim to see whether he could identify Bucky Nutt as the man I was mistaken for.

There was a young lady I knew from my past whom used to write to me continuously, her name was
“Karen Cole” and she was very special to me, she maintained communication with me all the years I was
confined but in the last two years she suddenly stopped writing and I never knew why, she had graduated
from college and was working in a bank, from what she told me in her last letter, then one day an Officer
came onto the section and walked past my cell and stared at me real stupid. I asked him what was wrong,
and he said I’ll show you whets’ wrong nigger. I was tripped the hell out, I never saw or did anything to
this man a day in my life and here he was making an indirect threat. Later it came out that he and Ms.
Karen Cole were married, and she worked in the Maryland Penitentiary as a correctional officer, this hurt
because I believed in Karen as a special friend, so why would she lie about this. I should have known
better than to accept her word when life had changed drastically while I was imprisoned. That Officer
came back with several other officers and tore up all the pictures I had of Karen and from that day forward
I promised that I’d not believe anything told me.
While on South Wing segregation, I use to hear how Officer Big George and Officer Herman Tolson,
would run into fellows’ cells beating them whenever they felt like having fun, I watched these two Officers
them drag a fellow down the tier while kicking and stomping him just because he did not want to take a
shower. Officer Tolson and I had a confrontation on an occasion because I wanted medical treatment for
a health concern I was having, he told me that I should not have come to prison if I was sick. I told him
point blank I wanted to see the shift commander. The sad part of this was Herman Tolson has a brother
whom was in the Cutt with me and was a good friend of mines, in fact I took a picture with Tolson’s
brother Victor and it was in my photo album.

While on South Wing, I continued working on my criminal case, and my cell buddy was a fellow by the
name of, Hercules Williams [ Uncle Herk] is what I called him, very smooth brother whom was serving Life
for Murder several years before I was convicted. There was not much that I could do on my case but
await the outcome of the Public Defender Investigator locating the victim and showing him the picture, I
sent to them back in 1982. What troubled me was the fact that the Public Defender whom was assigned
my case had written me and point blank told me that “You are attempting to find each and every error
in your case, I hope one day you are successful”. What I could not understand is this attorney gave
me the impression that he believed I was guilty of robbing this man, yet he was representing me, then I
started looking at the whole situation. Here we have a convicted person being represented by the Public
Defender’s Attorneys whom are paid by the State of Maryland, and the State Attorneys for Maryland
prosecuting the defendant whom is represented by the Public Defender, I realized there is great conflict in
this scene, but who am I but a lowly inmate to question the integrity of the Maryland Judiciary System.

Damn it was cold in those cells on South Wing, too cold for you to get out the bed to get the food
delivered to your cell door, so Herk and I would take turns getting our meals, then we’d put torn up
newspaper in the metal sink, squirt baby oil on the paper and set it on fire to heat the cell, then hang a
State issued blanket against the cell door bars to stop the heat from escaping. This is the truth, the
Officers would be so cold that they would not make their rounds to check on the inmates and if you had a
reason to call them, it better be a life and death situation, and not just to ask no question, or harass them.

Clara Mae still wasn’t visiting me and I missed my mother desperately, but “pride” is a mother...... isn’t it.
It seemed like my complete life was being destroyed because of this imprisonment, I was never allowed
the opportunity to graduate at Southern High, instead I received my GED in Hagerstown. I never had the
chance to experience the developmental stages that all youths go through while growing into young
manhood, I spent my time being on guard for threats of violence which could take place at any given
moment. The stress and mental pain I endured and continue to endure because of this conviction was
wearing me down to a point where I was losing my will to live, but there was this little voice in the back of
my mind saying, “HOLD ON”. During my time imprisoned, I did not attend the church services, which
were held, because I knew the fellows whom went, basically went for the sake of lusting off of the women
who came in the prison with the minister, or that was a way for the fellows to meet their buddies from
other sides of the jail in the evenings when movement was limited and restricted, this also was a way for
others to deliver and pick up their illegal substances. Prison life is something I would wish on no one.
Unless they were convicted rightfully and in accordance to the law.

I had been before the parole commission of three [3] previous occasions, and at each hearing, I was
denied. One of the questions which is asked at these hearing is: “How do you feel about the crime you
committed” and I always explained that I was mistakenly convicted for someone else, and I had no role
in the robbery I was charged with, that in itself was the basis for parole being denied, and I had already
resolved to serve the complete twenty year term because I would never ever say I did this robbery. As I
write story of my past, I remember how degraded I felt when I explained to individuals “I was not the
man who robbed the victim, Mr. Chester”, people’s demeanor and their looks say a lot more than their
words, and it hurt, because I knew the truth, and no one believed me.

I remember writing to Mayor William D. Schaefer, asking that he please help me, his reply was for me “not
to write him again, he would not help”, yet this man lived in Edmonson Village, a predominantly black
community, later he and I would cross paths and still I recognize his position, what troubles me is that
citizens of Maryland do not know the “behind the scene acts” of these public officials. I learned due to
the seriousness of this erroneous conviction, but please be aware that the facts contained in this book is
the truth and nothing but the truth, no add on or deletions unless I make it clear to my readers. I do not
wish for my story to cause problems for anyone, I am strictly telling what happened as it did.

In October 1982, while at the Maryland Penitentiary, serving the one-year segregation time on South
Wing, I was asleep when the mail was being delivered and the Officer called me to sign for my legal mail.
After signing for my mail, I Bayed back down and put the letter on the shelve on the wall, something told
me to open the letter, I got up and turned the light on, the letter was from the Office Of The Public
Defender and the envelope was thick. I tore it open and there was a letter from the Public Defender
assigned my case informing me that the photograph which I forwarded to him was given to an
Investigator from his office, whom took it to Mr. Joseph F. Chester [ victim] and Mr. Chester immediately
identified the photo as the man whom robbed him November 2, 1974. The letter went on to state that a
Motion had been filed in court for an “Emergency Hearing”, to be held in the matter, enclosed was a
copy of the Motion. The letter also stated that Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, [State’s Attorney] was contacted
regarding this matter and they were awaiting his reply to their request for my immediate hearing regarding
my release. Honestly, I put the letter and envelope on the shelf and laid back down, my cell buddy Herk
asked me what the Public Defender Office said, and I gave him the letter and Motion to read, after he
read it, he stood up and said, “Slim Vass, you’re going to get released”. I cried, I could not believe that
after eight [8] years of total hell, degrading conditions, inhumane conditions I would finally be free, but
reality then hit me because I knew how the system was and those whom were in control of it so I began to
worry, like never before. I sat down and wrote a letter to my mother informing her of the news and sent
another letter to my Godmother letting her know what had happened, my prayers were answered, God-
Allah Is Great, Most Compassionate and I know that without his guidance and protection I would not have
survived as I had done, therefore I give “TOTAL PRAISE AND THANKS TO OUR FATHER”.

At the conclusion of the Public Defenders letter, he said that after all my hard work and persistence, I
finally had obtained my goal and he wished me the very best possible, Congratulations.

Herk and I talked about what Kurt Schmoke might do in this matter and how long it would take for me to
be released, I never would have thought or anticipated that period of time would be a long way off. The
Public Defender came to visit me, for the first time ever, during my time imprisoned and he informed me
that Mr. Schmoke was attempting to put together a deal for me to “plead guilty” and be released with time
served, and when he told me this, I could not believe that this “BLACK MAN” wanted me to say I
committed the robbery I did not commit and he knew who did it, there was something wrong about all of
this. After serving seven [7] months on segregation I was returned to the Cutt and this allowed me to
utilize the law department as I needed to do, I started writing letters out to Mr. Schmoke, Congressman
Parren Mitchell [ whom I’d written before ] , the NAACP and the United States Department of Justice
numerous other Civil Rights Organizations, they responded in the negative, even though I had forwarded
copies of the Motion filed, and the Affidavit which was written and signed by the victim, Mr. Chester, that I
was not the man who robbed him.

Finally a hearing was set for me to come to court in the year of 1983, for my fourth Post Conviction
Petition, and at the hearing, the Honorable Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, States Attorney for Baltimore City,
personally appeared to handle my case, there was no mention of this in the news media, and the hearing
was held before Honorable Judge Robert Bell, late in the afternoon, in a little Juvenile Hearing room, just
prior to the Court house being closed. At this hearing the victim, Mr. Joseph F. Chester was present, the
Director of the Public Defenders’ Office, Mr. Alan Murrell, my attorney and the court reporter and I. Mr.
Chester, was placed on the stand, at this time, he testified that when the investigator, [ Mrs. Carol D.
Barbee ], from the Public Defender’s Office showed him the photograph of Bucky Nutt he asked her what
was he doing out of jail, and Mrs. Barbee advised him that this was not the man convicted for the robbery,
this is when he realized that the wrong man had been convicted, he went on to explain that Mr. Schmoke
had told him that if he did not say I was the correct man whom committed the robbery, the State would
charge him with perjury. He then testified that he refused to go along with what Mr. Schmoke wanted him
to do and told him that he had made a mistake. He went on to say that at my original trial in 1975, he
really was not sure I was the person whom robbed him, he said that when I was in Court that day, the two
State’s Attorneys were telling him he had to be certain I was the man.

When Mr. Schmoke questioned Mr. Chester, he asked Mr. Chester did he not pick out the original arrest
picture of Leslie Vass, and not Bucky Nutt from the photo array shown to him by the police detectives ,
and Mr. Chester admitted he did, because he was confused, but he was positive the man Bucky Nutt was
the man whom actually robbed him, and Mr. Schmoke asked him “why are you so sure it was Bucky
Nutt now, and not Leslie Vass”, Mr. Chester replied, the shirt the man Bucky Nutt had on in the
photograph, was the very same shirt he had on when he robbed me. I sat in that small courtroom and
listened to this man testify about the mistake he made which had caused me to lose so much, my
relationship with my mother, my brothers, my friends and most of all, my relationship with myself. I
listened to how Mr. Schmoke, was trying to force this man into saying I was the person that robbed him,
and it hurt. Nine Years imprisoned for this robbery and I had constantly said I did not commit it and the
facts are proven, a mistake was made and still, “NO PROPER ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE”.

My hatred of Kurt Schmoke, from that day to this day remains, after the hearing Mr. Schmoke himself
came to me “DIRECTLY” and told me that as State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, it was his duty to protect
the State from liability of a lawsuit. I asked him, does that mean you allow an innocent man to be
imprisoned wrongfully? He just looked at me. Cold hearted piece of shit. I wonder how he would have felt
if it was his son, whom was wrongfully imprisoned, then I remembered something; “God does not like
ugly” and the law of Karma; “What Goes Around, Comes Around”. I felt truth would prevail and I’d win
in the end.

Satan is a very busy character, and this hearing only fortified my strength in proving to the wrong done to
me would not stop me from moving forward and becoming reunited with my freedom.

Honorable Judge Robert Bell closed the hearing saying that the final decision was his to make, and the
next hearing would be on October 16th, 1984, until then I would remain held in the custody of the Division
of Corrections, and I was taken from the court room right around the corner of the hallway directly into an
awaiting transportation van that returned me to the Maryland House of Corrections.

When I reached the Cutt, and brought back into the prison Center Hall, which was the receiving area of
the jail, most of the inmates whom were there asked me, “What Happened, why weren’t you released, as
I should have been? When I explained what had taken place, they immediately said, Kurt Schmoke isn’t
shit, everyone assumed this Black Man, whom beat, “ William “Racist” Swisher “, in the election for States
Attorney for Baltimore City, would prove more fairer than William D. Schaefer’s’ friend, but that was a
joke, to me he was no better, in fact he was worse, because he was, and is, a “BLACK MAN”, one whom
was aware of the injustices done in the early 1970’s to many of the inner city youths. When my conviction
originally took place in 1975, the Baltimore City Jail was overcrowded with youths from various poor
neighborhoods, and many were charged or given charges for crimes they did not commit, many of those
whom were convicted could not mentally deal with their confinement, and I watched when the Officers
would call “the code”, meaning an Officer had an emergency, and later we’d learn that one of the young
fellows committed suicide, by hanging themselves or cutting their wrists and bleeding to death, my
greatest fear was that I would get killed trying to escape, there was no way I was going to do any harm to
myself and I definitely was not going to allow anyone else to hurt me. This mentality was instilled in me
when I first went into the Maryland Penitentiary by men whom were there for murder, contract killings, and
other criminal acts. These men raised me and other youths whom came into that facility and told us that
the only way to fight the system was to learn the system, meaning become familiar with the laws that we
had against us. I respected these men, I still respect them and to this date I communicate with those that
have not died in prison, died after being released because they were not the reason I was imprisoned.

Out in the court yard the next day, my partner, Daniel “Duck:” Jones and I walked around talking about
the case and the hearing that took place, I told him that my next hearing was set for October 1984, and
he said that’s fucked up Slim, you know these people will do anything to keep this out of the news he said
, why don’t you write to them and send them a copy of you documents for them to report on your case, I
told him that I was leery of the way my mail was now being handled, my name was called over the loud
speaker advising me that I had an attorney visit, and when I went into the visiting area, here was the
Public Defender assigned case was waiting with a big smile on his face. Then he said “Leslie, Kurt
Schmoke told me to come down to see you and let you know that he is willing to release you if you’d
plead nolo contender to one count of the original information filed against you, and you’ll be released with
time served the same day you accept this deal. He then said that Mr. Schmoke told him to let me know
that he was aware I had another parole hearing coming up, and if I don’t go along with the deal he has
made, he will contact the parole commission, and have my parole denied, meaning I would have to serve
the remainder of the twenty year sentence, he the said that Mr. Schmoke, told him to let me know that he
and Judge Robert Bell were good friends, and he would have Judge Bell deny my petition for relief based
on the original “in-court identification” made by Mr. Chester. I looked at this Public Defender and told him
to get the fuck out of my face and tell Mr. Schmoke to kiss my ass, I was not pleading guilty to any crime I
had not committed, and if he wanted to approach the parole commission he could, because they already
had told me I would not be released until I acknowledged my role in the robbery, which I refused to do.
My rationale was now that I had the documents showing the victim made a mistake, I could present that
to the board and go from there. I left that visiting area pissed off, greatly because here was my own
attorney delivering messages to me from the States’ Attorney, threats to be factual. After a few choice
words I had to say to the Public Defender, I called for the Escort Officer, to return me to my cell. On the
way to my housing area, the Escort Officer told me that he was sorry he voted for Kurt Schmoke and
would not have believed the shit he heard if someone told him it had happened.

When I reached my cell, I started writing letters to Mr. Allan Murrell, Director of the Public Defender’s
Office, informing him of the conversation I had just had with the attorney from his staff, I requested that
this man be removed from my case, because I felt and believed that he was working in collusion with the
States’ Attorney, my next letter went to Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, informing him that I did not appreciate him
send threats by the Public Defender’s Office concerning my pending parole hearing and if he wanted to
contact them, it would be his decision, my final letter was sent to Honorable Judge Robert Bell, of the
Circuit Court, informing him that the Public Defender had visited me and I explained to him in detail the
contents of his threats regarding the opinion being influenced based on their friendship.

During the time I was awaiting the court hearing, my mother came to visit me for the first time since I’d
been back off of escape, and I was so glad to see her, she also had two [2] fellows with her and I spoke
to them in greeting and kept right on talking with her, not really paying attention to the two [2] fellows
other than to note they were big, finally she asked me “Leslie you don’t know who this is do you,
motioning to the fellows with her, and I told her no, then I looked at them real close and realized that they
were my two [2] younger brothers, Craig and Jeffrey. I hugged them and we all started talking about the
things which we had not spoken about in the past.

Just before my court date of October 16th 1984, I called my Godmother because her birthday was the
same day I was scheduled for Court, and we talked about what I would do once I was released,
automatically return to New York, I never wanted to see Maryland ever again...I did not sleep the night
before my court hearing and spent time talking with the fellows on the section where we were housed
about the things I should be on the lookout for, especially the fellows we were confined with whom ran
back and forth into the prisons wanting nothing from life, but mainly my thoughts were on “what would the
State try to do now” ?

Suddenly the transportation Officer was at my cell door telling me to pack everything I had up for Court
and this in itself n\made me aware the State was about to release me from the hardship, mental stress
and hard life I had been living for the last ten [10] years. Walking from the housing section to their Center
Hall area for shackles and handcuff connection, I was greeted by fellows wishing me the best and telling
me how proud they were that I did not give up my fight.

Again my case was the last in the Courthouse and after the case was called, Judge Bell, stated that he
had received my letter concerning the threat made regarding him denying me relief based on the original
in-court identification and he wanted it known that “no one” could influence his decision, he then asked
me whether I would accept the deal offered by Mr. Schmoke and held the opinion in his hand, as I looked
around the court room it was clear to me that I had no win with these people and if I continued fighting
from prison, I would never get the truth out of what took place, I asked Judge Bell if I took the deal from
Kurt Schmoke, would I be released then, he stated that he would make a call and be back on the bench,
several minutes later he returned to the bench and told me that I would be release immediately in the
morning because the paper work could not be completed tonight by the time I was returned to the prison,
I agreed to accept the deal from Mr. Schmoke, as long as it would grant my release right then, Mr.
Schmoke came over to speak to me, but I turned away and asked the transportation Officer to take me
out of there before I say or do something I regret.

On our way back to the Maryland House of Correction located in Jessup Maryland, I rode in silence, I was
transported by automobile, instead of the usual van, plus I was handcuffed in front instead of shackled
hand and foot. Once I got into the jail I was escorted directly to my cell and a tray of food was brought to
me, I was not permitted to mingle with the regular population, but the fellows came to bring me
sandwiches and juice instead of the tray served in the dining room.

As I lay down on my bunk for the very last time, I smiled because, at last....

I would be free...Into a world I had not been in for ten (10) years.

7:15 A/M October 17th, 1984. Officer Roberts tapped on my cell bars and said

Leslie Vass, Time to Go....COURT RELEASE

GOD ALLAH IS GREAT AND MERCIFUL.

