Man robs Home Federal in Pacific Beach to see his daughter

A heist-mesiter tells all

"I was 25 years and 6 days old when the police threw me into a jail cell.... I was sentenced by a federal judge to 46 months in federal prison."

Sean Legacy found his publisher, Greathouse, in the back pages of the New York Review of Books while in prison.

Sean Legacy found his publisher, Greathouse, in the back pages of the New York Review of Books while in prison.

Sean Legacy robbed a bank in Pacific Beach. He also wrote a book over the four years he was in various jails called Point Zero Bliss. It is the kind of book you pick up and then set down quickly, maybe pace or smoke, do some chores, turn on the tube and then—to hell with it—you pick it up again because you know you are only going to read the whole damned thing anyway sooner or later. A recurring nightmare I've had since childhood is confinement, imprisonment, shackles, guards, and escape. One exquisite, torturous dream, an epic of paranoia and suspense, is the one about the concentration camp.

I'm in this Dachau-like compound, somehow dig my way out to a vast forest, which, as it turns out, is ultimately surrounded by wire and klieg lights; I climb the fence, over the barbed wire, and enter a town. The town appears normal in every way: shops and streets, people walking their dogs, etc. Before long I discover that the town is a fake. It is an extension of the vast Chinese puzzle box prison system. The smiling civilians are all trustees who turn me in to the guards, and I am back in the concentration camp.

I usually wake up stifling a scream. Sometimes it doesn't get stifled. The cops came to my door one time; a neighbor complained. I just told the cops I had these nightmares. They seemed to understand.

I met Legacy at the Southern California Writers' Conference at the Sheraton Four Points in Kearny Mesa where I was giving a couple of talks. Legacy looked like an A&R man for a record company in the '70s or a Hollywood agent: his jet hair was tied back in a ponytail; he wore colorless square-rimmed eyeglasses, a navy three-piece suit with tasteful red-tinged necktie. He carried a briefcase.

Over drinks in the hotel bar he sipped club soda and showed me his book Point Zero Bliss (he refers to it as PZB). I glanced at the blurbs on the back, which read, in part, "...it is more a record of spiritual discovery than a journal of prison life." When I asked him what the title meant, he pointed to another blurb. It is taken from the text:

By having nothing, when anything comes along, like a cigarette or a letter, it is an event to be savored. Our lives have been reduced to nothing. Point Zero. But give us a smoke and we are for the moment content. This is a state I call Point Zero Bliss. It is for these moments a prisoner survives, for without them the strain of living would be too much to bear.

My sympathy for criminals is almost nonexistent. But my ability to resist a good story never existed. Sarcastically, I asked, "You were innocent, right?"

"Oh no," he deadpanned, his voice in the range of a bass viola. "I was guilty." He began to tell me about it.

"I was living out here in P.B., just writing songs and hanging on the beach. I'm not from here, though. I'm from Massachusetts. I'd been out here a little while, and I got a call from an old bandmate from a group I was in called the Fugitives. He said, 'Why don't you come back? I got this great bass player, drummer, drummer's cousin's got this studio, we can make some tapes." And I hadn't seen my daughter in a long time." It occurs to me that Legacy sounds a little like Stallone in the Rocky movies. I wonder if it's an affectation. Later, I would realize not really.

"She was about five years old then, Stephanie. I've got her name tattooed over my heart. I had it done in jail on her birthday. So I got this phone call and I was thinkin' about her and I.... You know, I didn't really plan this. It just, I don't know...it happened. This was not premeditated bank robbery. The way that it happened was I woke up and put on a pair of black beach shorts and a white t-shirt. Then I found myself putting on these dead-clown pants over the shorts."

"Excuse me, dead-clown pants? What...?"

"It just beach slang for these baggy, gaudy-colored pants with a drawstring waist. Actually there were Velcro. The joke is, it looks like you stole 'em off a dead clown. Then I pulled a tie-dyed shirt over my white t-shirt. I remember thinking to myself, Man, this is gonna be different.

"See, at that point in my life I was really in the fast lane. I was drinkin' a lot, spending, like, $200 a day just partying. I had just lost my job working for a construction and plumbing company—one of the biggest in San Diego. I'd been working for them for a couple of years. I had had a nice house out in University City, but this stuff was gone.

"So I found myself with this escape outfit on all of a sudden. I had my hair up in a hat, like one of those Grateful Dead, multicolored Rasta beret kind of jobs. I didn't really know if I had the guts to go through with it because I'm a totally passive person. I've really never gone out to inflict harm on anybody or do something mean-spirited.

