Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Rabbit Hole Video

Last fall, I spoke at a seminar in Chicago in which I described my story as well as observations on life, law, and running a business on "auto-pilot". The 3-part video is below. Each segment is 31.5 minutes for a total of over 1.5 hours (and I still had more material... I just ran way out of time!).

How this came about is rather interesting.

Several years ago, I was told about a guy named Perry Marshall, who was supposed to be the guru for Google Adwords strategies. Google Adwords is an online advertising medium that allows you to display your ads alongside Google's regular (i.e. "organic") search results when certain keywords that you have bid on are searched. In March, 2006, I subscribed to Perry's email newsletter and purchased his e-book. (The following month, the prosecutor called my lawyer and said he was moving forward with the indictment.)

After I got out of prison and completed my home confinement in October 2007, I signed up for his Bobsled Run, 12-weeks of internet marketing training, including an intensive weekend coaching session at his home in Chicago where I got to meet him personally and discuss my business. At this time, I did not bring up my prison history.

Later the following July 11 (2008), I received an email that he broadcast to all his members:

Subject: "Marketing On Autopilot" - from dream to reality


Have you ever said to yourself...

" If only I could, just once, get to a point where my business runs on autopilot and my monthly income does not rely on what I do from one day to the next...

...I would be free to take my entire life in a whole, completely new direction!

if only..."

I so keenly remember those days.

The days of wishing... "If only..."

I was yearning, nearly salivating at the possibility of being liberated from day-to-day, week-to-week paycheck work, project work, nose-to-the-grindstone work - because a wider world was calling.

The story continues here: (link no longer works so I removed)

I was on vacation at the time (in Greece -- see my Santorini and Mykonos pics!) when I received it but wasn't due back for a couple weeks so I had time to think about a possible reply which I sent on Aug 4:

> Perry,
> I'm willing to bet you have never received a letter like this from one
> of your clients.
> I just returned from 3 weeks in Greece and Spain and you sent this out
> 2 days after I left. I saw it when I checked my email in Mykonos but
> waited to reply till now.
> You know my business.
> I already knew that I could take 3-week trips to Europe and my
> business would do just fine. Of course, I would check my email every
> day (I don't bring my laptop anymore... I either use the internet room
> in the hotel or a local internet café) and respond to any
> "emergencies" but that was about all it took.
> However, the ultimate test was when I went 3 months without email...
> indeed 3 months without the internet or even a computer... courtesy of the
> American taxpayer in federal prison!
> I have never discussed this with you but March 30-June 28, 2007 I
> spent in the federal prison camp in Pensacola. Long story but
> basically I was a little too aggressive in some of my data collections
> methods and got the attention of the FBI (!) and next thing I know I'm
> being indicted and sent to prison (not to mention the $700K in legal fees

> and $150K in restitution.. ouch!).
> I prepared for my little vacation as best I could and, you know what,
> my business ran just fine without me. I made just as much money in
> prison as I did OUT of prison. Plus my personal expenses were a lot
> less! :) I had no access to the internet whatsoever for 3 months....
> I had my customer support girl in Florida answering phone calls and
> emails... that's it. I was able to talk to her occasionally to find
> out how my sales were doing but I really couldn't do much to run my business.
> My wife continued to live her life (minus me of course) just as she
> did before. I did not suffer from any of the collateral consequences
> that many ex-inmates suffer from (such as difficulty finding
> employment... I decided not to fire myself).
> And I also found a new calling... writing about life in prison and our
> bizarre federal legal system.
> I started a blog ( or a
> week before I entered prison (60733-066 was my inmate id #). I spent
> about $5K in Google ads during my 3 months in prison to drive traffic.
> I would write my observations on paper and send them to my wife who
> would then enter them to the blog. Once I got out, I was able to
> continue it myself. I think you might find it rather interesting
> reading. Of course you have to start at the end to start at the
> beginning since the posts are in reverse chronological order.
> I don't currently make any money off the site, but I do get lots of
> interesting emails from other people caught up in the federal legal
> system and facing prison.
> Bill

Now, I must admit in hindsight that my email possibly comes across a little more glib than I intended, almost implying that I somehow "beat" the system, which certainly was not the case, even though my business model did allow me to avoid many of the collateral consequences (and I did get some pleasure out of knowing that my business was making more in a month than the COs overseeing me probably made in a year). In any case, knowing Perry as I did, I thought he might find it interesting.

