Locked Up Abroad: Shaun Attwood’s cautionary tale of ecstasy
Shaun Attwood came to America from England brimming with determination to make it big as a stockbroker. And he did.
Working from Phoenix, Arizona, he started from the bottom and worked his way up to a cool $500,000 annual income, but the glitz and glamour of the underground rave scene introduced him to the party drug ecstasy and his ultimate downfall.
Facing a potential 200-year jail sentence for money laundering and trafficking ecstasy, he served time in America’s toughest jail under Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The brutal conditions motivated him to document them via a blog called Jon’s Jail Journal, a blog that blossomed into advocating for prisoner’s rights as well as dispatching information of all types from his experiences to how to survive.
The blog started attracting international attention.
He cut a deal on jail time and after serving almost six years, he was deported back to England.
And now the world knows who Shaun Attwood is.
Today, he is the author of the trilogy of books Party Time, Hard Time, and the soon to be released Prison Time, and gives motivational talks to the youth about his experiences.
His story was broadcast worldwide recently in the TV documentary Locked Up Abroad: Raving Arizona, which is mandatory viewing before proceeding to read this conversation.
Because it’s one unlike any other MMA Conversation we’ve ever done. We talk openly and honestly with the once larger-than-life underground Arizona figure known as English Shaun.
Viewer discretion is advised.
MMA CROSSFIRE CONVERSATIONS: SHAUN ATTWOOD
MMA Crossfire: What is your life like these days?
Shaun Attwood: OK. Mostly I do talks for schools. I’m done over 100 talks per academic year. I basically go in and scare the living daylights out of them about jail conditions and the cautionary tale about getting involved with drugs and crime. When I’m not at schools, I’m mostly writing and maintaining my blog. My life story is coming out as a trilogy and Prison Time, which is the third installment, is going to be published early next year.
MMA Crossfire: What are the kids most curious about during the talks?
Shaun Attwood: The jail conditions, the violence, the food, cockroaches, the impact of the case on my family. I show them a little video of my mum… My mum doesn’t talk at schools, but she did an impromptu talk at the end of the talk I did. She was with me and the teacher asked her to get up and within a couple of minutes, everyone was crying. So they’re really interested in the family side. That’s one of the elements of the talks that hits home the most.
MMA Crossfire: I watched Locked Up Abroad again and I noticed the steady stream of comments and your quick responses to them.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah. I took the week off basically beginning last week because it was the worldwide premiere to find the time to answer everybody’s questions. I feel that if people are interested enough in my story to express their viewpoints or tweet or Facebook me, then I owe them a response. I didn’t imagine the number of responses that would come in. (Laughs)
MMA Crossfire: Yeah. You were saying you had like 500 emails the next day or something?
Shaun Attwood: That was from the USA premiere, 500 emails. And then over the following two weeks, it rose to over a thousand. With the worldwide premiere, if you include tweets, Facebook messages and everything else, it must be in the thousands already.
MMA Crossfire: It must feel like a dream when you look back.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah, it does. I had nightmares when I first got out, mostly set in prison. Over time, they started to blend with the real world. I got released in December 2007, and I still write to some of the prisoners who are still inside. Just thinking who I was in there with, it’s surreal. It really is. It’s almost like a dream, like you said.
MMA Crossfire: One of questions that came to me was: How does a guy come to Phoenix, Arizona with not much on his back and then works his way to the American Dream making $500,000 a year… That alone is an amazing success story… how did it get to wanting more?
Shaun Attwood: Oh, when you’re in your twenties and you’ve got more money than common sense, it quickly feeds the madness (Laughs). And it wasn’t necessarily money, it was attention and the lifestyle that I got addicted to. It was an ego trip. If you’re in your twenties and you’ve gone from being a shy student in England to someone who’s taking Ecstasy and meeting all these people, next thing you’re throwing parties for thousands of people… You’ve got beautiful women coming up to you all night, impressed. You’ve got guys coming up to you all night, impressed with your rising notoriety. All of a sudden you think you’re living in a movie like Pulp Fiction. We would joke no one could stop the movie.
