By Ray Peleckas, Founder
As I awoke on the morning of April 10, 2000, I had no idea this would be my first day in prison. I had a court hearing set for 9am which was not unusual. Over a period of almost a year, I had been in and out of so many court hearings for that ill fated incident that changed the course of my life. On this day, however, I was not returning home with my parents.
After many discussions between the judge and attorneys, I remember the judge saying I had two options:
Option One: accept the plea bargain which was 30 days in prison, house arrest for 6 months upon my release and 3 years probation with 11 months suspended.
Option Two: go to trial and if a jury found me guilty I'd be sentenced to serve 12 months in prison, mandatory no parole.
Upon hearing my two options, I immediately turned around to my parents for any support they could give me from across the room. Instead, I found my mother sobbing uncontrollably in my father’s arms. I can still remember the profound sense of guilt that overwhelmed my being and the thought that ran through my head: "I am the worst son on the planet.” Amidst all of the sadness and fear that was engulfing me, I also remembered making a promise to myself that:
“I am going to spend the rest of my life making my parents proud of me."
After the judge presented my options, he told me to take some time with my attorney and family to make a decision. The four of us walked outside the courtroom to the parking lot where we discussed each option. My mother was still crying in my father’s arms saying we had to take this to trial because we could beat the charges. My attorney highly disagreed and suggested we take the plea deal to avoid a potential 12 months in prison. Deep down I knew the lawyer was right. Taking the plea deal was the fastest way to putting the pieces of my life back together. I could still go to college, play football, make up for my irresponsible behavior and make my parents proud of me once again.
So there I was... standing in court next to my attorney while he told the judge we accepted the plea bargain. It was one thing to make the choice out in the parking lot surrounded by the security and support of my parents, but it was another thing altogether to stand there by myself in front of the judge and accept my fate. To this day, I have never been so utterly scared in my entire life. The fear taking over my body made me completely numb.
I remember trying to shake myself out of the darkness that was engulfing me and thinking to myself "Get your shit together!! Man up. You fucked up and now you have to pay the price. This is nobody's fault but your own."
The judge asked me if I understood what was going on and I replied confidently, "Yes, your honor." It was as if the words had not even escaped my mouth before everything blurred together into this whirlwind of insanity. Basically, the shit got real. Moments after I answered the judge, a bailiff slapped the cuffs and shackles on my body and I was escorted to the basement of the courtroom where the holding cells were located. There were no goodbyes to my parents, no hugs from them, no lasting moments of comfort and support to take with me! As I was escorted out of the courtroom, all I heard was the sound of my mother wailing as I disappeared into the darkness of the basement. I spent a solid 4 to 5 hours sitting in this cell alone with just my thoughts and the faded sounds of my mother’s despair. No people, no food, no noise, nothing! I distinctly remember every second of this moment because this was when I had no choice but to became a MAN.
Stay tuned to hear about my first night in the big house....