By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
Wayne is calling long distance from the Hillsborough Correctional Institution near Tampa, where he just started serving four years for burglarizing a warehouse and taking 48 guns. The prison houses 334 boys, ages 14 to 19, almost all of whom have committed violent or repeated crimes. Unlike them, Wayne had never been charged with a crime before. "I guess I'm doing all right," the 17-year-old tells his parents, sounding dejected. "It was hectic last week. There was a riot."
He describes how another inmate whacked him from behind with a lock stuffed into a sock, while his friend got hit in the head with a rake and had to be airlifted to a hospital. His parents listen in horror. Danny, a husky 16-year-old who admits he goaded Wayne into participating in the caper that landed him in prison, sits nearby, looking glum. He received only juvenile probation, even though he's the one who actually did the breaking and entering.
Much too soon, the guard tells Wayne that his ten minutes are up. "Mom, I love you," he says and hangs up. Roxann puts the phone down with tears in her eyes. "I can't sleep at night," she says. "All I can think about is where my son is. I feel like my life is on hold." Ken says he can't wait to drive to Hillsborough again so that he can "touch" his son, who loves to hug.
Until he was 15 years old, Wayne, who stands 5 feet 11 inches and weighed 300 pounds at the time of his arrest, slept with a teddy bear called Mungo Lungo. Just before he was arrested, he started dating his first-ever girlfriend. But he's still a virgin, according to his mother. "He saw a kid raped in jail," she says, "and said to me, 'Mom, I don't want to lose my virginity that way.' We were all crying."
Roxann and Ken don't deny that their son bears considerable blame for his predicament. They pray that no one gets hurt by the weapons he helped turn loose on the streets, only two of which have been recovered. The Dagenais family's ordeal is a sobering lesson for all teenagers who don't think about the consequences of their actions. But it's also a case study of the injustices that can result when an essentially good kid engages in thoughtless misbehavior in a political atmosphere of panic over random gun violence. Although Wayne was a first-time offender, the authorities treated him like a hardened criminal. During their investigation Sunrise police officers took unfair advantage of Wayne and Danny -- two teenagers with learning disabilities who were unable to understand their legal rights. The Broward State Attorney's Office transferred Wayne to adult court -- an action supposedly reserved for the most dangerous and recalcitrant young villains. And in court the judge appeared to be unduly swayed by repeated references to the recent school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, and elsewhere.
One of those who recounted the horrors at Columbine High was the burglary victim, a former cop with a criminal record and a history of scams, who carelessly exposed the Dagenais boys to the guns. If he hadn't received a big break from the state attorney's office seven years ago, he wouldn't have been able to own guns legally in the first place.
Still, prosecutor Dan Losey feels Wayne got off easy with a youthful-offender sentence instead of harder time in an adult penitentiary. "The thing I'm most concerned about is there are guns out there that can shoot other children, thanks to him," he says. "He didn't get that many years. Hopefully, when he gets out, he'll never consider doing something like this again."
But Greg Lewen, who served as a special public defender at the juvenile court until recently, says Wayne's sentence illustrates the irrationality of the get-tough approach toward juveniles. "Who's being helped in this case?" he asks. "The victim isn't getting his restitution. The state's costs of incarcerating the kid are enormous. The kid isn't going to develop any career competency for when he gets out. This isn't public safety; it's a public fraud."
As a result of their sons' misadventures, Ken and Roxann Dagenais, who had no previous experience with the legal system, say they've learned a bitter lesson. "It's sad, because you always tell your kids to tell the truth," Ken says. "But I'll never trust a cop again."
Just after midnight on September 13, 1998, Danny Dagenais met up with 17-year-old Felicia Smith and 19-year-old Patrick Harris in front of an apartment in Plantation to carry out their planned burglary of a warehouse in Lauderhill. Danny was sharing the apartment with Wayne and his father, who was separated from their mother at the time.
