Drug War

Full text of letter in support of leniency for Marc Henry Johnson

Here is a letter written in support of leniency for Marc Henry Johnson, a fellow producer on “The Deuce” who was involved in the tragic overdose death of a woman in New York last year. The letter was written to the sentencing judge and is part of the court record, and I post it here out of concern that certain news outlets, including the New York tabloids — which did a poor and imprecise job of covering the original incident — are now quoting it piecemeal. As it is addressed to a presiding court, it would be inappropriate to comment beyond the letter itself, but I am going to link to it here so that a full, contextualized argument is available to those concerned or curious about my reasoning:

MHJ Letter Final July 2017 updated


  • Very sad story. I had not heard about this before today. As someone who works with kids with addiction, I wake up every morning hoping I won’t get the call. Hopefully their young bodies withstood another k2 binge. They didn’t get a bad batch. When someone does k2,cocaine or heroine, they know death is a possibility. From what I have seen with these kids, death would be their relief. The more I work with addicted folks, the more I see trauma at the core. They’d meet the criteria for PTSD: reckless and self destructive behavior, quick startle response, irritability. They are folks that already hurt. Hopefully Marc can get clean where he is. And hopefully he can get some EMDR or other trauma therapy to help him address the reasons he used in the first place. And regarding the doctor, I am reminded that addiction spares no one, nor matter how beautiful, intelligent or successful. Overcoming an addiction is a very painful process, and many people dont survive. Studies show people relapse 7.5 times before they ever get clean. Who knows where she was on her substance use, but I feel nothing but compassion and love for both she and her family. There by the grace of God go I.

  • Mr. Simon,

    I stumbled across this post simply browsing the Internet as a longtime fan of your very personal work.

    Your letter made me slightly curious given your lengthy experience in various line’s of work which abstractly overlap this “drug war”.

    Do you find yourself in this type of situation or receiving this type of request frequently due to the many souls touched by addiction in every way that you have worked with and or grown close to over those years of work and research?

    I’m also curious if you have received requests similar to this one and accepted some and denied others, Do you think those decisions on your behalf would or do add more context or “hold more weight” to the very fact that you did write this letter for Mr. Henry at all?

    I did personally find your participation in this fascinating, in the way that we are all very much connected to the drug war no matter how much we would all very much like to believe we are not.

    I do hope your letter was effective for Mr. Henry and I also hope that not only the Judge but also the media you acknowledged in the post, reflected on your wide ranging experience with this drug war and the possibility that there may be requested letters you did indeed deny to write.

  • I started this letter absolutely furious that you’d cut Johnson a break, but once you explained your position and presented the evidence, as well as the context and implications of the decision, you completely won me over. Thank you for your fearless determination in seeking the bigger picture as well as the truth. The world is lucky to have you, Mr. Simon.

  • I may regret this, but fuck it….

    David Simon has jumped the shark

    Context: 34 year old black man. If my memory serves me correctly I haven’t posted anything on this site in a year and half, maybe two. I haven’t visited this site much if any since. I don’t have any social media so in getting caught up in the wave of current events today (NFL) I see Mr Simon has a twitter account. I just spent the last hour reading it as far back as possible so instead of creating an account there where I’d be dismissed as an egg or troll I thought I’d respond here. I apologize for posting this here under this post.

    The genesis of why we have a Trump presidency, I believe, is the Access Hollywood episode. That situation was perfectly teed up for Hillary and all her supporters and everyone against Trump to finish him mortal kombat style…and the arrogance of every single one of them who either felt the American public was either too dumb or too lazy to use their smart phones to listen to that in its entirety allowed them at that moment and since up until now to say he admitted on tape to sexual assault. NO.HE.DIDNT.

    Blined by ambition to win, they failed to recognize the better argument for which they could use to win. Trump was using his power accrued to him by his wealth, power and fame to entice women to give him what he wanted. Sometimes it didn’t work, as seen in the AH video where they were talking about how someone famous turned him down and the woman he was about to see paid him no mind. But in most cases I’m sure it worked.

    But they were too cowardly to make that argument because it meant holding themselves accountable first and foremost. Bill Clinton and interns. All the celebrities supporting Hillary who fucks 400 groupies a day. Every CEO who takes advantage of customers. David Simon who under pays his actors and crew (allegedly). Someone like me who has to live the rest of my life knowing in my 20s I was a ruthless womanizer. No I never assaulted ANY woman but I did exploit their emotions (made them think I felt a way about them in order to receive the benefits of feeling that way about them)without caring about the consequences.