THE TIDAL WAVE WITHIN


Continued Injustice

Outside the Maryland House of Corrections (The Cutt') located in Jessup Maryland on
Brockbridge Road I was released into society with $160.75 from my inmate account, the I correctional
staff is changing shifts as I walk to the pay telephone against the wall to call my
mother to let her know I was released "Hello Momma, can you come pick me up ...? Yes, I was
just released after getting a court release yesterday evening ...Huh, I thought I could come home to
live with you until I got a job and got myself together. Yes, I'll sleep bn the floor, I won't be at
your home too long, don't worry ..Yes I understand ...What, you can't dome get me right now
because you have to take Mr. June somewhere? Alright Momma, I understand, I'll sit out here
and wait for you to come to get me..... \
This conversation took place between my biological mother and Ion October 17th
, 1984, when I
was released from the Cutt after serving ten (10) tears of a twenty (20) year sentence for a crime
I did not commit. It was devastating, and degrading to have your own mother act like this
occasions were nothing but an inconvenience to her and your re-entry into society was a
problem. After being imprisoned as a youth and not becoming mentally institutionalized and
wanting more of life, I felt that I was thrown into a world where I was not wanted. All I could
think was that all that time I was imprisoned for someone else's crime meant nothing to this
woman whom birthed me, because LIFE had moved on, her attitude of indifference to my whole
situation made me hurt deeply,
I sat waiting outside of the cu.tt from before 8:am until after I: pm when she finally came to get
me and boy-oh-boy was she mad "why the fuck didn't they take you to the bus station so you
could have caught the bus back into town"? Didn't they give you some~ money when they
released you? I hope so because I'm going to need some gas, this car doesn’t run on water or air ...I
reached into my pocket and gave her the $60.00 which I had from my inmate account and as I
rode along I thought to myself that I would have to hurry up and get away from my mother and
her ways I was seeing, a lot had changed over the years and I just Couldn’t see how she could
forget what I had just been through with the State of Maryland.
Once we reached her new home in the Mount Winas Section of South Baltimore I was proud of.
her accomplishments and the decoration her home, after getting into the house. she immediately told
me "don't have none of them niggers m my house cause all they want to do IS see what you got,
so, they can come back and break in later when you're not home". As I just wrote this I realized now
how dysfunctional my mother was and is? I told her that I did not plan ~n socializing with the
fellows out there, and that it was my intention to continue fighting for the State to compensate
me for the time I spent wrongfully imprisoned ...."She looked at me and ~old me that I was stupid
to think those people would pay me for what they did" .... The look I got from her was as though
she was disgusted with me for thinking I could make the State do something for me ..
After eating she told me that tomorrow she'd take me to the Cherry Hill\social Service Office
where I could apply for benefits, and they'd give me emergency food stamps and a check later
on, but that isn’t what I wanted for me out here.
The remainder of the day I spent watching news programs and trying to figure out who I would
contact about my case, later on, while I was in the basement, my baby Brother Jeffrey
came home, and he and my Mom's began to argue about him not working and being out in the
streets with them no good niggers. I just watched the exchange between him and my Moms', an
exchange which I felt sorry to be part of. I felt like an outsider and had to be extremely careful
what I said in this house because it was clear that I would get put out rmmediate1Y,
The next morning, I walked downtown to the Baltimore Sun Paper Company on North Calvert
Street and left a copy of the Circuit Court Motion which was filed for my release and a note
explaining how I'd been wrongfully imprisoned, in response to my enquiry I was introduced to a
reporter named Michael Olesker. I left that Office and started walking towards Druid Hill Park
where I located the television station WJZ T. I asked the receptionist whether I could speak with
one of the reporters and explained my story to her, she in turn introduced me to Mr. Al Sanders,
whom was an on-air reporter for the station, as I walked back to my ~other's home in Mt. Winas
I felt really good because I felt that I had accomplished some of my objectives to establish contacts
and now had to wait for replies. I planned to get the telephone book and look up attorneys to see
who would consider my case?
Later, that evening when I reached my Mom's house, she wasn't home but my Lil ' Brother
Jeffrey was there with several fellows whom lived in the neighborhood, whom he introduced to
me, Billy Meekins, Byron Chase, Rinny, and Irvin, I talked with them for a little while and asked
Jeffrey for the yellow pages to look for attorney's contact information to call about my case, then
I called Jeffrey upstairs and said to him "Jeffrey you know that Mr. June is going to tell Momma
you've had your friends in here", He said man "fuck Mr. June", Momma is at work and by the
time she gets home Mr. June will be asleep ...Mr. June suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed
partially on his left side prior to my release from prison, he and I used to communicate with each
other and I liked him as a man.
Later on that evening Jeffrey told me that someone from the Baltimore Sun Paper had called and
left a message for me to call them back, at that time it was late night and too late for me to return
the call. My Mom's came home after 12:30 midnight and I was in the living room reading the
newspaper. I explained to her that I'd went to the Sun Paper and WJZ TV people about my case
and then out of nowhere she started hollering at me that she didn't want her phone number given
to them people, and it confused me because I wondered why she did not want me to use the
address or phone as my contact number, then she said to me "Leslie if you didn't go to Social
Service then you can get out of my house .... Damn, just like that, there it was up front. I said
''what have I ever done to make you treat me as you do ...She said ''Nigger get out of my face
please" ...Like I was nothing to her... I got up off of her sofa and walked out of the door, she came
to the door and screamed “DON'T COME BACK”!
I walked down Hollins Ferry Road towards Washington Boulevard en route to the downtown
section of Baltimore City with no idea where I was going, or where I would stay, I ended up in the
area called "Inner Harbor", an area which was a dirt filled field when I went to prison at the age
of 17 in 1975, but now was a tourist attraction with restaurants, cafes and clothing stores, my
thoughts were on the changes that had taken place while I was confined, looking at the
Constellation Ship docked there, I was reminded of the elementary s9hool trips I went to there.
As I thought of my life, I was now twenty-eight years old (28), but felt like a child. I had lost all
contacts with those of my childhood, I had no family members to turn to and I was homeless
within twenty-four hours of being released from prison. I started walking again and ended up in
the South Baltimore community where my Grandfather lived at so long ago, the light was on in
the living room of his home. My Aunt Clarissa and her brother Robert were home and they asked
how long I'd been home. I then asked about my Grandfather, James Vass and at this time I was
told how that he had been sick, but it was never explained that he was stricken with cancer and
TB. I talked with Clarissa and explained to her what had taken place with my Mom, she told me
that I could sleep there on the sofa in the living room, the next morning I awaken to a littler girl
peeking at me shyly and giggling, this little girl turned out to be my Aunt's daughter "Peaches"
she asked me "aren't you Clara Mae's son? I told her yes and she said, "we're cousins',
Clarissa's other daughter was named Lynn. My little cousins. I

Robert had asked me to come take a walk with him after I got there earlier but I wasn't sure what
he was up to and I wasn’t going to get into any situations I wasn’t familiar with, later
when Clarissa carne downstairs I asked her what Robert was doing out in the early morning hours
and she told me that he usually went around to the "Country bar" which is a little bar located off
of Cross Street in that community. I then went upstairs to see my Granddad whom I had not seen
since before my imprisonment and I was shocked at how small he had gotten, he was unable to
get out of bed and I sat there talking with him about the experience I had been thru with the
prison system and what I was now trying to do, he wished me well with my efforts.
After washing up I told Clarissa that I needed to make a few calls and she showed me where the
phone was and said to use it but not to make any long-distance calls. I called the reporter at the
Sun Paper, Michael Olesker and he told me to come see him and bring my papers with me and
he'd see about writing an article regarding my story, I then left my Granddad’s home and walked
back to the Sun paper office where Mr. Olesker met me in the 10bbyaJd we went to his office
area, he reviewed the letters I had accumulated over the years from va10us public officials and
agencies denying assisting me in proving I was mistakenly identified and imprisoned, he made
copies of certain letters he wanted for his article I then explained to him that he could not reach
me at my Mom's phone number because I was no longer there, he aSk9d what had happened and
I explained it to him, feelings ashamed to admit my Mom's reaction, he just shook his head, he
then asked me where I was going to go and I told him I really did not know, when we got back
down to the lobby, he turned towards me and said "Leslie, keep your head up" and handed me a
twenty ($20) dollar bill, I told him that he did not have to do that but h~ said here man, he told
me to call him the following week. I walked back towards South Baltimore and stopped over
near Southern High school but it was different, I asked a lady walking, what happened to the
school and she told me that It had been converted into an apartment building now and directed
me to the new school building located on South Covington Street. I walked to the new building
and asked to speak with Mrs. Rose Galloway whom was the assistant principal when I attended
there, she carne out of the office and I explained to her who I was, and she hugged me and told me
that she had prayed for me, when I left that school I walked down to the federal hill and sat on a
bench and cried for myself for the first time in many years because I had a lot of emotions bottled
up inside of me which had never came out, emotionally and mentally I needed to be counseled on
how to understand and deal with what had happened in my life and for the changes that had taken
place over the years while I was away imprisoned, but I had no one, at all nor any idea how to
cope.
I returned to Clarissa's house and she told me that she had saw the girl Pauline Williams while in
the Cross-Street Market and had told her I was home, Pauline told Clar issa to tell me to call
her. I could not believe that this girl could have the heart to ark that I call her after the
cruddy crap she had done to me, I told Clarissa to tell Pauline to go funk herself, no good dog.
Clarissa then told me that Pauline lived with one of her sister's name Mary up on Gwynn Fall
Parkway near a park, which did not interest me at all, I didn't care if she lived in the White
House!
After several days of walking around and making calls, I decided to call my Mom's, and when I
did she told me that she wanted to talk with me, so I went out to her house where she told me that
she'd been having a hard time and bills were piling up, plus the added! stress of Mr. June sickness
were all on her, she told me that I could come back to her home and use the club room as my bed
room area, I later found out that Mr. Al Sanders from WJZ TV had called trying to reach me for
an interview about the case. I returned to my Mom's house where I could receive calls
and have my mail delivered there, I still felt like a intruding stranger in her home and just prior to
the Christmas Holiday, she told me to come ride with her and we ended up at the Mall out Glen
Burnie Maryland where she bought me three (3) pairs of pants, shirts and a winter coat all of
which she placed on her credit card bill and said whenever I get some money I could repay her. I
thanked her for the items and made a commitment to myself to pay her1back as soon as I received
some money.
I called Michael Olesker several times, explaining that I was back at my Mom's house and
looking for a job to support myself, he told me that the news article on my case would be in the
January edition of the Sun paper...One day when I stopped to talk with Mr. Olesker I was
approached by this fellow in the lobby of the Sun paper building, and even though his face was
familiar to me I could not remember his name and he told me that he arid I grew up together on
Kent Street in Westport, his name was Bruce Smallwood and he was a photographer for the Suri
Paper at that time ... After he told me his name I remembered him and his family very well, it also
instilled in me the motivation to achieve, as he apparently had, it was a ~eal pleasure seeing him
and the accomplishments he had made in life, achievements I planned to do, become a "normal
productive member of society", what I was denied of.
I'd met a young brother named Irvin whom was a friend of my Lil Brother Jeffrey and he and I
and a few other fellows would play basketball in the Halethorpe area of Baltimore County, once
while out there I was introduced to a fellow from East Baltimore by the name of Ronnie Boone,
his cousin was a fellow imprisoned with me in Hagerstown and we started talking, as the
evening progressed, I noticed there were a few women watching the games and cheering the
players on, after the game I was told by Ronnie that his wife's Sister wanted to meet me and he
introduced me to a young lady by the name of Darceia Velinda, whom everyone called Linda.
Never really having had any real contact with woman, I was at a lost trying to fake the impression
I knew what it was to become involved with someone, when I had no prior experience with
living in the free world or any kind of relationship, but to admit that \would be failure, and I was
not about to fail, especially with this fine chocolate big boned sister. In conversation, Linda told
me that she was a physical therapist aide at the Great Oaks Medical Center located in Beltsville,
Maryland outside of Washington, DC, she also had a daughter and lived in an apartment in the
basement of her Grandmother's house in Edmondson Village, she invited me to go out later that
evening and I accepted, she drove me to my Mom's home and told me she would be back to pick
me up, as soon as I got into the house my Mom's started asking me questions about who I was in
the car with and advised me to be careful with this woman because I did not know whether she
was married or what, I understood her paranoia and appreciated her concerns, I was not too naive
after the situation I went thru with Ms. Pauline Williams, an experience which I would bear years
later I never felt would be. I
Linda picked me up later and we rode to a grassy area over near the South Baltimore General
Hospital. She had a blanket in the trunk of her car, we had a little late evening picnic with food
that she had fixed, it was very nice and began to feel more comfortable with this lady, but I was
worried as to how her reaction would be once she heard about my hist6ry or should I say my lack
of a history, the imprisonment etc. but I wanted to know this sister better and felt compelled to tell
I her about Leslie, and where I had been and what I had experienced .. I wanted honesty between us

and no secrets because as I was confined I used to hear how fellows would always talk about
them lying to their girlfriends, wives and companions which led to problems and I did not want
that between me and whomever I dealt with ... I call that the "ole values no longer respected”. I
raised up on my elbows and told her that I was imprisoned for a robbery at the age of 17 and had
just been released not long ago before meeting her and I wanted her to know this from me
because I wanted to become closer friends with her, she then told me that she liked me and
wanted to see me more if it was possible and that she had something to tell me also ... We joked
back and forth about what she had to tell me then she finally said to me that she was married, she
went on to explain that her husband and her were separated for several years, but had not gotten a
divorce yet..Our outing lasted until the wee hours of the morning then we packed up all of the
things scattered, and she asked me to drive her home which was in the village where she and I
made love, now for me it was the very first time of ever making love with a woman whom took
her time to enjoy the act of making love, it was a very beautiful sensuous experience that I praise
this beautiful woman for ..We became a couple after that, the following morning I was introduced
to Mrs. Mildred Lee Jenkins (Linda's Mother) and Shantisse Peggy Renee (Linda's daughter), a
very beautiful little girl like her Morn's. Mrs. Jenkins worked for the Baltimore City Department
of Social Services and initially I got the impression that this lady didn’t like me or trust our
relationship, but I hoped in time after getting to know me she would accept me.

I sat down one day and explained to Mrs. Jenkins about my past and explained to her what efforts
I was taking to obtain compensation from the City of Baltimore and State of Maryland for the time I spent
wrongfully imprisoned and initially she doubted the things I told her, she didn't think that
I had been imprisoned wrongfully and the news article had not been published at that time, it appeared
in the newspaper the following week. During the daytime hours Linda would be at work at the
Center out Beltsville and I would use her car to look for employment or hack (unlicensed cab)
for money.

I

My Mom's did not know that I was using Linda's car, nor that Linda had helped me renew my
driver's license and with other items I needed, but she'd always speak negative about Linda and I
couldn't understand why, one day I asked her "why do you dislike Linda? she immediately told
me "Get Out, Go Live with Her" ...Man, I could not understand what the hell was wrong with my
Mom's, she had a habit of going off on me and immediately putting me out her house ... But I was
tired of it happening ... Also, was suffering from headaches that hurt so bad I would have to lay
down and sleep to make them stop hurting ...

Several days after my Mom's put me out, Linda asked me where was] staying at and I" too
ashamed to tell her that my Mom's had put me out her house", lied and said, "at my Mom's" and
she said "Leslie please don't lie, I called there and your Mom's told me not to call there anymore
because she had put you out"! I admitted to her that I would walk around the streets all night
until it was time for her to go to work and then after taking her to work I would sleep in the car
for a few hours ...First. She was upset and mad because I lied about where I slept but then she
told me that I could have come to her house, but I felt too ashamed to do that, plus I also didn't
want Mrs. Jenkins to know that my own Mother had put me out, knowing I had nowhere to go.
Linda told me that she rented her section of the house from her Grandmother and it was her
business whom she had living with her, I hold true respect for Linda for teaching me to be
outspoken, but also respectful of my mother ...In the new week Sun paper the article was
published by Michael Olesker and it contained the first article (Jan. 17'\ 1985) entitled "Formula
For Guilt, Anger and Prison" ... Now Mrs. Jenkins believed me, and the story I told her, but I
still had a problem being unemployed and feeling like I was living off of Linda, which I was not
trying to do. When I picked Linda up from work that evening as we drove I showed her the
newspaper article which she read and told me that it was messed up for Baltimore City State's
Attorney Kurt Schmoke to act like they were unsure whether I participated in the robbery.
Mr. Timothy Knepp, a Public Defender assigned my case prior to my release, refused to discuss
facts of the case with Mr. Olesker, even though it was clearly shown I'd written the Public
Defender's Office for years and was denied help ... It took two (2) years the date of the
from

victim positively identifying Bucky Nutt as the man whom actually robbed him, for my case to
be brought to court. I called Mr. Olesker and told him I appreciated the article which he had
written concerning my case, he advised me to keep in touch with him. I really liked this man. I
continued meeting with various attorneys regarding my case and the possibilities of filing a claim
against both the State Government and City Government, but these attorneys whom are classified
as top litigators here in the State of Maryland, constantly told me that my efforts to obtain
compensation was in vain and that I should just move forward with my life, regardless the fact
that Maryland had a statue in the law which guaranteed compensation td individuals whom were
. actually, proven wrongfully imprisoned, and I wondered why these attorneys did not want to
pursue my case.
One evening I stopped at Clarissa's house after leaving an attorney's office downtown and
became involved in an argument with Robert because he kept telling me that the State and the
City were not going to give me anything for the time I spent confined, I told him that their reason
why was because of niggers like him who was willing to accept whatever treatment they did to
him, but I wasn't like him and I would continue to fight until I prove what was done. I wasn't
Lil' Leslie he used to talk crap to, I'd been in the belly of the beast and survived, I was a
'Comrade fighting my own war against the system and no matter what~ I would not allow him to
belittle my abilities to succeed .. It dawned on me that Robert wasn't aware of the code of those
institutionalized individuals I had survived from, but I also realized then that I would have to get
that institutional mentality out of me, because I was no longer in jail and could find myself
quickly back if! kept the attitude I had there ... I went and picked up my Baby "Linda" and we
played our IiI game on the way home. Once arriving there Mrs. Jenkins told me that I had
messages from WJZ TV and WMAR TV. I returned the calls and spoke with Mr. Sanders of
WJZ TV and he sounded extremely understanding to my situation, then I called Mr. Jack
Bowden of WMAR TV and during our conversation he suddenlyask9d "it was real hard wasn't
it", and for some reason I felt this man understood what I had been subjected to, both reporters
agreed to interview me the following week.
During this time, I was running from business to business, looking for employment, but I was
being denied as soon as I would put on the applications that I had been imprisoned for an armed
robbery. Then Michael Olesker called and told me that he'd received a call from one of the
readers of the article he wrote, advising him to have me contact him about a job, this person
owned houses and was willing to assist me with a job, I was full of hope and felt that things were
starting to move forward and I could put this imprisonment behind me. Later I met with the man
whom owned the properties and he gave me a job doing home improvement, a trade which I had
learned in the Hagerstown prison under the State Use Industries program, I had completed
several of the Apprenticeship programs under the SUI program while confined and received the
certificates, later before leaving Hagerstown I had become the Clerk of the program and ordered
materials and ran the administrative office maintaining records and title sheets etc. Skills I felt
later in life I would be able to use once free from prison.
After being employed with this property owner for several months, Linda and I started having
differences between us because of her husband appearing at a home w~ had moved into on South
Parrish Street in the Sandtown Community of West Baltimore, eventually I left her home but we
still saw each other, yet I me didn't having a place to live, "again", but the owner I worked for
then allowed me to live in one of the properties on East Baltimore Street not far from Patterson
Park. The building needed a lot of work, and I resided on the second-floor apartment which was a
duplex with the third floor also, squatters had moved in the first floor Apartment which was a
drug house, this place is where I continued to work on my legal case from, the owner of that.
property would pay me in cash weekly and I never had to pay taxes or report the income, I also
1
learned this owner had a reputation of being a slum landlord, which Ib lieved because of the
patch work he had me and the other fellows do on the properties he owned, and I used to feel real
bad that I had to associate myself with someone like this to survive, yet I had no other recourse
but to do, or be done, his assistance allowed me to be independent and not have to worry about
someone telling me to get out of their house when they became mad with me, or just because they
became mad. My mother came to the apartment and told me that this man was taking advantage
of me and my situation, which I understood what she meant but I did not have to worry about
being put out or talked to negatively when I came home.

After being in the apartment for a period of time, I was able to get the drug dealers out of the
property and started repairing the first-floor apartment for rent, securing the building completely
made me feel a lot better, many a night I could not sleep wondering if someone would try to
break into my apartment but I prepared myself just like I did in prison.
One evening after work I was in the apartment watching television Ida knock came to the door,
instead of looking out of the peep hole as I usually did, I opened the door and there stood Ms.
Pauline Williams, I was completely floored because I never expected her" of all people. She told
me that she wanted to apologize for the things which she had done to me and that "someone" told
her where I lived at, to this day I don't know why I allowed her to come into that apartment, but
one thing led to another and we ended up fucking in the shower and in the bedroom on the
rug, I'm not going to sugar coat this part by pretending we "made love" because there was and
never has been any Love there between us. The next evening my mother came past the house and
I asked her whether she had given Pauline my address and she said that she had, she told me "she
asked for it".