Danny says the heist was Smith's idea. Danny had told her that he and Wayne had helped their employer, Leonard Firestein, move guns, jewelry, and other valuables from his Hollywood pawnshop to a storage facility on NW 38th Avenue in Lauderhill. She then concocted a plan to steal the guns to raise money to bring her fiancé to South Florida from Argentina, Danny contends. Smith, in her statement to police, put the blame on Danny, claiming he offered her $300 to act as lookout. But numerous discrepancies in her account raise doubts about her veracity.
Wayne had agreed to be the driver, but he was already in bed when Danny told him that night that it was time to go. Wayne, who loves to sleep, refused to get up, Danny says, but Smith began insulting his manhood, and Danny, then only 15 years old, threatened to drive their father's car himself. Wayne, who finally gave in, told New Times he was protecting his brother: "He said he'd go without me if I didn't go. The way I see it, blood sticks together." Says Danny: "He never wanted to do it. He's lazy and scared to do anything."
Taking their dad's station wagon, Wayne drove Danny, Smith, and Harris to the unoccupied storage facility. "It felt weird," he says. "I wasn't used to doing stupid shit like that. But I went along." While Wayne and Harris stayed in the car, Danny recalls, he and Smith broke in, unarmed. He cut two padlocks with his father's bolt cutter, then punched through the thin metal sliding door to get inside. He went straight to a hidden spot in the loft where Firestein had told him to put the guns. He and Smith grabbed three duffle bags full of guns, a box of ammunition, and several boxes of wine and cigars.
Ten minutes later Danny, Smith, and Harris loaded the booty into the car while Wayne sat up front. "Wayne was real paranoid," Danny recalls. "He just kept saying, 'Let's go, let's go.'" Wayne insists that he didn't know his brother had planned to steal guns until Danny told him what was in the bags. "He told me he was going to take jewelry," Wayne says.
Returning to the Dagenais residence at about 3 a.m., the four teenagers went to the pool in back of the apartment complex and sorted through the guns, some of which were loaded. Old-fashioned six-shooters were tossed into one bag, and more-valuable modern guns, such as a Ruger .357 and a 9 mm semiautomatic, were thrown in another. After hiding the ammo case and cigars in a nearby wooded area, they drove to the home of Danny's friend, 14-year-old Joey Kerr of Sunrise, to stash the guns. By prearrangement, Danny says, they handed Kerr the bags through a basement window. Wayne told police that he and his brother kept a pearl-handled revolver that Firestein had said belonged to Gen. George Patton. Smith took another gun, and Harris also took "a couple," Danny says. Afterward they went to Smith's place and swilled some of the stolen German wine.
The caper started to crumble the next day. Danny got a call from a friend who said Kerr was flaunting the guns. Danny rang Smith, who arrived by car with a friend to pick Danny up and recover the guns. They retrieved the duffle bags from Kerr, thinking they had all the guns, and dropped them off with several youths whom Danny says were friends of Smith's but whom he didn't know. One was Theresa Brown, of Lauderhill, who later told police that Wayne was not one of the three youths who delivered the guns to her house. Danny says Smith's friends were supposed to find buyers for the guns.
Unknown to the burglars, Kerr still had two of the stolen guns. Ten days after the heist, he and 14-year-old Brian Dagenais, Wayne's and Danny's younger brother who was living with their mother in Sunrise, skipped school. They went to Kerr's house, where Kerr showed off two loaded pistols, a .22 and a .357. While trying to unload the .22, Brian accidentally fired a bullet into Kerr's abdomen, piercing his intestine and liver. Brian fled in terror, and Kerr called for help and was airlifted to Broward General Medical Center, where he fully recuperated. When Sunrise police caught up with Brian later that day, he admitted that the guns at Kerr's house had been stolen by Wayne and Danny.
