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March 11 will mark the 15-year anniversary of when Aaron Glasscock woke up to Drug Enforcement Administration agents storming into his hotel room in Gainesville, Fla., and arresting him for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.
At that very moment, Aaron’s life, and the life of his family, was forever changed.
“When the D.E.A. agents came in that morning everything I thought I knew, and my life in general, was turned upside down, and then shook,” Aaron wrote in a letter.
Today, Aaron, 37, continues to serve a 30-year prison sentence in the Federal Medical Center, a federal prison, in Lexington. Unless he is granted a pardon, he won’t be released until June 21, 2025. He will be 48 years old, and he will be starting his life over. A life that he always dreamed would include marriage, a family and a successful career as a pediatrician.
But, a trip to Florida changed all of that. It’s a trip he wishes he had never taken.
Spring Break trip from hell
The morning of his arrest, Aaron, 23 years old at the time, was asleep in a hotel room off I-75 in Gainesville, Fla. He was a senior at Bellarmine University and majoring in pre-med. Like many college students, Aaron wanted to enjoy a few days of Spring Break, and his father, Terry Glasscock, provided an all-expenses paid trip to Florida with just one task. He was to drive his father’s friend to Florida and once his business was complete, drive him back home. Aaron’s father and his father’s friend were allegedly buying older homes in Florida, repairing them, and then selling them.
“I was taken by and shown one of these project houses where I helped my father with some electrical wiring,” Aaron wrote. “However, this was apparently a ruse to quell any suspicions I may develop. It worked, for I never doubted my father for a moment, nor did I question him about anything. I just wanted him in my life, unlike the many years after my parents divorce when he did not exercise his visitation rights.”
In hindsight, Aaron said his trustfulness kept him from seeing anything suggesting the presence of illegal activity.
The morning after his arrival in Florida, D.E.A. agents came through the door of his hotel room. Aaron said he didn’t understand what was happening, but later learned that a pickup truck, registered in his name, had been stopped two hours away from his hotel room and had been searched. A large sum of cash - $900,000 - was found in a secret compartment in the bottom of an auxiliary diesel fuel tank located in the bed of the truck. The agents believed the money was intended for the purchase of powder cocaine from undercover D.E.A agents.
“I was stunned by what the D.E.A. agents were telling me,” Aaron wrote.
Arrested with Aaron was Walter Penick of Lebanon.
Aaron’s father, Terry, was arrested the next day in Lebanon.
In December of 1999, after four trials, including a mistrial and two hung juries, Aaron was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
His father, Terry Glasscock, was convicted on the same charge. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison. A federal jury also ordered Terry Glasscock to pay $400,000, and forced him to forfeit his Mayes Chapel Road home and some farmland to the U.S. government.
The Glasscocks were accused of being part of a multi-million dollar cocaine ring that operated between Florida and Lebanon. Greg Boswell, a Bradfordsville nightclub owner, was convicted of leading the ring. He and Terry Glasscock were co-defendants in the same trial. Sentenced to life in prison, Boswell was ordered by the federal jury to pay $16 million to the U.S. government.
The federal government also seized property, bank accounts, businesses and vehicles that belonged to him, his family members and business associates.
Maintaining his innocence
During all four of his trials, Aaron said he could not bring himself to plead guilty.
“I was a pawn in a game I didn’t know was being played,” Aaron wrote.
While pleading guilty might have led to a shorter sentence, he just couldn’t do it. The Enterprise asked Aaron if he ever wished he had pled guilty so that he would have received a shorter sentence.
“I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t thought about it,” Aaron wrote. “In the end, though, I had my reasons. Any conviction spelled the end of practically a life long dream to be a doctor. The chance to continue that dream outweighed the chance of conviction. Though having four trials weighed heavily upon me, mainly because of the effects on my family, I stuck with that stubborn desire. Whether it was the right decision or not… hopefully God will let me know on Judgement Day.”
