Category Archives: Politics

Bob Shell: Finally Something Good to Report

Prison. Photo: Julie Chu Cheong, Copyright 2020

 

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Finally Something Good to Report

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Finally something good to report! In early January, I was transferred to the GLU (Good Living Unit, pronounced like ‘glue’). It’s for people who don’t cause trouble, and there are 88 of us out of a population of a thousand. You have to be charge-free for a year to get in, and I’ve been charge-free for almost three years.  Nobody will steal from me here, and I won’t be attacked. It’s great to be able to relax for a change.

We get incentives to be good. Once a month we get a pastry, cookie, etc., we have a small library of books we can read, we go to chow first every day, and every weekend we see recent movies on one of our big HD TVs. Recently, we saw Once Upon A Time: In Hollywood, which I found very slow-paced and way too long. The whole mood of this pod is radically different from others I’ve been in.

I take Celebrex twice a day for arthritis, and have to stand outdoors in a long line to get it, regardless of the weather. All my other pills are ‘self med,’ which means they give me a thirty day supply to keep in my cell and take every day. In the year and a half that I was at River North, I had Celebrex as self med, but here at Pocahontas they won’t let me have it that way. Pocahontas is security level 2/3, while River North is 4/5. So it makes no sense that I can’t have my Celebrex as self med here.

Recently, I stood in line for more than forty-five minutes to get my morning pill, the temperature below freezing, in a mix of rain and snow. I complained about having to do this for a single pill, and took my complaint all the way to the VDOC head office in Richmond, who said my complaint was ‘unfounded.’ Standing out in the weather aggravates my arthritis, the very thing the pill is for.

But, that’s typical of the VDOC. When I first came into the system back in 2008, I was complaining to a Sergeant about some policy. He said, “Mr. Shell, your problem is that you expect things to make sense. This is the DOC. NOTHING MAKES SENSE! Get that through your head and you’ll do just fine.” He was right, nothing in the system makes sense.

I read recently in Prison Legal News magazine (www.prisonlegalnews.org) about a man in another state who was given a belt by prison staff, and later given a charge for having it. Reminded me of the time I wrote a letter to a lawyer on a prison law library typewriter, and was given a charge for doing it, even though that’s one of the stated purposes of the typewriters. I was kicked out of the law library for six months over that! I appealed, of course, but my appeals were denied at every level. So that ridiculous charge is still on my record, and I was set back six months in my legal work to get my false convictions overturned.

My book COSMIC DANCE has received many positive reviews. If you haven’t read it yet, please buy and read it. It’s on Amazon under my name, also available from www. odalysllc.com, the company that did the grunt work on it and got it published.

I’m in good company. Amazon recently signed Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell to write books directly for them, bypassing traditional publishers. This move has publishers terrified, and for good reason. Amazon can get a book into its distribution channels faster than regular publishers. Unfortunately, it’s another nail in the coffin of independent bookstores, who won’t have access to these books. I love the bookstore experience. Browsing online just can’t touch it. When I was in college at Virginia Tech, I worked in an independent bookstore, and have fond memories.

I go up for geriatric parole again in March. So far I’ve gone up before the parole board eight times, and been turned down eight times. I’m a perfect candidate for parole, and was dismayed by all these turndowns, until I figured it out. Someone is sabotaging my parole attempts. I don’t know who it is, but I have my suspicions. Probably the same person who kept going onto my Wikipedia bio page and putting lies on there. Research has indicated that this was Marion’s aunt, who still must believe the nonsense spouted at my trial by the medical examiner. I’ve had proof that his testimony was nonsense, to use a polite word for it, for some time in the form of statements from prominent pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. William T. Gormley, Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia. Anyone who hasn’t read it should go to my website, www.bobshelltruth.com and read Dr. Gormley’s interview. I’ve sent this to the Parole Board several times, but they choose to ignore it.

Dr. Gormley did tests that proved conclusively that Marion was never dead in my presence, disproving the prosecutor’s idiotic theory that she was dead the last time we had sex. I’ve never had sex with any woman who was not a fully aware consenting adult in my entire long life. I’m 73 as of last December, and my reputation on that score was unblemished until the Radford cops and prosecutors set out to destroy me. Their reasons were political, having absolutely nothing to do with any alleged crimes.

