EARLY SKATE STUFF
I got into skating when I was twelve, 1984. Skating became the big thing with all of my friends and I followed suit. My first board was a piece of crap Action Sports Kamikaze. For my 13th birthday I got a “real” board; a Madrid John Lucero with Gullwings and Rat Bones. We had a solid crew in my hometown of Diamond Bar; Josh Willet and Mark McCracken were the early ones. Mark ripped, but wasn’t too serious about it. If he was passionate about it he would have been sponsored and easily turned pro. He just faded away though. I bounced back and forth between my dad’s place in Diamond Bar and my mom’s in San Dimas so I had a crew in both towns. There were a ton of places to skate in those days, but the number one spot to skate was the old Upland Pipeline skatepark. That place was like a second home to me for years.
Oh yeah. I had a bunch. My earliest sponsor was this lame company called Illusion wheels, then a shop sponsor followed up by a better shop sponsor. The first board company was called Ryno which morphed into Infinity skateboards. The company itself sucked, but the crew we had was awesome. That era was by far the best for me. We’d hit every contest in SoCal, Arizona and Las Vegas. Every ramp, pool, ditch, schoolyard or street spot we’d hit as well. It was right at the time where I got my license so the whole world opened up to me. Vans picked me up in 1988 and soon after I started riding for a lame company called Epic. I had offers to ride for the big companies, but I stayed on Epic because of the perks. The guy who owned Epic wasn’t a skater at all. He was some coked out, Mullet wearing kook that wanted to cash in on skating. Because he didn’t know shit I manipulated him to pay me as an amateur. Ray “Bones” Rodriguez and I were both working this idiot for cash. In 1989 I felt I needed to move on to get to the next level so I rode for this company out of Las Vegas (Timez). That was short lived. A few months later I ran into Mike Ternasky at skate camp and he asked me if I was ready to come on board. He tried to recruit me beforehand, always saying he had a spot for me. Finally the timing was right.
I’d run into Danny at contests and McGill’s beforehand, but we didn’t know each other. Ternasky gave me a ride home from skate camp right when I decided to ride for H-Street and Danny and Colby Carter were in the van as well. It was a long ride so we had a lot of time to talk and joke around. We had a lot in common and became instant friends.
Nope, never did. I would have had a much bigger part in Hokus Pokus, but I ended up tearing a few ligaments in my knee which took me out of commission. I was healing up towards the final push of the video and destroyed my elbow so getting any more footage just wasn’t going to happen. I had a part in a promo video for Vision which morphed into Alphabet Soup and also the think Tradeshow video which most of that footage was used for their second video. That was it.
There were multiple companies between H-Street and Think. I switched over from H-Street to Planet Earth. Quit or got kicked off, depending on which version you get. The truth of the matter was that I quit, but I would have gotten kicked off anyway. I was a drunken asshole in those days. I owe a lot to Ternasky and Chris Miller for believing in me and instead of showing them the respect they deserved I took a shit on them. After that I rode for Poorhouse for a year or so and then Think. When I got arrested for the murder case I was in the process of filming with Mark Oblow (Think TM at the time) for the video we were putting together.
(Editor’s note: the board was wrongly credited to Josh on skateboardgraphics.com)
I don’t remember the bible board? If I could go back in time I would definitely do things differently. I never cared at all about graphics. Whatever they came up with is what I got. Never have been religious. God and I have had an on again, off again relationship. I’ve been spiritual, but religion is something I try to stay away from. I’m not sure that there’s a certain path to enlightenment or an afterlife of some kind. I can go on a long tangent about that so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead.
Not really. By the time Plan-B started up I was already falling behind. More accurately put, fell behind. I wasn’t skating nowhere near where I needed to be on the level of the team Ternasky had put together. Very few people ever got to see how good of a skater I was. The reason being is because I rarely skated up to my potential. Ternasky saw it and always believed that I could turn it around. He knew that if I sobered up and took that shit seriously that I could be on that level. Him and I had an understanding that if I ever decided to get my shit together that he’d have my back. I just never got my shit together. Still, he took good care of me. He’d always put me up with his guys and buy me dinner.