And while Aaron said his involvement in the crime was unintentional, the guilt he has felt has been punishment enough.
“Having time to reflect, my naïveté is not an excuse, and because of my action, illicit drugs could have been introduced into my community,” Aaron wrote. “Even though my role was unintentional, I am responsible for it. As a person who has sought since I was 7 years old to help children who are sick, like I was as a child, by becoming a pediatrician, I may have unwittingly caused them harm. This realization has haunted me from the moment when the covers were removed from my eyes on March 11, 1999. No matter how much I regret my role, I cannot change it. This truth is a driving force that will ensure I will never be quite so trusting again. It also provides me with a renewed vigor to find ways to inform children of the dangers of illicit drugs and the dangers of any association with those involved in drugs.”
Seeking a second chance
Aaron’s family, friends and fellow Marion Countians are trying, for a second time, to get a pardon issued for Aaron. Their first request was denied a year ago. However, they haven’t given up hope that it could happen, especially his mother, Pigeon Deep.
“I don’t think I would survive without that hope,” Deep said. “If you don’t have hope, you don’t have anything.”
The past 15 years for Deep have been difficult, to say the least. It’s her faith, and Aaron’s unwavering faith, that have helped her cope.
“I guess I would have already gone crazy if it wasn’t for our faith and Aaron being so strong with his faith,” she said. “I think we kind of hold each other up. His faith is the only thing that has helped him in there. He could harbor bad feelings, but he walks around with a smile and tries to help people there.”
As a mother, Deep said one of the most difficult aspects of all this is that she can’t fix it. It’s out of her control.
“As a mother, you’re used to fixing everything and you can’t fix it. It’s awful,” she said.
Deep talks to her son every other day on the telephone and they email each other almost every day. She visits him as much as possible, and tries to arrange for him to have at least one visitor every week.
Deep desperately hopes her son is granted a pardon so he can begin his life outside of prison walls. The world has missed out on 15 years of Aaron as a contributing member of society, according to Deep.
“I think of the things he could have already accomplished, with not only his brains, but his heart… and his faith,” she said. “I think about what he could do on all different levels… with his personality... his love… all of what God has given him… the person that God made him to be.”
However, Deep also realizes she’s not the one in control.
“It’s going to be whatever God wants,” she said. “We just have to pray to God and ask him. God is the one in control.”
Deep has asked family, friends, local community members and local and state leaders to write letters on Aaron’s behalf so that she can include them with her request for a pardon. State Rep. Terry Mills said, while a state legislator has very little control in a situation like this because it’s a federal conviction, he said he’s willing to take the risk.
“I sense that the community is sympathetic to Aaron’s cause,” Mills said. “And I feel obligated to try and help in some way.”
Mills said he’s contacted Gov. Steve Beshear’s office to see if he would be willing to help. He also intends to write to Congressman John Yarmuth and ask what he could do to help Aaron.
“It sounds like such a sad situation,” Mills said. “It seems like a waste of a young man who is capable of giving so much.”
While he can’t make a pardon happen he said he wants to do anything within his power to help.
“I want to do everything I can to right this wrong,” Mills said.
State Sen. Jimmy Higdon said he is also more than willing to help with Aaron’s cause. He disagrees with the mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require binding prison terms of a particular length for people convicted of certain federal and state crimes. These sentencing laws undermine justice by preventing judges from fitting the punishment to the individual and the circumstances of their offenses, Higdon said.
“This federal minimum sentencing is really one of the most unfair things I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “I understand the crackdown on drugs and being tough on crime, but each case needs to be looked at individually. In this case, the minimum sentencing doesn’t allow that and that’s a real injustice. Each prisoner should be judged on their own merit whether they should be eligible for parole.”
Making a difference, even behind prison walls
During the almost 15 years he’s been in prison, Aaron continues to better himself and help other inmates. He’s worked as a clerk for the prison’s law library and has also worked in the facilities department as a draftsman. After completing his apprenticeship in architectural drafting, he accepted a position in the UNICOR as a quality assurance clerk. He was responsible for writing quality inspection procedures for the extended cold weather clothing system used by various military branches. He currently works in the UNICOR Customer Service Center at FMC Lexington.
