a patsy: the unofficial story
sal david winkler is forty-two. he has an olive complexion, dark curled hair and scared brown eyes. scared even though his forearms and hands are broad like a gorilla’s. and just as hairy. he looks like a man who’d be most content with life if he were at a bar drinking budweiser and watching the cleveland browns. sure enough, that’s what he’d be doing today if he weren’t in prison.
his vibrant orange jumpsuit stretches around his cannonball of a belly. occasionally, when seated across from me, sal leans back to run his hands over his face in frustration and disbelief. at these moments his shirt will abandon the line and unassuming witnesses like condescending prison guards and curious reporters catch an unwanted glimpse of the underside of sal’s impressive gut.
sometimes sal notices the exposure and pulls the shirt back over himself, embarrassed.
most other times he’s too lost in the absurdity of his current predicament to notice or care about such vanities. at these moments, he tugs his hands down his doughy face and his eyes stare out at the federal prison’s chalk-white ceiling. his eyes still scared, but also blank and bewildered.
sal david winkler has long been a man in demand. that’s what happens to you when you kill a senator. all of a sudden everyone wants a piece.
‘yeah i’ve met with everybody,’ he says. ‘i’ve done all these exclusive interviews: barbara walters, larry king, brian williams, queen latifah. everybody. of course nobody really wants to hear what i have to say, they just want to put my face on their show.’
when asked what he wants to say, sal looks down at the table flustered.
‘i want to say what i’ve been saying, you know?’ he looks across the table at his audience; his eyes seeking understanding, compassion, belief.
‘i’m innocent. i was set up. that’s what i want to say.’
i ask him to tell me what happened that day. i say, ‘tell me how it went down, sal.’
he takes a deep breath and begins to exhale. almost thirty seconds he exhales, all the while staring into the metal table. during this interlude, i look towards the guard. the guard shrugs. ‘sal?’ i say.
then sal takes another breath and wipes off his lips. ‘sorry,’ he says. ‘collecting my thoughts.’ he looks at me and says, ‘well you see it all started with a breakfast burrito. the breakfast burrito that would change my life.’