Little did I know HOW interesting!

This was his reply a week or so later:


Thanks for your patience, I was outta town. This is REALLY fascinating.

Well I can think of a few things to do with this.

First, there's a lot of soulish stuff in here. I dived into some of your older blogs, found stuff about Jesus and why was this man born blind and why do good things happen to bad people... really interesting.

Second, I've got a gladiator club meeting in Chicago Sept 27-28 and it's an Autoresponder bootcamp. People will come home having had professional copywriters help them write a bunch of AR's and they'll go home with everything uploaded. You wanna come tell your story? I'd love to say "Mr. X is going to tell his story of doing time in prison while his business ran on autopilot" or something like that.

Third, yes you could turn this into a product if you wanted to. I suspect it would be small change compared to what you're normally used to but it could be fun to do if you want. Could also be a really interesting late night pajama jam teleseminar.

Wow, amazing story here....


And that is how it all happened.

Perry is a Christian and generally likes to give a "spiritual" talk at the beginning of the Sunday session of his weekend seminars. Based on what he read in my blog, he thought I would be able to integrate business, law, and spirituality into a talk his members would like.

I thought about it for a while, swallowed hard, and said ok.

At the end of August, Perry sent out the following email to promote my talk at the seminar (his email list has about 100,000 names on it):

Subject: The most EXTREME proof, EVER, of 'Marketing on Autopilot'

Just a few weeks ago, on August 4, I got this MOST UNUSUAL email from one of my Gladiator Club members, Bill Bailey:

I'm willing to bet you have never received a letter like this from one of your clients.

I already knew that I could take 3-week trips to Europe and my business would do just fine. Of course, I would check my email every day (I don't bring my laptop anymore... I either use the internet room in the hotel or a local internet caf?) and respond to any "emergencies" but that was about all it took.

However, the ultimate test was when I went 3 months without email... indeed 3 months without the internet or even a computer... courtesy of the American taxpayer in federal prison!

Read the rest of Bill's story - and see his mug shot (literally)and get the link to Bill's Prison Blog - here.

Enjoy this story!

Perry Marshall

(NOTE: Perry's original link to the "rest of the story" no longer works but I found an archived copy of the page on another blog and that is what the link goes to. READ IT... it's pretty good and explains why he invited me to speak at his seminar. )

Well, after that promo, there was no way to back out!

It was a very tricky talk to prepare for but it seemed to be well-received. Although I was a college professor in my former life and have some experience talking in front of groups, this was a very different kind of talk.... much more personal. There were probably 80 or so people in attendance.

Perry videotaped the seminar including my talk. I was finally able to obtain a copy last week. Due to limitations with Blogger, I had to split the video into 3 parts and reduce the size about 1/3 to 320x240 (from 426x320). I also editted the video to overlay some of the quotes and pictures that were displayed on a screen in the room but do not appear in the original video.

If you would like a complete copy of the uneditted, original (i.e. higher quality) QuickTime (.mov) video, right click here and select Save Target As... to download to your computer. This file is 542MB so it may take a while depending on your connection speed.

In any case, let me know what you think. For those of you who have read my blog, much of this will be familiar (even though some material is new) but you may enjoy actually hearing me tell it rather than simply read it.

Again, the talk is just over 1.5 hours long (!) with each video just over 30 minutes.


Kathy said...