Al Sanders of WJZ TV and I were set to meet again, and he came to pick me up for the interview,
he asked me whether I still played basketball, which was discussed in the first interview, to
which I told him of my participation in the tournaments while imprisoned, we traveled to the
newly built basketball court in Edmondson Village near some apartments at the end of Alto Road
and he told his photographer to film me playing a one - on - one game against this fellow whom
met us there, which we did .. It was a small work out to me, and I won the game and slammed
dunked several times on the fellow I played. After the game, we recorded the rest of the interview
about my life in jail and discussed my court release, Mr. Sanders saw that I was uncomfortable
discussing my court case and asked why, and I explained to him that I was upset with the newly
appointed State's Attorney Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, an African American whom I felt would be
understanding of the previous State's Attorney (Mr. William H. Swisher) prejudices in that .
office, which I feel contributed to my erroneous imprisonment as a youth, I explained to Mr.
Sanders the threat Mr. Schmoke made to me that he would have Honorable Judge Robert Bell
deny my Post Conviction petition based on the original in-court identification because there was
no way he could allow me to be released and file claim against the City and State, it was his duty
to protect both of those agencies. To this day, I still hold animosities towards him and have no
respect for him, because I faced him directly and saw his true personality come out. And the real
facts were clearly revealed when he (Kurt L. Schmoke) and I appeared on the WJZ TV Urban
Affair Program CityLine.
Later the day of the game and interview, it aired on the 6 pm news and it was at that time I
learned that the fellow I played against was a college player, Mr. Sanders called to tell me that he
had shown the film to the coach of the Baltimore Lightening' s basketball team here in Baltimore,
and the coach said that the only problem he felt may be of concern, was my age, for the
purpose
of the insurance, otherwise he said the coach was willing to allow me to try out for the team. I
stayed the night a Linda's house and the next day Shawn and I walked to the Edmondson Village
IShopping Center where people I never met were walking up to me speaking and telling me how
sorry they were for what had happened to me, the attention was making me feel self-conscious
because I had a lot of problems within myself that I did not know how
I
10 begin comprehending.
Later on in that afternoon, Mrs. Jenkins told me that I had a phone call, when I answered the
phone it was Congressman Parren 1. Mitchell, this really was mind boggling, because I wondered
"why" was he calling me, better yet, how did he get the phone number. Plus, this was the same
person whom I wrote to "begging for help", while I was imprisoned, that wrote me back to tell
me "not to contact him anymore" because as a member of Congress, He was not allowed to
become involved in any State matters. Directly after I received his lette~r,1the case of Terrance
Johnson happened in the Upper Marlboro Maryland area, and the first person I saw in front of the
television cameras was "Congressman Parren 1. Mitchell" concerning e injustice done to
Terrance Johnson by the Prince Georges County Police Officers. That was my initial thoughts
when I heard him on the telephone? He started telling me that he was sending a car to pick me up
because he was having a "Press Release Conference" at his Bloomingdale Road office, where he
would be petitioning that the Governor of Maryland Honorable Harry Hughes grant me a "full
unconditional pardon" for the ten (10) years I spent wrongfully imprisoned ... I was completely
perplexed that he did not even ask me whether I wanted his assistance it was clear that he was
aware that I had the letters he had sent to me all those years before, an~ I recognized that it would
not look good for it to come out, yet Michael Olesker had seen all of those responses of denials,
from individuals like Mayor William D. Schaefer asking for their help.
..I.
After his call, I was talking with Mrs. Jenkins about my feelings and disbelief of Congressman
Mitchell's call and she told me something that I "now" recognize as true, none of those whom
were involved in my case wants the truth to come out that "they actually refused to review or try
to help me", and I proved their mistake on my own, that strikes at Maryland Judicial system and.
shows their ignorance to others whom may be in like circumstances.
During the time of me trying to find an attorney to help file a claim regarding my case, I had
went to the NAACP Branch office located on W. 26th Street, near the Mayflower Storage
Company, and had met a fellow by the name of William "Bill" Jackson, whom was an assistant
to the Branch Director Mr. George Buntin. "Bill Jackson", as I came to know him was a truly
concerned fellow, and helped me contact various individuals in both the City and State Agencies
concerning my case, Mr. George Buntin, on the other hand was another. story, this fellow was all
about himself moving up the ladder in the organization, instead of focusing on real issues of
injustice, to this day I feel that Bill Jackson would have been more of a successful Director of
that Branch Office and would have had a stronger following.

Prior to my release from the Maryland House of Corrections, I had received the name of an
Advocate in Annapolis that fellow inmates in the Criminal Law clinic told me I should contact,
his name was Mr. Carl O. Snowden, initially when I reviewed the various news articles on this
fellow's attention to matters of injustice, I was impressed with him, then I wrote my mother and I asked
her to contact his office for me, and to make him aware that I had proven to Mr. Kurt L.
Schmoke that I was mistakenly imprisoned in the year of 1975, and still the State had not
made any efforts to address my case, and two years had passed by since the State's Attorney became
aware of this matter. Mr. Snowden wrote me a letter back saying that he would need thirty
thousand dollars ($30.000) to work on my case, I could not believe this man was telling me that I
had to pay to get out of prison, thirty thousand dollars, where was I going to get that kind of
money.

One day as I left the NAACP Office with Bill Jackson, I walked past place called the Maryland
New Directions Program, there was a young lady sitting on the steps smoking and I spoke to her
and asked her what kind of program the Maryland New Directions was, she explained to me that
it helped ex-convicts, the young lady I spoke with happened to be on the work release program
and she introduced me to a lady by the name of Mrs. Mary Joel Davis whom was the Executive
Director of the program, God shined down on me that day, and I Love~ You Mrs. Davis, never
ever think that I do not. Mrs. Davis opened to me her program and allowed me to become a
part of her family, she introduced me to her husband, Mr. J. Edward Davis, P.A., whom later
became my attorney, and to this day I hold nothing but the highest regard for both Mr. And
Mrs. Davis ..Mary Joel is a wonderful woman ...I mean this from my heart, she read the news
article I had with me and photocopied my records and took them to her husband for his review.
From that day forth Mrs. Davis helped me enroll in Towson State University where I took classes
in Sociology and Psychology to complete the remainder of my credits for my BA Degree, later I
was employed at the restaurant in Towson on Washington Avenue do the street from Mr.
Davis law firm, which was across from the Court House.

I no longer was living at the apartment on Baltimore Street because the owner and I had words
about his disrespectful ways of talking to me and certain others matters I will not reveal against
him, but most of all because my attorney told me point blank that I could get into trouble dealing
with this landlord, later he was indicted, and all of his properties were forfeited.
I returned to living at my mother's house where I had to hear her tell me how stupid I was and the
only reason that Linda wanted me was because she thought I was going to get a lot of money
from this case. I did not need to hear this from her. One evening while in the house, the phone.
rang and she called downstairs to tell me that someone wanted me, when I answered the phone it
was Linda and she asked that we talk with each other and I not hang up on her, we talked and .
ended up seeing each other again, but I was 'very tired of listening to what my mother was saying
about this woman, between those things and the fact that Linda's husb4nd Roderick kept popping
up, I felt our relationship was a waste of time. I would still take her to fork and use her car to
look for work etc, then pick her up after work, one day I was] trying to earn some extra
money hacking and picked up this fellow on the comer of Fulton Avenue and Lorman Avenue, as
soon as I pulled away from the curb into traffic, a police car came behind me and signaled for
me to pull over, which I did, the fellow and I waited for the officers to pome to the car and I
asked what traffic rule I violated, he told me to shut up and told the fellow I was hacking to get
out the car, the other officer on my side asked for my license and registration for the vehicle,
which I gave to him, the officer with the passenger then told him he was under arrest and told me
that he found one (1) small bag of heroin on his person. The other offic11erwhom was checking
my identification came back to the car and told me that everything was clear, and I could leave,
but the officer whom had found the bag of heroin told him that I should be arrested also and I
asked for what, even the passenger told him that I did not know he had the drugs on him
and that
I was a hack who had picked him up for a fare, the officer said he knew that because they
watched me pick him up, but he was arresting me so they could impound and search the vehicle,
I could not believe this officer was so blatantly disregarding our rights like it was a joke, so I told
him that he was dead wrong. I was arrested and charged with possession of CDS just like the
fellow was, Linda's car was towed t6 the City Yard out Pulaski Hwy and remained there until it
was auctioned off, that is correct, her vehicle was later auctioned an I was found "not guilty" of
the possession of CDS charge, to this day I feel that the reason her vehicle was auctioned was due
to my case before the City and State of Maryland, I know for a fact it ~ad nothing to do with the
case. I had to call Mrs. Jenkins to let her know that I had been arrested~ and that she would have
to pick Linda up from work because I knew I would not be processed in time to pick her up,
during that time arrestees were taken to the police station for processing and Western District
was one of the worse Districts to be taken to. Later I was taken before~ the Court Commissioner
and Linda and Mrs. Jenkins were in the court room audience waiting for my case to be called, I
was released without posting bail after Linda and I got to the house Explained to her what had
taken place and she appeared understanding of the matter, several weeks after the Judge found
me not guilty of the charge, Linda received a letter from the City stating her car was being
auctioned, and to this day I do not understand how her vehicle was forfeited when I was found
not guilty of the possession charge. Prior to my release from prison, ~I had located a Maryland
Rule which stated that "if an individual proved that they had been imprisoned wrongfully, and
obtained a full pardon from the Governor of the State of Maryland", the Board of Public Works
in Annapolis Maryland had to compensate that person for the time spent wrongfully
imprisoned (Article 78A %16A). I had submitted all the documentation to the Governor's office
requesting that I be awarded a pardon for the ten (10) years I spent imprisoned, but received a
letter back telling me that I had to wait five years (5) after my release t6 apply for the pardon, I.
realized this was time frame was set to protect the State from the civil liability because the statue
for civil claims must be filed within three (3) years of the damages occurring, I would meet with Mr.
Davis at his office on Washington Avenue in Towson Maryland daily and we'd discuss the options I had,
I explained to him that I had applied for the pardon when I came home and the reply I received, he told
me not to worry about that because he would speak with
that office, initially I doubted he'd be able to speak with the Governor, but I had a lot to learn
about Mr. J. Edward Davis, later I learned that he was the representative for the Correctional
Officers Union for the State of Maryland a Lobbyist in Annapolis. He asked me for the
paperwork I had submitted to the Governor for the pardon, which I gave to him, he resubmitted
the very same information but put it on his law office stationary .. Two (2) weeks later, Mrs.
Jenkins called me to tell me that I had mail from the Governor's Office at her home, Linda was at
work and now forced to drive Mrs. Jenkins vehicle. I went to get the letter and it was a letter
from the Governor advising me that my application for the pardon was I “granted", I was granted a
"full unconditional pardon", later the official pardon document was sent to me in a vanilla
envelope with a letter from the Chairman of the Maryland Parole Commission congratulating me
on its issuance, that was a great change for me to hear from the parole commission, remember
each time I appeared before the parole commission while imprisoned, I was told that "I had to'
admit I'd committed the robbery to be eligible for parole", which I refused to do because I had
not robbed anyone. As I read the pardon letter and looked at the pardon document, it dawned on
me that Mr. Davis was able to resubmit "the very same application", which I had originally
submitted and within a two-week period it was granted, it made me realize that the same thing
that was going on in 1975 was still going on in 1986, but behind doors. I continued my classes at
Towson State University and was in the process of appearing on the CityLine program with Mr.
Kurt L. Schmoke concerning his actions in my case, when Linda and I went to the station I met
with B.T Bentley and Ms. Jaki Hall, the Host and Hostess of the show, they were very nice and
as I began to feel more relaxed, in walked Mr. Schmoke, and my defenses immediately went up
because I saw him as he really was, a snake, a fake and a front for the very same corrupt judicial
system which imprisoned me knowing I had not committed the crime. When the show started, we
were both asked to explain what took place and Mr. Schmoke was allowed to explain his view
first, and I listened to how he made it sound like his concern and commitment towards helping
me was sincere, but I really had to look around the stage we were sitting on to determine "who he
was speaking about that he wanted to help out of prison", I knew this man was not sitting in front
of this television camera saying he did what he did, to help me get out of prison, but he was, and
I was shocked he'd try that now, and I was not imprisoned where he c1u1d threaten my freedom. I
had my brief bag with all the documents and letters from "all" those i~dividua1s in political
positions whom refused to help me. I had the letter from Mr. Clifton 1.1 Gordy, Jr. whom was Mr.
Schomke's assistant telling me that Mr. Schmoke could not help me and for me to contact the
"public defender's office", and not write to their office again, when this was shown, Mr.
Schmoke did not reply he just talked over all I was explaining and I felt like he was not only .
rude, because I did not speak when he explained his side. At the commercial break, I point blank
told Mr. Bentley I felt Mr. Schmoke was getting preferable treatment by allowing him to over
talk me when it was my turn to explain my story, I didn't interrupt him when he spoke.
Mr. Bentley told me that he apologized for that and would explain my feelings to Mr. Schmoke
on air, he then tasked me what was the name of the victim of the robbery~ and I told him it was a
man named "Joseph Frederick Chester", he said Mr. Vass when we go back on air we're going to
put Mr. Chester on the air because he called in to explain what happened .. God is Great, was all I
could say, this would prove the things I was saying and Mr. Schmoke'~ fast talking would no
longer work for him. I love you my Father...After the commercial break;} Mr. Schmoke was
getting ready to get tell something else when Mr. Bentley told him, "Mr. Schmoke if the victim
Iwas to call in today and tell you that he did make a mistake in identifying Mr. Vass as the
perpetrator of the robbery what would you be willing to do"? Mr. Schmoke said that he would
make certain that my criminal records were expunged allowing me to ~le claims against the City
and State for compensation for the ten (10) years I was imprisoned ... Mr. Bentley then told him
Iwell Mr. Schmoke we have on the telephone the victim of the robbery, Mr. Joseph Frederick
Chester, and Mr. Chester started explaining how he was not certain if I was the person who
actually, robbed him in 1975, then he went on to explain how the investigator brought him the·
Iphotograph of the other man (Bucky Nutt) and then learning that he had identified the wrong
Iperson (me) as the one whom robbed him, he then ended up explaining ~ow Mr. Schmoke
threaten to charge him with perjury if he did not say I was the man who robbed him, he told the
audience and Mr. Schmoke then, that I was not the man whom robbed him and he was "so very
sorry to have made that mistake", he ended his statement by telling Mr. Schmoke that he did not
care what he would try to do to him, he made a mistake and he was so Sorry.
Mr. Schmoke then tried to confuse Mr. Chester by saying other things, and Mr. Chester point
blank said "I MADE A MISTAKE AND I AM SORRY" .. Mr. Schmoke then told me that he
would have my criminal records expunged so that I would be able to sue the State and the City.
After the show concluded, Mr. Schmoke refused to even speak to me, and he rushed from the
studio, the people in the audience were wishing me the best and telling me to keep the faith and
prayers strong. I learned the program was viewed all over the local Maryland area, and later it
I
I
I

was told to me that the Leslie Vass Story which aired on WJZ TV was awarded the Frederick
Douglas Award for the best Urban Affair program; I was unable to attend the celebration for the
program because of another appointment out of State, later I interviewed with Mr. Jack Bowden
on WMAR TV 2, then with Mr. Richard Sher on a program called "People Are Talking", I was
also asked to interview with Mr. Maurice Keels on the WEAA radio program "2-WAY TALK",
later Interviewed on WEAL Talk Radio discussing my case, and what I went through, in the
mean time Mr. Davis was continuing his program and work in Annapolis Maryland as a lobbyist and
I continued going to the NAACP Branch Office where I would assist Bill Jackson and Mrs.. I
Virginia Williams, whom was the office manager, later I learned that Bill Jackson was being
overlooked for the Director's position at that office, so Bill, Mrs. Virginia and I then started
working on Clarence Du 'Bums reelection campaign, whom had been placed in as Acting Mayor
when William Donald Schaefer was elected Governor of Maryland in 1987.Mr. Du' was the
MAN, he allowed Bill to become the Director of the Berea Community Outreach Center, located
on Milton and Preston Streets in East Baltimore, and I worked with him daily along with another
positive lady by the name of Ms. Paula Johnson. It was during this time I would meet my first
child's mother, Evelyn Louise Andrews known as Ebby. In the past, my relationships with other
women were really a matter of growth, because I had never understood the mere idea of ''having a
maturing relationship", and that is the truth of the matter. I did what I felt was supposed to have
been done in a relationship but I was just going thru the motions, this time I would try to do what
was correct and not what others told me to do. Ebby lived with her Sister on Chatford Avenue in
the Northeast section of Baltimore off Sinclair Lane not far from Morgan State College.

By this time Mr. Schmoke had introduced me to a Mr. Harold Weisbaum, an attorney whom had
just passed the Maryland Bar Association and he said Mr. Weisbaum would help him file the
expungement petition which Mr. Schmoke wrote up, I found out that Mr. Schmoke hand
delivered the petition to Judge Edgar P. Silver of the Baltimore City Circuit Court, whom signed
the expungement order immediately.

I was back living at my Mom's house off and on, alternating between my Grandfather's house on
South Hanover Street, he also had passed away and it bothered me that my family's structure was
not strong in any way, but I also was getting closer to receiving the compensation from the State
of Maryland. In my travels with Bill Jackson I had met a man by the dame of Clarence Blount
whom was a Senator in Annapolis, he told me to come to his house on North Avenue not far
from the Coppin State College school, when I got there he introduced the to his wife and told me
that he was going to put a bill into the legislator requesting that I be p~~ for the time I was
imprisoned, I was curious as to why he was telling me this when I really did not know him and
Ihad just met him a few days previously. I still stayed in contact with Michael Olesker and for
some unknown reason called him and was explaining to him that I met this man named Senator
Clarence Blount whom told me he was putting a bill in to the legislator for me to be paid for my
time in prison, Mr. Olesker asked me how much Senator Blount said he was asking for and I
told him he didn't say, Mike Olesker told me he'd get back to me later.
I continued seeing Ebby and working with Bill Jackson, several days later I received a message
from Senator Blount demanding that I call him, which I did, and this I man talked real greasy to
me, he told me that I did not have to tell that “white man” about what he was doing and now I
wasn't going to get shit. I couldn't believe this Senator was talking to me like this about some
money the State would have to pay for my time imprisoned, he forgot all about the fact of my
confinement, the fact that I was imprisoned for something I DID NO DO. I hung up on him and
called Michael Olesker telling him of the conversation, Mike told me "Leslie, your case is much
bigger than you understand", and I really didn't know the ramification s of my case, at that time.
In speaking with Mr. Davis, he told me that he had heard that Senator Blount, was circulating a
bill to compensate me two hundred thousand dollars ($200.000.) But he said to me "Leslie that
isn't adequate for what you were denied, nor what you lost, he then to1d me that he asked for a
dollar a minute which rounded out to close to five million dollars as compensation.
Several times when I would go to my Grandfather's home, I would have disputes with Robert
about whether the State was going to compensate me, he was always Speaking negative to me
regarding what the State wouldn't do, instead of encouraging me, in an effort to correct the
injustice.
One time I was out with a friend and stopped at the Brown's Toyota dealership in Glen Burnie
Maryland, and he was looking at the new automobiles, one of the salesman was telling me that
the Owner of the dealership had saw me on the news, and would allow me to purchase a vehicle
if I wanted to apply for it, I picked out a 1987 Toyota Cressida which was on the show room
floor, and Signed a promissory note to pay for it when my compensation was finalized, I drove
from the dealership with that car the same day I applied for it, without putting down any money.
After that I was able to move around to the various appointments I was scheduled to appear for
speaking engagements concerning my case, and I stopped at my Mom home, but she was not
there and as I was leaving the Mt. Winas area I stopped to purchase a soda, when I came out of
the store a fellow was sitting on the hood of my car, as I approached the car, he asked me did I
know who he was, as in cared, I told him to get off of my car, as I was getting into the car he
said "I'm Bucky Nutt" and it was as though I was struck by a brick, this was the fellow I had
been wrongfully imprisoned for and before I realized it I had grabbed I'm and forced him back
onto the car and told him to never ever approach me or come near me, I refused to go into that
community again after that confrontation. I told Mr. Davis about this and he told me to be careful
with my association with people and stop being so trusting of individuals whom come to me
because these people were only concerned with what I possibly might get from the State.
Finally, I was scheduled to appear in Annapolis Maryland to speak before the Board of Public
Works which consisted of the Governor, the State Comptroller and th4 State Treasurer for
Maryland. This was extremely stressful for me to finally meet with Governor Schaefer, whom I
had written to many times while imprisoned, and always be denied, but he and the other members
of the Board listened to me speak, yet I feel that their real concern was the financial liability the
State would face in this matter, not the fact that someone had been imprisoned, denied their
liberty and life.
The State Treasurer, Mrs. Lucille Maurer, had me explain in detail the facts of my conviction and
what I went through while imprisoned, then afterwards she said "that a member of Government
I

they were used to seeing tragedies in lives", and I wanted to reply that this was not a tragedy, this
was gross injustice because of the prejudices in the Maryland Judicial System, that was prevalent
in the early 1970's against the African American inner-city youths. After I spoke, I was escorted
into the Pressroom inside the historic State House in Annapolis Maryland, and I said a prayer that
the case of State of Maryland versus Leslie Vass, Case No: 675010591 would be over with, but I
would never imagine it was just beginning. Then I met with members of the press and answered
their questions.I

away, one of the reporters asked me what I was going to do now, and replied "REST" ...Several
days later, Mr. Davis advised me that Governor Schaefer stated that they would only award me
the amount of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250.000.00) and this would be paid out in
monthly payments spread out over, a period of seven (7) years, I asked Mr. Davis what did he
think about this, and he told me that he felt that was not enough, but it; was my decision to make.
I was, and still am dumbfounded about the process of the State in this compensation matter, I
tried to point out that the Maryland' Code provided for this compensation once I received the full
.. unconditional pardon, it did not a preclude me from filing a civil claim~. I explained to Mr. Davis
that I was tired of living in abandoned buildings with illegal electric and water as I had been
doing. I also interviewed with Mr. Al Sanders in a vacant building where my room was
photographed with my legal materials and books where I was working on my case, this house
was located on Edmondson Avenue near Monroe Street. I told Mr. Davis I would accept the
compensation, my thoughts would be that I could still file my civil rights claim.