This was the underground scene I was throwing. I was like the ecstasy/rave kingpin. It was the people of the nightclub scene, and I was the star.
MMA Crossfire: I understand you still love acid house.
Shaun Attwood: (Laughs).
Shaun Attwood: I absolutely remember them. This is about 1990. (Sings the chorus of Good Life).
MMA Crossfire: That’s the one…
Shaun Attwood: Just before this, I was listening to Groove Radio, which is the radio station I used to listen to in the car when I was driving to pick up my Ecstasy in L.A. before I started to get from Holland. Phoenix was all country western stuff, so we couldn’t really get any good radio stations. But now I listen to it nearly every day on the internet.
MMA Crossfire: It was really tough sledding music-wise in Phoenix.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah. It takes awhile to catch up. You’ve watched Deliverance, haven’t you?
MMA Crossfire: (Laughs). Yes. Don’t get me wrong, I like banjos, but it’s hard to groove to on the floor.
Shaun Attwood: They have some really good banjo acid house now. Very good.
MMA Crossfire: Really. I’ll have to look into that, I haven’t kept up.
Shaun Attwood: (Laughs)
MMA Crossfire: You mentioned on your blog that you practice Karate and Yoga. What do they give you?
Shaun Attwood: OK. My sister sent me a book when I was in jail. I hid it under my mattress because I didn’t want the guys to think I was a sissy. She kept prodding me so I thought I’d better try it. I tried it in my cell when my cellmates were in the dayroom. I ran through basic postures and at the end, I’m lying down and I can fell all the stress and tension just melting out of my shoulder area and neck areas in particular. I’m thinking to myself: My God, I took drugs to feel this good. And because I have this manic energy and if there’s something I like, I really go for it. I really got into it and by the end of prison, I was teaching my own little yoga prison class to some of the fellows there. To make it less feminine, I would tell them stuff like: If you can do the splits, you’re gonna be able to kick someone in the head if you get into a fight. Knowing full well that when they left my yoga class, the last thing on my mind was kicking someone in the head.
Now, karate. I starred to get personal training from a guy called Ironman in prison. He was a workout guy, he’d be been trained in various martial arts since he was a kid… I had an incident with a double-murderer. I sat on this crate in the kitchen and this guy said, ‘That’s my seat, get off there.’ Now if I get off it, I’m a punk and everyone will target me. If I stay, then I have a beef with him. So I stayed… rather had the one-on-one beef. Now this guy murdered two people. He’d also been shot in prison by the guards and he had a steel rod in his leg. So Ironman was teaching me all these martial arts moves and he was saying do a kick on the steel rod in his leg to get him down. Anyway, when I was close to finishing in prison, Ironman told me to join a dojo and it was a year after I was released I moved down south and someone recommended karate to me. I started it four or five years ago, and I’ve been doing it every week since.
I don’t consider myself a tough guy in the slightest. I use my intelligence and speaking skills to try and get through it and to relate to avoid trouble. But, karate’s given me a lot of confidence in that department. It’s become an intense psychological journey as I’ve gone up the gradings. Recently I was in a lineup and I was taking so many punches – it was a lineup where you weren’t allowed to hit back only absorb the blows or move out of the way – I started hyper-ventilating. I had a flashbacks to an incident as a teenager in Phoenix where I was almost beaten to death by four drunks. I hadn’t really come to terms with that, it was still inside me. I’ve been dwelling on that, writing about it ever since. To me, it was a lesson in courage and strength of mind.
— Emma☀ (@Emma_Higg) August 3, 2013
MMA Crossfire: Fascinating. How long did it take to transition from the feeling of being on top of the world to understanding and dealing with the reality of being in jail.
Shaun Attwood: By the time they caught up with me, I had stopped the large scale ecstasy dealings and my peak was 1999-2000. The SWAT team smashed my door down May 16th, 2002. When you go into the jail, it’s raw survival of the fittest. Everything you’re thinking about in your everyday life, prior to the SWAT team – what you’re going to have for dinner, what you’re girlfriend’s up, hanging out, watching a movie – all the normal things you think about in your everyday life is completely gone. All you can think about when you’re in there seeing heads bashed against toilets and bodies thrown around right away is:
Who can hurt me?