Many of you continue to ask about and wish me well in my quest to get my precious forest back. The case is still in court, but a lawyer suggested a new tactic to me, and I’m pursuing it. I’m going after the two lawyers involved in the sale, whose actions were certainly unethical, possibly illegal. I will pursue this to the end, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs.

On another topic, most of the contents of my photography studio are in a rented storage unit. Some of you have already helped me keep the monthly rent paid, but any who haven’t and are willing to help, please let me know and I’ll let you know how to help. All my contact info is on my website, www. bobshelltruth.com , the website friends built for me

Until next time, my friends, you have all my best wishes.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/photography/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

 

 

Also posted in Affiliates, Architecture, Blog, Documentary, Environment, Friends of TWS, Men

Bob Shell: Taking Offense

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2020

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020

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Taking Offense

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I’m somewhat jaded about most current events. I just turned 73, and won’t live long enough to see the longterm outcome of such things as global warming, which may cause the collapse of our social order from the outside, and things like the #MeToo movement that may cause that collapse of that order from the inside. We are in a state of flux right now, redefining the relationships between men and women, in a radicalized culture that confuses both men and women.

Men and women, two sexes, right? I’d like to open your minds to the concept that there are more than just two sexes of humans. In her groundbreaking book, Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men, Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling proposed that there are at least five sexes, men, women, herms, merms, and ferms, and perhaps many more. (I don’t like those names, but I like her ideas.) The famous Greek statue of Hermaphrodite in the Louvre, displayed with its rear to museum visitors, is just one example of a being with both male and female genitals, a classic hermaphrodite like the one photographed by Nadar in Paris in the 19th century. Saying that there are only two sexes is like saying there are only two political parties and ignoring everyone else. And that’s not such a bad comparison. since sexuality has become politicized.

I’ve alienated some people by comparing the #MeToo movement to McCarthyism. The parallels are strong. Senator Joe McCarthy ruined the lives of many people by accusing them of being communists. He and his cronies made the accusations with little or no proof, but in the terror of communism that pervaded American society in the 1950s and 60s, an accusation was enough. People, men and women, lost their jobs, their careers, their homes, their families, over accusations of being “pinkos” or “red.’. It didn’t matter if they’d lived exemplary lives and accomplished much, the accusation of being a communist, or commie sympathizer was enough. The program didn’t end until McCarthy was confronted in public. “Senator McCarthy, have you no shame?” was the final question that disgraced McCarthy and showed him and his followers up for the monsters they were.

Today a person, almost always a man, can lose everything over an accusation of sexual impropriety, no proof required. Now, I’m not defending those who actually mistreated women (or men). I know there are real sexual predators out there, just as there were real communists in McCarthy’s day, some even plotting the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, but they were in the minority, just as I suspect real sexual predators are today.

But, I think we have to draw some lines.

Back in the 1990s I was in NYC with the Shutterbug magazine crew. One night several of us were sitting in the hotel lounge after hours just sipping drinks and chatting, tired from a day at the convention. A young woman who worked for us came over to the sofa where I was sitting, climbed on behind me, and began to massage my shoulders, neck, and back. Was I the victim of an inappropriate sexual advance? I didn’t think so, and enjoyed her attentions. But, what if I hadn’t? Would I have reported her for sexual harassment? Or, if our positions were reversed and I’d started massaging her, would she have taken it as an unwanted sexual advance? This was long before #MeToo, and I just don’t think people were as touchy as they are today.

I wonder if, when I’m eventually released from prison, will I even fit into this radicalized society we’ve created.

I was a victim of #MeToo long before it existed. In 2003 I was accused of sex crimes based on absolutely no evidence. The Commonwealth of Virginia has admitted now, after I’ve spent more than twelve years in prison, that those charges were baseless. They were totally false accusations, yet I lost my job, had my business and life destroyed, and only now is the truth coming out. And I’m still in prison, because I have to fight through the courts to gain my freedom. Once the system gets hold of you, it doesn’t turn loose easily. A conviction becomes a thing unto itself, and the state does not like to admit it screwed up and convicted an innocent person. But, in the last few years, more than 1,500 people have been set free when their convictions were shown to be false, most after serving years in prison. The average time to overturn a false conviction in Virginia is twelve years! That is a travesty. Overturning false convictions ought to be easy, but the prosecutors will fight tooth and nail to keep a person in prison, even when they know a conviction was false.

