John's Prison Resume

20 years with good conduct

Resides in the Challenge Program in a mentor capacity since 2004

John is a role model for critical thinking, honesty, communication skills, open  mindedness etc.

Has taken 180 courses.

760 hours computer courses

220 hours of agricultural courses

Created and taught ACE courses on green building, home renovation, nutrition, stress and health

Coach for multiple recreation classes

Employed in the Recreation Department

John is a Challenge Program Co-ordinator

Release Preparation

John has received the Certificate of Completion of the Pre-Release Course at Allenwood USPS

John has a job offer from a Historical Restoration Company in Philadelphia where he will reside. 

Description of the Conspiracy and my Involvement

Count 1: Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute Marijuana

Count 2: Conspiracy to Import Marijuana

Count 3: Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments

This is in no way an attempt to retry my case.  Since I was convicted of conspiracy, my part can only be told as a story.  I was not convicted of a single act, but of a series of events and associations.  It is an interesting story and one I could not have dreamed up.

My attorney stated in his opening statement that I had imported hashish into Canada in the 80s.  This was in fact true. 

In 1992 an ex Law Enforcement Officer who was a  fugitive from cocaine charges in the Eleventh Circuit, Florida became acquainted with a San Francisco Attorney.  The fugitive’s name was Clifton Brown and he was selling a boat to a San Francisco attorney by the name of Mathew Martenyi.  During the course of the sale, Clifton Brown was spending lots of time in the office of Mr. Martenyi and Mr. Martenyi’s friend and business woman Sonia Vacca. 

Clifton Brown became familiar with Matthew and Sonia and decided that they had at one time been involved in some aspect of the marijuana importing business.  In fact, these two individuals had acted as money couriers in the past carrying suitcases of cash from Canada to Luxemburg and Singapore. 

In the 70s I had worked to develop a business with Sonia Vacca’s husband Walt Runkis and we had become good friends. 

Clifton Brown’s attorney began the process of making a plea deal with the Federal Prosecutors in the Northern District of Florida.  The deal was for Clifton Brown to persuade Martenyi and Vacca to come to Florida where they would meet with DEA Agent Carl Lilley and a law enforcement officer from Gainesville.  These two government agents would pose as marijuana importers and try to persuade Vacca and Martenyi to put together an off load crew in Florida. 

In exchange for Brown’s help in developing this reverse sting, Brown would have his long time charges for cocaine importation dropped and he would perhaps bargain for a percent of any forfeiture. 

Clifton Brown made the proposal to Vacca and Martenyi and eventually persuaded them to meet with the government agents who were posing as importers.  Martenyi and Vacca had never done any importing or off loading and thus they could not help the agents with their proposed importation.  They were encouraged by the agents to find someone who could help import marijuana into Florida.  This would establish venue in the 11th Circuit.

Sonia Vacca decided that she would contact Claude Duboc, a French American Citizen, who lived in France.  She knew that he had imported hashish into Canada and marijuana into the US. Claude Duboc listened to her proposal and rejected it. 

I had worked for Claude in the 80s importing marijuana into the Pacific Northwest, Europe and mostly Canada.

Sonia Vacca and Mathew Martenyi were indicted in the Northern District of Florida in 1993 for their participation in conversations with the two government agents and Clifton Brown, the co-operating fugitive concerning the importation of marijuana into Florida. 

As Vacca and Martenyi prepared for their defense and the eventual negotiation of their plea agreement, they were told that they would be given more consideration if they could provide the agents and prosecutors with names of individuals who had been associated with the importation of marijuana.  Vacca named Claude Duboc, the individual the DEA and Prosecutors had attempted to persuade to participate in an off load in Florida.  She also named John Knock and others.

In the spring of 1994 Claude and I were indicted as co- conspirators in the Northern District of Florida for Conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. 

Claude was arrested in Hong Kong and waived extradition to the United States.  He had hired an attorney who was a friend of his wife.  Robert Shapiro of LA was to represent Claude Duboc.  Robert Shapiro contacted F. Lee Baily in Florida to be co-counsel.  The fight for venue began in Florida.  I was living in a small apartment in Amsterdam and had little information about the case.

Claude and I had been friends.  I had worked with him in the early and mid eighties importing hashish to Canada and marijuana into the US.  When the US instituted harsh mandatory minimums for marijuana, I withdrew and did not work.  Claude had a European sensibility and did not understand how harshly marijuana offenses were prosecuted in the US.  He continued to import marijuana and told everyone he worked with they were not to tell John Knock.  I continued to see old friends, but did not know they were still doing business in the United States. 

F. Lee Bailey would eventually find himself in jail and lose his law license over this case.  There were several lawyers who would lose their licenses and spend time in jail, and indeed when I was eventually extradited, my legal counsel would be the target of a Grand Jury investigation and would eventually be indicted.  This indictment happened while he was representing me during my appeal.  My defense counsel was disabled.  Claude did not understand the American Justice System, and neither did I.  

