Demanding millions of dollars was the only recourse that Tyrone Jordan saw fit to make up for the five years he believed he'd wrongfully spent behind bars.
Serving time for conspiring to launder money and smuggle illegal immigrants over the border, Jordan began sending letters to the federal judge and prosecutor who secured his conviction while he was still in federal prison. In the letters, he claimed his innocence and recounted various problems with his criminal trial, ranging from, he alleged, jury fraud to perjury. He accused the United States of treason and genocide. Jordan claimed he was subjected to "slavery/involuntary servitude" because of forced prison labor and limitations on privileges like watching TV and using the phone. His attorney said that, when the judge and prosecutor did not respond to him, Jordan took their silence as an admission of guilt. In his next letters, he said this entitled him to $6.5 million in damages from them personally, within 20 days.
But instead of viewing Jordan as a troubled and, as his lawyer put it, "brainwashed" inmate who got some terrible legal advice from fellow prisoners, the judge and prosecutor sent Jordan's letters to the FBI, which arrested him and classified him as an "anti-government extremist."
On Friday, Jordan was sentenced to ten more years in prison, this time on charges of filing false retaliatory liens (a.k.a. those letters demanding money).
That sentence — the maximum punishment — has led some to question whether such heavy-handedness was necessary. As Scott Henson of the popular criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast pointed out, law enforcement brought up on similar allegations — falsifying government documents — rarely face such harsh punishment. They get probation. And even people who write far more dangerous letters or announce far more violent plans may not face as steep a punishment as Jordan has: Threatening the President's life via U.S. mail carries a maximum sentence of five years; terroristic threats carry a max of ten, meaning someone threatening a mass shooting could, theoretically, face less time than Jordan.
The 45-year-old's legal troubles began six years ago with a small airplane.
Back in 2009, the financial consultant swore he didn't know he was assisting Mexican drug dealers when he helped them purchase a 1975 Cessna. The drug dealers, who were arrested with more than five kilograms of cocaine and 500 grams of methamphetamines, had allegedly planned to use the plane not only for their drug operations but also to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border, according to the federal indictment. Jordan, a former military policeman and private investigator, claimed he was just the middleman — a small-time consultant assisting someone with a transaction. Either way, the jury was not convinced, and Jordan was shipped off to prison.
“That's what started his downfall,” said his attorney, Richard Kuniansky. “He felt very strongly that he was wrongly convicted. And he would disagree with me on this next point, but while he was in prison, he got brainwashed.”
Kuniansky says Jordan likely received the maximum punishment partly because he was arrested within months of his initial release from prison, when he was still under supervision. Because he violated that supervision, he was held without bond. But Kuniansky says that did not deter him from continuing his crusade, and that, even after being shipped back to federal prison, his client probably still believes he has done nothing wrong.
“I tried to tell him from day one, 'You can't do this,'” Kuniansky says. “What the judge said to him at sentencing was very appropriate: 'I'm only going to tell you once, but you need to quit doing this. If you are digging a hole and you find yourself getting deeper and deeper, stop digging.'”
Kuniansky has already filed an appeal. He called the case a tragedy. To him it has been nothing more than a man seeking justice, one who simply had no idea what he was doing, and a judge who easily could have thrown Jordan's demands in the garbage.