The kindly giant of a man who befriended convicted spy Christopher Boyce at Lompoc federal prison in 1980 was featured prominently in the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman.
Written by Cait Boyce
As many of you already know, I have been working with Calvin Robinson, a man who played a key role in Chris’s life. Having been associated with Cal has been a blessed event in my life. For those of you who don’t know Cal’s story, he has served nearly thirty years as a federal prisoner based solely upon the government prosecutor’s creative misapplication of the marijuana laws, under color of a Life Sentence—a true death sentence—and without an Act of Congress.
In May 1988, not long after I had relocated from San Diego to San Francisco, Special Agent Norman Wood of the U.S. Customs Service, after almost a yearlong undercover investigation, seized the ocean-going tugboat Intrepid Venture, which was towing a drug-filled barge under the Golden Gate Bridge. Calvin Robinson was arrested trying to smuggle fifty-six tons of hashish and marijuana into the United States. It was the largest drug seizure ever made within the United States, with an alleged street value of over one billion dollars.
Tried in the Northern District of California, Cal was forced to represent himself. Odd? His attorney had been killed twenty-four hours before the start of the trial, and yet Judge Bryer refused to allow Cal time to acquire new counsel. Cal was found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
For the past twenty-nine years, Cal has been a thorn in the side of the federal judicial system and has challenged his sentence with every breath. I got involved back in 1999, but then found a direct conflict of interest because I was employed by the law firm from which Judge Bryer was appointed to the bench.
In 2016, I finally got my chance to offer help to Cal and re-involved myself in his case. This also provided Chris and Cal the opportunity to finally speak to one another. It was in 1980 that Calvin Robinson became instrumental in helping a young Christopher Boyce learn to survive on escape status, and they had not spoken since. Their first conversation was so touching that it was all I could do to keep from crying.
I followed up with Cal’s appeals, dealt with the courts, and got involved (to my great dislike) with the United States Parole Commission. Yep, they remembered me. And nope, they were not happy that I had insinuated myself back into their business.
But the truth is this: Cal Robinson is seventy-five years old and in poor health. Recently, he was diagnosed with cancer and has been going through rigorous treatments. Right up until a guard at the prison decided Cal didn’t need any more treatments. Sadly, this is the way of the prison system, and the only thing left to do is fight them at every turn.
Cal wrote a plea for compassionate release. I wrote a brief for his compassionate release. His sister, Sue, and his brother-in-law have supported Cal in every attempt at release. His dear friend, Brad Schluter, has been there for support, phone calls, prayers, and friendship. I started calculating how much time I had left to get this before a judge before the lack of treatments would finally kill Cal. It kept me up at night.
On January 19, 2018, nearly thirty years into his life sentence, we received some news: Calvin Robinson’s compassionate release has been granted, and he is going home.
The Northern District Probation Office is readying their final interviews regarding the pending compassionate release, and approved paper work will be submitted from their office this week. Release could be within one week to six months.
This didn’t happen because of the work I did, or the work that Brad or Cal did. This happened because we, as a team, became a coordinated force to deal with in our single-minded effort to defeat what was truly evil. In the end, we succeeded in bringing aid to a man who, despite his crime of thirty years ago, is a good and decent human being. We never lost faith on the road to freedom, and we never gave up.
It really does take a village—and in this case, I am beyond proud to be part of Calvin Robinson’s village.
Cait Boyce is the co-author of American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, which documents her efforts to free Cold War spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.