The Price I Paid for Norman’s Mistakes
When the police searched our home, they found items I never knew existed, like 75 watches worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I had confronted Norman in the past about spending erratically, but I had no idea how bad it had gotten.
It couldn’t be proven whether I knew anything, so since I did technically commit the crimes I was accused of (signing, endorsing and depositing checks for an illegal business) my lawyer encouraged me to accept a plea bargain. If I fought the charges, I would risk going away to jail for up to three years, and I didn’t want to be away from my daughter for that long. I was charged with a Class B felony and served four months in a county jail.
The earliest Norman, who got a Class A conviction and was sentenced to 4-12 years in jail, could get out of state prison is July 2015.
I was imprisoned from mid-January to mid-May 2012, and being away from my daughter was the hardest part. We told her the truth about where I was and why. She stayed with my parents (we still live with them), and I didn’t speak to her during my entire incarceration—we were so close, and hearing from me upset her too much. At 6 years old, she still worries that I might be gone if I’m not in my bed in the morning.
Sometimes even I can’t believe what happened to me—it sounds like the plot of a Lifetime Original Movie.
When I first got out, I was in shock, very depressed and embarrassed. I felt rage at Norman and frustration and anger at myself. How could I have not looked further into what was going on?
I am still scared of him. He is a sociopath and a narcissist. And, as my daughter’s father, he will be in my life forever. He speaks to her twice a week, but he is only allowed to contact me through my lawyer, and the last time we spoke is before I went to jail. That is the price I pay for not leaving when I should have; for not reaching out for help before things got so bad. Now I have to pay for the rest of my life: financially, emotionally, psychologically. And so does my daughter, who is an innocent party.
How I’m Rebuilding My Life
In the end, I’m responsible for half of Norman’s debt. When I went to jail I lost the house we bought years before. I’ll have to declare bankruptcy and work out a situation with the I.R.S. to pay about $1 million in back taxes. I’m also paying $100 each month in restitution to the university’s insurance company via the Department of Probation. It’s not much, but I do what I can.
As far as employment goes, I’ve been lucky. The woman who wrote my pre-sentencing report liked my rewrite so much that she hired me. Eventually, her doctor husband hired me away from her to do administrative and marketing work for his practice. I’m making $15 an hour.
I have done things I never thought I’d have to do: I applied for food stamps and waited in line at Social Service for health care benefits. I’ve relied on online support groups, women’s career non-profits and outpatient counseling centers for domestic abuse. I would not have been able to get through any of this without my family, friends and new boyfriend, who is a thoughtful and kind person.
There’s a stigma attached to what I experienced and I’m sure I’ll be judged. But I learned—in part from a book called “Orange is the New Black,” by a former female white collar prisoner who once delivered a suitcase of drug money—that it doesn’t matter what we look like, what our backgrounds are, what level of education we have, how big our houses are, or how we worship (or don’t). None of us is better than the other. What matters in the end is our integrity and willingness to learn from one another.
Sometimes even I can’t believe what happened to me—it sounds like the plot of a Lifetime Original Movie. That’s one of the most important lessons I learned from this experience, which landed me in prison and a lifetime of debt: It can happen to you. It can happen to anyone.
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*Due to the sensitive nature of this story, names have been changed.