Pubdate: Tue, 06 Apr 2004
Source: Fox News Network (US)
Copyright: 2004 Fox News Network, Inc.
Program: The O'Reilly Factor
Anchor: Bill O'Reilly
Guests: Elaine Bartlett, Jennifer Gonnerman
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)


O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the second 
"Personal Story" segment tonight, doing the time.

In 1983, Elaine Bartlett and her boyfriend, Nathan Brooks, delivered four 
ounces of cocaine to undercover cops in Albany, New York. Brooks was a 
convicted dope dealer, so he received a mandatory 25-year sentence, which 
he is still serving.

New York authorities offered Bartlett a deal: become an informant and be 
reduced to five years, serving less, or take the 20-year maximum. She chose 
the max.

In 1999, Governor George Pataki pardoned Bartlett and now she has her name 
on a book written by author Jennifer Gonnerman. "Life on the Outside" 
portrays Bartlett as a victim and has received praise from many elite-media 

But I remain skeptical and talked with the ladies about the situation a few 
days ago.


O'REILLY: Now, Elaine, I'm trying to figure out whether I should feel sorry 
for you or not. I don't know. I mean, I looked at the book and it could go 
either way with me.

So I want to ask you a couple of fundamental questions. Do you believe that 
selling hard narcotics, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, is morally wrong?


O'REILLY: Did you believe it back then when you were moving the cocaine?

BARTLETT: Yes, I did. I always felt that drugs has played a big part in our 
lives and in our communities, but the problem is that it doesn't stop us 
from making foolish mistakes.

O'REILLY: OK. So you knew when you were moving the cocaine from New York to 
Albany, carrying it, that it was morally wrong to do that? You knew that?


O'REILLY: But you were involved with a boyfriend at the time, a husband 
now, who's still in prison, by the way, who was as dope dealer.

BARTLETT: Yes. And at that time he was my boyfriend. It's not uncommon for...

O'REILLY: Why -- if you think it's wrong, why would you be the girlfriend 
of a dope dealer?

BARTLETT: Well, in our neighborhoods, drugs was so common, like people go 
to the store to buy candy. It's not that we go out and look for it. It's 
what we're faced with every day of our lives.


BARTLETT: We're not the ones that are bringing the drugs into the country, 
but we are the communities that are being affected by it.

O'REILLY: But you just said to me you knew it was morally wrong to traffic 
in hard drugs, yet you became the girlfriend and the subsequent wife of a 
drug dealer. See that confuses me, and I think it does to the audience, as 

BARTLETT: Well, he wasn't a big drug dealer. He got involved with drugs at 
a very young age.

O'REILLY: You were offered a deal by the prosecutor that would have put you 
in jail for five years if you did what?

BARTLETT: Became an informer and went back to Manhattan and set someone up 
the same way...

O'REILLY: That someone had set you up.

BARTLETT: ... that someone had set me up. But the problem with that was 
that I didn't know any kingpins. So, who was I going to set up?

O'REILLY: But if you set up -- if you agreed to the deal and said, "Look, I 
'll become an informer and tell you what I know," and if you don't know 
anything, what's the deal? They just wanted to put you in a position where, 
if you did know something, you'd tell them and you said no.

BARTLETT: No. They told me that they had people that they wanted me to go 
back to Manhattan and...

O'REILLY: And try to buy from and develop information.

BARTLETT: Exactly.

O'REILLY: But you were not willing to do that.


O'REILLY: why?

BARTLETT: Because I would have put my family in jeopardy in doing so. I 
didn 't know the people they wanted me to set up.

O'REILLY: So it was just fear.

BARTLETT: Mostly fear.

O'REILLY: All right.

Now, Jennifer, you can understand how people reading this book or listening 
to Elaine -- some people are going to feel sorry for her, that she served 
16 on a four-ounce cocaine rap.

And some people are going to say, "Listen, you got what you deserved. You 
deal with the devil, you get involved with hard narcotics, you get to be 
the boyfriend and a wife of a drug dealer, I'm not going to feel sorry for 

probably most of your viewers will maybe not feel sorry for her, but really 
question the -- what the circumstances of what happened.

You know, as you mentioned, it was a set-up. She was set-up by a man named 
George Dietz, who in fact was a pretty serious drug dealer in and of itself.