Sunrise police detectives Debbie Aycock and Dan Liotti, who didn't have arrest or search warrants, promptly drove to the Dagenais apartment in Plantation. When they knocked on the door, they said later in depositions, Wayne opened up and waved them in. Brothers Danny and Michael were also in the apartment, but their father was at work. Aycock said that Wayne stepped out of the apartment, and she questioned him while Liotti went inside and grilled Danny. "We began talking," recalled Aycock. "I explained to him the necessity of trying to locate these weapons. He said he would go with us voluntarily."
The brothers tell a very different story, one that raises questions about the legality of the detectives' actions. Police are not allowed to enter a private residence without being invited in, showing a warrant, having reasonable grounds to believe that a crime is in progress, or seeing something illegal in plain sight. (Sunrise police refused to comment for this article.) The boys insist that Michael answered the door. It would have been hard to mistake him for Wayne, who is four years older and at the time was 200 pounds heavier -- a discrepancy noted in the deposition of Louis Randazzo, another Sunrise cop at the scene. Asked by Wayne's attorney whether the kid talking to Aycock in front of the house looked "like the Pillsbury Doughboy" and was very heavy -- like Wayne -- Randazzo replied: "Not very heavy."
Michael says he told the cops to go away and tried to shut the door. But Aycock forced her way past him, he claims. Wayne and Danny, who were sleeping, jumped out of their beds and also told the police to get out. "Where are the guns? Where are the guns?" they say the police yelled back. "We know you got 'em."
Legally the brothers could have refused to cooperate. If they had, police could have arrested the boys while clearly stating their Miranda rights, including the rights to remain silent and to obtain an attorney. Michael says he tried to warn his brothers not to talk, but Wayne admitted his involvement in stealing the guns. "I'd never been arrested, so I didn't know the law," Wayne now says. The brothers contend that, while they were at the apartment, the detectives said nothing about an arrest or Miranda rights. And, according to the officers' sworn accounts, no arrest was made at that point. They say they told Wayne and Danny to accompany them to the station. By the time the boys got there, they'd given the cops confessions -- without the advice of their parents or an attorney. They were then arrested and read their rights. Emilio Benítez, a Fort Lauderdale attorney who defends juveniles, says that what the police did is legal but reprehensible. "If you question a child, at least you should have the decency to do so in the presence of the parents or an attorney," he explains, "especially when the child has below-average abilities to read and understand what's going on."
When she arrived at the station, Roxann says, she was told by police that, if her sons fully cooperated, they could go home that night. A licensed practical nurse who describes herself as "legal-stupid," Roxann advised Wayne and Danny to tell everything. So they gave taped confessions. But to her surprise the boys were then transported to the county juvenile detention center. "They lied to us," she says angrily. Maybe so, but cops are legally permitted to lie to get suspects to cooperate, Lewen notes.
After 21 days of detention, Danny was released. Wayne was transferred to Broward County Jail. Roxann says she and Danny cried when they realized that Wayne's case was being sent to adult court. "Danny kept saying, 'It should have been me, it should have been me,'" Roxann recalls. "He walks around with a lot of guilt because of this."
Danny, who's guarded about his feelings, won't admit that he cried. "I felt so happy when I was pulled out of detention," he says, "but I felt sad when they wouldn't let Wayne out."
While Wayne was talking with his parents on the phone from prison last month, Ken belched, and Roxann shot her husband a dirty look. She wants a divorce. The only reason they're still married is that, after separating last year, they had to move back together to be able to afford a good defense attorney for Wayne.
"My husband is a nice man and a very hard worker, but he's not the smartest person in the world," says Roxann, age 42, a short, round woman with bleached-blond hair who doesn't mince words.
