Why did I read this book?
Almost every inmate reads (obviously some more than others) … but some books get
read by almost everyone. My buddy Jones read this book and told me I must read it.
This book was making the rounds and I grabbed it. One of the attorneys (Schwartz) is
big time and he has a few clients here. One in RDAP. That inmate was a big Meth
dealer at one point. He kept telling everyone about this crazy story involving his
attorney which was the subject of some popular podcasts and a Dateline exclusive.
(Dad Comment: Podcast is called “The Thing About Pam” and NBC did a docudrama
staring Renee Zellweger also called “The Thing About Pam”).
It is no secret that inmates/Guards/law enforcement absolutely hate one another. In
here it is no different. We hear insane stories every day about law enforcement
corruption. I’m not sure people would believe me. This story is about how much power
law enforcement welds (prosecutors, detectives, investigators, etc….) and how terribly
wrong it can go. I listened to a few podcasts about this story when I was waiting for my
trial…but I never really got into it. Well now that it has some relevance to me, I was all
in. This story is absolutely mind boggling. What people in power can do never ceases to
amaze me. I am taking a short break from Self Help books to read this book and the
“HOT HOUSE.” which is all about Leavenworth prison (my temporary home)
What this book is about?
Russ Faria returns home to his wife (Betsy) after having game night with his friends
(game night is him playing dungeon and dragons with some buddies, so the guy is a bit
goofy) and finds her brutally murdered (beyond brutal….55 stab wounds…knife sticking
out of her neck). It is well known that any husband would be a suspect in such a
murder. But in this case Faria has 5 friends who supply him an airtight alibi…. there is
no physical evidence, time of death, or other factors that would point to him being the
killer. Their marriage was by all accounts normal…besides an insurance policy for 150K
there appeared no reason anyone would want to kill his wife. Betsy had terminal cancer
and was not expected to live much longer than a few more years.
From day one Russ was considered the only possible suspect. The police did interview
a women named Pam Hupp who on a scale of moronic proportions told a story that
painted Russ as an abusive husband and potential murderer. It is almost unexplainable
how they believed her. The detectives and District Attorney Askey ignored the
inconsistencies in Pam’s story and chose to believe her. That began an abuse of power
in just about every way you could possibly conceive to arrest and prosecute Russ Faria.
Pam Hupp had become the beneficiary of Betsy’s life insurance policy the day before
her murder. I can’t make this stuff up. The detectives/prosecutor didn’t think it was
At trial the judge made decisions that aided the prosecution’s case…not allowing the
defense to even accuse Pam Hupp of being a suspect in the murder (and taking the
prosecutions side on all matters of law). I wish I could explain this better…. However,
there is no real explanation. It is just a story about how power can be abused. The jury
found Russ Faria guilty. His attorney Joel Schwartz, and everyone who witnessed the
trial (including some Fox news journalists) knew Russ was innocent and Pam was likely
The story took on a life of its own. Members of Faria family sent the information about
the case to NBS’s Dateline….and the story became big news. On appeal a new judge
was assigned, and Schwartz mopped the floor with prosecutor Askey. The judge called
the abuse of power by the prosecutor and detectives “beyond anything he had ever
seen.” Russ was freed after spending 8 years in jail.
Things got even crazier as Pam Hupp was investigated. She had murdered her mother
(to claim another life insurance policy) by pushing her off her balcony…. which somehow
was not noticed by anyone (WHAT????). When Russ was freed, she tried to take the
heat off herself by murdering another man (Louis Gumpenberger) and tried to frame
Russ Faria for it (the man was mentally challenged, she shot him). She was eventually
arrested for the murder of her mother and Louis G. This time a decent investigation
occurred. Pam pled guilty to those murders in exchange for the death penalty being
taken off the table.
Russ Faria sued the prosecutor and the detectives. The lawsuit was settled for 2 million
How will I apply what I learned moving forward or what I learned from reading this
While reading these books you do plenty of thinking. It is absolutely mind boggling to
me how much power law enforcement has. There are very few people here that I truly
believe are innocent. However, when I hear the stories of people that I believe are
innocent it almost always has to do with egregious abuses of power. Prosecutors/cops
can make wild accusations and have little to no recourse if they make massive
mistakes. I was happy to learn the prosecutor lost her reelection bid and the detectives
had to give up their pensions to pay for the Russ Faria lawsuit.
However, I learned that most of the people associated with this mess are still working
and never received anything other than some bad press and a slap on the wrist. Russ
Faria went to jail for 8 years. 8 years because these people were terrible at their job
and didn’t care…. the fact that they have little to no accountability makes for a perfect
storm to abuse power. Even when it was clear he didn’t kill his wife they still wouldn’t
admit they were wrong. Even when Pam went crazy, and it became clear she was guilty
law enforcement was still smug and unapologetic. It makes me sick. I compare it to my
experiences and what I see every day and it is beyond depressing. I’m terrified at the
low quality of judges we are appointing…Mark my words, it will become an issue in the
future. One of my favorite parts of the book is that a group of 5th/6th graders analyzed
this case to make a point…. They figured out Pam was a suspect and felt there was no
evidence to convict Russ. That is scary…We need to take a hard look at the people we
give power to. Someday someone you care about will face the wrong end of this
scenario and you will be terrified. You can’t imagine how one sided it is until you see it
for yourself. It is the very definition of helpless.