Thomas Silverstein – Official Website

Solitary Survivor

12 thoughts on “A Moving Memorial to Tom 5.13.2019

  1. It seems the BOP didn’t like Pete’s message so he wrote this:

    http://www.peteearley.com/2019/05/17/my-account-of-thomas-silversteins-death-prompts-complaints-an-incomplete-and-too-sympathetic-portrait/

    Lets hope he doesn’t give them the power to edit his upcoming book on Tom.

    • I found some errors in Earley’s last post.

      He wrote:

      “He argued self-defense, insisting that both had tried to kill him in retaliation for Atwell’s murder.

      Regardless, he had committed multiple murders before killing Officer Clutts.”

      It was Cadillac Smith not Atwell and Tom has always denied Chappelle’s murder to the end so multiple is misleading in that it sounds like it could be more than these two.

      Oh by the way a when called to the stand to testify Norman Matthews… was asked whether he could remember November 22, 1981, he replied, “It was the day I killed Chappelle.”

      Without this confession Silverstein was found guilty.

      Early also wrote in his last post:

      “I also quoted Silverstein in my blog stating that he murdered Officer Clutts because, he insisted, Clutts was “torturing” him.”

      But in an audio recording of an interview conducted by Earley, Silverstein explains his own motives:

      16:25 Silverstein: I think he was just selling me wolf tickets. But he didn’t know I was taking him serious.

      AS MANY KILLINGS THAT I HAVE SEEN WHEN SOMEONE SAYS HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU CAN’T SIT BACK AND SAY AWE IT AIN’T NOTHING AND DO NOTHING.

      When somebody has gone that far especially when you’re telling him you don’t want no trouble why don’t you get off my case.

      You know, I PLEADED WITH THAT GUY…

      On Line 58 of his declaration Silverstein wrote “After I killed Smith, I lived in constant fear of reprisals. It was in this frame of mind, and believing I was in a life-threatening situation, that on October 22, 1983, I killed Officer Clutts.”

      Silverstein later testified that he had killed Clutts because the guard was planning to let other inmates out of their cells to kill him.

      This is all very consistent.

      • Alan, I’m going to make a huge assumption that Pete Earley will somehow read your post and make any necessary corrections in his blog. Your points are vital to properly understanding Tom’s actions and motives.

    • Alan, I urge every reader to follow your link to Pete Earley’s latest post in response to upset BOP officials who complained to him of his sympathetic portrait of Tom in his obituary/blog. And I just want to clarify one point: Earley is editing Tom’s book and looking for a publisher. Technically it won’t be a book on Tom, but rather by Tom.

      • He hasn’t of of yet.

        I’m afraid judging from the low number of media that has covered Tom’s death that it might be difficult to find a publisher unless it is self published. by family

        The NY Times had reported on Barri Mills death the day after his 70th birthday but then he was a leader of the AB.

        I never asked Tom if he was a member of the AB but Pete Earley claims that he never admitted that he was. It doesn’t matter because the two murders Tom admitted to were personal.

        I’m sure that he regretted having been forced to (in his mind) committing them.

        He said it over and over again.

  2. Unlike most I have experienced the stress and the hate filled atmosphere behind prison walls although not on the level that Tom had experienced. I believe he killed those men because he felt his own life was threatened. The murders were truly gruesome but I believe he thought that would deter others that wished him harm.

    That proved to be foolish and the fear it did produce kept him isolated until the end.

    Oscar Wilde wrote “We are each our own devil and create our own hell.”, in a play about a murder.

    I know what it is like to have my life threatened and to be targeted by a overzealous guard.

    I wrote about my stay in Baton Rouge Parrish Prison as a teenager in 1969-1970. The four man cell was tight and a rapist named Antoine was in the next cell Rumor was he was going to kill me.

    Here is an excerpt:

    “One of the hardest things to get used to was that our personal laundry (socks and underwear) had to be hand washed in the toilet bowl, however using the communal sink, from which we all drank water, to wash such items would have been even more disagreeable. One day the third roommate of mine was released and a new cellmate arrived with a bad case of diarrhea.

    Immediately the already tight quarters became unbearably small. After a full day of listening to this guy’s bowel movements and the corresponding foul odor that they produced I snapped. I complained loudly about the mess he was leaving in the toilet and he responded by telling me to “Fuck off.” It was a big mistake on his part. I jumped up and assaulted him by punching him several times on top of his head so he rolled himself up into a protective ball and covered his face with his arms. The punches that I had landed sprouted several pulsating streams of blood from my victims scalp so with each beat of his panicked heart blood shot up.

    Seeing the blood I immediately regretted my action and sought to stop his bleeding with a towel. I had the towel in my hand when a guard appeared behind me, saw all the blood, so he immediately opened our cell’s door and ordered the injured man to walk out, and then shut the cell door behind him. The main cell block door was then opened and the injured inmate was taken away to the medics. It had been uncharacteristic of me to have assaulted this man and I can only attribute my actions to the overcrowded conditions that we were forced to live in.

