by Kenneth Justice
“Kenneth, so there I was on the phone with one of the most infamous Columbian drug lords of all times and he was offering me the proverbial keys to the kingdom” he said.
One of the nice perks of traveling is that you meet so many interesting people and the other day at coffee was no exception….in fact, the retired lawyer I met told me a tale that seemed so out-of-the-ordinary that while we were talking I looked up his name and photo via the New York Times Website to confirm that he was telling the truth.
Around thirty years ago the lawyer was starting out in his career as a defense attorney when he was handed a case which on the surface didn’t seem all that extraordinary; a young Columbian born man had broken parole and was facing an additional two – five years of jail time.
“Kenneth, the case was actually a pretty simple DUI traffic violation and since I knew the judge fairly well so I simply asked the judge privately if we could lessen the kid’s sentence just a bit and he was more than willing to oblige so we walked out of court that day with a mere six months in jail for my client; nothing more than a slap on the wrist” he said
What made the case extraordinary was not who the client was or the crime he had committed; it was who the young Columbian man worked for; Pablo Escobar.
During the early 1980’s Escobar was one of the most famous Columbian Drug Lords in existence and it turned out that the young Columbian man the lawyer had helped out was a drug mule for Escobar.
“Kenneth, that night I got home, took my shower, had dinner….everything was normal. And then as I was pouring my evening nightcap the phone rings and who is on the other end of the line; its Pablo Escobar himself!”
Escobar was so thrilled that the lawyer had gotten his employee’s jail time reduced that he had a proposition for the lawyer, “I want to fly you to Miami this weekend on my private jet and I want you to come to work for me” he said
By that time Escobar was front page headlines and the lawyer knew what kind of lifestyle awaited him, “Instantly I imagined bedrooms filled with women, drugs, hot tub parties, and the opportunity to see more money than most people see their whole lives” the lawyer said
Of course, working for a Drug lord could have its downside, “obviously I realized that things could turn out badly…he was a cocaine smuggler after all! But I was like 30 years old, just a kid, and this was a one chance in a lifetime opportunity” he said
The Lawyer turned Escobar down……”Pablo, look, everything in me wants to do it. I feel like I’m gonna hang up the phone and hit myself for telling you no. But both of my parents are dead and I know that they simply didn’t raise me for that kind of lifestyle”
According to the Lawyer, Escobar took the news well and after thanking him again for the work he did for his employee, they hung up and that was the end of it all. The lawyer went on to become a public defender and eventually received numerous awards for various work he performed over the years. And because of that one little traffic violation case the Lawyer ended up being interviewed by the New York Times multiple times over the years; “my name was always in the record book as being a lawyer that worked for one of Escobar’s employee’s. And even though the case didn’t really amount to very much, reporters are trained to interview every name that pops up” he told me
For most of us, temptation doesn’t really come our way in one single phone call from a Colombian Drug Lord. I suspect the average person deals with things on a more simple level;
—-) We’re sitting in a car with friends as teenagers and drugs are offered to us
—-) We’re sitting at a party and our friend’s wife or husband whispers in our ear that they want to have an affair with us
—-) We’re going through a particularly tough time and we see alcohol as a way to drown out our misery
As someone who worked as a drug counselor I was always very clear with my clients; its not what you did in your past that defines who you are as a person, its what you choose to do now that matters most.
The lawyer who is now retired took a lot of pride in telling me that story; he obviously enjoyed ‘name-dropping’ Escobar……but what impressed me the most is that while I often here people tell me stories about the ‘bad’ things they’ve done in life… this lawyer’s favorite story to tell is all about turning down temptation.
Time for another coffee,
If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of over 100 coffee shops. My next stop is in Atlanta the first weekend of March. Dates and locations are available on my website.
Categories: Culture & Society