Ken, also 42, is a short, affable man who has limped badly since childhood because of a congenital knee problem and subsequent botched surgical repairs. He graduated from high school without ever learning to read. When he and Roxann met as teenagers in Munster, Indiana, he was working in a steel mill, and she was studying to be a nurse. The couple dated on and off for several years, and just when Roxann was thinking of ending the relationship for good, her father died of a heart attack and her mother, who had a drinking problem, "went nuts." With her family life a mess, she decided to stick with Ken, and they got married. Her mother, who'd moved to South Florida to be close to Roxann's brother, invited the couple to come and share her duplex. Soon after they arrived, Roxann's brother and then her mother committed suicide.
The couple had four sons in quick succession. Because Ken could work only manual labor jobs and Roxann earned more money as a nurse, he stayed home and raised the boys. "They were great kids, so much fun," Roxann recalls. "It wasn't a bad marriage. But when you're raising kids, you really don't look at your life and ask, 'Is this what you really want?'"
Ken loved being Mr. Mom. Like him, though, the boys had severe problems learning to read. From first grade on, Wayne and Danny were placed in special classes for learning-disabled kids. Between that and their physical bulk, they were teased a lot. The taunts subsided only after Wayne beat up one of his sixth-grade tormentors and broke his ribs. (It was the last fight he ever got into, his parents say.) "Wayne had a temper," Danny says. "When someone is fat or ugly, you don't keep making fun of them, or they blow up. That's what I do when someone calls me illiterate."
When his sons got older, Ken found a job as a gravedigger. But he was laid off several years ago, and the family's finances got tight. To pay the bills, he began going to Leonard Firestein's pawnshop on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale to get loans on the family silverware and other valuables. He started bringing Wayne and Danny along to hang out at Firestein's shop and do odd jobs. "My husband will B.S. with everybody and anybody," Roxann says, rolling her eyes. "That's probably how he and Lenny became friends."
Meanwhile Ken's relationship with Roxann was deteriorating. Besides fighting with Roxann about money, Ken was always so exhausted from working that he couldn't help Roxann discipline the boys. To escape the discord, he and his sons spent even more time at Firestein's place. Last year the couple finally split. Ken, Wayne, and Danny moved into Firestein's house in Hollywood for about a month until they found their own apartment.
After Wayne turned 16 last year, he often drove his father to his various jobs, then skipped school and went home to sleep. Although he didn't have behavior problems at school, he was attending irregularly. There was one bright spot in his life: He started going out with Louise Beck, of Sunrise, whom he'd met at school. "He's the type of person who would practically do anything for a person," says the 16-year-old Beck. "He was never a gangster or a thug or anything like that. He didn't even like to see anyone smoking a cigarette. We'd sit for hours in my front yard, just talking. I love him more than anything."
While Wayne was much more wary of Firestein than his father or brother was, all three were nervous about the pawnbroker's careless gun habits. Firestein was always carrying concealed guns in his pockets and would often drop one accidentally, Danny says. He'd leave dozens of loaded guns lying around his shop and house, even when the boys were there by themselves, according to Ken. Whenever Ken visited, the first thing he did was unload the guns. And whenever the boys took Firestein's Corvette out for a drive with his permission, they'd first check for guns in the glove box and under the seats, then put any they found in the house. Firestein entrusted Danny and Wayne with the keys to his shop, house, and car. Danny says he was sometimes "tempted" to steal something but never did.
Ken and his sons grew increasingly angry at Firestein because he never paid them for the long hours they worked nor gave them the merchandise he promised in lieu of cash. All Wayne received from Firestein was a beat-up Volkswagen Rabbit that never ran. "I liked Lenny, but he was more or less using me and my sons," Ken says. "He was always trying to get over hard on us."
Firestein says Ken is just blaming the victim. "The beautiful part is now I'm the bad guy because I gave them the opportunity to steal," he explains. "I trusted Wayne and Danny, and they betrayed me. They crippled me financially."
Ken Dagenais and his sons are only the latest in a long line of people who feel that the 50-year-old Queens, N.Y., native ripped them off. "He's a complete asshole," says Wayne Morris, Firestein's landlord at his last pawnshop location on Dixie Highway in Hollywood, who says Firestein owes him $2000 in back rent plus $600 in water bills. "He's always looking to screw someone." Broward court records show six civil lawsuits in the past nine years against Firestein for eviction, contract indebtedness, and lien collection, including several pending cases.