Who can help me?
Who can I make an alliance with?
Who should I stay away from?
And your heart is beating so fast, for the first several days you can’t even sleep. It’s just going all night long against the mattress. That’s the first stage.
There’s various stages and over time.
You eventually adapt because if you don’t adapt, you perish.
MMA Crossfire: And how realistic are those prison movies like The Shawshank Redemption in conveying that message?
Shaun Attwood: Have you seen American History X?
MMA Crossfire: Yes.
Shaun Attwood: Where he goes in and there’s the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang… it really captures the tension how the gang uses people up. You can see that’s exactly what it’s like. These gangs… people come in thinking they need to click up with the gang and they’ll protect them. But the gang will often use them up and once they’re finished with them, they end up usually getting stabbed, or gang-raped or something brutal will happen to them. I thought American History X captured that really good.
Shawshank… Stephen King is a brilliant writer of stories… it’s a narrative that’s going to be a film so it’s not going to be 100 per cent realistic, but you’ve got those characters in there that you see in these movies… Even The Green Mile, we have my good friend T-Bone. Prison Break as well, Teabag! Oh boy, I’ve met my share of Teabags in there, believe me (Laughs). Some of them are in my next book, Prison Time.
@shaunattwood such a good talk that you did today, so good that things aren't sugar coated so we know exactly how it is, good luck to you!
— Chelsie (@ChelsieNCross) June 27, 2013
MMA Crossfire: Your thoughts on the Beyond Scared Straight reality shows.
Shaun Attwood: They brought kids into the jail as part of the Scared Straight program and I thought that was a good thing. Obviously, you’re not going to get through to every kid but if it gets through to some of them, prevent them of years of hell in their future, then power to it. I don’t watch reality TV at all so I’m not familiar with the program you’re describing, but I would say the same thing. You’ve got a lot of people right now turning law enforcement into Hollywood entertainment like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who runs the jail. He’s got Smile! You’re under Arrest and Inmate Idol. And he’s got Steven Seagal running around on his Sheriff’s posse.
MMA Crossfire: So that’s where he is.
Shaun Attwood: (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: He seems to get around. He was training Anderson Silva with those martial arts moves and then he kind of disappeared so it’s nice to know he’s alive and kicking (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: So let’s talk about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He’s been in the news lately for allegations of finance misspending and racial profiling. What is your opinion of him?
Shaun Attwood: Sheriff Arpaio is one of the most powerful people in the American political system. He was on George W. Bush’s steering system when George Bush was running the country. His political contributions exceed $10 million and that’s ten times more than any of the other guys running next to him. He gets massive contributions to the private prison because his jail is a funnel that keeps these guys in business. Because he’s doing all these publicity stunts, it’s like a guard said to me in the jail with a quote that inspired me to start my blog: ‘The world has no idea what’s really going on in here.’
And I’ve been getting emails from people who have seen the episode, who were supporters of Sheriff Joe saying they no longer support him because they’ve seen the human rights violations and jail conditions. He gets voted in every four years, so he’s a reflection of what the public wants in Arizona. The episode quoted 62 people died in five years. Until it affects someone’s family – until it’s their kid thrown in there, busted for smoking weed and it’s their head getting smashed against the toilet – people are generally unconcerned with the welfare of prisoners. I’ve got to admit, before I was arrested I thought jail was full of Hannibal Lecter types that needed to be locked up and kept away from society. It was something I didn’t have any knowledge, so I understand where most people are coming from, it’s just their knowledge is based on the media, which is all skewed.
MMA Crossfire: And I think one of the stats is that Phoenix has one of the highest re-offending rates in America?
Shaun Attwood: By design. They don’t give the prisoners any education, they don’t give them any rehabilitation, they want them to come right back.
$50,000 per year, per prisoner of taxpayers money direct to the prisons, so more profits. It’s just big business.
States like California are spending more on the prison system than on education and it’s because the politicians and legislators are getting massive contributions from private business, guards unions, telephone, service providers, all that kind of stuff.