"The first bank I was gonna rob, I chickened out. This was on Garnet. I wrote the note on the back of the withdrawal slip—the classic thing. I'm standing in line and I'm thinking, I can't do this, I can't do this... The teller says something to me like, 'Can I help you?' and I'm going, 'Uh, uh...uh.' Then I ask, 'Does so-and-so still work here?' She says, 'I've never heard that name.' And so I flee. But not too far. I walk down the street and there is another bank, at that time, Home Federal."

I keep waiting to ask him about a gun, but he's talking fast now and I don't want to interrupt.

"I get in line at Home Federal, and there's this old guy in front of me. He's encouraging me to go ahead of him, and I'm really hesitant about this whole thing. I really didn't know what I was doing, but I did it anyway. I go up to the teller and I hand her the note. The teller was extremely jovial. I'm smiling and she's smiling back at me."

I have to interrupt him. "She wasn't scared? What if she vapor-locked on you? Had a heart attack?"

"She didn't seem scared. She was smiling and I told her, 'Look, I'm not kidding. Hurry up.' I didn't have a gun. I didn't have a weapon. I didn't have anything except my dead-clown pants.'" Legacy laughs. "All of a sudden she starts piling up this huge stack of money in front of me. I'm stuffing it in my pocket, right? I go to leave and I'm dropping, like, fifties, and twenties on the floor. People are shouting at me, 'Hey! Hey!' But I'm all, Check, please! Gotta go.

"I go out the rear entrance of the bank and walk into the back door of Stingers bar. Now, this is like bank robbery 101. I go into the back of Stingers, go into the men's room, which was right by the rear door; I take off the tie-dyed shirt, take off the hat, the sunglasses, the dead-clown pants, and I stuffed 'em into the bottom of the trash. I walked directly out the front door wearing a pair of black shorts and a t-shirt. I walked a few feet down the street and into the front door of Plum Crazy's. I ordered one of those jumbo beers that they sell in there. It was so funny because, this is, like, my area. Everyone who comes in there knows me. I mean, like, the postman; every day at noon when he came in, we'd play a game of pool."

"Were you stoned or high when you robbed the bank?" I had to ask.

"No, I was straight. A little hung-over, but..."

"Didn't you really do this for band equipment?" Legacy had mentioned something to that effect earlier.

"no. I did it for my daughter. In fact, that was one of the headlines back in Massachusetts when they arrested me: MAN ROBS BANK TO SEE HIS DAUGHTER or something like that."

Against my instincts not to interrupt him, another overrides. What if this is a mostly fabricated story? "When was the exact date of the robbery?"

"May 1, 1992...or it might even have been 1991 because there was, like, a year and six months that I was on the run. There was so much time in those days that I don't remember. I can show you my indictment, there's a date on that—it's so cool—it says "United States of America versus [real name here] Sean Legacy.'"

"All right, so what happened next? You're in Plum Crazy drinking a giant beer and...?"

"I walked on down the street to the Haircut Store and got a haircut. Now what happens in a bank robber like this is that you get a stack of singles and twos and fives and tens and a stake like this of fifties and hundreds." Here Legacy holds his thumb and forefinger out separated by maybe one inch. "So I had all these two dollar bills and I tipped the haircutter with two of them, four dollars. I mean, I've got this wad of money in my picket that's as big as a softball."

"Wait a minute," I'm interrupting again. "What about ink?"

"I specified no exploding ink in the note. Back then they didn't have those electronic chips that are like trackers. The way they beat those now is with one of those zappers, you know, stun guns: two metal prongs, demagnetizers."

At this point in the conversation at the hotel bar, it was time for me to attend a seminar given by a friend. I gave Legacy my card, said I'd see him around the campus over the weekend and that I wanted to hear the rest of the story. He said, "Sure."

Cut to the next day. I'm giving a talk on "Ensemble Writing" in a conference room with some 14 or 16 people furiously writing down, it seems to me, everything that I'm saying—God help them. Legacy walks in and seats himself next to me. Only I don't recognize him at first. He now looks like the biker sergeant at arms he once was in Massachusetts for a club called the Devil's Disciples. Thrashed-at-the-knee Levi's, sleeveless t-shirt exposing some pretty good prison tattoos of dragons, etc., he's got a leather jacket thrown over his shoulder; he's wearing sunglasses and his hair is out of the ponytail, but still slicked back.