When I saw the compensation agreement, which was drafted by Ms. Margaret Lee Quinn, of the
Attorney General Office for the State of Maryland, it stipulated that for me to receive the
compensation, I had to sign a ''waiver that I would not file a civil claim against any State of
Maryland or City of Baltimore Agency" for the time I spent wrongfully imprisoned. I was totally
Icrushed that these people would not adhere to their own laws written. No where in ‘Maryland’s
law does it require that an individual has to sign a waiver to receive the compensation, the only
requirement is that the person conclusively be proven to have been convicted in error, and that
the individual has been Issued a full unconditional pardon. As I studied law, and the legal
issues, I became versed with the fact that the law is applicable as it is written, not as it is
construed. I felt that I was being put under duress, to obtain compensation. Which the law
automatically mandated once I fulfilled the requirements set forth, w ich I had done.
I was contacted by a member of the State's Executive Branch and told that Governor Schaefer
had reduced my compensation, which Governor Harry Hughes had originally set to pay me one
million dollars, for the time I spent wrongfully imprisoned, this source old me that: Governor
Schaefer used eight hundred thousand dollars to purchase the yacht which was just acquired and
reported in the news, this funding was taken from the State's General Emergency Funds, where
my compensation was paid from, and to this date I believe the source because they were in
Schaefer's Executive Cabinet. Finally, I accepted the compensation and was given an initial
payment of fifteen thousand dollars ($15.000.00), I was taken to the First National Bank located
at Howard and Madison Streets in Baltimore City where the account was opened by Mr. Norman
L. Johnson, of the Attorney General's Office. As I was sitting in the building with Mr. Johnson
waiting to meet with the bank manager, I felt that I was being manipulated by these State
Officials and they knew the conditions I was living under.

Another part of the agreement with the State of Maryland was that I interview with Mr. Nelson Sutton III,
of the State Personnel Department, he was to assist me in identifying positions I qualified for and
placement assistance each of the jobs I saw that I thought I was qualified for I submitted the State
application for and was notified that I lacked experience for, this was the same results I ran into when
applying for Baltimore City employment positions. II did not really expect much from either of these
agencies, because Mr. Schmoke now had been elected as Mayor of Baltimore City. I attempted to contact
him on several occasions concerning his promise to assist me in obtaining compensation from both the
City) and State, initially I would be put on hold by his executive secretary, then told he was unavailable.
Now that I had a source of income, I was able to apply for an apartment, which I did, out in the
Parkville area of Baltimore County, the apartment complex I applied to required that I pay three
(3) months security deposit because of me not having any credit established which I paid, I was
allowed to move in the following week and I went shopping for furniture i e, clothing and other
items which I had not had the opportunity to have or think of in my entire life, much less buy. I
was unconcerned with savings or budgeting that money I had, because I had no idea of those basic means
of life skills. My days were spent riding around Baltimore “just reacquainting myself
with being free, being able to do what I never had the opportunity to do' in my life time”. Because
of me receiving the amount of money I did, I had to immediately pay for my vehicle, and I took
the dealership eight thousand dollars in cash ($8,000.00), instead of writing a check from the
account, my monthly payments on that car ended up being close to six hundred dollars ($594.46)
per month, that along with three hundred dollars insurance and four eighty in rent, meant I was
back to living from check to check. Naturally I had to give my Mom's and all the other associates
whom came along afterwards, the usual. Ebby moved in with me and our days were spent going
to various malls shopping, or she'd have me drop her off at her father's home in the McCulloh
Home Senior Citizen Building located on Druid Hill and Dolphin Street. Each moth I would
travel to Annapolis Maryland to pick up my monthly check from Mr. James T. McGinty, an
individual I did not like, because his attitude was that he was controlling me via that monthly
check, after picking up my check, I would cash it and place hundred Dollar bills in the house, just
to have money available, suddenly I noticed that the money I was hiding in the house was
disappearing, when I spoke with Ebby, she would become defensive alJ,outit saying that I was
mistakenly forgetting where I put the money, but I did not pursue the matter any further, but I
became more conscious as to where I was putting the money.
Several times in the course of our relationship Ebby and I had separate and I had to ask her to
leave because of things I was finding out about her, and her background ,finally I decided to take
a trip to Brooklyn New York to visit with my Godmother and family thle, when I
returned to
Baltimore the following weekend, my apartment had been broken into d everything I owned
was gone, other than the furniture and bulky items, when the police ca e to do the investigation,
the showed me that the glass was broken from the inside out, one of thei officers whom patrolled
the apartment community observed a photograph of Ebby and I which 'las taken in front of my
car and enlarged handing on the wall, he asked me whether she was my wife, and I told him my
ex-girlfriend, but she and I no longer dated, he then told me that he observed her and another man
loading items into a vehicle early in the morning hours a few days ag~, he still had the I identification of
the driver and hers, I was totally pissed, and he would not give me the
information. I then contacted another person I knew whom worked for the police department and
they were able to get me the address of the person the vehicle was registered to and a copy of the
report, I had to pay for this information, but I did not care .. The Baltimore County Police had
issued an arrest warrant for Ebby for breaking into my apartment. All the money was gone, all of
my clothing was gone, all of my jewelry was gone, I would have to st1artcompletely over, all I
had was the clothes which I had just purchased when I went to New York and what I had on.
After getting the information I wanted, I went to the address listed, where I was told the fellow
and Ebby was not there but had been there earlier, the little girl who answered the door to this
day does not know how close she came to being a victim, because of that her father did, and I
thank God to this day for not reacting out of anger and hatred ... I was hurt because I trusted Ebby,
and emotionally was dedicated to her, I used to ride around looking fot her and the fellow, but
never caught either, at this time I had started hanging out with fellows~ horn I was imprisoned
with, fellows whom were about getting paid, by any means necessary, but mostly by wholesale
drug dealing. I also started drinking constantly because that was the only way I could make
myself go to sleep and not wake up in the wee hours of the mornings filled with anger about what
had happened.
I had just returned from DC one morning after being out all-night and. as on my way up
Greenmount Avenue towards Northern Parkway towards my apartment, when I was stopped at
the red light and saw a young lady standing there waiting for the transit bus, she was alone and
appeared upset about something, I asked her was she alright and she said she was late for her
classes, I was under the impression she was attending the Morgan State College, so I told her if
she wanted, I would drop her off because it was on my way home, she got into the car and we
rode along talking. I began to feel comfortable with this young lady an1 gave her my phone
number and the address where I lived at. After dropping her off on Loc Raven, I continued
home and went to sleep since I had been out all night. Later that evening, there was a knock on
my door that awakened me, and it was the same young lady I'd dropped off at school, she came
into the apartment and we continued talking about her, her family and y weird background, all
of the things this young lady expressed to me I could relate to, she ended up staying until later in
the evening and I drove her back down and dropped her off at the Wav1rley Tower Apartments
where I believed she lived at. I never told her about the imprisonment 0lasebecause I learned that
changed a lot of attitudes ... By the time I returned home, she had called me several times to thank
me for the ride and for the time we spent together, later after I went to bed I was again awakened
. by banging on my door, when I went to it, here was Ebby telling me that I was wrong for telling
her family that she broke into my house and having the police looking for her, I called the police
on her but she'd run away from the apartment before they would respond. A lot of times Edith
would come to the apartment in the evenings after school and stay until late then I would take her
home, but I had never met her family nor knew anything about them, she would constantly ask
me "why" I would 't allow her to come stay with me but I was unsure about this nagging feeling that
I had, I also was skeptical from my prior experiences with women and did not want to rush into
another situation I was not prepared for. ..In the wee hours of the morning the telephone rang and
a lady was drunk talking crazy on the phone to me about her grand-daughter, she asked me "you
know how old my granddaughter is? I said Ms. You have the wrong phone number, then there
was a voice in the background I knew was Edith's and they became involved in an argument...?
I'd never called her home and later the lady called back and was telling me that she was Nicky's
16 going on 17 and I was crushed and felt sick because I would never be dealing with her
had I known her true age, I explained to the lady how very sorry I was and that I would not see
her granddaughter ever again, yet I cared for her, but felt deceived by her not telling me her true
age. This young lady I'd come to love dearly had lied to me from the very start. It made me
realize that the world I left, had changed greatly, and I made a promise that I would never trust
anyone nor would I allow another woman to be close to me, as I had with Edith, I was totally I lost. I
traveled to Mt. Winas the next day where I met with my Brother Jeffrey and some of his
friends, I paid them to her me pack my stuff and rented a U'-Haul truck, I checked into a motel
out on Washington Blvd until I located another apartment, which ended up being out in the
Middle River area of Eastern Baltimore County. I returned to Brown’s Toyota later and traded
my Cressida in for a Supra Turbo, they pushed it out of the showroom floor.
After moving out to Middle River, I rarely came into the city because I felt I had experienced too
much here and just wanted to stay away, by chance I was out shopping one day and saw Ebby's
cousin and she told me that Ebby had been arrested for welfare fraud ~d was held in the
women's house of corrections in Jessup Maryland, which I cared less about but then she told me
that Ebby was pregnant and said the child was mines. I was able to get her identification number
and wrote her a letter to which she replied and explained to me that "
she was pregnant with
our child, my first", she said that she tried to tell me before her arrest butt I would not talk to her.
I went to Jessup to visit her and as I drove up the road towards the jail I couldn't believe this
situation I was facing but I promised her that I would be there for her and our child and I would
take care of my responsibility, she looked so cute with her big belly, my main concern now was
how I could get her out of jail. Whatever Ebby was allowed in that jail I made certain she had it
and in abundance too, her fellow girlfriends used to tease her about me coming to visit her each
week and making sure she had whatever she wanted, but I never experienced having a father
growing up and vowed that my child wouldn't live as I did.
While on Howard St in downtown Baltimore I ran into my lil Brother Jeffrey and he told me that
the young girl Edith had come to my mother's house and left a phone number and message for
me to contact her because she was also pregnant with my child, I was tripped out and felt that she
was just saying this to get in contact with me, but it troubled me that she found out where my
family lived, I'd never told her where they lived. Ebby came home two (2) months later and came
to live me in the. one bedroom and den apartment I had in Middle River but I had contacted the
leasing agent telling them that I would need more bedrooms, they told me they would transfer me
into a townhouse with three bedrooms in an isolated community owned~ by the company, which I
was in agreement to immediately. When I moved into the Emerald Vill1ageTownhouses, I was
the only African-American residing in the area initially, and my relationship with my neighbors
was strained, I was accused of being a drug dealer and I suspect this was because I had two new
vehicles never worked and from the type of individuals whom I associated that came to visit me,
yet that it only pissed me off that their prejudices were clear concerning me being in the
community, later other African Americans started moving in and the climate changed greatly.
My son, Jamal Leslie Vass was born September 23rd, 1988, and that became my focus point, I
never contacted Edith because I believed she was being deceitful, and because of the things
others had said to me concerning her family and their ways, I never checked to find out the truth
whether she was pregnant or not and I apologize to her to this day for not being there
when our son, Andre Avery Vass was born November 14 \ 1988.
th
I

Ebby was back to her old self now, having me drop her off at her father’s place over on Dolphin
and Druid Hill Avenue and I'd spend time caring for Jamal and taking him with me when I had
to go out, mostly my time was spent in the house or driving around the eastern Baltimore
Counties observing the changes taking place. One day while cleaning the bathroom I emptied the
trash can and found a roll of toilet paper balled up in the bottom of the can under the trash bag
when I took it out it was hard as though something was wrapped up in the paper, I took it out and
found it was a hypodermic needle and a top ... I took it into the bedroom~ and woke Ebby up, I
knew what it was and the only people whom had been in the townhouse was her and as far as
living there, I showed her the tools I found and told her to get her shit land get out. This now
explained to me where all the money was disappearing to, we argued and fought, and she wanted
to take Jamal and I definitely wasn't allowing her to do that because I didn't know where he'd
end up at. Again, I found myself dealing with deceit and games from someone I felt was
supposed to have been in my comer or at least on my side, I was not about to tell my mother
about this situation with Ebby though because I knew she would just throw it in my face and
speak negative concerning her and I.
My Brother Jeffrey, had told me that the girl Edith, had come out to my mother’s house again,
and this time she had the baby with her and had left a picture and pho e number for me to call
her, I got the information from my mother because I wanted to know hat was what, I called the
I

number and it ended up being her mother's phone number on 28th Street near the Waverley
Tower Apartments and I spoke with her grandmother, the same lady whom called that night
telling me her real age, I explained to her who I was and that Edith had left this number for me to
reach her, but her grandmother told me that she no longer lived there but stayed with her
boyfriend in the basement of a house across the street, this lady went or to tell me that her family
had no problem with me being with her granddaughter, because we have a child together now
and what could she do about it, but I had a problem with it mentally. She then told me when she
saw Nicky (which is her family's nickname for Edith) she'd tell her to call me, later that evening
I received a call from Edith and listening to her was so, strange, we talked for a while then she
asked when I wanted to see our son, I was "at first" was reluctant to deal with her" because of her
grandmother telling me she was living with someone across the street from their house, strange situation
Andre was only a few weeks old at this time, yet I wanted to do right, plus I was still dealing with the
matter of Ebby's drug use and the possibilities that it may have affected Jamal's development, which I
needed to find out. I
I