Also on the subject of Sheriff Joe, I’ve got a video on my YouTube channel of Sheriff Joe boasting that his Tent City jail is a modern day Nazi concentration camp.
MMA Crossfire: It’s sobering for a guy to be able to openly boast about something like that.
Shaun Attwood: How can you get away with something like that in this day and age? It just boggles my mind, but his hardcore right-wing supporters, they love him.
MMA Crossfire: He asserted President Obama’s birth certificate was forged, he seems to get a lot of popularity from stunts like that.
Shaun Attwood: He’s a master of publicity stunts, I’ll give him credit for that. He’s constantly in the news, constantly got stuff going on. Not only now can you look at the mugshots of the prisoners entering the jail system, he added a feature on his website where you can vote on who’s the ugliest. (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: Right. It goes on and on. Pink underwear and pink bracelets, which drives whatever products he’s selling. Is he really like a Warden Norton from Shawshank?
Shaun Attwood: (Laughs). All I’ve seen is his media image. I don’t know the real Sheriff Joe. I do know that when you see all these videos of these prisoners idolizing him as he walks through the jail, I know they’re all BS because whenever he came through, he came through with a full-on goon squad and bodyguarding him and all the prisoners would run to their windows and yell, ‘Motherf*cker, die!’ They would throw all these things at him. Even some of the guards would badmouth him.
MMA Crossfire: Interesting. Now, not everyone is enamored with you and your story Shaun. These people have a lot of doubts and questions about your story, so I’m going to ask you some of what I saw. One is a question questioning your motive to move to Phoenix to pursue stockbroking when the mecca of stockbroking is Wall Street. Why not go to Wall Street?
Shaun Attwood: I fell in love with Phoenix as a kid. My aunt was so generous. Whenever she came into money, she would fly me out there and take me on shopping sprees. I was dazzled by the cars, the swimming pools, the houses. When I was a teenager, she changed my date of birth on my passport so I could go out nightclubbing. She took me out nightclubbing and introduced me to all these women as Paul McCartney’s nephew (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: What an aunt!
Shaun Attwood: So I went on to university, did business studies, started following the stock market very young when I was fourteen with the goal of becoming an investment analyst. England was in a recession and I was applying for jobs and I wasn’t not getting anywhere, and my aunt said just come down here. You’ll get a job easier with your English accent. And that’s what I did.
— Farnborough College (@fcot) May 20, 2013
MMA Crossfire: And what was the name of the investment company you landed with?
Shaun Attwood: The first one If I recall was a penny stock brokerage called COBER Financial. For legal reasons, you have to change the name of the companies in the literature. I think it’s changed (in the literature) to Krueger Financial, something like that.
MMA Crossfire: I see. Also in Locked Up Abroad, when you had the meeting with the Spaniard and you rejected his offer, and then you found out later he put a bounty on your head. Why didn’t he just kill you and your bodyguard then and there and save himself the trouble of the ransom?
Shaun Attwood: OK. I had a far more complex relationship with the Sammy The Bull’s Gravano’s ecstasy organization than the episode possibly had the time to include. The meeting with the Spaniard came about because my wife at the time was actually a lesbian lover of the girl he just started seeing. And the reason I felt safe going to meet him was because she vouched for my safety because this girlfriend of my then wife was someone she really trusted. Over the years, I never had any problems with the Spaniard at all. When I was in Mexico and the Gravano crew sold out of ecstasy pills, the Spaniard actually came to me to hook him up and we worked OK. Never had any problems. Now there were other factions of the Gravano organization that did have problems with me, and one of my bouncers Wildman punched one of them in Mexico one time in a bar and we had to run off into the night. But as things started to deteriorate for them and for me, that was when the top of the Gravano organization wanted to take me out (The Spaniard wasn’t at the top). I had no idea. I only learned this when I met Sammy The Bull’s son in prison. And he said to me he was he head of an armed crew dispatched to the nightclub. They were going to kidnap me and hold me to ransom and if I couldn’t pay the ransom, they would take me out to the desert. And the only reason they’d missed us that night was that Wildman had gotten into the fight at the club. We just missed each other. As we were leaving, they were on the way there. They put a bounty on me and a striptease dancer spotted me in this gay bar with this crew I was with. We were in the gay bar because we didn’t think anyone would know we were going to be in there. She called it in and they jumped in the car with their guns. That’s what happened.