"Hey, Johnny," he says. "Don't let me interrupt. You were saying, 'The adverb is our enemy,' or some shit, right? He's doing an uncanny imitation of me. But he is now Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll with the briefcase and the suit has, with the tacit approval of the other writers and students at the conference who have bought every copy of his book, been given permission to be "The Bad Boy."

That night, Legacy hangs out with novelists, TV writers from L.A., playwrights, poets, those with professional writer's block, and the women who love them. Everyone's drinking at the bar. It's Sunday and the students and teachers acknowledge that the weekend is all over except of the moaning the following day, but Legacy cannot drink anything except Coca-Cola: it's a parole violation. "My P.O. would smell a glass of wine on my breath a week from Tuesday."

I suggest we meet at my apartment to play some music (Legacy turns out to be a pretty good guitarist; instruments were passed around the hotel lobby that night—it was where the piano was—some obscenities were shouted and security had to close down the drunken WriterPalooza Fest). I wanted to hear the rest of Legacy's story. The story "According to Legacy."

And that's all this is.

He shows up the next day, about sundown. I don't feel guilty about drinking a beer while he sucks on a liter of Dr. Pepper like it's the tit of all mothers.

He wants me to play "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, but no one can make me do that. We play some blues instead. Later, he talks.

"I went back to my friend's beach house after the haircut, you know? I pulled out the money, counted it, and it was $1300. I went to the music store right away. Well, actually, the first thing I did was figure our how much my ticket back [to Massachusetts] was gonna be. It would cost me, like, $200 for a one-way ticket to Logan [airport]; that left me $800 for equipment and $300 to find a girl in Massachusetts and shack up with her." Here, he laughs. Maybe it was a chuckle or, more technically, a chortle. I listen back to the tape four, five times, I still can't be sure. "That was my strategy," he says. "I wasn't thinking very clearly in those days." His face slackens and his eyes gravitate toward the wrought iron gate on my ground-floor apartment front door. His eyes shift back and forth to the 15-by-20-foot living room walls, the room where we are sitting, back to the iron gird bars and embellishments of the metalwork fancifully designed to look like hearts (or conversely, butts), and I have to ask, "You want me to open that up?"

"No, it's okay." Looking at him, eyes darting, face flushed, I know it's not okay. "I gotta call my parole officer," he says. "Where's the phone?" I point.

The whole time he's on the phone with his P.O. his face is suffused with guilt or fear, desperation or that point you get to just before you hit someone or you cry—or both.

We pick up the conversation after Legacy volunteers to go in for a urine test that day or any day his P.O. wants him to. The P.O. gives him until tomorrow, and Legacy's face returns to its normal shade. I put my beer away, pour it down the sink. I hear Legacy muttering, "This whole deal is set up to put me back inside."

"So the next day, after the robbery, I mean," I'm yelling from the kitchen, "your'e on a plane back East, right? You figured you got away with it."

"I did. I went back and played with this band, we all my songs. We called it [the band] Breakaway. I met this girl and I was staying with her. At some point I called from her house to talk to a friend of mine back in California. This guy worked for the company that I used to work for and he said, 'Man, the FBI is looking for you. They came to the shop.' I figured I better call my old boss." He takes a long pull on the Dr. Pepper.

"I was told on. I made the mistake of telling somebody I was close to, and they gave me up for the reward money."

"How much?"

"I have no idea and no interest in that person or any of the aspect of the whole thing. It was my mistake. I cannot blame it on anyone else."

"So, revenge is not on your mind?"

"Revenge is not on my mind."

"But you probably know where the guy lives, right?"

He laughs and looks at the ceiling. "Yeah, he lives in San Diego. So I call my boss and the first thing he says is 'What did you rob that bank for?' I said, 'What do you mean? Rob a bank? What on earth do you mean?' He said, 'Sean, the FBI was here, they had pictures form the bank cameras.' I said, 'Yeah? What did they look like?' He said, 'Man, they look like you!'"

While Legacy is speaking, the tape running, I look at the clutch of penciled poems he constructed in prison. He handed them to me and said, "Maybe you could use these in the article." I had glanced at them and groaned inwardly, I don't think so. If for no other reason than the fact that, usually, 99.9 percent of the time somebody hands you their poetry unsolicited, it is not so much awful as painfully mediocre. I don't critique Legacy's stuff because I don't know how. In high school, the guys I smoked grass with thought Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg were great. I didn't. Guess I was wrong and they were right. Whatever. Here's some stuff from Legacy Inside.