    It’s moral superiority trying to mask itself as a moral authority. I’m famous and rich and smart therefore listen to me and if you don’t I will use the fact that I’m famous and rich and smart and all the power that comes along with it force my moral superiority on you. Yes I know that gluten free wild organic blueberry scones is healthier than whatever the fuck I’m eating, but if I know that and I’m willing to accept the consequences of eating whatever I’m eating and it has zero affect on others who cares what you believe?

    But worst than your moral superiority is that on every issue practically, Trump has made– excuse me, EXPOSED–his adversaries as flat out hypocrites. It is extremely evident with this NFL debacle.

    I, as a black man, haven’t watched the NFL for at least 2 years since the Grey Hardy situation. That situation is a perfect example of what liberals (i voted Kerry and Obama twice) are doing now. Let’s assume GH was guilty of everything he was accused of. He paid the price, took his punishment and came back. The American way. But because this black man didn’t ingratiate if I spelled that right enough the standard was forever changed: it’s not if you can do a job, it’s can you be likable enough or want us to watch you do you job.

    The same people who created that standard against GH are now pissed that Kaepernick is being made victim of the same standard. I protested the NFL because it’s an example of the same moving of goal lines that black people have experienced forever. And it was mostly liberals in media virtual signaling on behalf of women that established that dangerous precedent that your qualifications alone don’t matter, it’s liability. Ask anyone who is pro Kap if GH should be in the league, hypocrisy ensues.

    Let me make something very clear: I as a black man in America believe that if a black man is charged with any crime that as long as he proclaims his innocence or until he is found guilty he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Chappelle had a classic skit about this. I believe how something is adjudicated is equally important as to what’s adjudicated. White people know black men adhere to this standard, that’s why when called to do recent jury duty I was the last of every single black man dismissed.

    For example, Bill Cosby. Let’s for argument sake say he’s guilty as fuck. Should we be happy that a media campaign was coordinated to put forth every accuser and not investigate them? How about how he was charged on last day before statue of limitations expired where people who’s memory have changed, entities who no long exist who could help determine guilt or innocence or anything otherwise is no longer available? Or how only portions of his depo was leaked? Or the DA ran primarily to put Cosby in jail? Or the accuser takes millions of dollars in a settlement and then goes against that settlement? Yes, Cosby as a powerful man would take advantage of those rules but now we live in an Era where rules don’t matter. (BTW that’s why in public cases such as Cosby or GH or others, black men like myself who are standing on principle over substance are never heard from, but I digress).

    Liberals used to be against the tactics of Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove. We used to not organize boycotts because some rapper got a Pepsi deal or someone was critical of the president overseas. But this is the identity politics Era and if you hurt our feelz we are suing and boycotting you. Donald Trump is just using new age liberal tactics against them. Remember bake the cake!

    Mr Simon earlier had a tweet which I’m paraphrasing, if the Ravens don’t protest I’m not renewing my season tickets, effectively engaging in economic terrorism. *all cap warning* NAME ONE TIME ANY ENTITY WHEN THEY PUBLICLY DISPLAYED POLITICAL OR SOCIAL BELIEVES COUNTER TO YOURS!?!? That’s the measure of a true pluralistic society: this person can have a public position or just a damn job without being subjected to woke test or idealogical purity detection.

    If not, next time you go to a private entity to procure their goods or services, will you allow them to silently protest against gay marriage? Can someone say “MAGA, may I take your order?” If you will still shop with them or support them then you’re not a hypocrite, but chances of that not happening is zero. You’re just using the power you have to get what you want. Don’t blame others with more power than you for doing the same.

    Lastly, I know I went on here very long. I’m sure like all twitter ambulance chaser tactics, you will do a word count or correct my typos or what the fuck ever. Cool. But I want to address the substance of these protest.

    When I was 10 years old my mom died of cancer. Along with my father, my oldest sister cared for me and did an excellent job. When I was 17 some nigga impregnated my sister and said later! It wasn’t even a thought for me to be there as much as I could for my nephew, even though I was 17. And I was.

    When I was 20, I took a part time job with a before and after school care so my nephew could get free care. This past summer I put him through driving school and got him his first car. Every moment between then I never missed a game or orientation, always spent time with him, literally the countless things a father would do with their son, though as an uncle with a nephew.

    A few days after him getting his car he came to me and broke down crying. He was nervous about his future post HS (he’s a senior) and he was scared to ask me because his friends think I’m his dad and by default he thinks I’m his dad.