MMA Crossfire: Unbelievable.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah. But I also had the protection of the New Mexican Mafia at the time, which were way more powerful than the Gravanos in Arizona at that time. The New Mexican Mafia was considered the most violent and powerful criminal organization in Arizona. They were knocking off witnesses, they had a hit on the head of the prison system at one point. They were all over the news. I fell in with them because one of their crew, he jumped over… he was someone we were partying with, we didn’t know who he was… he jumped over into the back of an apartment my people were selling ecstasy out of and banged on the window. We let him in and the cops were all over the place. We protected him from the cops that night. He said look, since you guys had my back I’m going to introduce you to my brother and his homies and they will have your back. And that was the house I went to that had the grenade launcher on the TV. The Banged up Abroad episode condensed that scene and put the New Mexican Mafia in Saul’s kitchen, which actually didn’t happen. In Party Time, it’s laid out pretty clearly. So I felt a degree of safety from them vs the Gravano people. There was a lot more to that, yeah.
MMA Crossfire: Other critics are saying that you don’t deserve to celebrated as a hero and that you’ve destroyed a lot of people’s lives by trafficking ecstasy. What do you say to them?
Shaun Attwood: I say I completely agree with them. In the jail, I saw the end result of drug use. I saw the guys with Hepatitis C with livers failing them, yellow jaundice skin, teeth rotting out looking old beyond the years. I felt guilty about sending people down the road of drug use. All I could do once I had that change of heart, was to change my future. I couldn’t alter my past; that was impossible. So since then I’ve been on a mission to talk to young people in the hope they don’t go down that road.
And that’s all I can do. But I do thoroughly understand where they’re coming from. I was that person they are describing. I get these emails, like the four death threats I got from the Arpaio supporters so then I agree with you even. I did do these things and you’re 100 per cent right but if you don’t give people second chances, where would the world be? We all make mistakes. I had to learn my mistakes the hard way and I paid the price and take full responsibility for putting myself in the jail.
MMA Crossfire: In Locked Up Abroad, they mentioned you were selling up to 30,000 ecstasy pills a week at one point. What did that look like in terms of revenue?
Shaun Attwood: I had to rent an apartment just to put the money in. I didn’t let anyone know where that place was. The only guy who knew was my right hand man Cody Bates. When I moved to Tucson in the big house, Cody was the guy who collected the money from all the dealers and put it in that apartment. We had safes.. Sadly, Cody after we all got arrested… he was the sober one, he never did drugs, that’s why I trusted him to be the head of my security team … He went straight to heroin, he got put in a rehab and he hung himself there. Again, that just shows the end result of drugs.
MMA Crossfire: That’s a sad ending there.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah, Yeah.
MMA Crossfire: So roughly what are we talking? Hundreds of thousands of dollars in those safes?
Shaun Attwood: It depended on how business was going that week. Sometimes there would be much less. I was using it to bail people out because people who worked for me were constantly getting busted. Everyone had family benefits we called it, where we’d get them an attorney. I didn’t like the money to run up too much so I’d re-invest into drugs right away. I would throw a rave with it, invest in a rave club/music store, so I was constantly turning it over as fast as it was coming in.
MMA Crossfire: Right, but roughly in terms of the street value of 30,000 pills what would you estimate that to be?
Shaun Attwood: Aw, man. The street value, it was going for $25 a pill back then. But you’ve got to understand, I’m paying $3 out of Holland and then I’m fronting them to my dealers at $5 on top of that, so I’m only getting 30,000 X $5 in profits from that mission. And then I’m re-investing it all in the next mission. There’s different levels of dealers. If I’m supplying it at that level, the guys who are buying off it me at say 8$ – $10 have their own work force who they sell it to at $15 – $20 and then the bottom guys at the end of the street who sell it for $25 – $30. So there’s all these different levels of profit for each person in the chain. Just because I have 30,000 pills, doesn’t mean I’m automatically making a million dollars in profit. It’s only after the hundreds of thousands. But if you add that up over the weeks and years, then it’s multiple millions.