  • Liquid eyes of sapphires fire
  • I could gaze forever upon
  • Her face formed by an Angel's breath
  • that blew a misty cloud through cool [illegible. 'air'?]
  • Her touch so light as a dandelion's seed on the wind...
  • ...And then, in the deepest dungeon
  • In the darkest dark
  • The place where souls go mad for eternity
  • I lifted my head up from my arms
  • And she stood before me
  • And leaning forward as to kiss me
  • she whispered in my ear
  • And set me free.
  • "Mother Freedom" — 1/95

"So," I suggest, "your disguise was not as effective as you had hoped?"

"Well, what it was was the short-sleeved tie-dyed shirt which left my tattoo exposed. I got this tattoo when I was like, 12." He points to a small psychedelic logo from the '70s rock group Blue Oyster Cult. "I guess they used, like, these NASA cameras or something to home in on it, enlarge it, and da da da. Anyway, I had been in Massachusetts for some months and now I knew the FBI was coming for me. I immediately quit the band. I did what I thought was fairly smart and immediately jumped on a plane back to San Diego. I stayed out in San Diego for about a month. I called back to Massachusetts, and my friends told me, yeah, the FBI is looking for you, they were just here, etc. As soon as they weren't around anymore, I flew back to Massachusetts to see this girl.

"The girl was really freaked out because when she first met me I was like Joe California, Mister Guitar Player, tan, that whole thing. But I had dropped the band and that whole image and began running with a biker gang called the Devil's Disciples."

"So you ran with these bikers before you even visited this girl?"

"Yeah, I prospected with them for awhile. That's what they call it, 'prospecting.' But I kind of fell out of it because it was such a crazy lifestyle. I remember one scene when I came home and Marie [his girlfriend] had this sister who hated me. I had this sawed-off shotgun under a long coat and I came in and dropped it. I was messed up. I went into Marie's room, and I've got two pistols and clips and bullets and shotgun shells and I've got a boot knife and a trench knife, small daggers. It was a scene right out of Mad Max. It was, like, clunk, clunk, cluck, click, click, click, bullets falling on the floor." He laughs here. "Marie says, 'Sean, you're not the man I used to know.' I said, 'Yes, I am, honey, I just took my mask off.'" Now Legacy sounds oddly like Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona.

"I was really afraid of going to prison, and I knew I couldn't run forever. I was living in my hometown [Greenfield] in this paranoid state of mind." To ask why he was carrying guns if he was so afraid of prison strikes me as being too rhetorical, so I let it go.

"When they finally caught me, it was, like, 'What took you guys so long?'"

I'm glancing at another of his poems:

  • Thrown out the window of society
  • America's dirty water
  • Eyes looking out the window at freedom's past
  • Seeing only brick and steel
  • Life reduces to point zero bliss
  • But they cannot take my word
  • They cannot take my pen, my words
  • They chop away at the concrete that has become my heart
  • I will not concede my soul

Legacy did not come from a deprived background. Greenfield, Massachusetts is hardly Compton, California. "Yes," agrees Legacy, "there was money involved in my family, but my family would never do anything for me. They held the title of the Most Dysfunctional Family since 1968, the year I was born. They were never there for me, they were always all screwed up with their own things. My father wasn't screwed up and he had money. There were times I went to him for help and he made me a stronger person. He made me who I am. He gave me strength by absence. He grew up a lot like me and he made it. I think his philosophy was, 'If I could do it, he can do it.'

"I called my dad up one time when some really scary stuff was coming down because I grew pot. I told him the truth and he said, 'I've got to get out of town NOW!' So he shows at the airport in his Armani suit. I'm wearing shredded jeans, a leather jacket, and I've got two days' growth of beard. He's a big ex-Marine. He did two tours in Vietnam. He grabs me by my shirt and says, 'We gotta talk,' and pulls me into a corner. He says, 'The drinkin' and the carousing, all the crazy stuff you do? I can handle that up to here. But drugs? Dope? If I find out you're ever doing dope again, that's it, you're done!' I was maybe 17 or 18 then. Everything was going wrong, and I thought it was going to be that way forever, so at some point during that time, say, between 17 and 21 when you're looking for your identity, I decided, fuck it, there are no rules — I'll take what I want.

"When I was arrested, it was not for bank robbery, but for a previous charge and parole violation. So I was sentenced first by the state and then by the federal government. When I first fell they had just abolished the Pell Grants [for prisoners to earn college degrees]. The concept I guess was, 'We're creating a smarter criminal,' which was really ridiculous but I signed up anyway and found out it had been canceled. So I had to totally educate myself. I read a lot of nonfiction about existentialism and psychology, then Chaucer and all this stuff, and I did this for two years nonstop. I had books stacked up everywhere in my cell."