Hi Bill -- fasinating! My husband has similar injustice experience and is coming home in June. He too would like to go on a speaking tour of his experiences..can't wait for him to see your video!

Greg said...

Hi Bill,

Awesome videos - thank you for posting them.

This was of particular interest to me because I recently started a website that deals with avoiding legal tangles and dealing with government goons.

Again, thank you for the valuable insights.


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Eric said...

Well Bill, Perry has unleashed the links to your information to his list, so I'm sure you're going to get a lot of new comments/attention fairly soon.

I personally find your story fascinating, and am in the process of pulling down the video to check it out in its entirety. Thanks for sharing your ordeal with all of us, so we can gain what we may from it!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,
I am glad you were able to get through this with a positive attitude. I was left asking why the govt was so malicious. As we have seen our govt act recently, its as if they take care of their buddies and everyone else is left to fend for themselves. Did someone on the medical board have a friend in the FBI? It seems it is so arbitrary.


Freda Barber Booth said...

I'm glad to hear it has all worked out for you; and that you were able to cope with it while it happening. I admire your wife for sticking by you during the process. One question.

Do you believe you would have had the same outcome if you didn't have the money to obtain your choice of representation?

Bill Bailey said...


There is no way to know for sure whether lesser legal representation would have yielded a poorer result but I tend to believe the govt probably would have gotten their way with me, meaning I would have been looking at about 18 months... quite a different outcome than 3 months.

Johnny Cochrane (OJ's lawyer) once said, "You are not innocent until proven guilty, you are innocent until proven bankrupt."

This is clearly a problem where only wealthy defendants can afford to even the playing field against the tremendous resource advantages of the govt prosecutors but I don't know an easy solution under our system of criminal law.

Bill Bailey said...


With respect to why the govt was so malicious or whether the medical board had a friend in the FBI, I can't give you a full answer until I am off supervised release but the short answer is, yes, the medical board had some connections so to speak and basically was able to use the FBI as their "representative" in a matter that would normally barely qualify as a civil complaint.

I actually found this out by accident last Christmas but I will wait to tell the full story of this revelation until I am off supervised release but the essence is that I met someone who had some contacts within the Philadelphia FBI and filled me in on a little "inside information" that was consistent with what I had suspected but had no proof.

T, Roberts said...

Wow, I just can't thank you enough for the post and sharing your story with us all. I have a similar story and didn't know if their was anyone else out their like me who have shared the same interesting and dark experience.

I've been pursing online ventures for a while now and have had some success however you are the second person I've seen who've proved that massive success is possible for all kinds of people from any background even those who have a felon record.

I thank you so very much again for sharing your story. It has been a true inspiration to me and now I'm more confident than ever that my dream of having a successful autopilot business is very possible.

God bless you and your family!!

groove said...

Wow, the third part was pretty scary. It seems almost like being in the middle ages: someone points a finger at you and bam: you're burning at the stake.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!

Watching the last chunk now, what was the final peice of advice that everyone laughed at? I dont think it was actually spoken... (guessing it was on screen or something)

Bill Bailey said...


You must have downloaded the video instead of watched the 3 parts on the page. In the 3 videos on the page, I superimpose the Top 10 list on the video so you can read it just like the live audience could (I also do this with many of the quotes I read or other features that were displayed on the screen).

The last point in the Top 10 list of legal advice that they laughed at was:

1. Cover your ass... don't sleep naked.


Skateboard said...

Well. Yeah it's true. Sometimes you get caught up in that system. It happened to me just recently. Stories like these have to be published and talked about! Very good!

Jay Kelley said...

Hi Bill..
I tend to be a little chatty is an understatement. While the legal information at the end was useful it was apparent that your approach to the whole thing was h0w can I market this experience after it is over.

Ian Pritchard said...

Hello Bill

Trust you;re well.

Thankyou for your story. Some lesson.

All the best to you and yours, Ian Pritchard.

truffler said...