“I am not perfect, but I have, and continue to, strive towards something better in life… God’s purpose,” Aaron wrote.
While working in these various jobs, he’s taken every opportunity available to learn new things. He received his certification from the National Federation of Professional Trainers as a personal trainer along with a certification in sports nutrition. He also completed two college courses, physics and sociology, from Ohio University with a 4.0 GPA. He’s taken classes in spiritual development, Residents Encounter Christ (R.E.C.), yoga, real estate, ceramics, black history and circuit training.
Aside from trying to better himself, Aaron tries to help other inmates in various ways. He’s been a tutor and helped fellow inmates prepare for the G.E.D. He’s also taught classes in nutrition, a personal trainer course, Bible studies, and exercise classes in spinning and circuit training. He’s assisted in health fairs and helped fellow inmates understand how to improve their physical health.
When he’s released from prison, he plans to speak to local youth about the dangers of drugs and associating with people who are involved with drugs.
“My journey in life has been infantile, with many blessings yet to be experienced and shared,” Aaron wrote. “To extinguish a young life, full of potential, with an excessive prison term is unproductive to an overcrowded prison system and unjust to those whom I would have the opportunity to reach otherwise.”
While Aaron hasn’t given up on the promise of a life outside of prison walls, in the meantime, he continues to try and keep a positive outlook on his future.
“I am at peace with God and I hold onto my faith and trust in His plan for me,” he wrote.
TO WRITE TO AARON
Federal Medical Ctr.
P.O. Box 14500
Lexington, KY 40512
DO YOU SUPPORT AARON’S CAUSE?
Aaron’s mother, Pigeon Deep, is collecting letters written on Aaron’s behalf to use in her request for a pardon for her son. If you would like to write one, send it to Deep at 203 Hood Avenue, Lebanon, Ky 40033.
Q & A WITH AARON GLASSCOCK
When you wake up each morning, is it still hard to believe that this is your life?
After all this time I’ve become accustomed to this being my life, at least for now. So, when I wake up in the mornings I’m just thankful to God for another day. I try to get the most out of that day as possible. That is probably a hard concept for many to grasp but I’ve found that life is about perspective, it is as good or bad as you perceive it to be.
What do you miss the most about being outside of those prison walls?
Wow, narrowing it down to one, this is difficult. There is the freedom of doing what you want. Then there is the peace and quiet that is a rare commodity in here. Oh, and the food… I miss a good steak. But, I guess what I miss the most, and what hurts me the most, is not being there when my family and friends could use me the most. The other things I’ve adjusted to, but that I haven’t.
If things had been different… what do you think your life would be like now?
That would be hard to really say. I was on a path to become a pediatrician, but I can’t predict what may have happened. I had made the decision at about 7 years old to become a doctor. Of course, at that time I had never heard of a pediatrician, so that direction came later. My reasoning for this choice boils down to one person, Dr. Salem George. As a kid I was sick quite often, and when I got sick… boy did I get sick. Dr. Salem and all the nurses in his office always went out of their way to get me well. Dr. Salem would even call at night to check on me. I just wanted to give back some of that love and compassion in healing to other kids, like he did for myself and many others.
Would you have a family, do you think? What have you envisioned?
I always envisioned that I would have been married with three or four little ones. I guess that a lot of my generation had that as part of their projected future.
Where do you think you would be living?
By now I would hopefully had made it back to Lebanon, but who knows. There was a program when I was in college that would pay for medical school if you agreed to work in a county in Kentucky that was underrepresented by doctors. My plan was to participate in this program, therefore I would have possibly stayed in the county I was guided to. Knowing myself I wouldn’t have been able to leave my patients.
How do you think you would be making a difference in your community?