"What," I ask, "about Charles Bukowski? As I read your book it strikes me that you might be a fan of his work."

"When I saw the movie [Barfly] with Mickey Rourke, I identified with him. It was one of my favorite all-time moves because this guy was brilliant and everybody thought he was a loser. He would sit in his little room and write stuff. In that aspect I kind of parallel him."

Legacy spent the next four years being shifted from one prison to another, five altogether: Among them, Hampshire County House of Correction, Otisville Prison in New York, and "Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. This was a maximum-security federal prison. It was so bizarre. It's like the original 'Big House.' It's got this wall around the whole place and everything. This place is like a castle, everything is made out of big chunks of stone, and they used the hospital as a holding area."

"Because of overcrowding?" I ask.

"Not necessarily, it's just what they did. All prisons are overcrowded. Anyway, I'm in the hospital holding area with 56 other guys and we could go to the weight room and the chow hall, which is like walking into a church or something — these huge ceilings and pillars. It smelled like death and the people you would see.... It was like that line from Steppenwolf [the rock band, not the Hesse novel], 'Tombstones in their eyes.'

"We would yell over to the cells from the hospital wing. This was wintertime, but the windows were cracked and we could hear them talkin' and stuff. We'd yell over there to these guys, 'Hey! See you in the year 2030!' or stuff like that. I'm never imagining that I would be sent there, associating with these people that are doing forever, or as we called it in prison, 'All day.'

"I woke up one morning and 40-some guys were gone. They had been shipped out. Then my bus came and I got dressed out."

"What does that mean? Dressed out."

"Well, it's really humiliating, but you get so used to it it's not a big deal. It's where they take all your clothes and they go through your hair and check behind your ears, hold out your hands, turn 'em over, lift up your feet, left one, right one, bend over, spread your cheeks—it could mean two months). What happened is I got in this beef with my boss because I was making wine." By his "boss," Legacy means a federal employee, a civilian, neither guard, trustee, nor prisoner. The boss was head of the plumbing shop. Such employees headed up electrical, welding, and carpentry shops.

"You're making wine in jail?" I ask, a little incredulously. I had heard of fermenting raisins into a high-proof liquor called "pruno." But I'd never heard of making actual wine in prison.

"Yeah, I'll get to that. They put me in solitary for that and threatened to send me to a federal penitentiary for real—not just temporarily in a hospital wing. I said, 'I'm doing 46 months. I don't think so.' But they did. I couldn't believe it when they came to my cell door and said, 'You're being transferred to United States penitentiary Allenwood' [again, in Pennsylvania], about 12 miles from Lewisburg. I first saw Allenwood on my way to McKean. We stopped there, and this place is the newest, most secure prison in the country. They have low, medium, and maximum security. We stopped at each one because on a transport bus you have a mixture of security levels. It took 45 minutes just to clear the sally port area because we're offloading this one guy into maximum. I remember joking, looking at the guard towers like in some World War II movie, talking to the guys on the bus saying, you know, hah hah hah. I'll never see the likes of this place. And fuckin' sure enough I got shipped there. I got shipped there because they said I was incorrigible."

"What made them think you were incorrigible?" I want to make sure I have this right. "Because of that beef with your boss?"

"Yeah, for making wine in toilet tanks." He's going to tell me about this when he's ready, I figure. But there are other things he needs to say.

"Incarceration is a mindfuck. I had a constant moral dilemma with prison. I never agreed with the philosophy of incarceration and especially the mass incarceration philosophy that's going on now. They were trying to get me to adapt—not to society, but to prison. Conditioning me to be a professional prisoner. I mean, I'm surrounded by all these fuckin' nut cases and you want me to make my bed at seven in the morning? Get out of here!"

I mention that making one's bed at 7:00 a.m. seems less cruel and unusual than some of the other indignities, but he is intent on barreling on, and possibly I've missed his true point.

"There used to be incentive in the prison system. For example, if you went into school, rehabilitation programs, drug and alcohol awareness programs, they would give you good time awards for that. That would give you incentive to better yourself and get out. The 1987 comprehensive crime bill abolished virtually all of those programs. Then Janet Reno comes along and says, 'There's gonna be no more good time in the federal prison system, period.' It wasn't specifically her, but there was all this lobbying going on. When they cut the incentives, there were two major philosophies. One of them was, 'Well, okay, these guys are going to do this dire amount of time. Let's at least give them a commissary where they can smoke cigarettes and buy sodas' and the other was 'Fuck that. They're in there for punishment. Let's make 'em suffer.'

