He hadn’t been a completely popular choice for the American Prison Reform Association’s ‘Man of the Year’ award, but in the reception before the ceremony he won over some of the doubters. As Judge Anthony Reynolds worked the room, he knew who favored him and who didn’t. He was courteous and charming to those who were pleased he was there, but he made a real effort on those who weren’t so pleased.
He was being honored for setting up and leading the Prison Welfare Commission, an organization which had been credited for making prison safer for inmates, and campaigning for prisoners to be able to work and not stay in their cells all day. No-one at the award ceremony had a problem with the work of the Commission. They did believe that in spite of his work with the Commission, Judge Reynolds passed harsh sentences and therefore shouldn’t be given the award.
One by one, as he went around the room, Reynolds won people over. He mirrored their body language, he took interest in their opinions, he appealed to their sense of fairness. After all, he’s only working within the legal sentence ranges, and if he was a soft-touch, who would listen to his concerns about prisoner welfare? By the time he got up to give his speech accepting the award, the audience liked him. By the end of the speech, they liked him still more.
By the end, they were on their feet cheering. The 62-year old Reynolds, with his distinguished full head of gray hair, basked in the adulation. He stayed afterwards for a couple of hours, before calling for his driver, who then took him home.
When his driver called the following morning, the Judge was not waiting on the front step as he usually was, which concerned him enough to call the house. When there was no answer there, at his office or on his cellphone, he decided to break in.
Smashing a small pane of glass by a side door, the driver unlocked the door, and made his way into the house. No-one was around downstairs, so he made his way upstairs. Opening doors one-by-one, he eventually found the judge’s bedroom. The judge was in bed, dead. After his night of honor, Judge Reynolds had suffered a heart attack in his sleep.
The police, attracted by the silent alarm triggered by the window breakage, quickly showed up. As soon as it became clear that there was nothing suspicious about the judge’s death, or the driver’s presence in the house, the driver was allowed to leave, and Judge Reynolds’ body was taken away.
At his funeral the following week, guests included the Mayor, the state’s Attorney General, the Governor, several congressmen and Senators, and senior figures from the military and police. In the immediate aftermath of his death, his reputation had never been higher. But that was about to change.
After the funeral, his nephew Ben Reynolds started work on going through the late judge’s house. It now belonged to his father, the judge’s brother, but he wasn’t a sentimental man so wanted to sell or dispose of the contents and then rent out the property. Ben hadn’t been close to his uncle, living in a different state since college. But he had still been family, so the clear-out of the judge’s possessions took a while, as Ben sentimentally pored over and sifted through the documents, photographs, awards and collectables the judge had accumulated. He had taken a week off work to get it done, so he was in no hurry. The idea that his uncle’s former university might be interested in his papers also grew in him, which made him more careful and inquisitive.
This curiosity extended to examining the plans of the house, drawn up by the judge himself. Ben was puzzled why they were in his safe, but reasoned that the plans to the house of a judge should probably be kept from people who may wish to do him harm. Having also mapped out the dimensions of the different rooms to aid with renting out the house, he had not worked out why the totals for all of the rooms did not tally with his overall measurements of the width and breadth of the house itself. He checked and rechecked his figures, but the discrepancy remained.
Only when he examined the plans more closely did he realize that he had not been mistaken. There was a hidden room on the second floor. At first he had no idea how to access the hidden room, and he had no intention of causing any damage to what was now a lucrative rental property belonging to his father. But eventually he worked out that by depressing light switches that were seemingly useless or redundant in a certain way, he was able to detach a bookcase from a wall, revealing a locked door. After consulting videos on YouTube about how to pick locks, he was in within an hour. What he saw in that room shocked and disgusted him, as it did the rest of the world when he revealed it.
The room was not large, but spacious enough to contain banks of screens along one wall, a desk with a computer and various files on it, a filing cabinet in the corner, a drinks cabinet, and three chairs. He checked the files first, and when he read what was in them, fired up the computer, and turned on the screens. The files were a record of women that the judge had arranged to be framed for crimes they did not commit, with the help and collusion of police officers, prosecutors, court officials and prison wardens, as well as criminals that the judge had bribed or blackmailed to do some of the dirty work involved in the framing.
