Part 4 of Carlos’ story from the book “A Snowball’s Chance.”
High school dropouts tell their stories.
Arrests and Probation
I’m on probation because I was drunk and got caught with a gun. A couple of nights before the arrest someone had broke into my house. Normally, I don’t ever have to carry a gun. I’ve got someone with me riding shotgun. After the guy broke into my house, I began to carry my good old .40-caliber.
Amelia, the kids, and me went to a family function at the Casino Ballroom. When we walked in there were a couple of girls I had messed with. They called out my name and my wife said, “Who the hell are those bitches?” I’ve always been up front about myself. I’ve never hid anything from my wife. She knows I was messing around with other women. She knows I was on the street hustling. But it’s like if you love me, then you are going to be with me. I told her, “This is the way you met me. This is the way I am. If you don’t like it, go and kick rocks. I’ll find someone else.”
I hadn’t seen the girls in a long time. That didn’t make it any easier on my wife. We had a couple of drinks. I was drinking Coke with Mexican brandy. She kept going off about it. I got to a point and said, “You know what? Grab the kids. We are going to leave.” We left and I got off at the Circle K. I told her, “You take the kids home.” I had a cousin that lived across the street. I was going to go to his house. She took off. I walked into the Circle K.
I was wearing a see-through shirt, and I had my gun with me. I grabbed a twelve-pack and went to pay for it. The guy didn’t want to sell it to me. He smelled alcohol on my breath and said, “Sir, I can’t sell to you.”
“What the hell is wrong with you? Don’t let this little six-dollar-an-hour job get to you. Man, I’ve got enough money to buy half of this store. Are you going to sell me this twelve-pack? You know what? Take this and shove it up your ass. I’ll just go to the next store.” I walked out and there were police cars in the parking lot. A security guard in the store called the cops. I had enough time that when I had seen the cars, I took the pistol and threw it. They asked me what was going on. “Nothing, I just came to buy some beer.”
One of the officers had arrested me when I was younger. He remembered that I was a convicted felon. He said, “You are not supposed to have a gun.” They booked me into the Pima County Jail. That night they charged me with prohibited possession. The next day I woke up with the biggest headache and the biggest hangover. When I went to court, the judge read off three counts of attempted armed robbery, three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and prohibited possession. That’s six felonies! Three of them are Class 3s, and three of them are Class 2s. Class 1 is the highest you can get—it’s like a murder.
I’m in the jail cell. I said, “God, what did I get myself into?” That was the point where I made myself a promise. I was done. I can’t live like this anymore. Not only was I putting my wife through a lot, I was putting my kids through too much stuff. I have five kids to think about.
I had my own lawyer—someone I used in another case. The way I got my money to begin with was not right. If I wasn’t careful enough to set money aside, then I would never be able to afford a lawyer. I would have been represented by the state, and I would be in prison for a long, long time. My first plea bargain was seven to twenty-one years. I turned it down and they came at me with five to ten years. “What are you guys talking about? I didn’t rob anybody. I didn’t hit anybody.”
My third plea bargain was under the bracket they were supposed to give me. It was below the bracket two to five years. I was still fighting it. My lawyer met with the prosecutor. They reached an agreement and gave me “probation available.” I went to my sentencing. The judge gave me four months in the county jail and four years of probation. The first year started off as intensive probation. If I violate, I go to prison. They could aggravate my sentence and give me the max—twenty-one years.
My probation officer is wonderful. I look at him like a father figure, as an uncle. He is understanding, and I’m blessed to have an officer like him. The worst part of intensive probation is that I have to have approval for everything. If I want to go somewhere with my kids or go out with my wife, I have to get approval. Yet, if it wasn’t for intensive probation and what I’ve gone through, I would not be the person I am now. I wouldn’t have so much hunger for success.
The last time I was locked up was a turning point. I knew that my daughter was looking at me. That’s a feeling I never want to have again. Seeing her come to visit, and I was behind that glass. Her expression nearly killed me.