    The number one issue defining his life is the fact that he doesn’t have a father that gives a fuck about him. Everything he’s dealing with from an intellectual and emotional point of view, his default position is to deal with it on his own. Kids are capable to figure things out on their own, because they will always go with what’s easier and what feels good. Next thing you know you’re 30 with scars and baggage from those mistakes trying to catch up.

    After not having a father, the next 20 issues he’s dealing with are a derivative of not having a father: no confidence, low self esteem, under achieving in school, not listening to his mother, hanging around with dumb ass kids, weight issues, the need to ironically have 6 girlfriends, lazy, very emotional, so on and so forth.

    You know where racism and cops rank: they dont. I been middle class my entire life. Single, no kids but I have a track record of saving a lot of women by taking care of their kids (see my sisters). Don’t drink, never smoked a cig, never don’t a drug, haven’t had an Rx since 2003. As such I make decisions accordingly in terms of people I hang with, or places I go. Other than speeding tickets I have not had a negative experience as a black man in deep red south with a cop. Ever. And my nephew with his nerd black soccer loving friends and their multicultural girlfriends haven’t had an interaction with a cop, let alone a bad one, other than being told to don’t run at a football game.

    I’m not denying others experience racism or bad interaction with cops. Nor am I here to defend cops. But why is that the only narrative put forth? I just read some piece by the singer John Legend in slate magazine where he lists all the great examples of protest, all of which were before 1970 where all were protest against state sponsors or sanctioned discrimination. Every case of police misconduct of the past few years wasn’t ordered beforehand, sanctioned by some law or tried to be negated after the fact. It is at best an unfortunate situation of an individual not acting properly in the heat of a moment. Could that individual been racist or acting on subconscious biases…sure. But literally everyone and I mean EVERYONE could do that.

    Anyway I’ve went on long enough. I’m sure I’m exposing myself to being called every name in the book. Sell out, uncle tom, Trump apologist, misogynist whatever. Don’t care. Again sorry for putting forth 20k words.

  • Up here, the paramedics wave off the police when they show up to 911 overdose calls if there is no death involved. If there is, those who make the call are not charged with a crime.

    When Prince died alone in an elevator in his home the Chanhassen, police tried like crazy to make it someone else’s fault, but you can’t do that here. It is because of the number of opiate deaths that these protections were implemented. Addiction is an equal opportunity disease; you may be rich or poor, famous or infamous. The overdoses and deaths are ugly, unstoppable, and tragic. But when there is a chance to save a life, don’t shoot the messenger even if he’s wasted too.

    Less than a week earlier Prince got a save shot in the back of an ambulance after someone landed his private plane mid-flight in a small town in IA. He went quietly to a hospital overnight, refused treatment, and left the next day.

    You can’t stop an addict, but you may try. DS, yours is a hideous situation in which a man did the right thing and is being punished for the other addict’s choices. Being in the throes of his own addiction doesn’t make him a criminal. He did the right thing.

    Society wants to blame those they deem sinners, but there’s no hierarchy of sin in God’s eye. I’ve always felt these matters place us humans at the intersection of two kinds of justice: Biblical and Legal. They’re not the same thing.

    Glad he’s getting well. Great letter DS, I hope it helps somehow.

    With love from the Land of 10,000 Lakes and 12 Steps

  • David –

    After reading your letter twice, it’s apparent to me that your motivation isn’t to support your work collegeue — but to use the situation to further push your agenda of wanting judges & juries to alter how they control the drug war. Am I wrong?

    I wonder…if your son, daughter, or wife had been “partying” that night with Mr. Johnson and had met the same fate as Dr. Cerveny, would you have written a letter to the judge asking for leniency?

    • My younger brother died from an OD. After ODing many times and recovering. With a friend who’d never used before but knew my brother’s history in detail.

      I hugged him at the funeral. I told him he was probably carrying a lot of guilt, but he should put it down, a piece at a time, till it was gone.

      My brother did it to himself. If his friend used again, he’d be doing it to himself. You don’t go to meetings to quit using, I told my brother once. The only way to quit using is to quit using.

      You go to meetings to stop lying.

  • I appreciate this letter, the sentiments it contains, and the reflection of your own integrity and analysis on this subject. News coverage had not reached me here in Oz, but now being aware of this prosecution I have more context for the large number of news stories I am seeing from America about drug overdoses. I pray your letter is effective.

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