MMA Crossfire: I see. That will be interesting for some of the readers who might think this is just easy money.
Shaun Attwood: So many people are lured in because they think it’s quick cash and it is if you hit it right like I did for a number of years, but the price comes eventually when the SWAT team comes. I flew people over from England, put money into accounts in their name, thinking I was outsmarting the cops. The cops had a virus in my computer called Netbus trojan horse that showed them everything I was doing online. Showed them all those accounts so on the day I was arrested, absolutely everything was confiscated. I lost everything.
MMA Crossfire: Interesting, so back then the cops had this kind of stuff.
Shaun Attwood: Yes, this was back in 2002. I didn’t know all of this until I read the police paperwork in the jail.
MMA Crossfire: But you safeguarded your computer from viruses and stuff.
Shaun Attwood: Yes I did but this was something software-engineered flown in from the Department of Justice. These were things your average AVG anti-virus program is not going to detect (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: What has been the Canadian response to your story?
Shaun Attwood: I think the Canada broadcast was the one after America. Because I got stacks and stacks of email, Facebook messages and tweets. No death treats from Canada. Just universal support for my activism and my parents.
MMA Crossfire: I just saw another question asking about a movie. What is the status on that?
Shaun Attwood: You know, every time someone inquired about a movie, I would get really excited at the beginning. But people come and go. We’ve got one expression of interest and it’s gone through several levels, so we’re just waiting to see if they go all the way. The reason I would like a movie is because I still owe my parents $100,000 for covering my legal fees.
MMA Crossfire: Well, I think it’s just a matter of time. I want to touch on the impact this had on your family. Can you talk about that?
Shaun Attwood: I would never wish what I’ve been through on anyone, but it really has brought me closer to my family and made me see how blessed I am. I saw so many guys involved with drugs in the jail and their families just disowned them. One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is to value your family. I kind of set up a surrogate family – a crime family in Arizona – so I wasn’t paying attention to my blood family like I should have been. But at the end of the day, they were the ones who remortgaged the house and cashed in their retirement money to get me out of that situation. I think some of my party friends were just glad I was arrested so they wouldn’t have to repay their debts. So my priorities were all wrong and that was one of the biggest lessons I learned.
Now, I’m living in London, my sister’s down here so we’re much closer. I’m constantly at my parent’s house back-and-forth in the northwest. I just feel so much closer to them that I can relate to them as really close friends and human beings because of the level of the conversations we have these days. I never felt that way when I went to America with this wild streak. Running amok on all these different drugs. It’s like you get a cloud in your brain and you think you’re doing the most brilliant thing in the world at the time, but you look back at it and you think what an idiot.
MMA Crossfire: I appreciate your time and sharing your story with us Shaun. In a nutshell, why should people care about a high-quality corrections system?
Shaun Attwood: If you go back throughout time, crime was considered murder, theft of property … Traditionally, if you go back thousands of years, that was crime was considered. So the purpose of prisons and jails, I see, is to prevent those kinds of crimes and put those kinds of criminals in prison, hopefully to keep society safe from them and then to educate and rehabilitate them so when they go out they won’t recommit those crimes. In the last decade what we’ve seen is a ballooning of statutory laws. Now these are laws that govern people’s behaviour and they include the drug laws. And that’s why now 90 per cent plus of people incarcerated are in there because of something to do with drugs. Dealing drugs, on drugs, stealing for drugs, committing crimes on drugs; It’s all come about because of statutory drug laws. And they’ve come about because the private prisons give the politicians money to introduce and stiffen the laws. This is all about big business, not education or rehabilitation.
A quality prison, if you look at Scandinavia, where they have the quality ones, they have the lowest crime and re-offending in the world. They are humane, they give them education and rehabilitation. If you treat people like animals, they’re going to return to society and some of them are going to behave like animals and commit more crimes. In America, it’s by design. I’ll take that one step further, because the BBC documentary Storyville: The War on Drugs likened the U.S. prison system as a form of racial form of control and extermination similar to Auschwitz on a more subtle level. So if you look at the African-American and Hispanic populations, it’s like 1 in 20 male adults is in the prison system. There’s more in the prison system than there are in college.