The job of a prosecutor is to convict the guilty, but not to convict the innocent. So few of them conduct themselves that way. Prosecutors like Mike Nifong, who prosecuted the Duke University soccer team on ridiculous ‘evidence’ seem to be the norm.

One problem is that prosecutors are generally immune from lawsuits, so they are very rarely held accountable for their false prosecutions. They have no incentive to perform properly. I see signs of that changing, and it can’t change fast enough to suit me. Prosecutors who prosecute false cases should be stripped of their immunity and held accountable for their misdeeds.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/bob-shell-whats-in-a-name/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, commentary, Documentary, Erotica, Friends of TWS, History, Men, Popular Culture, Student Life, Women

Bob Shell: What’s in a Name

Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell. Copyright 2020

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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What’s in a Name?

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I’m reading a very interesting book: Ancient History of Aratta-Ukraine by Yuri Shilov. I’ve read a lot of books on ancient history, but had never heard of Aratta, so when my friend Ed told me about this book, I just had to read it. Most traditional historians believe that writing originated with the Sumerian culture, but this book sets forth convincing evidence that writing originated much earlier in Aratta, in what today is Ukraine, perhaps as early as 20,000 BCE. The problem I’m having in reading the book is that the Ukrainians have recently changed all the names of places. Kiev is now Kyiv! Ruegen Island is now Ruyan. The Dnieper River is now Dnipro. The Dniester River has become the Dnistro. And so on, and because the book is translated from the Russian original, some of the maps are labeled in Cyrillic. The book is lavishly illustrated in black and white, and will fascinate anyone interested in ancient history who makes the effort to read it.

There’s an old song that goes something like:

Take me back to Constantinople,

No you can’t go back to Constantinople,

Now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople,

Why did Constantinople get the works?

That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.

I guess we should say the name changes are nobody’s business but the Ukrainians. But it sure can be confusing to an outsider trying to figure out where places mentioned in the text actually are. I have the same problem with India, where Bombay became Mumbai, and how did Burma become Myanmar and Rangoon turn into Yangon? I have a nice little Atlas I bought several years ago, but it hasn’t caught up with the dissolution of Yugoslavia or any of the more recent name changes. I think any book for outsiders should have the old name in parentheses after the new name, at least the first time it appears — Yangon (Rangoon).

Anyway, it seems that the Ukrainian legislature passed a law in 1995 requiring the use of the new names. But the Arsenal Factory certainly didn’t change the names of their cameras from Kiev to Kyiv! I have a collection of their cameras, many made after 1995, and the export versions all bear the KIEV nameplates. Those for domestic sale within the old USSR are marked KNEB with the N backwards, the equivalent of an “I” in the Cyrillic alphabet used by most of the countries of the former USSR, which looks like CCCP, but is actually SSSR. I had to learn the Cyrillic alphabet when I started collecting Soviet cameras in the 80s, so I’d know things like what looks like Zopkuu is actually Zorkii.

The folks at the Kiev factory struggled to make good products under the old Soviet system. My late friend Saul Kaminsky was the official US distributor of Ukrainian, Russian, Belarussian, etc., cameras, lenses, and other optical products. His company in Connecticut was called Kiev USA. He told me a story that once he went by the factory in Kiev to check on a shipment and found the factory shut down because there was no electricity. He located the manager who explained that the electric plant had no coal, so was shut down. He then went to the electric plant and they said they had no money to buy coal. So he went to the coal company and bought a trainload of coal that was delivered to the electric plant where they fired up the generators, and sent electricity to the camera factory, where the cameras Saul needed were then made. That’s how business was frequently done in the old USSR! One day Saul called me: “Bob, could I interest you in a hotel in Kiev?”. It seems that someone there owed him money and was trying to settle the debt with this hotel! Of course he knew I’d have no interest in a Ukrainian hotel, no matter how cheap! Selling cameras from the USSR was a sideline he’d stumbled into during travel for his real job, lighting technician for CNN. Saul used to say to me that I made him famous from my Shutterbug articles about his products. I used a number of his Soviet cameras over the years with good results, and have a bunch of them in storage right now. One of my first cameras was a Zenit B bought from the old Cambridge Camera Exchange in 1969 for $ 49.95 with 50mm f/2 Helios lens and leather case. The negatives I shot with that old beast are super sharp and contrasty. The folks in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc. knew how to make good lenses.