On the computer, the judge had installed a dashboard with which he could access live video footage inside women’s prisons. He had used the Prison Welfare Commission to install cameras in all areas of these prisons, and used a backdoor to stream the footage into his hidden room. Storage drives contained thousands of hours of footage that the judge and his associates had edited down and kept. It became apparent to Ben that his uncle had worked hard to establish a network of co-conspirators and the technological means to incarcerate any woman he or his friends wanted to, and then enjoy the footage of them suffering in prison, unjustly incarcerated and protesting their innocence to disbelieving guards.
Unlike his uncle, Ben Reynolds is a good man, and after he had seen enough to convince himself of his uncle’s guilt, and the suffering of the women whose lives he had ruined, he called his dumbstruck father to inform he about what he had found. His father got the first flight over, and they decided to contact an old college friend of his who worked at the FBI. Neither man trusted the local law enforcement, and did not want to potentially taint the evidence in the hidden room by systematically trying to identify every co-conspirator implicated in the files. Within a day the FBI had agents poring over the house, and in particular the files and computer system. Now that the guilty parties have been convicted and will spend decades in prison, we can report on the innocent women who have now been freed and exonerated.
The judge and his friends started small, scanning the street for young women who they decided, on a whim, to target. They felt more confident in doing this, and framing them for relatively low-level offenses, because they thought it would be less likely to be traced back to them. Their first victim was Kristen Barker, then aged 20, in 1998. They saw her walk to her vehicle then drive away, and made careful note of her license plate. They blackmailed a parolee in breach of their conditions through a third party to add alcohol to her drink the next time that she visited a restaurant, not enough to be noticeable, but enough to make her over the limit.
The parolee made a call from a nearby payphone to another one when she went to drive home, and then a patrolman associated with the judge followed her for 300 yards before flashing his lights and pulling her over. He improvised by provoking her into reaction by subtly groping her, allowing him to add charges of ‘resisting arrest’ and ‘assaulting a police officer’ to the rap sheet. This very early piece of initiative inspired similar ways of building up the list of charges in the years to come. Having not actually drunk anything, and complaining that she had been touched inappropriately by the patrolman, Miss Barker pleaded not guilty to the charges, but her recorded blood alcohol levels and the testimony of the officer were enough to convict her, and she was sentenced to 18 months in prison. “It was devastating to me. I had a good job, a nice apartment, and then, one day, it was all gone,” Kristen told a court at the trial of one of the judge’s associates. She had to move back in with her parents after being released from prison, and still lives there now. “Prison broke me, I lost all my confidence, and I couldn’t look people in the eye. I thought everyone I met knew, or would know. They would know that I spent 18 months of my life in a cell, not able to leave, forced to strip off in front of other inmates if a guard just wanted to screw with me. I shut myself off from the world, and now I work a shitty job and haven’t had a relationship that lasted longer than a couple of months.”
At this early stage, the judge and his co-conspirators had to rely on photographs of Miss Barker and their other victims undergoing strip-searches and crying while locked in their cells sent to a PO Box by friendly guards. They also tended to just frame their victims, rather than intervene in sentencing and the conditions of their incarceration. Over time, they grew more confident, and began targeting women they knew or who they thought had wronged them in some way, as well as involving other judges, court officials, prison guards and wardens. They also, through the judge, founded the Prison Welfare Commission to enable them to view directly by live video streaming the distress and degradation of their victims.
One example of a young woman who the judge decided would look good on his live streams from prison was poor Sonia Derry. So he requested her presence at his office. Like a good citizen she accepted the judge’s invitation and turned up to a meeting at Judge Reynolds’ luxurious offices. When she arrived, he told the conservatively-dressed but charmingly flirtatious brunette that her employer was committing illegal activities. He further explained that legal technicalities prevented the police from acquiring evidence that would lead to his arrest. Reynolds impressed upon the 19-year old the seriousness of what her employer was doing, for public safety.