Claude gave information to protect the plea agreement Bailey said he had negotiated.  When asked if he was coerced he swore that he was not.  Bailey wrote him reassuring letters to let him know that he had a special relationship with the Prosecutors and the Judge.  I became a major part of Claude’s plea agreement.  I could only imagine what was going on from my perch abroad.

In 1996 a friend of ours who was living in Spain left a message on my answering machine asking me to answer a phone on the Champs Elysees in Paris on a particular day. Her name was Julie Roberts.  Julie’s relationship with Claude was intense, and I later learned that in the late 80s and early 90s she had moved into the position of Claude’s partner in the importing business.  I believed that she was in trouble and made every effort to get there. 

As I picked up the receiver every hair on my body stood at attention.  I was surrounded by police from Interpol and taken into custody.  Julie wanted to return to the United States, but knew she was a fugitive.  She contacted her attorney, Bernie Segal from San Francisco and asked him to facilitate her return.  Bernie did and now Julie began the journey of testifying at Grand Juries around the country.  I was part of her plea agreement

For the next three years I was held in La Prison de la Santé in Paris with the fervent hope that I would not be extradited to the Northern District of Florida.  In the year 1999, I was on US soil in Gainesville Florida in the Court of Judge Maurice Paul.  The French Government had stipulated that I could not be tried for any activity before 1987.  When I landed in Gainesville a superseding indictment was issued extending the time to 1996.

My case was long and complicated and had a roomful of discovery.  We did not have access to it until shortly before the trial.  Just before my trial, I was told that there would be a hearing to disqualify my attorney because he was the target of a Grand Jury investigation looking into charges that were related to my case.  He had been my attorney for four years and it would be impossible for other counsel to become familiar enough to prepare a defense.  It would also not be possible to pay for a defense attorney as I had no funds. 

Michael Kennedy had to represent me knowing that he was in great peril and indeed he was indicted shortly after my trial as he prepared my appeal.

My lawyer conceded during his opening statement that I imported hashish into Canada, but that this was a different conspiracy.  I was no longer part of the group or the business nor did I know anything about it.  This was in fact true, but since I was the last person to be apprehended and I exercised my right to trial in a conspiracy case, I was prosecuted for everything that was in all the previous defendants’ plea agreements.  All the witnesses were agents or were testifying according to plea agreements, for immunity or for a percentage of the forfeiture.  It turned out to be an unimaginable amount of tonnage and an astronomical amount of money.  Every dollar and ton that was in their agreements was attributed to me by way of conspiracy – per psi. 

Although the transcript cannot be read, the jury was given many pictures and documents showing expensive property and large deposits of money into foreign accounts, many of which I had never heard of, and when these assets were repatriated to the US few were posted to my forfeiture account.  All of my assets were seized and forfeited.

This is my description of the conspiracy and my involvement.  I wish it had been different and that I had not had any part of this vast conspiracy to import cannabis products.  I understand that it was wrong.  I will never again be engaged in illegal activities.  My family has been a great source of support throughout and will continue to help in any way.

I am truly sorry for breaking the law and beg your mercy for a second chapter in my life.


John's Letter to President Trump john knock

Dear President Tump,

I am a 68 year old first time nonviolent marijuana offender serving a sentence of two life terms plus 20 for a marijuana conspiracy that took place in the SF Bay area and Canada.  I was charged with conspiracy and was the last person prosecuted and chose to go to trial.  I was prosecuted and sentenced in the 11th Circuit Northern District of Florida.

At sentencing, Judge Maurice Paul stated that there were no victims.  Even though there were no victims, I most certainly knew that marijuana was not legal and that I was breaking the law.

I am deeply sorry for my involvement and regret my life choices.  These choices have caused untold pain and sorrow for those I love and those who love me.  I have been incarcerated for this offense for twenty years and am no doubt approaching the twilight of my life.  I was held for this offense for 41/2 years pretrial.

For the last 20 years I have attempted to build a prison resume that I can be proud of and to live my life with integrity and respect for others and model nonviolent conflict resolution.  I have never had violence in my life and was originally drawn into the conspiracy in the 60s and 70s counter culture of the San Francisco Bay area.  Throughout my 20 years of incarceration I have never had an infraction. 

I believe I have been fortunate and blessed to continue to have the support of my entire family and extended family.  They have all suffered because of my incarceration but my ex-wife and son have been able to overcome all the hardships and build successful lives in spite of the suffering caused by having an incarcerated husband and father.  I deeply regret what they have gone through.  My ex-wife will welcome me back.  While I’ve been incarcerated she was able to complete her Ph.D. and secure a tenured position at a university in Pennsylvania.  My son has an engineering degree from Columbia University.  I am very grateful and proud that they have been able to have successful lives and still offer me support.