Firestein also has a criminal record. Eight years ago, according to a Davie police report, he accused an employee, who was angry about not being paid, of stealing some tools from him. Spotting the man on the street, Firestein tried to handcuff him, yelling, "You're under arrest!" When the man protested that Firestein wasn't a police officer, he responded, "Well, I used to be, and I can still arrest you." As the victim fled, Firestein allegedly reached into his pocket, pulled out a gun, and threatened to shoot.
Firestein was charged with false imprisonment, aggravated assault, and battery -- all felonies. But he finagled a plea bargain by admitting to assault, a misdemeanor, in exchange for getting the felony charges dropped. If he had been convicted of a felony, he would have lost the rights to own guns and to operate a pawnshop.
Firestein brags to everyone that he used to be a cop. While that's true, he was fired from the Davie Police Department in 1979 only four months after he was hired. He'd previously lasted about the same length of time on the Wheat Ridge, Colorado, police force. "Patrolman Firestein has maintained an attitude of arrogance and conceit [and] has alienated most of the people whom he works with," his superior officer wrote in a letter recommending his termination from the Davie force. Firestein did not help his case when he hinted to other officers that he'd spotted a police sergeant in a compromising position with a female officer in a squad car.
He has even gained national notoriety. Two years ago Firestein was featured in a 60 Minutes segment on pawnshops that buy stolen goods. When Mike Wallace walked into his shop on State Road 84 in Hollywood with a camera crew, Firestein quipped, "Whatever it is, I didn't do it." Wallace played the chagrined Firestein a videotape showing two Fort Lauderdale undercover detectives, disguised as homeless men, selling him two computer monitors marked "Property of Comp-Lease Corp." It was obvious, the cops later told Wallace, that Firestein thought he was buying stolen merchandise. But the state's attorney couldn't prosecute him because Firestein had covered himself by asking the undercover cops whether they had stolen the equipment.
"His place used to scare me," says former landlord Morris. "He always had kids selling him stuff that was stolen." Ken and Danny believe that some of the guns from the warehouse burglary fall into that category. That's why, they say, Firestein gave police the serial numbers on only 34 of the 48 missing guns. "He's a hustler, and those kids got hustled," Morris says, shaking his head.
Despite Firestein's role in exposing the boys to guns, the Broward State Attorney's Office charged Wayne Dagenais with armed burglary (stealing guns qualified the crime as an "armed" offense) and transferred his case from juvenile to adult court. Wayne was denied bond because police accused him of being the leader of a gang called the Cosa Nostra. They later learned this was a group of pubescent wannabes made up of Danny, Wayne, and their friends, who showed no evidence of involvement in criminal activities. Felicia Smith, who had a lengthy juvenile court record including more than one prior burglary charge, also was arrested for armed burglary and transferred to adult court.
In contrast Danny, who had one prior burglary charge (for breaking into the home of a vacationing neighbor who he thought had marijuana), was processed in juvenile court and sentenced to intensive probation and a nonresidential counseling program. A spokesman for the state attorney's office says he can't comment on why Danny wasn't prosecuted as an adult, citing the confidentiality of juvenile records.
But Emilio Benítez, the juvenile defense attorney, has some thoughts. "What's the difference between what the two boys did, other than one was 15 and one was 16?" he asks. "Where's the justice in that?" The arbitrariness of the state attorney's decisions in the brothers' cases, he argues, shows why transfers of juveniles to adult court should be left to juvenile court judges. The Florida legislature largely shifted this authority from judges to prosecutors in 1994.
