Libertarians are the Only Ones Who Would Listen ...
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
On Saint Patrick's Day, following a campaign appearance in New Jersey, Libertarian presidential hopeful Rick Tompkins drove to Brighton Beach, the Russian immigrant enclave in Brooklyn, N.Y., to meet with Anna and Eli Zhadanov.
Anna and Eli are the wife and son of Sam Zhadanov, the 69-year-old Russian immigrant plastics manufacturer who -- late in the game, when his customers started acting squirrely -- checked with a local lawyer to make sure there was nothing illegal about filling wholesale orders for little plastic perfume bottles, even if someone were to later re-sell them to store crack cocaine, a product Sam Zhadanov has never trafficked in.
The attorney correctly informed old Sam that manufacturers of such generic containers are specifically exempted from the federal definition of "drug paraphernalia," since otherwise the folks who manufacture various sizes of plastic sandwich bags would be in a world of hurt.
But the federals don't care what the law says. They arrested Sam and charged him with "conspiracy to transport" all the cocaine they figured could have fit in all the little plastic bottles he manufactured over the years (tons.) They seized his life savings out of his safe at home. They seized his social security checks. They harassed his other customers until he was forced to sell the plastics factory he'd built up over the years with his own hands. Then they seized that money, too.
Finally, when they had everything, they told Sam Zhadanov his 58-year-old wife would starve when he went away to prison, unless he took their best offer, as recommended by his lawyer -- who until four months earlier had worked as a federal prosecutor in New York.
The offer was: Plead guilty to all charges, we'll give half the money back to your wife to live on, and you won't do hard time.
Zhadanov pleaded guilty. But before his wife saw a penny of the promised half of the Zhadanovs' life savings, the IRS stepped in and seized it, saying a deal cut with the prosecutors had no binding effect on them.
"It was a trick," says son Eli. "It was a scam from the very beginning."
Then came the "no hard time" part -- five years in Allenwood.
Rick Tompkins, the Fully-Informed Jury activist, 20-year Vietnam-era Air Force veteran, and three-time chairman of the Arizona Libertarian Party, says Brighton Beach is hardly New York's swankiest address, but that Anna Zhadanov's modest apartment is nicer inside than out.
"Eli came over with his son, a beautiful little boy of about 6 or 7 with dark hair and bright eyes, who was very well-behaved. We talked for awhile, and then Anna served a beautiful spread of ethnic Russian foods.
"It was an incredible feeling sitting and talking to these eminently nice, respectable people. These are not criminals. I reiterated the shame I felt for my country. As (Libertarian political strategist) George O'Brien says, the government is hurting people every day.
"The phone rang, and it was Sam. Apparently he calls from prison every day. His hunger strike lasted 25 days, and then his health got so bad. ...
"They still can't deal appropriately with his dental problem, which was in large part caused by the way he was treated by the government. He'd spent $20,000 on dental implants just days before they descended on him. They refused to give him the opportunity to go back to his dentist, so the implants began to deteriorate. He's in a special medical facility now in Kentucky, but even there they don't have the special expertise to deal with his problem. And it looks like they'll ship him back to Allenwood soon."
Son Eli decided to close his small but successful 10-year-old New York ad agency to reopen his father's business in smaller, rented quarters. "He decided to revive his dad's business in large part to keep his spirits up. They manufacture mainly devices his father had patents on, some life-saving medical devices he'd invented. Eli managed to get some of the products into one of the home shopping networks, so now he actually has more back-orders than they can fill. Of course he still has cash-flow problems.
Anna and Eli Zhadanov "pretty much think the press is worthless," Tompkins said. "Anna said more than once: 'Libertarians are the only ones who would listen to us.' Even a lot of people they thought of as their friends pulled away."
In a recent letter to Rick, Eli Zhadanov writes:
"Dear Mr. Tompkins: On behalf of my father, my mother and myself please accept our warmest gratitude and appreciation to you and Kathy for your support. All of us have been deeply touched by your outrage and concern over my father's situation. More importantly, your letter gave us a sense of hope and strength from a realization that the spirit of America is alive and well in people like you. In your words one hears the voice of a true American patriot.
"We admire your courage to speak the truth and stand up against the government terror and oppression. Unfortunately, most Americans are blind to the greatest threat to this country since the American Revolution: their own government raging out of control.
"To us, immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the symptoms are too clear, the prospects are too horrifying. It is essential to our struggling democracy that your voice and those of your supporters be heard. It is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of survival."
Letters of support may be addressed to the Zhadanovs at 2944 W. 5th St., Apartment 20J, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11224.
Contact Rick Tompkins, Libertarian, for President, at 8129 N. 35th Ave., #2-262, Phoenix, Ariz. 85051, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the Tompkins campaign web page at http://www.nguworld.com/rick96/.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at email@example.com.
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