O'REILLY: He got out because he was setting other people up and knocking 
them down, but that's how drug cases are made all day long.

GONNERMAN: But in this particular case, he was a lot like -- it was like 
Tom Coleman, who I know you talked about, who set up a lot of people in 
Tulia, Texas.

George Dietz was bringing cocaine from Colombia into upstate New York at 
the same time he was working for the New York state police and setting up 
poor people like Elaine Bartlett.

O'REILLY: OK. But I know Ms. Bartlett is a poor person. But she still had 
made enormous mistakes on her judgment of who to be associated with 
romantically, and then deciding to move four ounces of cocaine.

And I mean, I don't know whether this was the first time she did it. I 
don't know. Nobody knows.

So what I'm trying to tell you is that this is a very, very murky moral 
area for a lot of people. They don't like to see people's lives be ruin. 
But at the same time, the reason the crime rate has fallen so drastically 
here in New York state is because of these tough drug laws that take these 
people off the streets.

GONNERMAN: I think that there's no question, obviously a crime was 
committed, and Elaine will be the first person to tell you that she should 
be punished for her crime.

I think the question comes in the fact that she was sentenced to 20 to 
life. She did 16 years before Governor Pataki gave her clemency. When she 
went in, she was a welfare motor. Had $5 in her pocket when she was 
arrested. The New York state spend more than $500,000 to keep her in prison.

O'REILLY: Yes, but they send a message to other people like Elaine, don't 
do this. Because if you do this, then you're going to go up and that's why 
the crime rate has dropped so drastically.

Every criminologist says the same thing. Once they got the crack epidemic 
under control, once they put away these people who are selling it, the 
crime rate came down. Surely you know that.

GONNERMAN: Well, there is a message sent. But you know, the drug laws were 
on the books for, you know, a long time, several decades before Elaine 
committed her crime and it didn't stop her.

O'REILLY: Your husband is still in jail?


O'REILLY: He's going to get out fairly soon, correct?

BARTLETT: Yes. He received 25 to life.

O'REILLY: Right. And what are you going to do? Are you going to get 
together with him and...

BARTLETT: I don't know.

O'REILLY: Has your life changed? Have you changed your opinion on life?

BARTLETT: My life has changed, and it didn't take 16 years for my life to 
change. It didn't take 16 years for me to realize that I made a poor 
judgment and a mistake.

I'm not saying that I shouldn't have been punished for carrying that 
package. But to receive a 20-to-life sentence, I was robbed out of my whole 

O'REILLY: If you had to do it again, would you have made the deal and only 
done five?


O'REILLY: OK, so you would have taken the full step.

If you look back, would you have done anything differently at all?

BARTLETT: I wouldn't have agreed to deliver the package in the first place.

O'REILLY: Would you have started to take drugs in the first place?


O'REILLY: OK. So you would have stayed away from drugs altogether.

BARTLETT: Because drugs have destroyed my family, just as well as other 

O'REILLY: And millions of American families.

BARTLETT: I realize that.

O'REILLY: That's why people go to jail because they destroy -- drugs 
destroy people. Last question -- do you see yourself as a victim?

BARTLETT: I see myself as -- yes, as being railroad out of my life.

What I'm saying -- I know I committed a crime. But they could have did so 
many other things with me. They could have educated me. They could have put 
me under strict supervision. They could have gave me some jail time. They 
didn't have to give me a 20-to-life sentence.

And me doing 20-to-life didn't stop my son from getting involved with drugs 
and going to jail. So after 16 years, I had to come home and go visit my 
own child in prison.

And sending us to prison for such a long period of time, it doesn't stop 
our children. It doesn't put fear into our communities or stop the kids.

And the kids are getting a hold of drugs at a younger age now. My son got a 
hold of drugs at the age of 12 out there on the street. So, it's not 
deterring our communities from getting involved with drugs because we go to 

O'REILLY: Your son probably got involved with drugs because he was 
unsupervised, because you were in jail and whatever. But there was a 
history of this.

OK. Fascinating story. And I think that anybody watching this interview 
will be able to make their own decision on this. And we really appreciate 
you ladies coming in.

BARTLETT: Thank you.

GONNERMAN: Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.


O'REILLY: It will be interesting to see the e-mail on that tomorrow.
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