Miss Derry earnestly asked how she could help, and the judge was happy to explain, and excited by the thought of what viewing this pale-skinned naive young woman in prison would be like. He told her that if she used her login details to access certain files, and leak these to the media, the police would be able to press charges. She was uncertain, but the judge guaranteed her that her name would be kept out of any court proceedings, and the media wouldn’t reveal its source.
She agreed to it, but didn’t realize that the judge actually knew the employer, Mark Bennet. Bennet, part of the judge’s circle of associates, would hire attractive young women, and plant false ‘evidence’ on the computer system. Reynolds would then call in the young woman and then encourage her to leak the evidence.
She would then be caught, and charged with computer crimes and data theft. The judge would rig the schedules to make sure he got her trial, and would guide the jury towards a guilty verdict. He would then pass a harsh sentence, with additional corporal punishment elements.
And so it proved. Miss Derry was caught in the act of carrying out the judge’s request. She protested that the judge had asked her to do it, but no-one believed her. She was charged, and continued to deny the charges. She was amazed that Judge Reynolds presided over her trial, and unsurprisingly the jury took just 2 hours to find her guilty.
The next day, the judge sentenced her to 4 years in prison, with monthly floggings. After she was taken away screaming, the judge phoned Bennet and told him to bring round the beers that evening for the inmate Sonia show. The men spent all night exulting in her distress at the verdict and sentencing, laughing as she stumbled in her chains and sobbed while restrained in the prison van, and silently savored her humiliation at intake: the showering, and strip and cavity searches. The judge would prepare highlight reels of her crying and bored in her cell for Bennet, and they eagerly returned to viewing streams of her prison life over the next few months, before becoming bored and progressively less interested in her.
Bennet alone was an associate of the judge responsible for the false convictions and prison terms of six women, including Sonia. All were caught out with the planted evidence scam, and all were sentenced to serve time in prison, not all by Reynolds. One, then 22-year old Kayleigh Knight, was pregnant at the time – the judge thought viewing a woman giving birth in chains was something he had to have in his collection. Another, 33-year old Peri Salerno, missed her wedding day due to her imprisonment, as Bennet thought he would get a kick out of watching her stuck in her cell on a day she should have been walking down the aisle.
Despite the horror of these stories, it was how he treated the women he knew and that even worked for him that shocked many most of all.
Reynolds had hired Victoria Richardson right out of college, and he liked having her around the office – she was a tall blonde with a sideline in wounded pouting when she was in a bad mood. He planned to keep her around for a few more years before trading her in for a younger model. However, those plans changed when she bounded into the office to tell Reynolds the good news – she was getting married! However, she hadn’t realized what a nasty and ruthless character Judge Reynolds was – he hid it well. He congratulated the 26-year old, but immediately set about plotting to get rid of her.
After all, marriage meant one thing: babies. And that would mean he would have to pay her while she was off having them, and even if she returned to work she would no longer be the sort of eye candy the judge liked to have around. But he thought that he would take advantage of the situation, and avoid any accusations about why he might have fired her.
So through the network of intermediaries he had now established to distance himself from the framings, he arranged for drugs to be planted in her car, and for her to be stopped on her way home from work. It was easy enough to do, and the shock experienced by the victim often prevented them from acting in the most effective way to deal with it. Like so many of the judge’s victims, she protested that the wrapped cocaine wasn’t hers, and denied the charges, but the evidence was against her.
The emotional impact of being falsely accused meant that she appeared guilty, the tears and smudged make-up in court derided by jurors as the regret of someone who just got caught. She was found guilty of possession of drugs with intent to supply, and sentenced to 11 years in prison. The judge could now enjoy her firm body being strip-searched, record and replay her crying herself to sleep and mock the screen as he saw her working in the prison laundry, often watching the recorded video feeds with his sleazy friends.
Those friends were sleazy enough to insinuate that when Reynolds hired a personal trainer, the peppy and effervescent Melanie diMarco, it was a sexual work-out that he was after. Sleazy they might be, but they were right.
However, the 23-year old took her job seriously, and rebuffed the judge’s advances. This was a mistake. Sure, it wouldn’t be very pleasant to have sex with the judge, but getting on the wrong side of the judge was dangerous, as other women had found out.
