After the Madness, A Judge's Own Prison Memoir

Excerpt: Description of Jonathan Pollard [page 112]

Judge Sol Wachtler - Published by Random House - 1997

J4JPnews - November 5, 2007


Driving down the Long Island Expressway in November of 1992, Sol Wachtler was New York's Chief Judge and heir apparent to the New York Governorship. Suddenly, three van loads of FBI agents swerved in front of him -- bringing his car and his legal career to a halt. Wachtler's subsequent arrest, conviction and incarceration for harassing his longtime lover precipitated a media feeding frenzy, revealing to the world his struggles with romantic obsession, manic-depression and drug abuse.

Circa 1993-94 Wachtler was incarcerated at FCI Butner, North Carolina, where he became acquainted with Jonathan Pollard. Pollard had been transferred to FCI Butner in the Spring of 1993, after years in solitary confinement .

Wachtler later wrote a book about his prison experiences "After the Madness, A Judge's Own Prison Memoir" published in 1997. In his book, Wachtler draws upon his unique experience of living life on both sides of the bench to paint a chilling portrait of prison life interwoven with a no-holds-barred analysis of the shortcomings of the American legal justice system.

The following excerpt from the book is Wachtler's description of Jonathan Pollard.

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"When I had the opportunity to speak to Jonathan, most often as he walked to and from his prison job as a tailor, we had long and engaging conversations almost Talmudic in nature. Strange, two prisoners in Butner, North Carolina, discussing matters of faith and Hebraic philosophy.

He is a man of profound faith, who told me that he did not want to be cast in the role of martyr. He felt that the faithful should be motivated by ideals, and not by individuals or their deeds. I reminded him that it is the conduct of individuals that exemplified ideals, and therefore the exaltation of those individuals was both natural and appropriate. His Talmudic response was that if the ideal becomes so much identified with a person, and that person should be corrupted or exhibit some human failing, then the ideal would be similarly diminished. That, he said, would be unfair to the individual and the deal.

He does not come across as a rabid spy, and yet he concedes his guilt in passing secrets to Israel. He makes the point that his eight years in solitary confinement at the penitentiary at Marion has been punishment enough, and his supporters note that no one convicted of espionage in this country has ever served more than ten years. Furthermore, Pollard's guilty plea was in the context of a plea agreement whereby the prosecutor stipulated that a five-year sentence would be sufficient. Nevertheless the judge ignored the plea agreement and sentenced Pollard to a life term in prison.

It is impossible to be in the presence of this soft-spoken and gentle man without feeling that eight years in solitary confinement is indeed, punishment enough for him.

A month after Rabin's request was heard by President Clinton, Pollard's plea for commutation of his sentence was rejected. At that time I was back in solitary under "protection" after I was stabbed. As I was walking through the compound, in handcuffs, I walked past Jonathan. I told him how sorry I was that his commutation had been denied. His answer was "Never mind that. How are you being treated?""