In trying to learn more about Ebby's issue, I spoke with her sister Olivia,1whom we called Libby,
and was shocked to learn all she told me concerning her past addiction, and when I explained to
her how I met Ebby she was surprised and told me that I should get my child tested because all of
Ebby's other children had learning, emotional and coping issues later on in their developmental stages
because of her substance abuse during her pregnancies. I had constantly kept in contact with Mr.
Davis and I went to him at his office to explain what I had been experiencing and he told me, just
in general conversation, "Leslie you're going to have problems with women", a prophecy that
today I realized was so true. I
I
I
After returning home I received a call from Ebby asking to see Jamal, and I gave in because I did
not want her to be out of his life, I just wasn't dealing with her and the drug issue. I went to pick
her up because the bus did not run in the area I lived at and I explained to her that I had an
appointment set for my vehicle to be serviced in Glen Burnie Maryland at the Browns dealership,
she said that she would wait there until I came. back so I felt safe because I knew there was no
transportation from there unless you had an automobile, I then dropped my car off and caught a
cab back to the townhouse, Ebby was gone ...With Jamal.
For weeks, I rode around Baltimore City looking for. Her and Jamal, I was constantly told by her
family that they had not heard from her, nor had they seen her, which I knew was lies but this
showed me the mentality of these people, then I became angry and felt a lot of animosities
towards her family because they knew what she was involved, in yet they would not assist me in
finding her when she had Jamal god knows where or in what kind of condition he may have been
in, I found out that Ebby had my neighbor take her back in town after I drove off to deliver my
car to the Browns dealership. Two weeks after her disappearance, I saw her on Fulton Avenue
near Laurens St, coming out of a liquor store, I circled the block and approached her, there were
some follows sitting on the steps of a house down the street, they came up to where we were and
asked her what was wrong, she told them I was going to hurt her, and the fellows and I argued,
suddenly a police car pulled up, I explained to the policeman that Ebby had taken our child from
my home and that an arrest warrant was issued for her arrest, they took her to the side questioned
her, then the officer came back and told me that she had left Jamal in a shelter in Reisterstown
Maryland called the Hannah Moore Center, initially when I went there to get him, the case
manager advised me that Ebby had dropped him off with a resident there and had not been back
in over two (2) weeks; she told me that she could not allow me to take~ him because I needed
identification showing, I was his father and a car seat. I contacted Mr. Davis and explained the
matter to him, he told me to wait an hour then go back to the Hannah Moore Center with my
son's birth certificate, which I went home to get, when I finally returned to the Center I called the
County Police whom met me there and the case manager brought Jamal to the door, his pamper
was filthy, soiled, and he was crying constantly but when he saw me ~s face lit up and he
reached out for me, and it is a feeling no one will ever understand to ~ee him and realize this is
part of you which no one can ever turn against you or take from you regardless the conditions of
life. When I got Jamal home, I took the dirty pamper off of him and almost passed out, his butt
was completely raw, I called my mother asking her what I could do to help him, and should I take
him to the hospital, she asked where I lived at and I explained to her where it was, she and my
bother Jeffrey came there and immediately she started telling me how nice my home looked and
complimented me on the things I had purchased. She told me that I would have to get some com
starch for Jamal's bottom, that would help him a lot for me to give him some Pedialyte for the
loss of his fluids. Due to my Mom having my address and phone number then she would stop by
to see me on occasions, and we'd talk about how her day was etc and I ‘began to feel that we were
breaking that communication barrier that was established between us in the time I was confined,
then Mr. June health deteriorated greatly, and it became much harder for her, Jeffrey wasn't any
. help because he was out there in the street life, then one day she called and told me that Mr. June
had passed, which I had felt was near, I extended my condolences, she explained to me that there
was a problem and needed some financial assistance but for some reason I was unable to get my
check straighten out and was unable to contribute, to this day I have heard Some of her friends
claim she holds that against me and this is the reason she treats me as she does, yet I find that
hard to believe because I've received this treatment prior to my imprisonment.
Edith and I were seeing each other, and I had met her grandmother (Mrs. Dottie) and her mother
(Neely), both acted as if they liked me, but you could feel the tension in the air when I was around
them and I'd caught small bits of their conversation concerning my relationship with Edith. Mrs.
Dottie told me once that I was wrong for "catering to our children" and it was clear that they did
not like Jamal, and I realized they had issues with people who had darker skin than theirs. This
attitude was shown to me by her treatment of her son William's wife children, whom were not
his biological children, I used to be disgusted in her treatment of those two (2) little girls when
she was supposedly babysitting them, and it made me realize that I would not be leaving Jamal
with her to care for, but I continued dealing with Edith and grew close~ to her family and
gradually stopped seeing my own family, I'd just met these people and did not want to appear too
critical of them, because I really did not know them, but their treatment of those little girls and
their ways caused me great concern, and Williams' wife I could not talk to, because she was too
afraid of William, whom used to beat her like she was his punching doll when he was drunk and
he drank constantly, from what I saw and heard. I still had not allowed Edith to live with me but I
would pick her up and we'd go home but I'd make certain to have her back at her Mom's home
on 28th Street. One night I was awakened by the telephone and it was Edith telling me that she
was out Cherry Hill at her father's sister home, she told me that she and her Mrs. Dottie had been
in a fight and her Mother Neely told her to get out, she explained that the police were called and
that William's wife (Sandi) had taken her out to her father's home but he wasn't there and she
ended up in Cherry Hill, I went to get her and brought her and Dre back to the townhouse in
Middle River, the next day I called and talked with Neely who agreed to let her come back home.
During this time, I was still looking for a job, but the criminal records had not been expunged,
even though I had the Circuit Court Order signed by Judge Edgar Silver~ in May 1986, so I wrote
a letter to Governor Schaefer explaining this issue and received a reply ‘the matter would be
corrected. Edith and. I were still seeing each other but I felt that we would not last because I was
being told different things by her family and I realized they did not approve of our relationship,
I'd started riding around late at night just thinking with Jamal in the car seat strapped in the
back, he'd be asleep, and I would just drive around, one night I rode thru Mt. Winas and stopped
to speak with the fellow named Irvin, whom I had met through my brother Jeffrey and while
talking with him I met a young lady by the name of Lynette Terry, who lived on Ridgley Street,
we began seeing each other. Lynette was a single mother attending a computer training school in
the Reisterstown Plaza, she was extremely motivated to achieve and was a very positive
influence on my life. I'd learned that Edith had moved into a house across from her mother on
28th Street in East Baltimore and lived with another fellow, she sent me a message that she was
happy and planned to marry this fellow, initially I began to feel jealous, but then realized that
maybe now her family would be happy because she was dealing with someone of her own age, I
continued to take care of our son Andre, financially, but I strayed from her due to my insecurities
about our age differences, and honestly what I saw in their faces when we were together, I also
had a problem with the type of treatment I was observing taking place in their house-hold.
One day as I was traveling along Kirk Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, I observed Jamal '8 mother
Ebby, walking up the street, but I refused to stop and speak with her because I felt that I could in
no way trust her ever again, and it hurt to feel as I did towards the mother of my child, but that's
how I felt. Jamal car seat stayed in the front of the car with me and eventually I returned the
Toyota Turbo Supra back to Brown's dealership because they wanted to raise my payments, but
after getting the Cressida back I learned that while it was being serviced, one of the employees
had an accident while driving it and they repaired the car never telling me what had happened, I
ended up getting rid of the Cressida and going to a Mercedes dealership in Cockeysville
Maryland and purchasing a new 560 Sel Sedan.(pg.25)
HARD LIFE
THE LESLIE VASS STORY,
Starting this book, I try to remember back as far as I can, even though the exact dates
and years I don't recall, Ostend Street when my Uncle Bunion (James ~ass Jr.) climbed through
my bedroom window to get into our home in South Baltimore located near the "Cats Paw
Factory", near the Baltimore/Washington Parkway. I
I remember my mother Clara Mae Vass, argued with Uncle Bunion about him breaking
into our home but I was too young to tell her I saw him do it. Later, I remember my mother's
boyfriend, James R. Hughes, whose mother owned a store located in.the basement, of the building
where We lived .. Clara Mae {as she was known to those In South Baltimore} was a single Black
Southern Mother whom could cook, and fight, if necessary. James is a witness to this, because I
remember when they'd have arguments James would get beat down re11good for raising his hand
to Momma.
A fight I vividly remember took place while we were in James car over an
argument I am uncertain of and Clara Mae hit James as he was driving the car, why he didn't
crash I'll never know to this day, but I now understand the saying "God takes care of children and
fools" ... Both were in that car on Lee Street near the old General Henry Lee Junior High School #
72, which I later would attend prior to my experience with the Maryland State Judiciary System.
The memories of my childhood are vague, but my immediate family consisted of Momma
and me living on South Carey Street in an apartment near Fayette Street. There was a young lady
whom lived in the second-floor apartment whom used to play the violin I: recall, but her name I
don't remember, James used to still come around and spend time with Momma and I, which was
the norm of life for poor Black families in the early 60's, I learned early how to cuss, and being
realistic, now I realize that our parents had a lot to cuss about then, or at least I think they did.
One Christmas, I remember James coming to our apartment an~ he and Clara Mae
argued, the next thing I recall is her throwing his record collection and clothes out the third floor
window into the snow--this lesson taught me how to evict someone without going up and down the
steps ... Way to go Momma, don't take no shit ... Up to this point, I'd never met this one person who
I was truly curious about My biological father, James Brailsford, all I’ve ever known was he came
from South Carolina, was nineteen years old when I was born and that is it, maybe later in the
course of my story I will get to meet this mysterious person ...
The next part of my childhood I recall is when we moved into 26~2 Kent Street, which was
a two-bedroom house in the Westport Projects, this is where I lived at wren I wasn't shuffled back
and forth between my Godmother, Shirley Elizabeth Forbes house in South Baltimore, near the
horse stables.
Before my trips to relative’s homes in different states. I remember that Clara Mae used to
take me down into South Baltimore around Hamburg and Sharpe Street ~here Mr. Louis owned
the City Barbershop on the corner and Jumbo's Ice-cream shop was on the other corner by the
old Hamburg Street Bridge and the playground was across the street, caddy--corner from Jacks'
bar, man them were the days ...After getting my haircut, I would run up and down Hamburg Street
playing with Christine, Chris, Dee-Dee, Chicken Little, & Toby, whom were the children of Mrs.
Dot, a friend of my mothers' and her husband Mr. Willis whom everyone~ called "Cow-Killer", he
was the one whom ran the 'skin-joint'. a place where all the old hustlers used to hang out, play
cards shoot craps, drink, party hard and tell lies to each other and chase women. I remember Mr.
Ben Davis, the only dude I ever saw who always had a new Lincoln Continental but never a job,
so that's that. Need not say any more.
There was another lil' girl I used to play with named "Jackie" whom lived next door to
Christine and her family, she had a brother named Skeeter and another brother Andre, but their
Moms' passed away while they were young, and they ended up fending for themselves because
their father drove cabs, and was a so-called preacher, to this day, it bothers me a great deal about
this man because of an accusation made back then, but God judges, not me. To this day Jackie
is like the little sister I never had, and I love her very much and miss he dearly, later in years after
my episode with the criminal justice system we connected in a very special way.
During my times with Clara Mae in South Baltimore, I found it joy running around with
my childhood friends, and those memories are what sustained me in those devastating and
inhumane conditions I experienced for the next ten [10] years of my life.
When we moved to the Westport community, I started attend in the Elementary School
#225 [Westport Elementary] and each morning my responsibility would be to walk my little brother
Craig, and Jeffrey to the Nursery School, located in the Old Projects by the Black-Top. One
particular morning, I was confronted by this fellow whom everyone called "Beaver" and his gang of
so-called bullies, he and I had been calling each other names the previous day in school, and
were supposed to have fought after school, but never got it on, so he a d I ended up tussling and
punching each other, and the dirt on the ground, more than we did each other, but in my Baby
Brother Jeffrey's eyes, his Big Brother had stood up against the big bad bully and his mob, but
you know how them lil' brothers are, they got to tell on you, can't keep their mouths closed and
this particular day Clara Mae had dressed me in a pair of new pants and they got torn in the fight.
Craig told Clara Mae about my fight and she whipped my butt. I couldn’t' believe she was whipping
me for standing up for myself, now you know whenever you get your, but t beat you're punished
and not allowed to go outside, but because Clara Mae worked from the e in the evening until
eleven at night I felt as though I was cool and I hid Craig's' crayons too, since he liked to snitch so
much, chump.
See, I'd forgotten that Clara Mae used to call next door to her fr end, Mrs. Ida Mae Brickus
house, a lady we called "Mrs. Mick", this was her way to make sure eve hing was good to go in
our house while she was at work, that's how the neighborhood was bac then, one family looked
out for the other, nowadays, I don't know what to say has happened.
Clara Mae always had a job of some sort and now that we lived in the Westport
Community, she was employed for the Baltimore County Board of Education as a Custodian. By
the time my brothers and I got in from school, she would be leaving for lark and I would be
responsible for heating up our food, doing our homework and taking ca e of the house until she
came home around 11:30 at night.
. During those days, I can say that we always never saw a day without food or the
necessities we desired for, I look back and realize that things were very hard for my Moms' raising
three boys by herself and I am extremely proud of her for what she ended and the sacrifices she
made to provide for us. Once we'd finish eating dinner we'd go outside and play in the
neighborhood, there was no such thing as locking your doors for fear of anyone breaking in, nor
any children being kidnaped, because the other mothers were our moth r's eyes and ears when
they were not at home. Jeffrey would go across the street and play with is Iii friends, Benj., Marty,
Curtis, Mann, Stepney and Craig would spend his time in the house watching television, reading
or drawing with his crayons. There was a lady whom lived directly across from us named Mrs.
Pallis and her husband, Mr. Benny, Mrs. Pallis was known as the snitch of the neighborhood, man
she would always get you in some kind of trouble, telling your Mother w at you did while she
wasn't home, but she never saw what her children did, and she had so ~ Iii' bad ass sons, Major,
Benj. and Marty used to hop the freight trains that came through Westport, and they lived right by
the train tracks, but it was all good though, no one ever got hurt, as I rec II.
It was during this era that I started learning how to "pat that roc~, (play basketball for
those of you whom are not familiar with the term) and I used to "pat that rock" from the time I got
home from school, until it was time to for Clara Mae to get home from work. Man, in those days,
al wanted to do was be the 'Walt Frazier" of Baltimore, then one day I Was taken to a Baltimore
Bullets Basketball game at the Civic Center and I watched this fellow named Earl Monroe AKA
"The Pearl" doing his thing, and I cared less about Frazier, now I wanted to play like this awesome
brother. I started concentrating on my outside shots and penetrating to the hoop instead of my
inside game, which was tighter than tight anyway, yeah, I'm like that and fore.
Mrs. Mick, our neighbor had a large family, which consisted of John, Joanne, Lamont,
Henry [whom we called Rome], Laverne, Ava and Sheila, and seriously they were, and remain
my friends to this day, even though we've not seen each other in years, but via our mothers'
friendship, we still have our bond, May God-Allah, Most compassionate
watch over and protect them forever.

Directly across the street from our house there lived the "Lemon Family". Mrs. Lemon, Mr.
Charles, their children, Gwen, Bruce, Earl, Shirley and Dorothy. Bruce, Earl and I used to skate
together, play basketball, football, baseball and shoot skillet. Their Sister Shirley Lemon was tall
and skinny and was my secret crush when we were growing up, she and Laverne were best friends and always tried
to outdo us boys in the neighborhood. Shirley, I bet you never knew this…smile

Down the street, on the opposite side was Miles and Bordy Guest and his mother and
father, his Sisters, Janice and the other one forgot her name, but we were all friends of the
neighborhood and played forever together and fought when we did not get our ways, but always
remained friends.

As I grew up in Westport, there were times I'd go stay with my, ad-Mother, whom now
moved to Brooklyn New York, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant projects located on Fulton Street
between Ralph and Buffalo Avenues, there I learned to ride the subways across New York and
enter myself into the basketball tournaments played in the square, between the buildings, also in
school, when I attended there, my little God-Sister, Dondra and I would Fight with each other for
Momma Shirley's attention, but I realized now how positive her influence upon me has been in
later years after my imprisonment.

Prior to my God-Mother moving into the projects, I remember she lived in a one bedroom
apartment in a Brownstone on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn and the lady whom rented the
apartment was named Mrs. Dot, whom had three daughters named Lynn, Puddin and Gail. Being the little
devil that I was, I started an argument between Lynn and my older God Sister Joyce, and ran into the
apartment when the three girls jumped on Joyce and locked the door. I could hear them girls out
there whipping Joyce butt good, and my God-Mother was yelling " Leslie what's' going on out
there", Nothing, was my natural reply. Finally, she opened the door and Joyce fell into the
apartment, looking beat down bad, but she wanted to beat me up for locking her in the
hallway, now I laugh about that butt-beating she got, it wasn’t funny then. Joyce naturally
had big eyes, but when she came into the apartment, her eyes were big and wild looking.

Joyce, if you read this book, please forgive me and I love you Sister, Plus I am very proud of you
and all that you have accomplished. Don't ever feel I've lost sight of our past, because I never
could. God, how I wish for those moments again.
My God-Mother was a Iii' short woman and I loved this lady for the spiritual and moral
support she gave to me over the years I was blessed to have her on this earth with me. Support,
that I felt I had lost from my biological mother after my brothers were born, yet I never understood
that love emanating from her to me in ways I could not see, at those times of past. I My Godfather, Charles Ray, was
"cool", he drank anything which had a trace of alcohol in
it, and came in a bottle, later in life when I experimented with getting "messed up", I
acknowledge the fact his of strength by following his example enrolling in N/A and becoming sane
again. Getting "messed up" is a term I use because there is no such thing as "getting high" off of
drugs or any other substance which alters your total being and destroys your life, which is what
using can and will do, a plain fact which cannot be disputed.
When I was indulging in drugs, and alcohol, my main objective as to get it into me as
fast as possible, and as much as possible, then after it was all gone, I'd sit there pissed off that I
had spent all my money on something which did not last forever, and m problems and worries
were far more than before, if you've been there, you know exactly what I am saying, if you are
honest with yourself, and not planning on using again. Now I know the "HIGH" I searched for then,
is my Spiritual High, which comes from Our Father Most Merciful, not ~ vial, bag, pill or bottle?

My Godfather, Charlie Woo [my nickname for him] used to be a trip when he was drinking.
He'd be beat up and beat down: and forget how to come home, then when he did come home, he'd
look like something the dogs brought in. His clothes would be ripped off of him, eyes all swollen up
and he'd have this smell that there is no description for. One New Year Eve in the early 1970's,
he started drinking with this lady we called Aunt Stella, and they both got drunk and fell asleep on
the sofa sitting side by side. I remember getting some lipstick from my Godmother and smearing it
around his lips and some baking flour and powdered him and Aunt Stella, then my Godmother and
I took pictures of them both looking like real clowns, what a sight, we laughed like crazy. New
Years morning my Godmother woke them up and asked me to walk Aunt Stella home, but when
she got up off the sofa, she had a great big pee-stain on her pants and on the sofa, I begged my
Godmother, please don't make me walk Aunt Stella out in the streets looking like that, aw man.

Later Charlie Woo got up went into the bathroom and came out with this new outfit on and a new
pair of platform heel shoes, he must have looked at too many Superfly movies because he thought
he was the Mack. He said, "I'm going out" and he was gone. God momma and I talked a lot about
anything and everything and I could tell she was hurt that Charlie Woo didn't stay home with us,
but I told her that he'd probably get his butt beat down again, just words of a man-child trying to
soothe the hurt I saw in her eyes.
Around three in the morning, we awakened to this loud banging on the apartment door
and we couldn't understand what the person outside the door was saying, so I got my 44 ounce
Louisville Slugger (baseball bat) and told my God momma to open the door, as soon as she dd, Charlie Woo fell
into the apartment and boy oh boy, he looked like whoever beat that butt, beat him out of his coat,
shirt and ripped his pockets off his pants. I mean he had pants on, but the pockets were completely
gone from the pants themselves and you could see the skin of his legs where his pockets "used to
be", but what really took the cake was when I looked down at his feet, his platform shoes now had
the heels gone and the long nails that used to hold the heels on the shoes were sticking out like a
pair of baseball spikes, I died laughing. I said Charlie Woo they beat you out your shoe heels too,
later he started talking this "Big Shot" talk about beating on my Godmother and was a
no-no. Usually I'd get real nervous whenever he started arguing with my Godmother but this
time Charlie Woo pushed my God momma and I told him if he put his hands on her
again, I was going to whip his ass myself. To this day I never understood why he struck out at my
Godmother for laughing at the way he looked, but the very next thing I remember is her screaming
"Leslie, please no don't do it, please ". I had somehow grabbed him and was forcing him out the
window of the apartment. After that situation taking place I returned back to Baltimore,
but whenever I spoke with my Godmother over the phone she told me that Charlie Woo had
stopped drinking, was attending AlA meetings and to this day he has not drank any
Alcoholic beverages. IT WORKS ...

Upon my return to Baltimore, I fell right back in with my old neighborhood friends and
started attending Junior High School # 72 in South Baltimore. I was an average student whom did
my class work and continued to hone my basketball skills, I played in the newly started Baltimore
Neighborhood Basketball League [BNBL] for the Westport Team, 18 and under, and by me being
tall for my age my advantage was apparent, and I started establishing a name for myself.
One day as I was leaving school for my trip home by the # 28 transit bus, my friend and
ace-in the hole, Jimmy McBride pulled up to the bus stop in a car and told me to jump in he was
going home, now I knew that Jimmy did not have a driver license, but ~at the heck I thought, we
were not far from Westport and another fellow was in the car, so I jumped in and he took off when
the light turned green, suddenly from behind us this police car appeared and flashed the lights on
Jimmy, he yelled at us to hold on and blasted the gas, man I was scare to death and was praying
that Jimmy did not kill us in that car, but he handled his business, when we reached the Westport
exit off the Baltimore/Washington parkway, Jimmy was in the fast passing lane when the police
car bumped us from behind and I realized that these police was trying to crash us, suddenly Jimmy
cut across the lanes into the Westport curve and the car was screarnlnq; tires and me too. Jimmy
said as soon as he stopped the car everyone would have to jump out an1drun, there was a
wooded area right in front of us and that's where we ran, but Mrs. Pallis [neighborhood snitch] was
watching us running and started yelling "Leslie, Jimmy McBride, I'm going to tell your mother on
you", right then I could have slapped her silly, running her damn mouth. The police helicopter had
also been involved in this chase and when we exited the wooded area we ended up in the old
projects near the blacktop where I used to take my little brothers to nursery school, this police car
drove pass me slowly then the officer jumped out and grabbed me, little I did I know it but Jimmy
had already been caught, the officers took us to Glen Burnie's police station and was asking us
allot of questions, then they brought this older fellow into the room and said that he was the third
person who was in the car, but I told him them that I did not know this man, for some reason they
refused to believe me. By Jimmy and I being juveniles, they called our homes, my mother was at
work and did not know what had taken place so I had to wait until they contacted her, and I knew I
was going to get beat to death for getting into that car with Jimmy McBride. His older Sister Patty
McBride picked him up. Finally, when Clara Mae came to get me I wanted to tell the officers to
keep me, but she did not say anything but "Leslie, you know better than this shit". Later while I
was asleep, she crept into the bedroom and beat my butt good. Waking up to a butt beating
is a very shocking way to awaken, you don't know which way to turn to run.
Upon my return from New York, my mother now had a friend who used to live with us, his
name was Mr. Johnny, and I hated that sucker. He was an auto mechanic with his own jack leg
shop, but he also worked at the Key Highway Shipyard, and my relationship with him was real
strained because he was sneaky to me, but that was her friend and Clara Mae did not allow us to
be disrespectful to any adults, regardless. I remember him trying to verbally discipline me for
something I might have done, and I would look at him like he had lost his mind.