"What's happening right now, and I predicted this in Point Zero Bliss: An explosion. These riots do jump off...." Legacy shrugs, as if to say, I'm tired of telling people this, but you're gonna see riots like you've never seen before.

The sun is going down on Robinson Avenue, backlighting the wrought iron bars on my front door, casting a shadow over one wall, the chair Legacy sits in, and his face.

"A lot of the present overcrowding is fallout from the War on Drugs. Most of the people that are in there are in for minor infractions related to drugs. They're taking up a major portion of the prison population."

"Are you gonna tell me about this wine business?" I ask.

"Oh, yeah, sure. Some of that's in the book. I met this guy, Winebucket, and he taught me how to make wine. In prison you have to have a hustle. If you don't, you're just a mark, a chump. They say there are two kinds of people in prison, those that make money and those who pay money. So, yeah, wine was my hustle. I was an entrepreneur.'

"I figured out this great concept of pulling the toilets off the walls and placing the wine bags in the chasm, which was great because the chasm was the ventilation system, so there's no smell; they could shake down all the cells they wanted to and they could never find my stuff.'

"The bags that I used were five-gallon milk bags that I washed out. The milk bags were great because they had a cap and a lid and they had that stupid poorer thing on it, which could be used as a breather — a wine bag has to have a breather. When you're making wine, you're using sugar and fruit. Fruit has a natural yeast in it so it automatically starts cooking after a day or two, so it has to have room to breathe. So I would take these milk bags — they kind of look like enema bags or something—and I'd cut the top off of the bag so it could breathe, put a blanket over the chasm, and I'd put, like ten gallons in at a time. It got to a point where I was producing 40 or 50 gallons of wine every week.

"I had these distributors. After a while all I would have to do was pull the toilets. I had guys that would sell it for me. I'd go to my locker and there would be this five gallon pail full of ice from the distributors with a gallon of wine, my personal stash. I was like Ernest and Gallo."

"When you say 'cooking the wine,' do you need heat?"

"No, you don't need heat, but you can't have cold. The fruit and sugar have to be at a certain temperature. When we'd get really desperate, like in solitary, we would take hot water from the shower and pour it into the stainless steel toilet bowls—which are excellent heat retainers, by the way. But the bowls would be cold at first and we would drop trou and warm up the stainless steel with our asses, get it warm, fill it with hot water, and we'd get these bags from the orderlies and we'd have oranges or dates with meals and we'd save up the sugar we were given. I would hoard everything, and when I was an orderly I would steal everything: oranges, sugar. This is how I capitalized on the solitary confinement situation.

"I would sell the wine to the drinkers for cigarettes, smuggle the cigarettes into disciplinary segregation [solitary] then I would sell the cigarettes for stamps, which is cash money. That was my strategy. I would hold out on the drinkers, not let them make their own wine—see, I worked in the mornings when the oranges and the sugar came in—and then I would sell them wine and take their cigarettes. You see? Things out very smoothly. This was in a maximum-security prison.

Legacy eventually gets around to telling me about how his best friend in jail, Andrew C. Marty, was killed by a man named David Hammer, strangled in a cell beneath Legacy so that he could hear it happening. He could also hear Hammer having sex with his friend after he killed him. It was the first homicide at that prison. He is reluctant to talk about it at any length. "The hardest part was not being able to see my daughter and the idea that she would tell people, 'My daddy is a robber.'" His daughter is now nine years old. Legacy has been unable to visit her in Massachusetts because of the terms of his parole. He is not leave San Diego.

Legacy found his publisher, Greathouse, in the back pages of the New York Review of Books while in prison. He sent them a handwritten query, in pencil on lined paper, the kind of query usually dismissed out of hand. John Fraim became entranced with the smudged pages and began correspondence with Legacy, much of which fell into a black hole in the prison mail system. Point Zero Bliss was published in March 1997.

"The federal government," I suggest to Legacy, "has told you in the most physical, personal, brutal terms that you are a criminal, you are a bad man. Do you sometimes believe them?"

"Not at all. It doesn't affect me that way at all. If you go to church once, it doesn't make you a Catholic. If you're a wild dog and you start running with all these wolves, eventually the dog is going to think he's a wolf. But the dog is never going to have the real aspects of a wolf. Never."

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