Stick someone in a box for two and a half years and their imaginations are liable to run away with them.
Take Warren Newell, the disgraced Palm Beach commissioner who was recently released from federal prison. In an interview conducted over the weekend with Laurel Sauer of WPBF 25, he hinted that he is innocent of the charge to which he pleaded guilty in 2007 and that his real crime was staying "in my position as county commissioner too long." Also, getting a divorce.
And that's not all. In the interview, he explained that white-collar convicts have it tougher than their blue-collar comrades-in-jumpsuits. He maintains this position even as he anticipates spending his first weekend of freedom decamping from the bright, orderly house that awaited him upon his release and sinking his toes into the sands of Peanut Beach.
Newell wrote a memoir while in prison. He took "meticulous" notes during his
investigation and subsequent confinement. When asked about the names named in his memoir, which he hopes will soon find a publisher, his heretofore-dour face spouted a wicked, vengeful little smile. "Yeah," he said, "I think that's gonna be a little bit interesting too. I think people's names -- I think some names, they don't realize they're in there."
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Which would mean, you'd think, that some of his former comrades in local government -- three of whom were subject to corruption investigations at the same time as Newell -- didn't realize they were doing anything so terribly worth writing about. Much like Newell didn't realize he was doing anything especially scandalous when he pushed a water reservoir project in Palm Beach County without mentioning that, if the project went through, he was to receive a $360,000 kickback.
Despite his momentary pleasure at the thought of future vengeance, the Warren Newell interviewed by WPBF was not an obviously happy man. He has been visibly scarred by his imprisonment. He spoke plaintively, and at great length, about the specifics of his deprivation -- the strip search, the being "locked up," "put away," "controlled," being told "when to get up, when to eat, what to eat, where to go, when to dress, when to go to the bathroom, when to shower."
Prison was "degrading," he said -- which I imagine is how it feels to realize that your city commissioner has funneled $14 million of taxpayers' money into a marina in which that commissioner has a business interest and where said commissioner is in arrears with his docking fees.
Warren Newell still has a good many years left in him, and hopefully freedom will allow him to untangle his fantasies from reality. Until he does, he is doomed to be South Florida's Rod Blagojevich, making a fool of himself in interviews and assigning responsibility for his egregious fuckups to everyone but himself. "I couldn't defend myself" while under investigation, he said. "To this day, there's a lot of misinformation... I just feel bad, because I really spent so much of my life trying to serve my fellow man."