I started spending my weekends at my Grandfather's [ James Vass Sr.] house on


Hanover Street near Hamburg Street, so on Fridays, I would catch the bus there and hang out
with Christopher Jones and Toby, just shooting' the breeze and listening to the "so-called Big
Shots" in the skin-joint. I would run errands for Mr. Morris L. Carter [whom I considered as a father]. Now Mr. Morris
was cooler than cool, he made Ben Davis and the rest of them chumps
back up when he came in the skin-joint [my man]. He used to run numbers [street lottery] and
carried a big wad of cash, dressed dapper and took no crap from anyone. I admired this tall thin
cool man and hold the highest respect for him because he and my Moms' were real good friends
from days gone by. I do not know whether they ever had a thing going on and only know that he
respected her and cared for her well, and in my eyesight, that was that.
I was now attending Southern High School in South Baltimore and on the JR Varsity
Basketball Team, my coach was Mr. Mel Washington, and he used to tell me how much talent I
had, and how I would likely play pro ball if I continued as I was. I used to hear about this other
fellow from East Baltimore, named "Skip Wise" and another fellow named "Larry Gibson", both
played on the team for Dunbar High School, their coach was a man I respected and liked, his
name was Mr. Sugar Cane, but we had not run into each other on the courts at that time, once we
were scheduled to play against each other in the BNBL league, but the game was postponed, I
anticipated having the opportunity to throw down against these two because I was hearing too
much about what they could do.
Two doors away from my Grandfather's house lived a girl by the name of Pauline
Williams, she and I used to talk with each other when I was at my Grandfather's house on the
weekends and I used to pay her to braid my hair for me, nothing more really happened between
us. My Aunt Clarissa Vass lived with my Grandfather and she used to tell me that Pauline liked
me, but Pauline liked a lot of other fellows and I had one main interest "BASKETBALL", I was very
shy around girls and really had no interaction with them except casual conversation.
I remember Christine's family used to let them have parties in their basement with the
blue light on and it ended up the boys were on one side of the wall, and the girls on the other side,
until the slow records came on, I held the wall up always ... Scared to death someone would ask
me to dance, because I did not know anything about that...Until later.
During the week, I would stay at home out Westport, attend Southern High School, and
hang out with my childhood friends, usually after school we would have basketball practice, and I after that I got my
first job working at Muhley's Bakery, on the corner of Cross S1. and South
Charles near the Cross-St. Market. That proved hard on me so it did not last long, but it was
experience that I still have because I like to bake and cook and definitely eat.
Pauline came out Westport several times and when we saw each other we would speak,
but she was visiting her friends and associates out there, one time she stopped at my mother's
house talking with me about a fellow who lived down the street from us, Harrison Conyers, then
when he came to our house they left. I am explaining this for a reason which later in this story you
will find amazing.
On weekends, I'd be back in South Baltimore playing with Christine and her family, I had
started liking Christine, she was small built but well equipped, and I liked her like that, we would
spend time talking and finally it got around to us holding hands and taking walks together
throughout the community and then it became known that "Christine and Leslie" go together. Life
in the 70's was like that, but one day Mrs. Dot, Christine's mother told me to come in and have a
seat, and she was real blunt. Christine isn't any good Leslie and you deserve better than her. I
then found out that Christine was pregnant by a fellow she was seeing during the week whom
lived on Fremont Avenue, a light skinned fellow named Kenneth Jones. I rushed, I was totaled.
I
I

Not Christine, now being realistic, I had not put my hand nowhere other than in her hand, how
she got pregnant was amazing to me, that is how naive' I was.
Pauline started teasing me about Christine being pregnant by someone else, and I used
to hate her for it, because she thought she was all that; Pauline, was one of those light skinned,
long haired, thought she was too cute for her own shit to stink young girls. She just did not appeal
to me because of her attitude of putting others down, plus I'd heard from several other fellows in
school she was easy, and I did not like what I was hearing about her. I
In February 1975, I went to the Westport Pharmacy to purchase Clara Mae's newspaper
with my friend Harrison Conyers and spoke to Mr. Clarence and the owner of the Pharmacy a man
we knew as "Doc" at the rear of the drug store, in the liquor department. Mr. Clarence used to stop
at this lady's house down the street from my house on Kent St and whenever he saw me, he and I
would talk about my last game. After purchasing the paper, Harrison and I exited the front of the
store and was standing on the corner when I heard this voice behind us say "You, with the
leather coat, stop, put your hands up against the wall". I turned around and there was a police officer
officer walking towards us standing on the corner. I took another step off the sidewalk and the
Officer said "you, go put your hands against the wall, I then pointed at “Myself” and he said, yes
you, so I walked to the drug store building and placed my hands against the wall. I heard the
officer say," are you sure", then he said, put your hands behind you, you’re under arrest. I asked
him what for, and he said for robbing the drug store, I said "man, I just came out of the drug store,
ask Doc and Mr. Clarence. He told me to shut up and place my hands behind my back and I could
tell it to the Judge. i

I remember Harrison Conyers telling me that he was going to tell my mother the police
were arresting me and he took off running towards the opening in the fence which led to the
Westport Projects. The police cruiser came, and I was transported to the~ old Southern Police
Station, all the way during the ride I was saying to myself "I don't believe this is happening to
me", later after being processed for the robbery charge I was taken in to see the court
commissioner and was released into the custody of my mother because~ I was a juvenile with no
prior criminal record. When I first saw Clara Mae, it appeared that she v}as upset, but I could not
understand this because all I did was go to the store and buy her newspaper as usual. Once we
got into the car on the way back home I explained to her how I was arrested. Mr. Johnny did not
say anything at all, which was cool with me, later he took Clara Mae an9 I to an attorney whom
had handled his nephew's case, a man by the name of Mr. Robert P. Conrad, and from the very
first meeting with this attorney, I felt that he was going to send me to jail my mother had no
knowledge or understanding of the criminal law process and neither did I.
The very first time I went to see him alone, his first question was "did your mother send
me the check"? He never at any time explain any of the facts about the charge to me, or inform
me that the robbery I was accused of had originally taken place in November 1974 [my arrest was
February 15th, 1975], nor did he inform me that the robbery was of a part time delivery driver, Mr. Joseph
Frederick Chester, whom worked part-time on weekends and not of the drug store itself, the main
information he never told me about was that the robbery was committed by three (3) men, and two
(2) had already been identified prior to my arrest. All of these vital pieces of information would
have prepared my trial defense, which was held July 2, 1975, before Honorable Judge James A.
Perrott, in the then Supreme Bench of Baltimore City. I

The day I was scheduled for court, Clara Mae and I went, rode the bus downtown, while
we were riding we talked about different things, and it was at this time I really began to realize my
mother was scared and afraid for me, but we faced this together and wanted to over with. I had
already told her that I did not trust Mr. Conrad, because his main concern was whatever money
she owed him, and he never discussed the facts of the robbery with me, which was something
later I learned he was supposed to have informed me of. Prior to commencement of trial.
When Clara Mae and I reached the courtroom, we sat in the back of the courtroom and I
noticed that this man with a red plaid lumberjack shirt sat down directly ~behind us with two [2]
white men and they were looking into a yellow folder, and then looked at' me. Mr. Conrad,
suddenly appeared in the courtroom and he and the two [2] men whom Were seated behind me
started talking. In my last meeting with Mr. Conrad, at his office, he had told me that when the
Judge asked me what type of trial I wanted, I was to ask for a trial by the! court, and not jury, as
my mother had told me to do, when I informed her of this she told me that the lawyer knew best
and to follow his instructions.

Finally, when my case was called, I was told to sit somewhere in the courtroom, then the
man, with the red lumberjack shirt got on the witness stand, I was shocked, earlier I told my
mother I had peeked back at him and the two men he was speaking with and saw my photo,
which was taken at Southern Police Station, the day of my arrest, in the yellow folder one of the
men were holding earlier. Just prior to the case being called, I asked Mr. Conrad if the man I was
accused of robbing was in the courtroom, he then said, don't turn around but tt is the man seated
behind you, with the "red-checkered shirt" on, he then looked at me and asked, "you never saw
the man who was robbed"? I told him no, because the officer told me to face the wall of the drug
store, and had his gun at the back of my head. I told Mr. Conrad that I did not know this man
whom was testifying, and I did not remember him from the drug store. The white man whom was
sitting behind us with him turned out to be the States Attorney [S/A hereinafter], and he asked
Mr. Chester did he see the man in the courtroom whom robbed him the night of November 2,
1974., and at first, he said "yes, he looks like the man that robbed me, the S/A then told him "Mr.
Chester, you have to say for sure that is the man who robbed you, not look like him", he [Mr.
Chester] then said, "that is him". Mr. Conrad did not object to this line of questioning at all. Mr.
Chester then went on to explain that he was attempting to deliver an order of alcohol to a location
in the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore when he was robbed of One Hundred and Twenty Dollars.

As I sat in the courtroom, listening to this man describe being robbed, I had a lot of conflicting
emotions and thoughts, because all along I was under the impression that the drug store had
been robbed and one of the conditions of my release, was that I not patronize the drug store, so this
stipulation prevented me from speaking with "Doc" the owner of the drug store, and I never saw
Mr. Clarence McCleary, in the neighborhood, like he used to come around. All these things were
running through my mind as he described a robbery I knew nothing about, and it was terrifying. He
described three men whose ages he described as in their twenties standing outside of an
apartment building as he entered carrying the order which was called into the liquor department,
after not getting an answer at the apartment door, he started returning to his vehicle but as he
passed the three men, one of them pulled a handgun, and placed it against his head and asked
him what he had on him, another man then went into his pant pockets and removed the money,
and the other man stood in the background and did nothing.

He testified that he got into his vehicle and drove to the gas station on Cherry Hill Road
and called the police advising them that he had been held up, this is where they responded to.
The only question that Mr. Conrad asked of him was whether he had been robbed before, which
the S/A objected to, and that made me wonder why he questioned him on this issue. Judge
Perrott, then called for the noon-time recess, and told us to return to court an hour later.
Clara Mae and I walked to Baltimore Street, not far from the court house, where we
ordered hot dogs and sodas, then we walked back to the little park across from the courthouse on
the Lexington St. side and sat down to eat our lunch, as I looked at my mother, this strong serious
positive black goddess looked very confused and frightened, and I told her, "I love you Momma",
but what I really wanted to do was run, because my inner being was saying this is not right.

When we returned to the courtroom, I was called to the stand and identified myself, then
the S/A started asking me questions regarding the case, to which I constantly told him I knew
nothing about, I explained to him that I attended Southern High School located in South Baltimore
and had not been in the Cherry Hill section of the city because I did not know anyone in that area.
The S/A asked me whether I knew a man by the name of "Joe Lewis" and "Claude
McKnight", to which I told him no, he then told me these were the two men I was with the night
Mr. Chester was robbed. I then said "where are they at, I don't know them and have never met
these men", he replied they're already in jail doing time. He asked me where I at was on
November 2, 1974, and I told him that this was supposed to have been on a weekend, on
weekends, I spent them at my Grandfathers' home. He asked me where was my witnesses that I could testify I
stayed there, I told him that Mr. Conrad never spoke with my friends, their family members or
others to verify I spent weekends there. He then said "right". Now prior to my trial ever starting and
the last time I spoke with Mr. Conrad at his office, he told me that if the Judge found me guilty he
was going to give me twenty years.

That was all my trial consisted of, then Judge Perrott told me to stand up and he said
"Leslie Vass, after considering the evidence presented by the State, I find they have proven
beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of committing robbery in the first degree,
and use of a handgun in the commission of a felony. He then said that I am remanding you to
the custody of the Baltimore City Jail until sentencing, and ordering a Pre - Sentence Investigation
report be submitted. My first reaction was "Guilty of what, I did not rob anyone and don't
know anything about this crime, you have the wrong man". There was a lot of confusion in the
courtroom after his verdict and when I looked at Mr. Conrad, he had a smile on his face and I
started screaming at him that he helped these people do this. It was very ugly, my mother was
upset and I saw her crying. Judge Perrott then said that he was setting sentencing for July 18th,
1975., and I was approached by the bailiff whom asked me to place my hands behind my back,
which was the wrong thing to ask me to do for something I did not know about, so he grabbed me
and he and I started tussling in the courtroom, Judge Perrott then said "young man, you're going
to make matters more worse on yourself if you continue to act like that.

"I told him, how much worse can it get when you're sending me to jail for a crime I did not
commit and know nothing about". As I was led from the courtroom, my mother called to me and
said that she would be there to visit me as soon as they would let her, I nodded my head.
On the way to the Baltimore City Jail, fellows in the transportation van were talking like
they were going away on a vacation, but all I could do was cry, and cry ..."Guilty", Guilty of what,
being Black, naive enough to think that "Justice would prevail and I'd be set free", There was
no such thing as justice - Fuck that Justice Crap, was what I thought and felt

Being put in the Baltimore City Jail in 1975, was a crazy time and I recognized that my
main objective was to survive and not be a victim to anyone ever again ...1 remember calling
Christine and crying, I told her that I was found guilty of the robbery I knew nothing about and she
laughed like it was a joke and hung up the phone. To this day I still do not know what made her do
that to me, but her response made me become very bitter towards her. Clara Mae came to see
me and we talked, and she told me that she was getting me another lawyer to handle the appeal
and to be careful there, which I was definitely aware of by this time.
On July 18, 1975., I appeared before Judge James A. Perrott, for sentencing and when it
came time for imposition of the term he informed me that on the first count of the criminal
information the term was fifteen (15) years for the Armed Robbery charge and on the ninth count
the term was five (5) years for Use of Handgun in the Commission of a Felony, said sentence was
to be served consecutively, meaning a total of Twenty [20] Years. Mr. Conrad had informed me
just prior to sentencing that he had told my mother that she should not attend the hearing because
it would not be good, damn right it wasn't good, I started fighting with the bailiff as soon as he
approached me to place the hand cuffs on me and return me to Baltimore City Jail. Judge Perrott
again, started that "Boy you're going to make things worse for yourself and this time I said "fuck you,
you give me twenty years for a crime I don't know anything about, well you will get it back ". I did
not know what I meant by that, but God is Great and All Knowing.
Mr. Conrad put his hand on my shoulder and I pushed him away from me and told him
that I know you and those two [2] State Attorneys "railroaded" me into prison but I'm going to
learn the law and give this sentence back to you, watch.

At that time, I did not realize it but Mr. Robert P, Conrad was extremely prejudice, years
later when I learned about the law and how it was "supposed to be administered" I filed a claim against
him and at the end of that hearing he walked over and whispered to me "Your Blackass will
not get out 'til that sentence is served", and I whispered back to him "I don't have life you low-life
red neck".

Directly after my sentencing, Clara Mae came to visit me at the Baltimore City Jail before
my transfer to the Maryland Diagnostic Center, which was located inside the Maryland State
Penitentiary at 954 Forrest St off Greenmount Avenue. I did not ask her what had happen to Mr.
Johnny, but I was aware that her relationship with him had ended and I am certain it was in
regards to my imprisonment and him taking us to Mr. Robert P. Conrad.
When I was found guilty of the robbery charge on July 2, 1975, I was returned to the
Baltimore City Jail facility, I was housed on O-section. A fellow I knew from East Baltimore, by the
name of George "Junebug" Thomas, was being held there after being convicted of a murder, in
the commission of a robbery, he had just been sentenced to Forty-Five [45] years, and had
acquired the nickname of "Shorty 45". George and I became extremely close in the streets and I
used to visit him and his family in the Flagg Home Projects long before my arrest, but had drifted apart
over the years. During my time at the Baltimore City Jail, I spent my time walking around the court
yard area, thinking, hoping and praying for God to take this unbearable pain away. I used to
watch the other fellows playing basketball in the courtyard, lifting weights and telling lies about
their crime sprees, etc, but as much as I loved the game of basketball, I could not bring myself to
touch a "pill" [basketball]. My dreams died, my hopes faded and the will to survive started slipping
away. Each day I awaken to hear slamming doors, fellows crying out, "Momma, please help me,
oh God" and whenever you'd hear someone cry out for help, you'd hear another voice say, "Shut
up Punk"

After being sentenced in July 1975, one night I awaken in the cell soak and wet in a cold
sweat, and terrified. I dreamed I saw myself walking through this large steel door where rows and
rows of cells stacked upon one another, filled with inmates screaming and yelling at one another
as I walked past. I lay on that bunk [bed] and asked God to help me get through this terrible
experience, I told God if you loved me, "why would you allow me to be put in prison for another
persons' crime I knew nothing about".
Several days later Officer Harris came to the cell door and said "Leslie Vass, bag -n
baggage" which was a slang term for pack up, you're being transferred to another institution or
section, but because of me being sentenced, I was now considered DOC [Division of
Corrections] material. As for this transfer, I was kind of afraid because there were various rumors
going around concerning what happened to young boys going into the penitentiary.

Once in the holding area those inmates whom were transferring were shackled with
chains around the waist and feet, then we were marched to the awaiting bus and vans for
transfers to the assigned institutions. The white inmates would have tears running down their
faces like faucets, they've offer you their breakfast, lunch and dinner just to be alright with you,
later I learned this was their way of getting protection on the sly, but I did not want no extra food,
conversation or association, I wanted the heck out of that degrading inhumane environment,
nothing else.

Once I reached the Maryland Penitentiary, I was classified and issued my institutional
identification number 134460, this number was more important than my name. Next, we were
ordered to strip down to our naked asses, lift our arms, open our mouths, squat down and
cough, stand up and spread the cheeks of your buttocks, wait a minute man, I'm not spreading my
ass for you and no one else, what the fuck is your problem was my response, the officer left me
alone and came back with another officer whom told me that this was procedure, but I told him the
other inmates were standing there peeking through a hole in the wall, they then told me to get my
clothes and go take my shower. After being in the penitentiary for a while, I learned that the
officers would allow that type of shit to take place knowing exactly what would happen to some of
those other inmates whom showed weakness:
Prior to entering the cell block area, we took our showers and were sprayed with rid [ lice
insecticide] and given a yellow jumpsuit with the letters MRDCC stenciled on the back of it. There
was this old man issuing the jumpsuits so I asked him whether he knew a fellow by the name of
George Thomas, and he said, "Shorty 45" yeah, I know him, so I told him to let George know that I
had been transferred to the Doc House today and he said he'd do that at feed up time [lunch time
].
When the Officer open the steel door which led into the housing area, I froze in my tracks
because there was my dream, right in front of me, there were stacks of cells on the left side which
stood five stories high and it ran the length of the building, all you could hear were fellows
screaming and hollering at each other, inmates running around on the lower level which later I
came to know as the "flats", men standing in front of other cells talking with inmates in the cells as
if they were on the street corner. After regaining myself I stepped out into this mad, mad world of
prison life, as we were being led to our assigned cells this fellow with a dress on, in his cell called
out "hi Slim, I like you come over here, so I can talk to you, I knew this dude wasn't talking to me,
he couldn't be" I pointed at myself and he said "no not you, him, speaking about the fellow in front
of me, man I was very relieved this character wasn't trying to bring me no move.

Leslie Vass, A-125-Top Bunk, I stopped in front of this drab dreary cell which faced a
brick wall, you could hear cars passing, people talking and children playing games,
children like me playing games I not so long ago played, I stepped into this hole in the wall and
bam clink went the door and it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the blackness of the cell, but
immediately I noticed this lump on the bottom bed, so I asked whether it was cool to turn the light
on, and the lump said, "yeah Kid, turn it on", now I was not to happy with this "kid" crap, but I felt it
was best to feel this situation out, I noticed a wooden cane propped against the cell wall in the
rear, suddenly the lump pulled the covers off of his head and it was a little short older fellow. He
introduced himself to me as "Hardy Herring" but everyone called him "Spanky". I told him my
name and he said ok "Slim Vass", and there was my prison label name.

Spanky, was serving Natural Life and some other number behind it. but true fully I never
cared about the figure because natural life was enough for me. I was housed under the death row
inmates on the second tier in A-Block, and they were not permitted to come in direct contact with
the general population, meaning these brothers stayed locked on that tier 24 hours a day. Most
spent their time looking out the windows across from their cells, reading law books and playing
chess with the fellows by numbers, which I learned later on.
After Spanky and I became more familiar with each other, he started telling me things
concerning his case, he was convicted of shooting a police office to death on Brunt Street in the
West Baltimore community, and he claimed that he really was not the one who committed the
shooting but was in the automobile when it was done.