That’s exactly what it was. Everybody was down in San Diego for a trade show. After partying one night in a club we got on the freeway the wrong way heading back to Ken Block and Danny’s house, which is where we were staying. Instead of turning around those two words that always lead to trouble came out; “Fuck It!” let’s go to TJ (Tijuana, Mexico). It was already two in the morning when we got there so there wasn’t anything happening. We ended up getting lost down there and then getting rousted by the cops. The first set of cops I paid off ($40). The second set I had no money to pay. When they searched the van they found a few guns: my .45, Ken’s .22 and a pellet gun. If I would have spoke Spanish it wouldn’t have been an issue. Instead they ended up taking us to the jail. A day later they let the driver (Jason Peters) out. When I told the cops that the van was my sponsors (employer) they took that as my guns as well. Five days later they transferred me to the prison where I spent the next three months. The Big brother interview I did was filled with sarcasm, but all of the shit I mentioned goes on in that place. There were dudes getting killed left and right, any drug or alcohol you wanted you could get as long as you had the money and it was a coed prison so a lot of the females in there were prostitutes, turning tricks to get paid. It was gnarly and I came out of the place really fucked up mentally. Oh, and the van that we were riding in was the Droors clothing van which later transitioned into DC Shoes.
We were definitely wild kids or young adults. Those are actually the mellower events that took place; however, I don’t remember any horse getting shot? I don’t remember ever hurting animals. The Markovich story was all Danny. Kris hooked up with the chick Danny was going out with at the time (Karen) and supposedly talked shit about Danny. Earlier that day we had tracked down a guy that had broken into Danny’s car and stole his cell phone, wallet and stereo. When we confronted the guy he admitted to stealing Danny’s stuff, but said he sold it, didn’t have any money and that Danny was burnt. The guy basically said “Fuck you! You aint getting shit.” Instead of Danny beating the guy up, which is what we all thought was the right thing to do, he froze. This went on for a while until it got to the point where I was embarrassed for Danny. My remedy to the situation was to beat the guy up. When we got back to XYZ and told Tommy what happened he (Tommy) ridiculed Danny hard. He told him how disgusted he was with Danny and what a pussy he was. So, when the opportunity presented itself by fighting Kris he took it. Since that didn’t go the way he would have liked I believe punching Keith was his way of seeking that approval. As far as the other stuff, yeah, we were gnarly vandals. I don’t even remember half the shit we did. Between Danny, Tommy, Colin, Jordan Richter and myself we were always trying to one up each other. For me that crap grew to becoming physically violent. What used to be juvenile bullshit had grown to me becoming a full on criminal. It was a dark path I was on, for sure.
Yes. While I was in prison I had no access to the internet or gossip sites. I really was in the dark as to what people thought happened. When I paroled I began reading that shit and was floored. There’s rumors that Danny and I were driving around looking to kill somebody; that we got caught with a body in the trunk of a car; that we were shooting illegal aliens crossing the border. All of it beyond ridiculous! I definitely was drunk that night. In those days sobriety wasn’t in the cards. The bar was serving free beer and to a 20 year old drunk free beer is the greatest thing ever.
Here’s the abbreviated version: A bunch of us showed up to this private party at a bar. The only notable skaters there were Ronnie Bertino and Danny. Danny told me that some guy (Keith Ogden) was coming on to him and laughing about it. Keith had obviously wandered into a hornets nest if what Danny said to me was true. So, I walked Keith out of the bar, told him it was a private party and to split or he’s going to get beat up. I didn’t threaten him personally. What’s tolerated now wasn’t in that era and a guy coming on to another guy in a bar that isn’t a gay bar was all bad. Awhile later he came back so I escorted him out again since there was no official security. By that time I was drunk and did threaten him. Still, nothing physical took place. An hour or so goes by and we hear that there’s a fight out front. When I walk out the door the first thing I see is Danny Way out cold, bleeding from the mouth. I asked out loud who hit Danny and Steve Mateus responded with “That fag sucker punched Danny!” So, we get Danny back inside the bar and he’s clueless as to what happened. A bit later I find out that Keith’s behind the bar so I go out there with the intention of kicking his ass for sucker punching Danny. To me and everybody else in the bar, Keith appeared to be drunk. In reality he was suffering from a pre-existing brain injury. He actually left L.A. County Medical Center (General Hospital) the day before AMA (against Medical Advice). The hematoma on his brain was so large that the doctors were debating whether to drill a hole in his head to relieve the pressure on his brain. Anyway, I began walking Keith away from the bar with the intent to beat his ass. While I was walking away it became quite clear that the guy was in no position to fight. Then this guy Robert comes running up from