I beg for mercy, compassion and forgiveness and a chance for a second chapter in my life.  Please consider my petition for commutation.

Sincerely yours,

 John Knock                                        

John grew up in a small Midwestern town the youngest of four children. His father, Calvin was a Presbyterian minister and his mother, Bijou, was a homemaker and later a librarian. When he finished High School he attended a small community college, but decided to go to San Francisco to get training to become an industrial diver.

John went to the San Francisco Bay area in the late 60s. In the late 60s California was the front line of social and cultural change. The life style was changing and becoming more fluid and casual. The universities were vibrant and students were testing the social norms. Observing social evolutions like the Civil Rights and Anti-War movement could not be viewed from a back row seat in a small mid-western town. San Francisco was the city of love and the center of changing culture.

John was part of the Good Earth Commune which is spotlighted in David Talbot’s book “Season of the Witch” At this time commune members organized schools, child care centers and opened food pantries and soup kitchens. They rehabilitated abandoned property and attempted to save houses from the wrecking ball and make a livable place for the dispossessed. Marijuana was a popular drug but was not considered a serious substance. That came much later. These were the early days before hard drugs and the accompanying violence.

In 1974 John met a girl whose sister was a friend from the Good Earth days and they have been together ever since. They married in 1982. After he was given a life sentence, they divorced, but she is a constant support in his life and his best friend. They have a 23 year old son.

In the 70s and 80s John was part of a loose group of individuals that imported marijuana into the northwest, Canada and Europe. For most of this time John lived out of the country. It was a fluid group and everyone had a niche of expertise. The individuals changed often. Around 1986-87 John withdrew and spent his time at home with his family doing various home improvement jobs, taking care of property and working on his relationships with family. It seems that other members of the group continued to import – even into the US.

John and his wife and child were living in Hawaii in 1994 when he was indicted for this complicated conspiracy. His wife was completing her PhD in biology and he was a stay at home Dad. He was enjoying his time with family and certainly his young son. This was the last time I spent with my brother while he was free. It is a vivid memory.

He met us at the Honolulu Airport, pushing a stroller wearing shorts and a shapeless T shirt – he had a brilliant smile. It was 1993 and now in his forties, he was a first time father of a toddler. He loaded our bags in an old Saab with some dents and upholstery rips. It ran silently with precision. Our Father, Calvin had died the year before and this was a time for family memories.

I can tell you about the brother I know. He is kind, calm, and unpretentious with humor and an easy smile. John is endlessly creative and is able to repair the most pedestrian objects- that always came in handy as he is quite pathologically thrifty, a quality no doubt inspired by Bijou.

He has watched his son grow from a 3 year old boy to the fine young man he is today with an engineering degree from an Ivy League college. His wife, now his ex-wife is his best friend and confident. She completed her PhD and is now a professor at a college in Pennsylvania. We all visit him together for holidays and birthdays. It’s both wonderful and bittersweet.

When Bijou, John’s mother died, I went through her belongings and found one of our Grandmother’s albums. There were hundreds of pictures from my father’s childhood in Iowa. There was one of a field and on the back written in my Grandmother’s precise script – Our Hemp Field – that reminded me of a conversation I had with my father before his death.

Calvin, our father, was in his 80s and I asked him if he ever smoked or drank. He was quiet for a moment. He was principled and could not lie. When he spoke again he said, “Well, I never smoked tobacco, but perhaps a little rope behind the barn,” A field of Hemp and smoking behind the barn did not ruin a life in the early 1900s, but it does ruin lives now.

While in prison John has kept up with the building trades and has taken and taught classes that cover conventional and non-conventional home building. He has developed ACE courses to benefit participants after they leave. He was a mentor in the Fathers Behind Bars Discussion Group and has been a mentor in Code-Challenge Programs since 2003. He tries to model non-violent conflict resolution.

John states that he lives his life in prison as a person of integrity and moderation. He is still housed in a high security institution because of the length of his sentence, but he lives responsibly and over these 18 years of incarceration he has an incident free, unblemished record.

He says, “My life is organized and I am productive. I teach various exercise classes and construction classes to other inmates as well as fixing radios and head phones. I help other inmates with their appeals and am known as the librarian, and the radioman, depending on the day and the person.”

If John were released he would not become a burden to society and would continue to live his life in a peaceful orderly manner. He is deeply sorry for all the problems his life style caused for his family and society. He should be released.

John Knock 11150-017

FCI Fairton

PO Box 420

Fairton, NJ. 08320

When John was found guilty and sentenced to Life without Parole for marijuana, my sister and I left the court room with our 87 year old mother, Bijou. Bijou would never see her youngest child free again. She was slumped over, wearing sun glasses so no one would see her cry. She was proud, brave and bewildered about the harshness of the sentence that her youngest child had received.

john knock