This goes back to the end of WW II. The USSR troops, mostly Russian, took over the eastern part of Germany. They took the Zeiss-Ikon factory in Dresden, dismantled it, loaded it onto a train, and shipped it, lock, stock, and barrel, to Kiev. They also took the best Zeiss technicians. When I first learned of this in the 80s, many of those men were still living in and near Kiev, where they’d settled down, married, and raised families, and didn’t want to leave. Many of the first generation of Kiev cameras were built from German parts taken from Dresden.

The other best known Soviet cameras are the Fed series. The name Fed comes from the initials of Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, founder of the KGB, who wanted a quality camera to give his men. He had a factory set up to build the Fed camera, a part by part copy of a Leica. I don’t have my reference books here, but I believe they copied a Leica IIIa. I have around a dozen Fed cameras of different vintages. All are capable of taking excellent pictures. I also have a number of Russian fake Leica cameras, which enterprising Russians made from Fed cameras to sell to unsuspecting tourists. One of them is so good only an expert would know it wasn’t a real Leica. Saul picked most of them up for me on his trips to Russia and Ukraine. He also knew of my interest in mechanical watches and brought me a couple Shtermanskyi (Navigator) chronometers, the same watch Yuri Gagarin wore into space. They keep very accurate time but must be wound once a day. One has a rotating bezel for travel, and I used it for years in my trips to keep track of local time and time back home.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-on-the-legal-front/ 

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Book Reviews, Cameras, commentary, Environment, Erotica, Friends of TWS, Glamour, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Science, Travel

Bob Shell: On The Legal Front

Marion in Vegas. Photo: Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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On The Legal Front

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Believe it or not, I stay very busy here, so I hope no one minds these impersonal periodic updates.

On the legal front, which so many of you ask about, progress is slow but certain. On Feb. 1 of this year I filed an Independent Action to Vacate in the Radford Circuit Court seeking to overturn my convictions based on the use of false evidence to convict me. Much to my surprise, the Radford prosecutor did not oppose this action, which, under Virginia law, means he accepts my allegations as true. Of course they’re true! The Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia has said unequivocally that the medical testimony (That Marion was dead when I took my last pictures of her) from the local medical examiner was “Just wrong!” This case is working its way through the courts right now. Another Independent Action on the grounds that they missed my speedy trial deadline by over a year was filed last September, and is also working its way through the courts. Courts are slow!

My other legal effort, to get my precious forest land, my “outdoor studio,” back after it was illegally sold is also moving slowly through the courts. To prevent the persons who now illegally hold my land from altering, selling, subdividing, etc. I have filed what’s called a Lis Pendens in the Floyd County courthouse. This blocks such activity on contested property. I WILL get MY land back, and will build my planned house and studio there when I’m released. I’ve been more upset by the possible loss of my forest, forest sacred to me, than anything in my life. Hardly a night goes by that I don’t have nightmares about this, and my daytime mind is constantly preoccupied with stressful worries about losing my forest and someone destroying it. It’s only a small forest, but it means the world to me.

On other fronts, things have been mixed. My book COSMIC DANCE has been out since April, and has gotten great reviews on Amazon, but without an advertising budget it’s been hard to get the word out, and sales are slow. Virginia prison inmates are forbidden to have Facebook or other social media accounts, a blatantly unconstitutional policy, so I can’t use the obvious promotional vehicles. Low cost/no cost promotional ideas welcome.