I would like to believe that I would be working through my church helping spread the message of God’s love through my actions. Whether it be making house calls to those that are sick or helping after natural disasters. Just lending a hand wherever it was needed.
Without rehashing everything that occurred in 1999, if you could do one thing differently involving that entire situation, what would it be?
Not drive to Florida.
If you had an opportunity to talk to your father today, what would you say?
(Aaron declined to answer this question.)
Give me an idea of what your day-to-day life is like right now…
Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day?” Life is sort of like that here, every day is pretty much the same. It really makes it hard to quantify the passing of time because of that. A typical day for me begins at 6 a.m. when I awake. Before I get out of bed I give a quick thanks to God for just having another day. I then get ready for the day. After dressing and such I gather up my laundry to be dropped off at the central laundry area and head off to eat breakfast. They have 10 minute moves, sort of like in school, so I wait until they have the call to work at 7:45 a.m. Except for a 35-minute lunch, and any appointment in the day, I’m there until 3:30 p.m. I work at a customer service center that supports the Federal Prison Industries (tradename UNICOR). My job has me doing an array of tasks, but my main job is as a research analyst, creating and running reports (charts and graphs) for the corporate office in Washington D.C.
After work it is back to the housing unit for a stand-up security count at 4 p.m. Once this count is cleared, between 4:40 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., there is a move to recreation. After I exercise I head back to my housing unit, on another move around 7 p.m. At this point I check my email, pick up my mail and call my mom. Afterwards, I fix myself something to eat, take a shower and catch up on the news in my newspapers. By 10:30 p.m., after reading some, I say my prayers and go to sleep… and the cycle continues.
How have you stayed so positive?
I am at peace with God and I hold onto my faith and trust in His plan for me. No, I’m not perfect because I do have down days like everyone else. But, by starting the day giving thanks to God for the blessings He has given me (a loving family, friends and church family, among a few) I’m able to start on the right foot. From there, I try to make the best of my circumstances. Whether that be helping others, being a witness through my actions, or bettering myself by learning something new. There are just too many people who have it much worse than me to walk around negative all the time. Perspective!
If you were released from prison today, what is the first thing you would do?
Hug my mom. Yeah, I get to do that on visits, but it would be different. She has been my biggest champion. Always there, no matter what. She’s the greatest person I’ve ever met, though I might be biased.
You will be almost 50 years old when you are released. While other 50-year-olds will be contemplating retirement, you will basically be starting over. What do you envision that being like?
Very, very difficult. I am fortunate to have a tremendous support system in place, but I’ve never been comfortable not doing things myself. Even with this support system, there will be numerous obstacles in place, mainly this conviction. A lot of employers see that you have a criminal past and will look over you completely, whether you are a viable candidate or not. Then, of course, there are so many things to do: driver’s license, insurance, etc. Another major hurdle will be the adjustment back to regular society. Prison is a society in itself with different mores and mindsets, so it is a leap on that first day to begin re-adjusting to normal.
What would you want to say to your friends? Your classmates? Your fellow Marion Countians? What would you want them to know?
A man was going through a very tough time. Daily he was crying out to God to take his cross from him because it was more than he could bear. One night, God came to the man in a dream. God told him that he had heard his prayers and come to remove his cross for him. But God told the man that everyone has a cross to bear, so God was going to allow the man to choose from a closet full of crosses, one he thought he could bear. The man went to the door and opened it. Inside he saw crosses so large he couldn’t see their tops all the way to the smallest cross leaning against the wall in the back. Seeing the smallest cross in the room the man thought, “I can handle that cross.” So the man tells God, “That is the cross I want.” God looked at the man and said, “That is the cross I took from you.”
The problems and tribulations we face aren’t so bad when we put them in perspective. The next time you are faced with a problem so tough you don’t believe you can handle… pray not for it to be removed, but for the strength to endure.
If you had one wish right now, what would it be?
That my loved ones are healthy and have everything they need and desire. I would gladly give my freedom for that!