Meanwhile Patrick Harris -- whom Wayne and Danny consistently identified as the fourth participant but who denied playing any role in the burglary -- was not arrested because of a lack of evidence, says Lauderhill Police Det. Jeffrey Weiner. "He'd been in trouble before and was smart enough to get a lawyer right away," is how Ken Dagenais angrily explains Harris' freedom.
Wayne pleaded not guilty before Judge Ilona Holmes of the Broward County Circuit Court. His attorney, Gary Kollin of Fort Lauderdale, hoped to get the case thrown out on the grounds that the arrest and initial questioning were conducted illegally and that the evidence gathered by the cops was therefore inadmissible. Kollin, who Ken and Roxann believe did a poor job in representing Wayne, never told the judge that Wayne has a learning disability, which might have helped convince her that he didn't understand his rights when apprehended. Prosecutor Dan Losey then compelled Danny to give a deposition in April, in which he again incriminated his brother and Smith, making the due-process defense moot. On the advice of Kollin, Wayne changed his plea to no contest. The sentencing hearing was set for June 9.
Wayne still had one hope. Losey and the cops, who suspected that Wayne and his brother knew where the guns were hidden, said that if his family recovered at least some of the guns and turned them over, Wayne might receive a lighter sentence. So Danny and his parents, completely unschooled in the ways of the streets, made two dozen forays to find the guns. These frightening, postmidnight missions took them to the houses and hangouts of gang members and drug dealers. They even put the word out that they were willing to buy the guns back.
Then Wayne got a tip from a fellow inmate that a dealer named Claude in Cooper City had 27 of the guns. Wayne arranged for the inmate to phone Roxann and have her place a three-way call to Claude. Without Claude's knowledge Roxann listened in as he made several remarks suggesting that he had the guns. But the inmate got cut off suddenly, and Claude realized someone else was listening. He screamed that he would kill whoever was on the line. A frightened Roxann hung up and immediately gave Claude's number to police. She never heard back from the cops about this lead.
Despite the family's desperate efforts, the cops informed Judge Holmes that they had a confidential informant who claimed Danny and Wayne knew where the guns were. Detective Weiner told New Times that he suspects someone is still hiding the entire cache of guns, hinting that it could be Danny. If the guns had been distributed or sold, he surmised, some would have turned up in other crime investigations. But he wouldn't discuss details about the alleged informant.
To claim that Danny or Wayne knows the whereabouts of the arsenal is a lie, according to their parents. "I know for a fact that Danny would not allow his brother to sit in jail if he knew where the guns were," Roxann says. "I went with Danny to those kids' homes to look for the guns, and Danny was scared for his life."
Wayne's only other hope before sentencing was to convince Judge Holmes to send him to a juvenile rehabilitation program, which would offer more vocational training and counseling than a prison. In a pre-sentence investigation ordered by the judge, two probation officers separately recommended that, because of Wayne's young age, lack of prior offenses, and lesser role in the crime, he should be sentenced to a long stint at a juvenile facility.
In previous hearings the judge had sympathetically mentioned Wayne's "tender age." But that was before teenagers shot up Columbine High School in April and Heritage High School in Conyers, Georgia, in May. At the sentencing hearing in June, both Ken Gillespie, the prosecutor who took over for Losey, and Firestein hammered away at the relevance of these tragedies. "I'm from Littleton, 12 blocks from Columbine High School, and I see that happening again with these weapons," Firestein later told New Times.
Firestein's invocation of Littleton was pure chutzpah. He did spend time in that Denver suburb in the late '70s, according to his Davie personnel file. What he didn't tell the judge was that he owned a gun shop there. "We sell to the public," read his Mile Hi Police Supply business card, which advertised "rifles, shotguns, and pistols of all calibers." He subsequently moved that business to Fort Lauderdale, renaming it Broward Police Supply, and also bought and sold guns at his four pawnshops in Broward.