behind, jumps in the air and kicks Keith in the back. Keith’s head slammed into my face from being kicked into me and even though it wasn’t his fault, all of my anger was directed towards him. I took out that anger on Keith in a physical manner. I kicked him about three to five times in the upper torso and face. Steve Mateus then began kicking him as well. I told Steve to stop, which he did. Keith was definitely fucked up and unconscious, but alive. None of us knew he had this pre-existing brain injury and was dying. We just felt he got KO’d. An hour later the cops show up and what does a skater do when he sees cops? He splits. I didn’t really think anything of it. The next morning I found out that Keith had died. I couldn’t believe it. Once I was arrested three weeks later a lot of stuff came to light. First up, Danny hadn’t gotten sucker punched by Keith. Danny was the one who sucker punched Keith and then some guy in turn punched Danny. Also, after the incident where I kicked Keith behind the bar, Steve Mateus went back out and stomped the life out of him with nobody around to see. Steve was wearing a size 8 Vans shoe that night and left that diamond sole pattern of a Vans shoe on Keith’s face and in blood around Keith’s final resting spot. Vans was my shoe sponsor from 1988 right up till the point of my arrest in 1993. I wore a size 10. There were no size 10 patterns anywhere in the vicinity. The whole thing was a mess. The legal proceedings that followed were a joke. When it comes to the law you get what you pay for and I was broke. My court appointed lawyer was awful. Not only that, but Steve Mateus made a deal with the prosecution for a light sentence (6 years where he only served 3) in exchange for his testimony (lies) against me. The judge railroaded me into a life sentence as well. He should have given the jury the option of manslaughter, which is what this case really was. Instead they had two options: 1st and 2nd degree murder, both carry life sentences. After a day of deliberations the jury came back and wanted to know if they could find me guilty of manslaughter instead of murder. He said “No!” and they ended up finding me guilty of the lesser of the two charges, 2nd degree murder. I was then sentenced to 15 years to life and shipped off to prison. A month later that same judge (George Trammell) was brought up on some serious corruption charges. Google his name. That’s basically what went down. My actions were definitely criminal. I deserved to do some time; however, 19 years, 1 month and 8 days is a ridiculous amount of time for what I did.
The only other person that was charged in this case was Steve Mateus. Like I mentioned beforehand, he made a deal with the prosecution. The guy who started it all (Robert) was never arrested or charged. Either was Danny. There was a point in the legal proceeding where Steve Mateus’s attorney started to blame Danny for what happened. I was ready to do an open plea for 30 years to life to pull Danny out of this. My loyalty to Danny was solid and has remained solid since day one. Unfortunately Danny’s caught up in his own world and can’t see beyond what benefits him. To me it’s sad.
I laugh when I hear people say they have no regrets in life. Everybody has regrets. They might not be as big as mine, but they have regrets. My biggest regret was that I took part in taking a man’s life. Even though there were circumstances involved, the bottom line remains; I’m responsible for the loss of Keith. I should have been a man that stepped up and put a stop to what happened. Instead I charged forward. The whole reason I attacked Keith was out of a fucked up sense of loyalty to Danny. I felt like I had to redeem and protect a guy who I viewed as a brother. There is no main regret. There’s a whole bunch!
When the judge refused to give the jury the option of manslaughter it was a forgone conclusion that I was screwed. Still, when the guilty verdict came back I was floored. I can’t even articulate the feeling. It was the lowest I’ve ever felt, yet at the same time there was so much anger simmering below the surface. It was definitely rough. The sentencing was nothing. It was a forgone conclusion that I would be sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 15 years to life.
My sentence was 15 years to life which is called an Indeterminate Sentence here in California. My MEPD (Minimum Eligible Parole Date) was 10 years flat; however, they can also, and in most cases do, keep a person locked up for the rest of their lives. When all was said and done I ended up serving 19 years, 1 month and 8 days.
I never accepted it! The first six years were all about regaining my freedom through the appeals process. Once my appeals were denied I was looking for a way to escape. You’re always looking for a way to escape. It’s just if you’re willing to take that chance because the guards will have no problem killing you if given the opportunity. Eventually that hope steered towards being found suitable through the parole board which is eventually what liberated me. Working out really kept my sanity. I’ve always been a high strung kind of guy and without some kind of release I would have gone nuts. To circle back, I never accepted that I would spend the rest of my life in prison. If a person surrenders to that belief, if a person gives up hope, shit gets real dark. Depression kicks in and your existence becomes miserable. At times that loss of hope was there, but I’d always fight it off and find something to smile about.