My blog that appears at www.TonyWardStudio.com/blog is popular, with many regular readers., and let’s me write about anything. Tony calls me “a natural storyteller.”

I’m also writing now for Prehistoric Times magazine, (www.prehistorictimes.com) about dinosaurs and such, a preoccupation of mine since my teens. It’s been nice to see my name in print again. The VDOC can’t ban us from writing for publication. That old First Amendment stops them, but they would if they could.

On the living conditions/health front, I’ve been back at Pocahontas State Correctional Center (PSCC) since late August. On April 4, 2018 I was shipped off to River North Correctional Center (RNCC), a high security facility built specifically to house gangs. There are no windows in the cells there, and many restrictions. My windows here at PSCC aren’t big, but at least I can see if it’s raining or snowing outside.

I was sent to RNCC due to a “clerical error.” I received a serious charge here in 2017, but the charge was dismissed by the Assistant Warden. Unfortunately for me, whoever was supposed to enter that dismissal into the VDOC’s database failed to do so. My counselor at RNCC fixed the problem, but it took well over a year for me to get back to PSCC, where I’d been since 2009.

When I got back here there was no bed available in the handicapped pod, so I was held in a medical unit holding cell for over a month until a bed opened up there. As many of you know, I suffered a serious stroke in 1991, shortly after becoming Editor of Shutterbug magazine. Due to that stroke, vertigo (I’ve had that since the 1960s), and a bad left knee (torn cartilage), I require a handicapped shower, and was walking with a cane. There’s only one handicapped shower in this whole facility, in the handicapped pod, pod A-1. I was there among old friends, had a great cellmate, and was as happy as it’s possible to be in prison.

On the morning of November 15 it all went to hell. That morning a voice came over the cell intercom, “Shell, pack your stuff. You’re moving to B building.” Sure it was a mistake, I refused to pack and move until the building manager got here, assuming he would straighten it all out. He didn’t. It seemed that the order the doctor wrote saying I require a handicapped shower couldn’t be found. The doctor who told me he wrote it isn’t here anymore, and the doctor who is refuses to write such an order.

On the same morning that I was kicked out of the handicapped pod, they called me to medical, and gave me a McKesson Rollator, a sort of four wheel walker with a seat on it. It’s not for riding, like wheelchair. The seat is only for use when you’re not moving, but it’s great in long lines, since I can sit until the line moves. My health is generally good, my hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes all controlled by daily pills. My arthritis doesn’t bother me much since I was put on Celebrex about a year ago.

I’m now in a very rough pod. I’d only been here eight days when my cell was robbed when I was out at chow or pill call and about $ 200 worth of commissary I’d just bought was stolen. Staff treat it like it’s my fault for not locking my storage box, but the box they’ve issued me cannot be locked. The flange you attach the lock to is missing. I’ve had a combination lock for years, but rarely had to use it, and in my twelve years down, I’ve never been robbed before. But, I’ve never been in such a rough pod before. Friends sent me money to replace the stolen food, but I have no assurance I won’t be robbed again.

I’m fighting now to get back in the handicapped pod where I belong. Thanks for everyone’s support! I couldn’t make it without you!

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-doing-time-in-virginia/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

Also posted in Affiliates, Blog, Cameras, commentary, Documentary, Erotica, Friends of TWS, History, lifestyle, Men, Models, News, Photography, Popular Culture, Portraiture, Travel, Women

Bob Shell: Doing Time in Virginia

Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

 

Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2019

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Doing Time in Virginia

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I had the misfortune of living in Virginia when I was arrested, tried, and convicted. Virginia is a beautiful place, with fertile valleys and beautiful mountains. The history is rich and significant. The Virginia General Assembly is the oldest sitting legislature in North America, and was the model for the United States Congress. Virginia’s declaration of human rights was the model for the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. So Virginia should be a great place to live, right?

Unfortunately, no. We have a ‘justice system” run amok. Back in 1996 we had a Governor named George Allen, a baby-faced, benevolent-looking man, Republican, of course, who was determined to be “tough on crime,” and with the complicity of the legislature, abolished parole. Parole rates before that were about 30%. Abolishing parole with the idea of keeping criminals out of society didn’t work, it had absolutely no effect on Virginia’s crime rate.