At first, he saw her rejection as a challenge, and still looked forward to the fit young woman with her tied back light-brown ponytail and her tight bare stomach beneath a sheer sports crop top putting him through his paces. Eventually, however, he tired of the exercise, and of Melanie.
Like on so many other occasions, he drew on his network of useful associates to turn the problem into a nightly show in his secret viewing room. He arranged for a couple of military friends of his to plant materials that made it look as if Miss diMarco was planning to make explosives. The police were tipped off, and another member of the Judge’s network handled the case. Melanie had been so comprehensively incriminated that it wasn’t even
Miss diMarco was doomed as soon as she had turned down Reynolds. Backed into a corner, she was spiky and vocal in her own defense in court, but this alienated more jurors than it won over. She was found guilty, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. The judges and his friends could now enjoy viewing the 23-year old’s regular strip-searches, deep cavity searches, the long hours she was kept in her bare, tiny cell and the strict security she suffered whenever out of it. Judging by the statistics on his computer, Reynolds particularly enjoyed the showers she took, draped in chains and barely capable of shifting position because of her zip-tied ankles, only able to wash small areas of her torso due to the shortness of the link from her cuffed wrists to her waist-belt.
There had been rumors on the internet about Judge Reynolds unfairly jailing women for his own pleasure, but they were rare and easily dismissed.
However, 22-year old Debra Ellis heard about the unfortunate fate of a friend of a friend, who had once rejected Judge Reynolds’ advances and then been jailed for a crime that no-one who knew her believed she had committed.
So Debra thought that Judge Reynolds needed to be destroyed. She knew she could never prove what he had done, but thought she could at least destroy his career. It was a bold plan, perhaps only a young woman could dare to think that she could pull it off. She was confident, she knew she had killer hips, large pert breasts and shoulder length dark-brown hair that other women admired in the street. The judge surely could not resist her.
She put her plan into action: she found where he went for drinks, seduced him, and went back to one of his downtown apartments, where they had sex. She sensed that she could take him quite far, and she upped the stakes, culminating in bondage role play with the judge. Not something his stuffy colleagues in the bar association would like! Not something that his conservative constituents would like either, especially with election year around the corner.
Afterwards, while getting dressed, Debra told him that she had recorded everything that had happened, and would release it to the media if he didn’t immediately resign as a judge. He seemed defeated by this, and Debra left the apartment sure that he would resign the next day.
But Reynolds had his allies, and immediately phoned a police officer he knew, who arranged for Miss Ellis’s car to be stopped and searched. They did this, took the recorder, and destroyed it. She was upset at losing the recording, but thought that was it. Not at all. You did not mess with Judge Reynolds and get away with it. He had tricks up his sleeve as well, not least the fact that he recorded everything that went on in his residences.
It didn’t take long to edit the recording to make it sound like she was actually blackmailing him to ensure the acquittal of a terror suspect. The ‘evidence’ in place, Miss Ellis was arrested and held without bail. She was confronted with the evidence, and naturally denied it. She thought that it was just a threat though, as the judge would never want the recording played in court, as it proved he had an affair with her. But it would never reach open court – the terror element meant that she would be tried in a closed court. In front of just a judge, no jury.
The judge was not actually a friend of Reynolds, but the evidence seemed clear, and he found her guilty and sentenced her to 20 to 40 years in an ultra-security prison. The judge had special pleasure in viewing the cameras from her cell. She spent all day (except for a quick and rough scrub for 10 minutes every day, and 30 minutes exercise on a treadmill once a week) encased in a leather bodysuit, her whole body covered except for nose holes for breathing.
She lay bound on a thin mattress with concrete underneath, catheterized. Based on the number of times he saved video streams of her cell, the judge enjoyed watching her squirm and whimper in her cruel, unjust imprisonment.
Fortunately, with the judge’s death and the imprisonment of his associates, the women who they framed are now free, and can try to rebuild their lives. The question is, though, how many more Judge Reynolds are out there, and how many women are tonight lying awake on a steel cot behind a thick steel door, wondering how they ended up there, and if they could ever prove their innocence and regain their freedom?