Weird Scenes #120: Life In Prison For Truck Repair

Flag copyright New York Times

Fair is fair, even on this, the one true Bizarro World. I hope you’re sitting down because I’m about to write something nice about Ivanka Trump.

According to the Leafly newsletter, back in 2002, Craig Cesal was busted by the Feds because, in his dastardly disguise as the owner of a truck-repair business, he picked up a truck in Georgia that had been used previously for transporting three-quarters of a ton of weed. I know that’s hard to believe because Craig literally repaired trucks for a living, but he was convicted nonetheless.

Cesal was given a life sentence, and he served almost 19 years behind federal bars before he was released to electronically-tethered home confinement. This act of mercy happened because prison officials were concerned the 61-year-old involuntarily retired repairman might catch Covid had he stayed locked in close confinement in an environment where social distancing is totally beside the point.

Yeah, life for attempted truck-repair. But one goddamn lethal pandemic, and you’re out of there!

Hand of auto mechanic with a wrench. Car repair.

Please notice I said “out of here” and not “free.” Home confinement, even with some allowance for reasonable locomotion, is not “free.” A year ago that might be harder to understand, but if you or anyone you know is north of 60 you have some concept of the restrictions inherent in home lockdown. Certainly, it beats federal prison… and, for that matter, summary execution.

You fans of irony might appreciate this part. Having been locked up since 2002, Craig had no feeling for what it’s like to walk down the street right past a weed store and possibly be returned to serve the remainder of his life sentence just because his electronic bracelet told his overseers he walked past a legal weed store.

I gotta tell you, I am so glad I did not study car repair in high school.

For the record, and this shouldn’t be a thing anyway, Craig says he never “bought, sold, used, aided and abetted, nor participated in any marijuana activity.” And he sure as shit didn’t walk into that legal weed store on Western Avenue in his hometown of Chicago.

Copyright Leafly

Annnnnnd… here’s where Ivanka came into the picture.

On the night of January 19, Cesal received a phone call from the outgoing First Daughter. At “11 o’clock, I got a call from Ivanka Trump. She introduced herself, and her very words, which I’m sure I’ll never forget, were, ‘The president has commuted your sentence.’ … I have every reason to believe it was her. And she was very nice, with a little small talk and congratulating me and urging me on to a nice life.” Craig told Leafly. Of course, the commutation does help in vetting that phone call.

You should note that Craig received a commutation. Had he been convicted of murder or collaborating with the Russians to fix an election, he might have been more publicly exonerated, but I’m guessing if Cesal is going to be bitter — as I would be — he really isn’t going to be most bitter about that part.

Were I to have been sentenced to life in prison for the crime of being a truck repairman, I would have an entire crop of bitter, one so huge there isn’t enough water to irrigate it.

I don’t know who had the idea to do this, possibly Ivanka herself. That’s great. There is no way Craig can get his life back or be repaid in any form for the nearly two decades he spent locked up, but we cannot change the past.

However, we can learn from it.