Anyone convicted before that change is still eligible for parole, anyone convicted after 1996 isn’t. I was convicted in 2007, so no parole for me.

They did establish something called Geriatric Conditional Release, known informally as geriatric parole. After age 65 you go before the Parole Board once a year, automatically, to be considered for this. I’ve been interviewed by teleconferencing, never a live person, and turned down annually seven times now!

From July through December of last year, the latest period for which I have the figures, out of 307 people eligible for Geriatric Conditional Release, only 25 were granted. If I’ve done the math right, that’s just over 8%, most of them very old and Ill, and costing the Virginia Department of Corrections significant amounts of money in medical expenses. I’m in a handicapped pod with 80 men total. Of those 80, there are ten who are confined to wheelchairs, and two, including me, who need canes to get around. All are older, three over 80.

Adrianne Bennett, Chair of the Virginia Parole Board says there is a looming crisis due to the large number of prisoners who will soon be eligible for geriatric release. Where, I ask, is this crisis if they release so few?

All told there are more than 40,000 people in Virginia prisons, at an annual cost to taxpayers of a billion dollars, the single biggest item in the budget. Insanity!

Everyone who knows me, knows that I could be released today and would not be a threat to anyone, because I was never a threat to anyone in the first place. The same is true of many in here.

There is also the governor’s pardon, technically called Executive Clemency. This was supposed to replace parole, but it hasn’t. Very few have been granted. I filed my petition with the Governor in 2006, accompanied by more than fifty letters attesting to my character, from former photography models, industry colleagues, even a United States Senator, and it has yet to be acted on. I’m on my third governor! When I write and ask what’s taking so long, they send me a form letter saying please be patient, the process can take up to a year! It’s been THREE bloody years!

My case is a political hot potato that each governor has handed off to his successor, while I sit in prison.

My suggested sentence, using the guidelines established by the Virginia Sentencing Guidelines Commission was 1 -1/2 to 3 years, but by “stacking” sentences and making them run consecutive, the judge gave me 32 -1/2 years! I’m 72 years old right now, and my release date is 2033. What sense does that make?

I’m classified as a “numerical lifer,” that is a person who does not have a life sentence, but is unlikely to live long enough to be released. In 2033, if I live that long, I’ll be 87 years old! I was 56, healthy, vigorous, and at the peak of my career, when this all started. Now I’m an old man, taking dozens of pills every day to stay alive, whose thriving business and life were destroyed by a pack of lies and nonsense, a prominent photographer who has not been allowed to touch a camera in twelve years.

The prosecution offered me a plea bargain of ten years, but I would have to plead guilty. I am not guilty and refuse to say otherwise. Later, he offered five years. but, again, contingent on pleading guilty. I simply would never do that. I have never in my life physically harmed anyone, and have never had sex with any woman without her consent. I have high moral standards, and have lived my life by them, and will stay in prison rather than compromise what I believe in. So here I sit on a hard bunk in a 9 X 12 room with cold metal walls, waiting and hoping for justice.

I’ve had proof for years that the medical testimony that put me here was false. The Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia says so, and so does Dr. Cyril Wecht, the dean of American pathologists. The “expert testimony” of the prosecution’s witnesses was, to be polite, garbage. But the jury of small town folk accepted it and ignored me and my witnesses. They voted not on the evidence, but on their own prejudices against a man who took erotic photographs. It was a modern day witch trial. The judge called my photography, which the prosecution gleefully projected up to giant size in the courtroom wall, the worst pornography he’d ever seen. Obviously, he’d never surfed the Internet! But he said all he knew about computers was how to turn his on.

Most of the photos and videos presented in evidence were private photos and videos Marion and I created for ourselves. None were intended for publication or distribution, none showed actual sexual activity, and none were ever published or publicly displayed except on the wall of that courtroom. My and Marion’s privacy was grossly invaded. And the photos were not illegal or evidence of anything illegal.

If you want to read the Chief Medical Examiner’s statements, I’ve posted the interview with him and lots of details on one of my websites: www.bobshelltruth.com.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-no-nudes-is-good-news/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com.

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