I met Kyle Catlin almost one year ago. As I'm writing this, he sits in protective custody at the Marana Community Correctional Facility, afraid for his life after an inmate recently jumped him and then threatened to kill him for being "a snitch."
The inmate split Kyle's lip open. The inmate now sits in solitary because of the fight. Kyle is also in "the hole" for protection. Both of them were issued a complaint even though Kyle didn't do anything, according to his father Marvin.
This wasn't the first time. A couple of months ago, another inmate in a different correctional facility jumped Kyle and split his head open.
"His appeal for the guy punching him in the mouth was denied, he has one more appeal and is working on it now. If he is denied again he will have to be put in a medium security facility," Marvin told me through Facebook a couple of days ago. We've been in touch here and there since Kyle's trial.
"He is being threatened by a group of inmates. He should be moved to protective custody tonight.
I fear for his life," Marvin said last night.
It was a three-digit-hot August day last year, and the young medical marijuana patient/caregiver and I were supposed to talk about his upcoming two trials for nonviolent marijuana sale, possession and cultivation felony charges over some iced coffee or tea at Cafe Passé on Fourth Avenue. Kyle called me to let me know he couldn't make it because his car had broken down and he'd taken it to a shop in South Tucson. I met him there and we talked in the waiting room for at least three hours.
Kyle and his grandfather.
Before we got into the serious talk, he chatted about his upcoming birthday party on Aug. 15. It was his 27th birthday.
Tall, the blondest of hair, soft spoken, kind eyes, beyond family-oriented and a die-hard fan of car racing—I remember thinking, how can he be facing the possibility of going to prison?
At the time, he had at least 10 felony charges on him. (Read more about the charges, In Defense of Marijuana
, September 2015.) He told me he was afraid of going to prison. He was afraid of getting pulled into a gang, being jumped. He, without shame, said he wasn't a fighter. He'd lose a fight. But probably the biggest fear was separating from his family. They were always
In October 2015, Kyle's trial for case 1 was a damn rocky one to say the least. Pima County Superior Court Judge Javier Chon-Lopez even prohibited the jury from researching the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (passed by voters in 2010), according to Kyle's attorney Brick Storts, who also told me that he wasn't allowed to mention the law throughout the defense, either. The MMJ Act was KEY
in Kyle's fate. It could have given that gray perspective.
Sadly, the juror unanimously found Kyle guilty of the three felonies in case 1
. I remember watching one of the young women in the jury playing with her hair at some point. I thought, Kyle reminds me of my middle brother, David, 19. What if this were David?
Congratulations jury, you really made a difference in society by sending a healthy, nonviolent, work-eager young man to prison. I'm sure you all are sleeping through the night, enjoying your families and friends with the comfort of the eternally-taken-for-granted freedom. You've shattered a family that did not deserve it. It's repugnant.
I sat there in court almost every day of Kyle's trial in October, watching his father Marvin cry inconsolably. Other family members were there, too, as well as Kyle's girlfriend and a handful of friends. After Kyle was found guilty, he looked back at his family, and was immediately taken into custody. His mom Suson couldn't get the day off work, so Marvin called her to give her the news.
I don't think there's been a day I haven't, even for a few seconds, thought about Kyle and his family. (My friends know all about Kyle and his family.) I have a few of them on Facebook, and can see when they post photos of birthday parties and other family activities—Kyle's absence is beyond a void.
Before his case, I've never witnessed how this defective criminal system deals with nonviolent, first so-called "drug offenders."
Trial for case 2 was suspended because Kyle and his brother Kalvin
reached a plea deal. Kalvin is under probation but at least free to be his pregnant wife and beautiful two children.
In the upcoming months, Kyle has a clemency hearing. His appeal for case 1 was also granted.
His family is fighting with teeth and nails to free Kyle.
"I'm not sure of what else I can do. [Kyle] did not deserve any of this and the system has failed him beyond failure," Suson wrote on Kyle's Facebook last night. She called the facility's warden to have Kyle moved into protective custody after his life was threatened. "I feel so hopeless. I don't know what else I can do for my son."