    I never saw the inmate again but the guard became my constant antagonist by daily trying to provoke me into doing something stupid. I however knew that he wanted an excuse to beat me down and then take disciplinary action against me so I never lost my cool.

    About a week later I awoke in the middle of the night as a huge orange fire ball fell from my old bunk towards me just as the guy occupying it cried out “What the fuck? Shit!”
    Antoine had rigged his sliding door to his cell so it didn’t lock that night and placed a large amount of unrolled toilet paper on top of my roommate’s bunk and ignited it. I didn’t like the idea of Antoine being able to reach me in the middle of the night. And I was even more concerned to learn of a rumor that Antoine was fashioning a weapon to attack me with. However Mike’s presence represented a logistical problem for Antoine. If he attacked me in the same manner as he had his old roommate he knew that Mike would surly counterattack. He needed to quickly finish us both off and to do so he needed a weapon. Whether this was his reasoning I will never know because a few days later Antoine got into a confrontation with the same antagonistic guard that was harassing me. After a visit from Antoine’s lawyer the guard mocked his chances for beating his case which resulted in Antoine attacking him. Other guards rushed in and Antoine was beaten down and never returned to our cellblock.

    It made me wonder if there was foul play involved because it was not uncommon for inmates to just vanish during this era in the south. The movie Brubaker is based on actual events in the Tucker and Cummins Prison in Arkansas where scores of prisoners became victims of foul play by guards. No one in the cell block would have ever grieved for him however if that was the case.”

    Prior to that I had been targeted because of my race while in the California Youth Authority something Tom and I had in common.

    I wrote:

    My Preemptive Strike

    “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees!”
    Emiliano Zapata

    While in my bed, I contemplated all the rumors of the African Americans arming themselves in preparation for a race riot. Although I had heard the rumors for some time now, I had previously put them out of my mind. What could I do alone against a unified force of some twenty odd opponents? I only had Bill to back me up and he was not a physically imposing figure. Besides his lack of physical prowess, Bill was defiantly not interested in adding any more time to his murder rap by getting involved in a race riot. No, I had to somehow act alone and soon or risk being killed, but I needed to find the most advantageous moment to do so.

    As fate would have it, the next morning as I was approaching my classroom I was stopped by Fritz who talking in a whisper said, “Be careful Leon is in the classroom trying to recruit the Mexicans to join up with the blacks to attack us. You’re the main target but they want to get as many of us as possible.”

    Leon was rumored to have been sent to Preston for a double cop killing in LA. I was told that he had lured the police down a dark alley and then he shot them point blank in the head. This was a threat that I could not take lightly. Luckily he was also one of the most illiterate wards in Sequoia lodge.

    Ever more vigilant now I entered the classroom and went directly to my desk in the second to last row from the door. My best friend Bill sat beside me as always in the last row. I then turned to scan the room and indeed Leon was whispering into the ear of the most dominate Mexican inmate three rows over next to the opposing wall. There were only four or five other African Americans in the room so the odds were never going to be any better I thought.

    I looked over to Bill and said, “Watch my back.” then I turned and stood up shouting, “Leon do you want me motherfucker?” “Hell yeah!” he responded jumping to his feet and proceeding to bounce around like Mohammad Ali but I was unimpressed.

    Determined to put a stop to this threat I ran directly through the rows of desks that were separating us, banging up my legs in the process, and sending the desks flying in all directions. I was impervious to the pain, totally focused on my target, and felt nothing but an intense rage.

    As soon as I was within punching range of Leon I struck him a glancing blow to his face as he ducked down under my arms and picked me up in a bear hug squeezing me in his arms. I continued firing shots to both sides of his head which forced him to fall to the ground taking me along with him.

    I struggled to gain a dominate position and once I was on top I repeatedly punched down on him blooding his face. At that point the teacher reached down and sprayed my face with a can of mace. I jumped up angrily slapping the can from his hand then kicked his desk that he had run behind. The force of my kick sent the large heavy wooden desk six feet or so towards the door which knocked the teacher down in the process.

    Although I was losing my sight now I shouted out trying to be as insulting as possible “If any of you motherfuckers want me, than get me now!” I was willing to go out fighting, nothing mattered but ending the mental strain of being under the constant threat of attack, and possible death.

    About that time every teacher in the school rushed in, and Bill, who hadn’t moved one finger, or said a single word, came up to me, and put a hand on my shoulder then said, “Cool it man you got him good.” Only he could have calmed me down.

    I was immediately taken from the room without any further struggle and placed in solitary confinement. An investigation of the incident was held in which all the rooms in our lodge were searched. Large numbers of weapons were found in the African American inmates’ rooms. The weapons consisted of upholstery needles with homemade handles that resembled ice picks and weight bars which were intended to be used as clubs. Most of these weapons were found in Leon’s room. When asked why there were so many weapons in his room he admitted that he was planning to attack me, and every other white person, whether an inmate or counselor, when the time was right.