Everything that freedom has to offer I missed. Whether it was the simple things like food, a comfortable bed or real toilet paper to wipe your ass with, to the physical touch of the people you love. I missed it all. The hope and belief that it was only an amount of time until I was reunited with it all kept me going. The whole concept of prison is to isolate you from the things you love in this world. Unfortunately it alienates you from the things and people in this world that you need to grow. Prison can make, and usually does, make a bad person worse. It’s the nature of the beast. Personal growth is hard enough in the real world. To try it in a world that praises anti-social behavior is insanely difficult. Maybe the answer you’re looking for is skating, and I did. But it wasn’t one particular thing. It was a million things.
Unless you’re doing it inside a skatepark, skateboarding is a criminal activity. Even then if you’re not wearing a helmet it can be. Skating has always had a bit of a criminal element to it. An outlaw image about it. It’s a slippery slope for a lot of skaters to transition into more serious criminal behavior. It happens to so many of us. Because of that prisons are filled with skaters. The first two I ran into were Aaron Luther and Brian Stinson. Both of those guys were teammates of mine at a shop called Outhouse. The next was Donald Cooley. Cooley rode for Mad Circle back in the day. He recognized me in Soledad, but because of the prison politics – racial issues, we couldn’t really talk much. Unfortunately for him he came back to prison and we ended up in a mellower prison where we were able to talk and become friends. He’s out and runs a contest organization called National Skate League. He also works with Asphalt Yacht Company. He’s a rad dude. Having real skaters in there with you definitely gives you a person to relate to.
A lot! In Soledad there was a small ditch right behind my cell that I used to visually skate every day. In the last prison I was at they had these buttery ledges with that good paint that went from low to high. For some reason all of the good spots are usually a bust. When I’d look at magazines I’d do the same. Especially when they brought the Combi back.
There were no profits to be made. Droors was like a family. The company was still growing so every penny it made went back into it. Ken Block and Damon Way were great friends. It was kind of understood that once the company blew up that the main guys would be taken care of. Both Ken and Damon honored that as well. When Droors became DC and they eventually sold it they took care of everybody. There’s some bitterness from one of the guys, but he got over nine million so he shouldn’t moan about a thing.
That’s funny! I’ll start with Steve. Since his lies against me assisted in getting me a life sentence he kept his distance. He even told people that he was the solid guy and that I ratted him out by testifying against him. I never took the stand one time or ratted anybody out. He was just deflecting what he did. I want to make this perfectly clear, though; I have no ill will towards Mateus at all. Even though what he did was wrong, I’ve moved on. I don’t dwell on it or care. He’s living his life and I’m living mine. Honestly, I wish him the best. I’ll never be friends with the guy, but I wish him the best. As for Danny, he did the absolute minimal amount. In 19 years I saw him two times. In 19 years I received 4 letters from him. I explained to him again and again how much I needed his support (morally), but he just doesn’t get it. He’s constitutionally incapable of knowing how to be a good friend. He’s distanced himself from me as much as possible with the intent of furthering his career. It’s lame. I’m three weeks shy of being free for two years and I’ve seen the guy twice. He doesn’t give a shit about me. He’ll call me his friend and his brother, but he doesn’t know the meaning of the word. That may seem harsh, but it’s the truth. Even though we no longer talk, I still love him. I just don’t like him and there’s a big difference between the two.
Scott Weber visited me a few times in the early part of my prison career. Mark Oblow was solid for sure. He brought up Arto and Dylan Reider. Arto visited on his own a few times after that. Chris Ortiz has visited. Tommy Caudill and Ryan Kingman too. The prison makes visiting such a pain in the ass on the visitors that they’re discouraged to come back. Plus the prisons are so far away that it’s such a long journey.
I have not. Tommy Caudill told me about it. I’ve heard rumors about what happened to little Ben and have been told that Tas was in a really dark place. Tommy and the whole Pappas family had a falling out years ago, but I think Tas and Tommy recently talked and made some progress in their friendship. I remember Tas being a rad kid. Hopefully he’s doing well.