I explained to him about the robbery I was convicted of, and the facts that I knew of, he
and the other fellows on death row started asking me whether I had the original police offense
report, whether I had been indicted or was a criminal information filed, several of the death row
inmates wrote letters requesting documents for me and showed me how to file motions, petitions
and foi [Freedom Of Information] requests to obtain information that would be pertinent to my
defense and future attacks of the conviction. During this period Clara Mae was visiting me
every weekend, and we would discuss things which was taking place in the Westport Community
and with my childhood friends and I would feel miserable because I was being denied my
opportunity to grow with them and experience things which a developing youth should be able to
experience, and the question always came up in my mind, "why".'

Shorty 45 would come around to my cell and we'd talk about how his family was doing
and he'd put me down with the activities of the prison because as an inmate on DOC side, we
could not go out into the general population, at least that's what the administration thought. When
Spanky was placed directly into the population, he and Shorty 45 would bring me a set of clothes
to change into, then they would pop the lock on my cell, so I could run around with my partner to
the law library, court yard, and other areas of the Maryland Penitentiary. I became familiar with men
whom I had heard about in the news such as the Veney Brothers, Apex, Big Head Brother, Elmer
"Fatman" Gross, Lil' Melvin, Clyde Dixon, Gangster Webster, Big Reds and this fellow whom took
me under his wing and raised me as a "Comrade". This fellow was Mr. Nathaniel Lee Johnson
AKA Junior Bunk. When I first met this Brother, the first thing he said to me was "Shorty, you
belong on the basketball court not here with these fools". He and I would talk about sports and
legal issues, we've debated cases just as college students would in classes, he instilled in me the
strength to fight the injustice which was perpetrated against me by learning the law as it was
written, not as I wanted it to be. Another fellow whom was confined with us was an attorney prior
to him committing the crime he was imprisoned for, and he taught us very well. Even though the
law material we had was limited, these fellows would research issues, and order legal cases from the
LASI system [ Library Assistance State Institutions].

September 7,1975., I turned eighteen years old in the Maryland Penitentiary, and had no
idea what the future would hold for me, I received mail from my childhood friends and pictures
which would cause me to hurt so much for freedom, but there was a letter which I received from
the young girl who used to do my hair that caused me great of confusion. Pauline wrote to tell me
that she was now pregnant by a man whom lived with her older brother Isaac, whom was a cook
at the Baltimore City Jail facility, this man was a correctional officer at the jail and his name is
"Chitter" and was married, they lived over the Auto Supply store on Cross and Hanover Streets.

She went on to say that her mother, Mrs. Avis Williams, told her to put my name down as the
father of her child, because I was locked up and nothing would be done to me. I was devastated to
hear that this girl I barely knew would be so cruel to lie as she was going to do. My Aunt, Clarissa
told my mother that this was not my child, and I remember sending the letter home to my mother
because Clara Mae had been told by Pauline she was pregnant by me, which was untrue.

On October 17th, 1975, the transportation officer came to my cell and advised me that I
was classified to go to the Maryland Correctional Institute facility located in Hagerstown Maryland,
this facility is known as the "Old Jail" and true fully, I did not want to go there because of the
beatings and racial slurs I'd heard was wide spread there. Finally, I was loaded up to leave the
Pen and the fellows from Death row and the legal department told me to keep in touch and not to
allow myself to get caught up in the activities in Hagerstown. "Don't let the time do you Slim
Vass" was their advice, take advantage of the programs and training they offer there and get
your High School Diploma, there is nothing here in the Pen but death, this I remember vividly and
it was as if I was sent to another world away. When the bus finally reached Hagerstown the first thing
I noticed was there were no Black Officers, male or female, the second thing I remember is us
being escorted into the main front door of the institution and this big white officer talking crazy.

The first section we were taken to was F-2 and our status was called Orientation / Classification,
this area was where you remanded until you saw a counselor whom would advise you of the
institutional rules and regulations, you then were classified to the educational, training or work
departments based upon your background. My counselor asked me various questions concerning
my imprisonment, the crime itself and the facts surrounding my alleged role in the commission of
the robbery. When I informed him that I had been wrongfully imprisoned, he acted as if I had lied
to him and he had a serious attitude concerning me not admitting I participated in the robbery,
therefore, I was determined to be a rebellious nigger from the City. He referred me to see the
psychologist and told me he was placing me on the laundry detail.

I was still focusing on my case and found that the library here in Hagerstown was far
better equipped than the one in the Penitentiary, my mother was now driving and had her own car
so, every other week she would drive that long distance to visit with me and make my day. Clara
Mae came up one weekend and she told me "Leslie, I got you another lawyer to handle your
appeal", now I had had it with the lawyers from Maryland, but I loved this proud woman and
appreciated everything that she was doing for me. She told me that this lawyer had been retained
several months ago, and I flipped out, I asked her who is this attorney and his address because I
had never received any correspondence advising me he was my counselor of records which was a requirement, I
started explaining to my mother that I had been studying law when I was in the Maryland Penitentiary, and was
becoming familiar with the procedure of an attorney/client relationship.