There’s more in the prison system than there were confined in slavery before slavery was abolished.
And if you look at the constitution, so basically that labour is accessible through the prison system these days. It’s just a legalistic change.
MMA Crossfire: Those are good points because I remember from the documentaries, once you are convicted, you are deemed a slave of the state.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah. And I saw a YouTube video of policeman saying his pay depended on the how many arrests he made. So he would go to a black neighborhood where he knew they were smoking crack, and it was like shooting fish in a barrel. That’s the kind of attitude that is endemic of U.S. law enforcement right now.
MMA Crossfire: On a lighter note, you were a big MMA and wrestling fan back in the day.
Shaun Attwood: Yeah, Nick “The Headhunter” Chapman, he is from the U.K …
I remembered back in the day it wasn’t the UFC that attracted me to fighting, it was pro wrestling. When I was a teenager visiting America, it was Andre the Giant. Do you remember him? I was fascinated with him.
MMA Crossfire: Of course! He’s only my favourite wrestler.
Shaun Attwood: Really? (Laughs) When I finally moved during the 90s, then it was Tank Abbott and Royce Gracie and all those guys. It just looked so much more realistic then the wrestling of the 80s. (Laughs).
MMA Crossfire: Let’s go out with some updates on some of the personalities you encountered in prison. T-Bone and Weird Al specifically.
Shaun Attwood: T-Bone, amazing guy. 6-6, 300-plus pounds.
The first time I saw him walk across the yard, he scared the living daylights out of me. Former marine. His body was covered in scars, looked like someone cut him up and sown him back together again. Every single scar was a life-and-death prison fight story. Not only was he standing up for himself, he was stopping the raping of the young people. Said it was his Christian duty and that God had his back. More than once, he came within inches of losing his life and for no reward whatsoever, just making enemies left and right. So obviously the guy has a very big heart. He had my back in there.
Another person who had my back was Two Tonys. An old-school Mafia mass murderer left dead bodies in Alaska. He claimed they all had it coming because they were rival gangsters. He was serving 112 years. If you’ve murdered gangsters you’re at the top of the respect chain in the yard; there’s a hierarchy amongst murderers.
If you’ve murdered a woman or child it’s KOS which means Kill-on-Site. Prisoners try to kill those guys as soon as they come in.
I did have problems with the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang but Two Tonys made them go away.
Now Weird Al, he was a Yoga master. He studied the psychology and philosophy of Yoga for any years. I was just starting out in that area so I’d have all these long deep conversations with him about enlightenment and stuff like that. Sadly, he’s in the hospital right now. He could die at any moment. I spoke to him just before you and he could only talk for three minutes, he was so weak. He just said to try him back tomorrow. He could barely answer my questions and I thought I was keeping him on the phone so I just said keep your energy up and I’ll give you a call tomorrow.
He’s a good guy, he messed with drugs in his younger days. But once of his more recent crimes was his wife died from lung cancer and he went into a depression. And he was looking at Dr. Kevorkian’s suicide method, Dr. Death, but it didn’t work. So he tried suicide-by-cop, which I had never heard of, but it’s quite common in America. Depressed people will do a criminal act in the hope that the cops will and shoot him down. He tried to rob his own bank. He robbed less money than he had in his bank balance. He sat on the curb waiting for the cops to come. He was from a good family, very well educated. He had Hepatitis C from his own addiction. Prison doesn’t treat that because it costs them money. It’s very hard to get it treated and they prefer to let the prisoners die. That’s what happened in Al’s case. It’s at the point where its pretty much irreversible, so he could go at any time.
MMA Crossfire: That’s sad. Hopefully he pulls through.
@shaunattwood your talk was amazing, learnt so much from it. Hopefully you can come back to our school with T-Bone.
— Jess Boon (@jess_booney) June 10, 2013
MMA Crossfire: Thanks for your time today Shaun and all the best with your latest upcoming book launch Prison Time.
Shaun Attwood: Thank you Kenai. Cheers.