Bill -

In life, it ends up being that the only thing that determines who we really are is our attitude. Congratulations on having a healthy one!

I, too, was the victim of "over-zealous governmental interference".

But, and here's some irony/karma for you: The State AG who came after me because I upset one of his political allies went to federal prison the year after he destroyed one of my businesses.

Just thought you'd like that piece of OMG Look-Out, it's Justice-Time.

Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of the world.

Bill, St. Louis

Paul Eilers said...


I just finished reading your entire blog as well as watching your video. I wanted to say thanks for sharing your story. I always like to learn what makes people tick, and I learned a lot from your blog and video.

Please allow me to share with you one of my favorite quotes, which I feel is relevant to your blog:

"Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but from playing a poor hand well."

Best regards,


Eat Well. Live Well.

Unknown said...

It's not good advice to recommend having your computer encrypted in order to circumvent the FBI. When you are being investigated by the FBI, CIA, HSA, you are going up against the best techs and decryption software available. By this level, you are playing with the boys who also deal with International espionage and anti-terrorism encryption. do you honestly think you can stop them? they LOVE the challenge- the more sophisticated the better. And, it makes you look even guiltier (have something to hide, maybe?). Glad to see you are profiting from this- it is the American way.

Bill Bailey said...


It is absolutely good advice to tell people to encrypt their hard drives!

I used to think that if you have nothing to hide then, well, you have nothing to hide. How silly I was!

If you have nothing to hide, then why do you lock your doors? To keep out the bad guys. Why do you assume that your govt is the good guys?

Your statement assumes that the govt is good and will only act fairly and in the interest of justice. I used to think the same thing. Instead I discovered that the govt will leverage any advantage they can to WIN. The rules don't apply to them the way they apply to us.

The FBI was under a court order to limit their search to only those files that would be relevant to the search warrant. It turns out that they violated that order and searched the entire computer and used some of what they found to either try to embarrass me or to imply something sinister out of something that was perfectly innocent. My only recourse would have been to seek sanctions which may or may not have resulted in the suppression of evidence but certainly would have cost me legal fees and pissed off the prosecutor who would have wielded his considerable authority to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law (and the law is ambigous enough that he would have had lots of discretion).

Believe it or not, the govt doesn't have to follow the rules you think they have to follow. Yes, they are "bound" by professional ethics, etc... but you basically have to trust that they follow the rules because they are not accountable to anyone and few defendants have the resources to balance the scales.

As for whether they can decrypt, well I guess I will take my chances. I am quite sure they can't... unless they have a million years.

As for profiting from this, why do some people think that? I haven't profited one penny. I don't make any money from this blog (in fact it costs me money to maintain it), nor have I tried. Perry didn't promote it for my benefit... just to illustrate that it's possible to run a business on autopilot even when you're in prison.

This case cost me $850,000 for conduct that did not profit me one penny and did not ecomonically harm anyone. These facts had never been criminally prosecuted before and barely would have qualified as a civil case in the past. I have no hope of EVER even remotely profiting from this.

Unknown said...


It looks like it's been a little while since anyone has posted on here, but I feel some connection with what you went through and hoped to touch base.

I'm "reformed" attorney who had a lovely vacation courtesy of Georgia Department of Corrections, and I'm trying to get back on track. Would love to hear more of your success story and hope to apply it to my own career.

I have reinvented myself as a marketing and advertising expert, but I'm sure there is much to learn. Hope to hear from you soon.


Anonymous said...

Bill- I think there should be a post analysis or some sort of conclusion to this story, what happened now 5 years later. Have you recovered financially? Did you find gainful employment again? were your opportunities diminished as now you are a convicted felon? Maybe a post on this as a final chapter so we can see the conclusion of this story. After spending your life savings now what is your current state? Was it a better or worse situation 5 years later? Your story is like a movie. It's amazing to see how real this is to what we read and see in the movies. May god bless you for being transparent about your experiences and journey in life.