The attorney name was Gerald Kroop, and he was well known in the legal profession, but
he also was dealing with a client whom had no trust in lawyers. As soon as I got back to my cell I
started writing a letter to him after I obtained his address from another inmate housed with me.
Several days later he responded that he felt that he did not have to speak with me to file the
appeal of my case because he had obtained the records from the court and filed based on the
information it contained. I responded that Mr. Conrad had not do any pretrial investigation,
interviews of my witnesses nor did he attempt to ascertain whether I was known to the other two
men whom had admitted robbing Mr. Chester, the victim prior to my arrest. These facts
would directly relate to Mr. Conrad's ineffectiveness at trial, which was a ground for relief and
reversal of the conviction.
At the Hagerstown facility, if you stepped outside of the line in the dining room, you'd get
hit with the large keys that the officers carried on their belts with long chains attached to them,
they would wind these keys up and sling them at you like a yo-yo, it was becoming very clear to
me that the stories I'd heard about the brutality here was true. There were officers at this facility
whom made it known they were Ku Klux Klansmen. They would come onto a section and turn all
the lights out so no one could see them, then they would open a cell and drag the inmate out to
the area called the "hole", where he would be beaten stomped and whatever else they felt like.
There was Captain Clingan, and Major Stein two-real rednecks, who seem to thrive on
abusiveness towards inmates, regardless what their color was, Captain Clingan would stand in
front of you and say in a country drawl "you's one of them Pennsylvania Avenue niggers ain't cha
boy, you got one of them gold tooth's, open your mouth, POW, he'd punch you in the mouth and
then laugh and say he missed knocking out your tooth. Sick ass people.
Several years after being in the "Old Jail" a report was made about a fellow whom was
charged with killing two [2] white Officers in the Upper Marlboro area, this fellow was a young
black child, age fourteen, he was sentenced to a term of thirty years and ended up coming to the
Hagerstown facility, which everyone hoped he wouldn't because the Officers there had already
discussed what they were going to do to him because of the crime he was convicted of. He was
beaten, assaulted, both sexually and physically and humiliated in the worse manners I have ever
seen someone treated, but he persisted, and we ended up in the same college classes at that
facility reaching for our degree and freedom. I shall call him T.J, and I know nothing
about his case other than the things we discussed and that could have been just talk, but he was
a fellow I associated myself with because he was like me, a victim of the system. not the law. He
received letters from Congressmen, Senators and other top elected Officials and would share the
letters with me, in turn I would write to these Officials asking them to please investigate my case,
but each and every one of the people I wrote would respond that there was nothing they could do
to help me, this particular Congressman wrote me saying that because of him being a member of
Congress, he could not intercede in State matters, yet he was in the news with this same fellow
advocating for the abuse he endured in the custody of the police he was accused of killing.
During my classification I orientation period I saw a few fellows who lived out Westport but
my attitude was not about socializing with anyone, but getting out, another thing I learned was that
the less people I associated myself with the less confusion I would find myself involved in. A fellow
named George Matthews was the very first person whom mentioned to me that I had been
mistaken for this man named "Bucky Nutt" whom lived in the Mount Winas community, an area
on the other side of Westport, this area I really was not familiar with. George told me that he was
over the jail with Bucky Nutt in a drug program called "Cash Program", he went on to say that
they went home on a weekend when the robbery was committed. I listened to this fellow but I did
not know what to think, later I was introduced to a fellow who was Bucky Nutt's step brother, and
he told me that Bucky, Joe Lewis and this other fellow Claude Knight robbed the delivery driver in
Cherry Hill outside an apartment building on Spellman Road, which is the facts I had never told
anyone, this fellow went on to tell me that Bucky Nutt was an informant for the Detectives Nelson
and Detective Fisher. While in the Pen, the fellow on Death row wrote letters for me to the Police
Department requesting the original police offense report, the robbery detectives were Det. Fisher
and Det. Nelson of the Southern Police department. I then wrote a letter to the attorney, Mr.
Gerald Kroop, informing him of the information which I was told, he later wrote me back saying
that he would not do anything further in my case until my mother paid him the remainder of his
mother which amounted to five hundred dollars. Now I could not believe this crap, he was telling
me he wanted money to prove I was convicted wrongfully.
I wrote to the Office of the Public Defender, requesting an attorney, to help prepare and
file a petition known as a "Post-Conviction Application", the attorney assigned my case
informed me that he would not use the contention of "ineffective Counsel" against Mr. Conrad
because he did not see any irregularities in his representation, it was not until later, after the
hearing, that I found out Mr. Conrad was a "General Counsel on the Attorney Grievance
Commission Board", this group was the ones whom determined when another attorney was in
violation of the rules of conduct each attorney is bound to abide by. I was crushed to hear this no
good bastard was in such a prominent position, that is when I filed the claim against him. My
petition was heard, and my witnesses brought in to testify, but the decision was "Relief Denied", I
had expected no less from the Maryland Judicial System.
During this time an election was up coming and a Black man by the name of Mr. Kurt L.
Schmoke was running against then State' Attorney, William Swisher, and he won. All throughout
the prisons, everyone thought this Black Man would do more to correct the injustices committed
by the Swisher Administration. I wrote to Mr. Schmoke as soon as he was elected and spelled out
in detail all the facts of my case and asked that he review what was done also I asked that he
would allow one of his investigators to obtain a picture of the man "Bucky Nutt" and show it to the
victim, Mr. Chester, to see if he could identify him as the actual person I was mistaken for. By this
time I had been stabbed 'while in a fight with a fellow who stole my radio out of my cell, and he and
I had an ongoing war, each time he and I were around one another we'd fight. Finally, the chief of
security at Hagerstown transferred him back to the Maryland Penitentiary, where my partners
stabbed him. I will leave that part alone because there were criminal charges filed against those
involved, but they were not convicted of this act against him. Later he stabbed a fellow to death in
the court yard and received an additional twenty-five years for this murder. An inmate's life is not
worth anything.
I received a letter from Mr. Clifton J. Gordy, Assistant State's Attorney, advising me that
my letter to Kurt L. Schmoke had been received and Mr. Schmoke felt after review of my file, there
was nothing their office could or would do to assist me and I should contact the Public Defenders'
Office to file another Post Conviction petition, again I was denied. All during my years imprisoned I
wrote to elected officials asking their review and help concerning my wrongful imprisonment but all
I received was denials and excuses why they could not assist me in proving my innocence. My
resolve now was to go to the Federal Court System for relief because it was clear that the State
Court system was deaf to my pleas.
I had researched my issues very well because I had promised myself that if I filed this
Habeas Corpus petition in the Federal Courts it would be self-explaining and concise and factually
based on supporting law, not frivolous.
Finally, my petition to the Federal Courts was prepared and I submitted it to their Clerk. I
received acknowledgement of it and the case number etc. I then decided to focus on occupying
myself to avoid what I saw so many others go through, hanging themselves because they could
not mentally deal with the imprisonment, drugging themselves up to escape their pains and just
giving up and ending up in the mental wards of the institutional hospitals.
From the very first year I reached Hagerstown, I was playing basketball on the Institutional
Team, the officers liked to bet on our games against the other institutions we played against and
they would promise me cartons of cigarettes, sodas, and other commissary items if I would score
a certain amount of points against certain jails. And I produced without a problem. Finally, we were
to play against the College team from West Virginia whom had a center who was six -eleven. This
game was permitted as a scrimmage game for them, and our introduction into community
relations by the Department of Corrections. The evening of the game, the Officers told me they felt
we would lose against this team, because of them being rated in the top ten, but we had a team of
players whom played school ball and street ball.
There was Isaac "Reverend Ike" Moore, Albert "Big Reds", Liddy "Silkman" Lyles, Jeffrey
"The Wiz" Cassell, and Mel There were four other players on the team whom used to sub for us
when we got tired but basically, we ran the entire game. My position was and is Center, and down
low is my house, no one is permitted into my house unless I give authorization and I cared less
how tall this fellow was, he got nothing but rejection from me whenever he put the ball towards the
hoop. The fellows watching the game was cheering and the officers were slapping us on the
backs telling us how proud they were on our performance against this so-called strong team from
West Virginia, after the game, the coach came to each of us and shook our hand plus took
pictures with our team. Later, I was informed that he had asked the coach and the administration
how much time I was serving, because he would love to get me on their team. Eventually Isaac
Moore was granted a court release into the custody of the coach, and played there but ended up
returning to jail for another robbery he committed, his drug addiction was stronger than his lust for
freedom and life, but I wish the brother the best possible.
My days were filled with working in the SUI (State Use Industries} administrative offices where I
was Head Clerk of all shops and the apprenticeship programs because I had completed the
Metalworking program, the Body I Fender program, and the Meat cutting Program. My mind was
constantly filled with thoughts of being free.
When my mother came to visit me, I used to see other fellows with their girlfriends, wives
and children and I wanted to have those experiences and share that special feeling with some
young lady I was blessed to connect with. I spent my time reading, studying and listening to the
news because I wanted freedom in the worst way, finally I was called to the classification board
and told that I would be transferring to the Maryland Correctional Training Center, which was the
"New Jail", this facility was the minimum-security facility located in Hagerstown area and it's
considered the next step to pre-release and then freedom. My communications with the fellows at
the pen was still going on and whenever we wanted to see each other we'd file a small claim
case, and put our friends name on it as witnesses, so that they would be transported down to talk
about what was going on in the legal matters. I filed a claim so that Shorty 45 could come down
and Old Man Pipelegg [Death row Inmate] could review the Habeas Corpus petition I submitted,
he told me that he saw no problem with it, except one, and that \NaS the fact that I did not resolve
one issue on the petition in the State Court [lower court]. When he said that, I asked him, do you
think they'd deny my petition on that one issue alone, he told me the Fed.'s are concise, and by
law must afford the State Court the opportunity to correct their errors, prior to them issuing an
opinion reversing any case. This troubled me greatly, because I was tired mentally of being
deprived of my freedom, and watching individuals whom were released into society, and a few
months later or a year later they come right back, like they enjoyed imprisonment.
Pauline continued writing me and now had two more children and lived with their father in
South Baltimore. One day I was awakened by the transportation officer telling me I had court this
morning but I knew of no hearing set for me, and my hopes went up high, thinking I might be
getting a court release. Once at the Courthouse downtown, I was told that the hearing was for a
paternity proceeding and I was dumbfounded because I did not have any children, to be honest,
I'd never seen what a woman had except on a picture magazine. When I was escorted into the
courtroom, here was Pauline with this little boy on her lap, the officer told me that he would allow
her to talk to me and she told me that she had to file this because she could not get a welfare
check without filing, I told her she was no damn good for doing this to me knowing that I could get
more time for a baby I had no role in making. The Judge ordered me to make payments once I get
out of jail to her of seven dollars fifty cents per week. I said nothing at all. My mother told me that
she saw the baby's birth certificate and Pauline did not have my name right on it, she always
thought my name was "Andre Vass". But that subject I will leave alone.
I was granted another transfer from the MCTC [Maryland Correctional Training Center]
facility, to the "Butler Building”, which was the Pre-Release System and at this center in
Hagerstown, I worked on the Power House detail. This job consisted of us inmates running the
electrical and water filtration supply systems which ran each of the institutions in that area. I
remained at this location for a period of ninety days and then was sent to the Brockbridge
Correctional Camp Center, located in Jessup Maryland, immediately I was transferred to the
Eastern Pre-Release Center located across the Bay Bridge. I was already classified as Pre-
Release qualification and that is what speeded my processing up, usually it takes a period of three
days for evaluation and approval before an inmate is moved into another status. Once we were
loaded up on the transfer van, we headed towards Route 50 and the Bay Bridge, as the driver was
crossing the wind blew the window up and it busted between us and the truck passing beside us,
the driver swerved, and everyone hollered at him to watch what he was doing. Man, I was scared
to death this Officer would drive off the bridge into that water and that would have been the end of
our trip. Once we reached the EPRU Center it was a very open spaced place, neither fences nor
armed guards watching over us. We were permitted to walk around the center, into the wooded
area and other parts of the facility's grounds. I called my mother and told her where I was at and
that weekend I was called into the office and told I had a visitor, when I walked into the room
leading outside there was my Mom's, she had driven this road to visit me and I had told her that
she didn't have to come over that Bridge, because I was alright. I still continued to communicate
with the fellows from the Penitentiary, these men had come to be my friends and comrades' in the
struggle for freedom. I did not judge their crimes or the acts they committed because that was not
my position, but there was a respect between us, we did not socialize with child molesters, child
abusers or rapists. Individuals such as those characters received the wrath of any inmate in the
prison system and usually they ended up on PC [protective custody or PUNK CITY as it was
sometimes called].
I used to listen to fellows discuss how they committed their crimes and what led up to the .
acts they were imprisoned for, but I remained neutral on comments, because I looked at my .
situation only. During the time I was in Hagerstown, I enrolled in the Hagerstown Community
College Courses given there and had the opportunity to expand my mind instead of becoming
institutionalize as I saw so many others fall prey to. I studied Sociology and Psychology and
wanted to work with at risk children and adults because of what I had experienced, the instructors
used to tell us inmates that even though we were convicted, we still had a chance, but ~was our
own personal decision where we went after our release, and I understood this very well.
While at the EPRU center, I played 8asketball for their team and they carried us into the
community to play in the league there, it was fun to blowout the fellows whom had been in the
streets, then the women started giving us their phone numbers for us to call them and they would
come up to the center to visit with us, my interest was "FREEDOM" and I wanted it bad. My
transfer from EPRU was brought about because of a joke I played on a friend by pulling his bunk
bed to the door of the dormitory where the officer was seated asleep, I was returned to
Brockbridge charged with "horse-playing", when I went before the Hearing Officer for the infraction
he could not believe that I was "checked in" for that, my status was returned to me and I was then
sent to the Baltimore Pre-Release center located at 920 Greenmount Avenue directly around the
corner from the Maryland Penitentiary where I once was confined at. My mail had finally caught up
with me and I received the decision from my perdition to the Federal Courts, I was denied the
relief sought because I had not allowed the State to address that one issue. I was crushed and felt
that I had no other way to resolve this case.
The next morning, I was called by the Officer in charge of work details, and told I was
assigned to clean up the streets in front of the BPRU Center, from Greenmount Avenue and
Forrest Street, down to Greenmount and Madison Streets, and this is where I left the broom they
gave me and walked away from the Division of Corrections. I made a telephone call and caught a
cab to a friend's home in the Park Heights section of town where I received money to catch a
Greyhound Bus from Baltimore Maryland Brooklyn New York. While residing there I used the
name of "Charles Munford" and got a job working as a clerk in a Pharmaceutical Company. I
spoke with Pauline while I was in Brooklyn and she informed me that her daughter had been
molested by the son of the man she was living with. I informed her that I would be coming back to
Baltimore soon because I was still working on my case and she asked that I let her know when I
was coming because she wanted to take me to her friend’s house where I would be safe, lies all
lies. When I came to Baltimore the FBI Fugitive Warrant Apprehension Unit was waiting for me,
and arrested me outside of the bus station on E. Fayette Street. Initially I told them my name was
"Charles Munford Jr." and they acted like they believed me, after I was taken into custody they
showed me a folder which had my institutional photograph in it, and I said, "let's get this over with",
you know who I am. I was transported to the new classification center on Madison Street where I
was held until the adjustment hearing was scheduled in the Maryland Penitentiary.
After the hearing was held, I received six months on segregation/isolation, and advised
my status was reduced to medium security. I was then assigned to the Maryland House of
Corrections, which is in Jessup Maryland. This jail is called "THE Cutt". It seemed like
instead of going forward I found myself going backwards, once I reached the Cutt, I was assigned
to the dormitory area and it was wild in there, fellows running around doing drugs all day and
night, people stealing from each other, fights and stabbing taking place and the officers ignored it
all, as long as you were not trying to escape, they did not give a heck.
My best friend was a fellow named Daniel Jones whom I called "Duck", he and I would
meet each day and sit down in the bleaches out in the yard and talk about our plans
once we got out of there, this fellow and I started out together in the Hagerstown facility and
became known as "partners in crime", we worked together and fought together, our bond was like
two soldiers as one, and it carried on until his death, which I shall speak about in the second part
of my book. I was moved from the dormitories after my tennis shoes were stolen by this fellow
named "Beaver", a young fellow who had no idea that I had been in the system as long as I had,
plus, the main fact that I wasn't to be fucked with. I had a fellow bring me a can of flammable fluid
from out in the shop area, and I poured l on him while he was asleep in his bed, then I set him on
fire, for this I received another year of isolation and was transferred back to South Wing in the
Maryland Penitentiary to serve that sentence, the year was 1983. At this period of my confinement
my mother had stopped visiting me because she felt I was wrong for escaping from the Pre-
Release system when I was so close to coming home, yet I was tired of serving a sentence I had
no part in and wanted out, at any cost, even if it meant that I died trying to escape, I just did not
care and that was that. Prior to the incident with Beaver I had been approached by a fellow named
"Stanley", who said that he lived in the Mount Winas community, he told me that he and Bucky
Nutt were cousins and that he was aware that I had been imprisoned for the robbery that Bucky
committed, then he told me that the man Mr. Clarence knew who Bucky Nutt was, and gave me a
photograph taken in the year of 1974. I contacted the Office of the Public Defender asking that
they assign an investigator to show the photograph to the victim to see whether he could identify
Bucky Nutt as the man I was mistaken for.
There was a young lady I knew from my past whom used to write to me continuously, her
name was "Karen Cole" and she was very special to me, she maintained communication with me
all the years I was confined but in the last two years she suddenly stopped writing and I never
knew why, she had graduated from college and was working in a bank, from what she told me in
her last letter, then one day an Officer came onto the section and walked past my cell and stared
at me real stupid. I asked him what was wrong, and he said I'll show you whets' wrong nigger. I
was tripped the hell out, I never saw or did anything to this man a day in my life and here he was
making an indirect threat. Later it came out that he and Ms. Karen Cole were married, and she
worked in the Maryland Penitentiary as a correctional officer, this hurt because I believed in Karen
as a special friend, so why would she lie about this. I should have known better than to accept her
word when life had changed drastically while I was imprisoned. That Officer came back with
several other officers and tore up all the pictures I had of Karen and from that day forward I
promised that I'd not believe anything told me.
While on South Wing segregation, I use to hear how Officer Big George and Officer
Herman Tolson would run into fellow’s cells beating them whenever they felt like having fun, I
watched these two Officers them drag a fellow down the tier while kicking and stomping him just
because he did not want to take a shower. Officer Tolson and I had a confrontation on an
occasion because I wanted medical treatment for a health concern I was having, he told me that I
should not have come to prison if I was sick. I told him point blank I wanted to see the shift
commander. The sad part of this was Herman Tolson has a brother whom was in the Cutt with me
and was a good friend of mines, in fact I took a picture with Tolson's brother Victor and it was in
my photo album.
While on South Wing, I continued working on my criminal case, and my cell buddy was a
fellow by the name of, Hercules Williams [Uncle Herk] is what I called him, very smooth brother
whom was serving Life for Murder several years before I was convicted. There was not much that
I could do on my case but await the outcome of the Public Defender Investigator locating the
victim and showing him the picture, I sent to them back in 1982. What troubled me was the fact
that the Public Defender whom was assigned my case had written me and point blank told me that
"You are attempting to find each and every error in your case, I hope one day you are
successful". What I could not understand is this attorney gave me the impression that he
believed I was guilty of robbing this man, yet he was representing me, then I started looking at the
whole situation. Here we have a convicted person being represented by the Public Defender's
Attorneys whom are paid by the State of Maryland, and the State Attorneys for Maryland
prosecuting the defendant whom is represented by the Public Defender, I realized there is great
conflict in this scene, but who am I but a lowly inmate to question the integrity of the Maryland
Judiciary System.
Damn it was cold in those cells on South Wing, too cold for you to get out the bed to get the rood
delivered to your cell door, so Herk and I would take turns getting our meals, then we'd put torn
up newspaper in the metal sink, squirt baby oil on the paper and set ~ on fire to heat the cell, then
hang a State issued blanket against the cell door bars to stop the heat from escaping. This is the
truth, the Officers would be so cold that they would not make their rounds to check on the inmates
and if you had a reason to call them, it better be a life and death situation, and not just to ask no
question, or harass them.
Clara Mae still wasn't visiting me and I missed my mother desperately, but "pride" is a
mother. ..... isn't it. It seemed like my complete life was being destroyed because of this
imprisonment, I was never allowed the opportunity to graduate at Southern High, instead I
received my GED in Hagerstown. I never had the chance to experience the developmental stages
that all youths go through while growing into young manhood, I spent my time being on guard for
threats of violence which could take place at any given moment. The stress and mental pain I
endured and continue to endure because of this conviction was wearing me down to a point where
I was losing my will to live, but there was this little voice in the back of my mind saying, "HOLD
ON". During my time imprisoned, I did not attend the church services, which were held, because I
knew the fellows whom went, basically went for the sake of lusting off of the women who came in
the prison with the minister, or that was a way for the fellows to meet their buddies from other
sides of the jail in the evenings when movement was limited and restricted, this also was a way for
others to deliver and pick up their illegal substances. Prison life is something I would wish on no
one. Unless they were convicted rightfully and in accordance to the law.
I had been before the parole commission of three [3] previous occasions, and at each
hearing, I was denied. One of the questions which is asked at these hearing is: "How do you feel
about the crime you committed" and I always explained that I was mistakenly convicted for
someone else, and I had no role in the robbery I was charged with, that in itself was the basis for
parole being denied, and I had already resolved to serve the complete twenty-year term because I
would never ever say I did this robbery. As I write story of my past, I remember how degraded I
felt when I explained to individuals '" was not the man who robbed the victim, Mr. Chester",
people's demeanor and their looks say a lot more than their words, and it hurt, because I knew the
truth and no one believed me.
I remember writing to Mayor William D. Schaefer, asking that he please help me, his reply
was for me "not to write him again, he would not help", yet this man lived in Edmonson Village, a
predominantly black community, later he and I would cross paths and still I recognize his position,
what troubles me is that citizens of Maryland do not know the "behind the scene acts" of these
public officials. I learned due to the seriousness of this erroneous conviction, but please be aware
that the facts contained in this book is the truth and nothing but the truth, no add on or deletions
unless I make it clear to my readers. I do not wish for my story to cause problems for anyone, I am
strictly telling what happened as it did.
In October 1982, while at the Maryland Penitentiary, serving the one-year segregation
time on South Wing, I was asleep when the mail was being delivered and the Officer called me to
sign for my legal mail. After signing for my mail, I Bayed back down and put the letter on the
shelve on the wall, something told me to open the letter, I got up and turned the light on, the letter
was from the Office of The Public Defender and the envelope was thick. I tore it open and there
was a letter from the Public Defender assigned my case informing me that the photograph V\'hich I
forwarded to him was given to an Investigator from his office, whom took it to Mr. Joseph F.
Chester [victim] and Mr. Chester immediately identified the photo as the man whom robbed him
November 2, 1974. The letter went on to state that a Motion had been filed in court for an
"Emergency Hearing", to be held in the matter, enclosed was a copy of the Motion. The letter
also stated that Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, [State's Attorney] was contacted regarding this matter and
they were awaiting his reply to their request for my immediate hearing regarding my release.
Honestly, I put the letter and envelope on the shelf and laid back down, my cell buddy Herk asked
me what did the Public Defender Office say, and I gave him the letter and Motion to read, after he
read it, he stood up and said, "Slim Vass, you're going to get released". I cried, I could not
believe that after eight [8] years of total hell, degrading conditions, inhumane conditions I would
finally, be free, but reality then hit me because I knew how the system was and those whom were
in control of it so I began to worry, like never before. I sat down and wrote a letter to my mother
informing her of the news and sent another letter to my Godmother letting her know what had
happened, my prayers were answered, God-Allah Is Great, Most Compassionate and I know that
without his guidance and protection, I would not have survived as I had done, therefore I give
"TOTAL PRAISE AND THANKS TO OUR FATHER".
At the end of the Public Defenders letter, he said that after all my hard work and
persistence, I finally had obtained my goal and he wished me the very best possible,
Congratulations.
Herk and I talked about what Kurt Schmoke might do in this matter and how long it would
take for me to be released, I never would have thought or anticipated that period would be
a long way off. The Public Defender came to visit me, for the first time ever, during my time
imprisoned and he informed me that Mr. Schmoke was attempting to put together a deal for me to
"plead guilty" and be released with time served, and when he told me this, I could not believe that
this "BLACK MAN" wanted me to say I committed the robbery I did not commit, and he knew who
did it, there was something wrong about all of this. After serving seven [7] months on segregation I
was returned to the Cutt and this allowed me to utilize the law department as I needed to do, I
started writing letters out to Mr. Schmoke, Congressman Parren Mitchell [whom I'd written before
] , the NAACP and the United States Department of Justice numerous other Civil Rights
Organizations, they responded in the negative, even though I had forwarded copies of the Motion
filed, and the Affidavit which was written and signed by the victim, Mr. Chester, that I was not the
man, who robbed him.
Finally, a hearing was set for me to come to court in the year of 1983, for my fourth Post
Conviction Petition, and at the hearing, the Honorable Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, States Attorney for
Baltimore City, personally appeared to handle my case, there was no mention of this in the news
media, and the hearing was held before Honorable Judge Robert Bell, late in the afternoon, in a
little Juvenile Hearing room, just prior to the Court house being closed. At this hearing the victim,
Mr. Joseph F. Chester was present, the Director of the Public Defenders' Office, Mr. Alan Murrell,
my attorney and the court reporter and I. Mr. Chester was placed on the stand, at this time, he
testified that when the investigator, [ Mrs. Carol D. Barbee], from the Public Defender’s Office
showed him the photograph of Bucky Nutt he asked her what he was doing out of jail, and Mrs.
Barbee advised him that this was not the man convicted for the robbery, this is when he realized
that the wrong man had been convicted, he went on to explain that Mr. Schmoke had told him that
if he did not say I was the correct man whom committed the robbery, the State would charge him
with perjury. He then testified that he refused to go along with what Mr. Schmoke wanted him to
do, and told him that he had made a mistake. He went on to say that at my original trial in 1975,
he really was not sure I was the person whom robbed him, he said that when I was in Court that
day, the two State's Attorneys were telling him he had to be certain I was the man.
When Mr. Schmoke questioned Mr. Chester, he asked Mr. Chester did he not pick out the
original arrest picture of Leslie Vass, and not Bucky Nutt from the photo array shown to him by the
police detectives, and Mr. Chester admitted he did, because he was confused, but he was
positive the man Bucky Nutt was the man whom robbed him, and Mr. Schmoke asked him
"why are you so sure it was Bucky Nutt now, and not Leslie Vass", Mr. Chester replied, the
shirt the man Bucky Nutt had on in the photograph, was the very same shirt he had on when he
robbed me. I sat in that small courtroom and listened to this man testify about the mistake he
made which had caused me to lose so much, my relationship with my mother, my brothers, my
friends and most of all, my relationship with myself. I listened to how Mr. Schmoke, was trying to
force this man into saying I was the person that robbed him, and it hurt. Nine Years imprisoned
for this robbery and I had constantly said I did not commit it and the facts are proven, a mistake
was made and still, "NO PROPER ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE".
My hatred of Kurt Schmoke, from that day to this day remains, after the hearing Mr.
Schmoke himself came to me "DIRECTLY" and told me that as State's Attorney for Baltimore City,
it was his duty to protect the State from liability of a lawsuit. I asked him, does that mean you allow
an innocent man to be imprisoned wrongfully? He just looked at me. Cold hearted piece of shit. I
wonder how he would have felt if it was his son, whom was wrongfully imprisoned, then I
remembered something; "God does not like ugly" and the law of Karma; "What Goes Around,
Comes Around". I felt truth would prevail and I'd win in the end.
Satan is a very busy character, and this hearing only fortified my strength in proving to
the wrong done to me would not stop me from moving forward and becoming reunited with my
freedom.
Honorable Judge Robert Bell closed the hearing saying that the final decision was his to
make, and the next hearing would be on October 16th, 1984, until then I would remain held in the
custody of the Division of Corrections, and I was taken from the court room right around the corner
of the hallway directly into an awaiting transportation van that returned me to the Maryland House
of Corrections.
When I reached the Cutt, and brought back into the prison Center Hall, which was the
receiving area of the jail, most of the inmates whom were there asked me, 'What Happened, why
weren't you released, as I should have been? When I explained what had taken place, they
immediately said, Kurt Schmoke isn't shit, everyone assumed this Black Man, whom beat, "
William "Racist" Swisher ", in the election for States Attorney for Baltimore City, would prove
fairer than William D. Schaefer's' friend, but that was a joke, to me he was no better, in fact
he was worse, because he was, and is, a "BLACK MAN", one whom was aware of the injustices
done in the early 1970's to many of the inner-city youths. When my conviction originally took place
in 1975, the Baltimore City Jail was overcrowded with youths from various poor neighborhoods,
and many were charged or given charges for crimes they did not commit, many of those whom
were convicted could not mentally deal with their confinement, and I watched when the Officers
would call "the code", meaning an Officer had an emergency, and later we'd learn that one of the
young fellows committed suicide, by hanging themselves or cutting their wrists and bleeding to
death, my greatest fear was that I would get killed trying to escape, there was no way I was going
to do any harm to myself and I was not going to allow anyone else to hurt me. This
mentality was instilled in me when I first went into the Maryland Penitentiary by men whom were
there for murder, contract killings, and other criminal acts. These men raised me and other youths
whom came into that facility and told us that the only way to fight the system was to learn the
system, meaning become familiar with the laws that we had against us. I respected these men, I
still respect them and to this date I communicate with those that have not died in prison, died after
being released because they were not the reason I was imprisoned.
Out in the court yard the next day, my partner, Daniel "Duck:" Jones and I walked around
talking about the case and the hearing that took place, I told him that my next hearing was set for
October 1984, and he said that's fucked up Slim, you know these people will do anything to keep
this out of the news he said, why don't you write to them and send them a copy of you documents
for them to report on your case, I told him that I was leery of the way my mail was now being
handled, my name was called over the loud speaker advising me that I had an attorney visit, and
when I went into the visiting area, here was the Public Defender assigned case was waiting with a
big smile on his face. Then he said~ "Leslie, Kurt Schmoke told me to come down to see you and
let you know that he is willing to release you if you'd plead nolo contender to one count of the
original information filed against you, and you'll be released with time served the same day you
accept this deal. He then said that Mr. Schmoke told him to let me know that he was aware I had
another parole hearing coming up, and if I don't go along with the deal he has made, he will
contact the parole commission, and have my parole denied, meaning I would have to serve the
remainder of the twenty-year sentence, he the said that Mr. Schmoke, told him to let me know that
he and Judge Robert Bell were good friends, and he would have Judge Bell deny my petition for
relief based on the original "in-court identification" made by Mr. Chester. I looked at this Public
Defender, and told him to get the fuck out of my face and tell Mr. Schmoke to kiss my ass, I was
not pleading guilty to any crime, I had not committed, and if he wanted to approach the parole
commission he could, because they already had told me I would not be released until I
acknowledged my role in the robbery, which I refused to do. My rationale was now that I had the
documents showing the victim made a mistake, I could present that to the board and go from
there. I left that visiting area pissed off, greatly because here was my own attorney delivering I messages to me from
the States' Attorney, threats to be factual. After a few choice words I had to
say to the Public Defender, I called for the Escort Officer, to return me to my cell. On the way to
my housing area, the Escort Officer told me that he was sorry he voted for Kurt Schmoke, and
would not have believed the shit he heard if someone told him it had happened.
When I reached my cell, I $started writing letters to Mr. Allan Murrell, Director of the Public
Defender’s Office, informing him or the conversation I had just had with the attorney from his staff,
I requested that this man be removed from my case, because I felt and believed that he was
working in collusion with the States' Attorney, my next letter went to Mr. Kurt L. Schmoke, informing him that I did not
appreciate him sending threats by the Public Defender's Office
concerning my pending parole hearing and if he wanted to contact them, it would be his decision,
my final letter was sent to Honorable Judge Robert Bell, of the Circuit Court, informing him that the
Public Defender had visited me, and I explained to him in detail the contents of his threats
regarding the opinion being influenced based on their friendship.
During the time I was awaiting the court hearing, my mother came to visit me for the first
time since I'd been back off escape, and I was so glad to see her, she also had two [2] fellows
with her and I spoke to them in greeting and kept right on talking with her, not really paying
attention to the two [2] fellows other than to note they were big, finally she asked me "Leslie you
don't know who this is do you, motioning to the fellows with her, and I told her no, then I looked at
them real close and realized that they were my two [2] younger brothers, Craig and Jeffrey. I
hugged them and we all started talking about the things which we had not spoken about in the
past.

Just before my court date of October 16th, 1984, I called my Godmother because her
birthday was the same day I was scheduled for Court, and we talked about what I would do once I
was released, automatically return to New York, I never wanted to see Maryland ever again ... 1 did
not sleep the night before my court hearing and spent time talking with the fellows on the section
where we were housed about the things I should be on the lookout for, especially the fellows we
were confined with whom ran back and forth into the prisons wanting nothing from life, but mainly
my thoughts were on ''what would the State try to do now”?

Suddenly the transportation Officer was at my cell door telling me to pack everything I
had up for Court and this and made me aware the State was about to release me from the
hardship, mental stress and hard life I had been living for the last ten [10] years. Walking from the
housing section to their Center Hall area for shackles and handcuff connection, I was greeted by
fellows wishing me the best and telling me how proud they were that I did not give up my fight.

Again, my case was the last in the Courthouse and after the case was called, Judge Bell,
stated that he had received my letter concerning the threat made regarding him denying me relief
based on the original in-court identification and he wanted it known that "no one" could influence
his decision, he then asked me whether I would accept the deal offered by Mr. Schmoke and held
the opinion in his hand, as I looked around the court room it was clear to me that I had no win with
these people and if I continued fighting from prison, I would never get the truth out of what took
place, I asked Judge Bell if I took the deal from Kurt Schmoke, would I be released then, he stated
that he would make a call and be back on the bench, several minutes later he returned to the
bench and told me that I would be release immediately in the morning because the paper work
could not be completed tonight by the time I was returned to the prison, I agreed to accept the
deal from Mr. Schmoke, as long as it would grant my release right then, Mr. Schmoke came over
to speak to me, but I turned away and asked the transportation Officer to take me out of there
before I say or do something I regret.

On our way back to the Maryland House of Correction located in Jessup Maryland, I rode
in silence, I was transported by automobile, instead of the usual van, plus I was handcuffed in
front instead of shackled hand and foot. Once I got into the jail I was escorted directly to my cell
and a tray of food was brought to me, I was not permitted to mingle with the regular population but
the fellows came to bring me sandwiches and juice instead of the tray served in the dining room.
As I lay down on my bunk for the very last time, I smiled because, at last....
I would be free ...into a world I had not been in for ten (10) years.
7:15 NM October 17th, 1984.
Leslie Vass, Time to Go .... COURT RELEASE
GOD ALLAH IS GREAT AND MERCIFUL.
I

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