POST PRISON LIFE
Hug and kiss my bride to be, Khristi, until the cops (prison guards) kicked me off of the prison grounds. Getting released was crazy. There were three of us being released that day, two ghetto ass dudes and myself. If you don’t have a ride home from prison they drive you to the bus station and send you on your way. So, when I walked out the gates I had this tall, long legged blond, standing next to a new comfortable BMW wearing this sexy black dress with a yellow ribbon around her that read “WELCOME HOME!” while the other dudes walked to a prison bus to be shipped home. It was insane. The amount of love I felt was unbelievable. After about an hour we pulled over to this little spot over-looking the ocean. It was so surreal. The ocean represented freedom as far as I could see. It was so beautiful. In between kisses I tried skating flat ground. It took about five tries but, I landed the ugliest kick-flip ever. It was by far the greatest day of my life.
I thought I had it all figured out beforehand. I didn’t. On the way home I had to vacate the prison food so we pulled into this fast food place. I walked into the bathroom and put one of those paper ass gaskets down on the toilet seat. As soon as I turned around to sit on it the toilet flushed and took it with it. That was my introduction to self-flushing toilets. When I went to wash my hands I couldn’t figure out how to turn the water on. First intro to motion sensor for water. The same with the soap dispenser and paper towels. When we left the prison Khristi handed me the new phone she got me; an iPhone. I couldn’t figure out how to work that thing. To say the world changed quite a lot in those 19 years is a massive understatement.
So far, so good. I think some people didn’t know what to expect of me. Most people I think are pleasantly surprised with the man I’ve become. I didn’t allow prison to mold me into this tattooed, stereo typical convict. When I decided to change I did it on a grand scale. I worked on most of my short comings, trying to be the best man I could possibly be. When I focus, which I have a hard time doing, I usually accomplish my goals. I wanted so badly to be the best son, brother, friend, boyfriend etc. that I could be. I try to live my life in a manner that shows that a person can grow and change for the better. That my life wasn’t a waste. I’ve ran into so many people from skating. Most have them have been so warm and genuine with their excitement for me being back in the real world.
Nope. Twice in two years. He hooked me up with a board and some promo shit.
I’ll sum it up in one word: PAINFUL! I took so many slams that first day. Scott Weber and I hit 6 or 7 parks in the middle of a heat wave. I was in great shape when I paroled, but nothing could prepare me for what I went through. You have to keep in mind that I had zero motion of rolling for close to two decades. All I did was walk. Even though it was painful I had so much fun. My hips, elbow and wrist/hands were so sore. It was such a rad feeling though.
It’s been off and on because of medical issues. Within five months of my release I became really sick with Ulcerative Colitis. I was hospitalized and eventually had to be rushed into surgery to have my colon removed. I was pretty close to dying, I guess. Then six months later I had a surgery to rebuild my inners. Three months after that I had another surgery to close up where the ostomy bag was so I could start pooping out of my rebuilt butt-hole. Unfortunately I started skating and riding moto-x too soon and got an infection. I was finally healthy for a few months and then I broke my collarbone last month riding moto with Salman, Cab and Wade Speyer. Had surgery on that (a plate and 9 screws) so I’ve just got back on the board. I promised Khristi (my fiancé) that I wouldn’t touch my dirt-bike until after the wedding. I’m planning on skating in the Tim Brauch contest in a few days. I’m horrible right now and still hurting so I’ll probably get last place. I don’t care though. Nobody else spent 19 years away and is skating with a busted collarbone. I don’t expect to win or anything. I’ll have the biggest smile on my face regardless of how I do.
Tim Brauch contest this weekend, getting married to the most amazing woman in a week and a half, get our clothing company (Odyssey) running and love every day that I’m alive. I’ve had a rough go of it, but I have absolutely nothing to complain about. Life is great.
Without a doubt my bride to be, Khristi. She’s opened up my heart and shown me a love that few people in this world can comprehend. Best friend in the world. My dad (rip) for showing me the unconditional love that only a parent can. My mom as well. On the skate side, Mark Oblow for being a true brother to me through the darkest times. Tommy Caudill for being an example of change and a brother as well. Kirt Little for the dirt-bike and hosting our wedding. Ryan Kingman at Stance, Mario Bonaventura (one of my oldest friends) for keeping me in Vans, Rob at Bones wheels, Independent for the trucks, Arto, Josh and John at Flip for the boards, Black Bobby for the all around love and anybody that’s ever taken the time to write me a letter or visit while I was gone. It meant the world to me. Oh, and Bob Johnson for taking amazing care of my mom and making her less insane.
Thanks so much for this, Josh.