According to Roxann Dagenais, Judge Holmes was visibly affected by the comments about the school shootings. And when Danny testified that he, not Wayne, bore most of the responsibility for the burglary, the judge snapped at him, saying he too should have been sent to her for adult treatment. Then she sentenced Wayne to four years in a youthful-offender prison and two years of probationary house arrest -- the same sentence she'd given Smith. "If this had happened two years ago, before the high-school massacre, maybe the mindset of the judge would have been different," Kollin says.
But Holmes denies that the comments about the school shootings affected her decision. "I don't let what's happening in current events really shape my opinion," she explains. "I look at the defendant and at the charges and make my decision based on that." The judge says she also considers the victim's level of responsibility for the crime as a possible reason for giving a lighter sentence. Yet she seemed surprised to hear from New Times about Firestein's role in exposing Wayne to the guns. "You're telling me things I didn't know," she says. "If I'm aware of the culpability of the victim, my sentence is reflective of that."
Losey was pleased that Wayne wasn't sent to what he calls the "playground" of "kiddie court" and juvenile programs. "This country gave up on rehabilitation a long time ago," he argues. "It doesn't work. The number one goal is punishment."
Holmes also ordered Wayne to pay $35,931 in restitution for the 48 guns and 60 bottles of stolen wine. But Lewen, the former juvenile defender, says that hitting a juvenile with a heavy fine on top of a relatively long prison sentence is unrealistic and unfair. "It's two-faced to say, 'I expect you to pay $36,000,'" he argues, "then on the other hand, say 'I'll set this kid up with an adult conviction,' so the rest of his life is ruined and he can't earn the money to pay off such a big debt."
Since he's been behind bars, Wayne has done a lot of reading, and he's studying for his GED. His girlfriend and family members have noticed a dramatic improvement in his letters. He wants to learn a marketable skill like electrical work and earn as many good-behavior points as possible so he can get the maximum 15 percent off his four-year sentence and be out in March 2001. Before his arrest he and Louise had discussed getting married. But when they talked by phone about a month ago, she says, "Wayne was crying on the phone, saying he loved me, but that it would be too selfish of him to ask me to wait. I love him a lot, but now I'm kinda caught."
Wayne still has one last legal hope. Under threat of a malpractice suit by Roxann, Kollin grudgingly filed a motion last month to reduce Wayne's sentence, which could include transferring him to a juvenile facility. Judge Holmes has yet to rule on the motion. Wayne, meanwhile, is philosophical about the way the system has treated him. "I don't think it's fair," he says, "but that's just life."
Since Danny was placed on probation, he started his first regular job, as a busboy, and has toned down his wild ways, his mother says. On September 29 he goes before an administrative judge who will decide how much he must pay in restitution. His parents hope the judge will consider that Firestein probably didn't pay more than $80 for any of the guns and will set a figure much lower than $35,931. "He was a scam artist," Danny says. "He told me everyone who ever worked for him stole from him."
Firestein isn't willing to wait for the restitution payments to start. He vows to sue Ken and Roxann on the grounds that they're responsible for their sons' actions, even though he admits that they "don't have two nickels to rub together." Then why sue? "You tell me why not. I'm the victim," he says. "No one has done anything to help me."
Ken Dagenais now delivers air conditioning equipment by truck for $8.50 an hour. Because he can't read road signs, he drives his tricounty route with the help of a detailed pictorial map drawn by a coworker. He hopes the extra income he makes from overtime will help keep his marriage together. "I like being married," he says. "But I know that if she found another man, she'd leave."
Roxann more or less confirms that. "We'll stay together until I get over the shock and decide that I want my life back," she says. But under the strain of her sons' legal problems, she's regained the 25 pounds she'd shed to get back on the dating circuit. She has some money set aside for a tummy tuck but is resigned to spending it on Wayne's continuing legal costs.
She wonders why her life didn't turn out quite as she had hoped. "Remember the Leave It to Beaver family on TV, where everyone is united and the grandmother bakes cookies?" she asks. "Does that ever happen anymore?"