    This confession was enough to have him immediately transferred to DVI Tracy which was the next level up in California penal system. I was never interviewed and was later returned back to Sequoia lodge after spending about two weeks time in solitary confinement. ”

    So I can see how Tom felt he had to act or die.

    I hope this helps those who think he was just a murderous monster to reassess their opinion.

    Or maybe they will think I am one as well. What should I have done differently?

    Sorry if it takes away from his memory my intention is to help explain his actions to those that can not grasp the threat he was dealing with.

    • Alan, Thanks for the perspective. From all I have read about prison life, and about Tom in particular, I too think he felt the way you describe. The prison world seems to demand alliance with a group as well as individual feats of strength. Again, I hope his book will shed more light.

      • Edward Bunker wrote about San Quentin in Education of a Felon on Page 287:

        “Men without friends, those trying to quietly serve a term and get out, were in the worst predicament. They had no allies.”

        Pete Early and Tom wrote about the Marion’s environment,

        Page 229 The Hot House:

        “Between January 1980 and October 1983, there were more serious disturbances at Marion than at any other prison, including fourteen escape attempts, ten group uprisings, fifty-eight serious inmate-on-inmate assaults, thirty-three attacks on staff, and nine murders.”

        Line 46 of Tom’s declaration: “There was significant conflict between staff and prisoners at Marion.”

        Line 48: I feared attacks on my life at all times from both prisoners and staff.

        Excerpts from Pete Early’s, book “Hot House”.

        “I tried to tell Cadillac that I didn’t kill Chappelle, but he didn’t believe me and bragged that he was going to kill me,”

        Silverstein recalled. “Everyone knew what was going on and no one did anything to keep us apart. The guards wanted one of us to kill the other.”

        In an audio recording of an interview conducted by Earley, Silverstein explains his own motives:

        16:25 Silverstein: I think he was just selling me wolf tickets. But he didn’t know I was taking him serious.

        AS MANY KILLINGS THAT I HAVE SEEN WHEN SOMEONE SAYS HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU, YOU CAN’T SIT BACK AND SAY AWE IT AIN’T NOTHING AND DO NOTHING.

        When somebody has gone that far especially when you’re telling him you don’t want no trouble why don’t you get off my case.

        You know, I PLEADED WITH THAT GUY…

        On Line 58 of his declaration Silverstein wrote “After I killed Smith, I lived in constant fear of reprisals. It was in this frame of mind, and believing I was in a life-threatening situation, that on October 22, 1983, I killed Officer Clutts.”

        Silverstein later testified that he had killed Clutts because the guard was planning to let other inmates out of their cells to kill him.

        (Unbelievable you say? Then why was Smith, a known close associate of Chappelle’s, moved from another institution and placed near Silverstein’s cell, then allowed to remain there even after making two documented attempts on Silverstein’s life? )

        Indeed the lapse in security that allowed all these murders to take place, in what was the most secure facility in the bureau conjures up conspiracy theories.

        This is what I wrote about incarceration .

        “Prison can be described as a cruel gauntlet lined with rouge guards on one side and predatory inmates on the other with inmates forced to do their time in the restricted space in the middle. Men are held in prison like tethered animals in a slaughterhouse.”

        The definition of stress.

  3. The world is a better place now that this trash is gone. Too bad taxpayer dollars were spent to keep Silverstein alive all these years. If I was in charge he would have been hanging from a tree a long time ago. Rot in hell you sack of shit.

    • Larry, While he was alive Tom asked for a punishment to fit his crime, nothing more, nothing less. It’s obvious that you do not believe in the human capacity to change, nor do you seem the kind of person to exercise Christian forgiveness. You are entitled to your opinion of Tom, and at his insistence, of your right to express it here. But as my father often told me, “If you can’t say something good….”

  4. Pete wrote:

    “Even when he was incapacitated and incubated, I was told that his BOP guards initially kept him in four point restraints tied to a hospital bed with as many as three officers standing watch.”

    When I’m ill I need to toss and turn, blow my nose or scratch what itches. This would have been a torture for me.

    People always say things like “He’s in a better place now.” but in his case no matter your beliefs its got to be true.

    Gone but not soon to be forgotten.

    Ironic that Barry Mills also died of a heart attack last year July 8, 2018.

    Makes me wonder.

    • Alan, The added knowledge of Tom’s condition during his last days has intensified my sorrow and regret. BOP was consistent to the very end, and so was Tom. As Pete Earley said, I never knew a stronger person than Tom. And may he rest in peace.

      And I think you are right about the “trajectory” of Tom’s life and the circumstances that led to the prison killings. I hope Tom’s forthcoming book will shed more light.

      Thanks for all you did for Tom and for your sentiments today.

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