The Elmo Files

The saga of would-be liberal crusader and ex-con James "Elmo" Spaulding proves that anyone can get a second chance in America. And a third. And maybe even a fourth.

He admits his chances for court redemption are slim and wonders whether it's wise to talk about these things with a reporter. Yet he maintains that, whether or not his voting rights are restored, his true redemption has already happened -- at Eglin. He now denounces beliefs he used to champion, striving to obliterate his former self.

But some things remain the same. Spaulding is still a salesman at heart; he's simply traded his get-rich-quick scheme for a political pitch. And as a salesman, Spaulding knows guilt and innocence don't matter that much in marketing. In the long run, the deal breaker is this: "When you look back on your life," he wonders, "does it seem tacky?"

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