Dateline: 3 February 2015
After my last blog post, in which I mentioned the anniversary of my deliverance from a prison job, I did a Google search of Harold Konigsberg. I found (At This Link) that he has finally died. That being the case, I feel it is time to tell this story. Although, I once wrote here that I had no interest in telling any stories from my “prison days,” this will be the one exception.
|That’s Harold Konigsberg, back in the day. He murdered at least 20 |
people before the Law caught up with him. They say he enjoyed
murdering people, and he never had any regrets.
He was a classic homicidal psychopath.
I don’t recall the exact year this story happened. Maybe 2007. It doesn’t matter. The point is that it did happen. And were he not in prison, I can’t help but think that Harold Konigsberg would have strangled me with his bare hands (as he liked to do) for getting in his way— for ruining a business deal that he was intent on making. Before it was over, Harold Konigsberg knew exactly who I was, and what I had done, and I did not feel comfortable about it.
This story began on a Sunday, after church. My pastor (I’ll call him Mr. W.) told me that he had received a letter from an inmate at Auburn Correctional Facility (where I worked at the time). The inmate wrote because he wanted to purchase Mr. W’s business.
Mr. W. owned a successful manufacturing company that was started decades ago by his father. The company was growing and had been featured in a local newspaper story. Harold Konigsberg had read the story and saw a good opportunity.
The letter was a multi-page document in which Harold explained that his family had prior experience with such businesses, and that he had the money to make the purchase. More than once, he stated that “my daughters and I will own 51% of the business.” Harold didn’t want to own the whole company, he just wanted to be the managing partner.
A copy of the letter was mailed to Mr. W. by Harold’s attorney, who also happened to be his daughter. If I recall correctly, he had two daughters, and both of them are attorneys. Another copy of the letter was hand-delivered to Mr. W. at his home by a prison guard. The guard was a local man who had known Mr. W. for many years. I didn’t know the guard, but I knew some of his family.
I was shocked by the fact that a prison inmate would write a letter wanting to purchase Mr. W’s business, but I was more shocked that a prison guard was acting on behalf of Harold. That was not right. The guard was encouraging Mr. W. to meet with Harold at the prison to discuss this business proposition.
I told Mr. W. that I would take a copy of the letter to work with me the next day, and discuss the matter with some people I trusted to give me good counsel.
I showed the letter to two men I worked with who had been at the prison a long time, and who I knew were privy (one directly, and the other indirectly) to Harold’s files and his history.
The first man, Mr. S., took an immediate interest in the letter. I remember him saying, “This is not good. Harold is a very, bad man.” The other man, Mr. H., was equally concerned and serious about the matter.
We discussed the letter, and shared it with another employee for his opinion. One of the things we were trying to discern was if the letter was threatening in any way. We came to the conclusion that the repeated phrase, “My daughters and I will own 51% of the business” sounded like a threat. Harold wasn’t asking to buy the business. He was telling Mr. W. that he was going to buy it and would own 51%.
When I mentioned to my concerned co-workers that a guard had hand-delivered a copy of the letter to Mr. W., that raised their eyebrows. After a long pause, one of them asked who it was? I said I felt like keeping that part of the story to myself. They didn’t press the matter.
I also mentioned that Mr. W. was giving serious thought to meeting with Harold. Although he had no interest in selling his business, he felt like it might be a good opportunity to share his Christian faith. At this announcement, one of the men dropped his head and shook it, like he couldn’t believe it was happening. The other man said, “That’s a bad idea.”
I gave the letter to Mr. H. He said he was going to take it directly to the Superintendent. Mr. S. put in a call to his close contact in the inmate counseling department. It would not take long for virtually everyone in the prison to know what was going on. I knew that would be the case, and I was glad that someone was taking it seriously.
Mr. H. and Mr. S. shared with me some of Harold’s history. He was as bad as they get. He had been in Auburn a long time. He was an old man. But Mr. S. made it clear that, old as he was, Harold was still a powerful and physically dangerous person. It also sounded like Harold was not treated like the average inmate. He tended to get away with bending the rules. No one in authority gave him any trouble. He was, Mr. S. told me, a master at manipulating people to get his way, even behind bars.
The next day at work, Mr. S. had two photocopies of an article from the New Yorker magazine about Harold. One copy for me. One copy for Mr. W. The article was titled Blood Relation and was written by Harold’s nephew, Eric Konigsberg.
Eric Konigsberg had grown up not knowing anything about his infamous uncle (his family had kept Harold a secret for a long time). After he found out, he ended up visiting Uncle Harold in prison, and getting Harold’s story from Harold himself.
I’m not someone who has any interest in gangsters and their sordid lives, but I certainly read that article. It was disturbing, to say the least. Harold was a brutal, merciless beast of a man. And, as Mr. S. had said, the article made it clear that Harold was very adept at getting his way, even while in custody.
The New Yorker article had been something of a sensation when it was published. Mr. S. told me that Harold was not happy with it. Mr. S. told me that the last time his nephew visited him (after the article was published), Harold made a scene in the visiting room, threatening to Kill the nephew. Harold himself may not have had an opportunity to get his hands on his nephew’s neck, but he surely had mob friends on the outside.
Nevertheless, the nephew went on to publish the book, Blood Relation, expanding on the story of his wicked uncle.
I took the magazine article directly to Mr. W. after work on the day I got it. I emphatically advised him NOT to meet with Harold. The New Yorker article had convinced me. All I could think of was a spider web. Harold was the spider. Mr. W. was the fly. I was concerned that Mr. W. should not get anywhere near the web. But the prison guard “friend” of Mr. W. was encouraging Mr. W. to go meet with Harold.
The next day at work, Mr. S. and I went “up front” (to the administrative offices of the prison) to meet with Harold’s counselor. That sounded good to me. We were making some progress at getting this problem taken care of.
To his credit, Harold’s counselor took the matter seriously. But, during our meeting, the Superintendent of the prison came in and really disappointed me. My assumption was that he would see the seriousness of the situation and simply put an end to it.
The Superintendent didn’t take it seriously. He told me that there was nothing he could do about it. He said that if Mr. W. was concerned, he needed to write a letter to him (the Superintendent) expressing his concerns.
I was flabbergasted. I said, “You've gotta be kidding me! Mr. W. is a victim here. He doesn’t want to make waves and antagonize Harold. He’s not going to write a letter to you. He just wants to be left alone. I’m Mr. W’s friend, and I’m telling you for him. He just wants this guy to leave him alone.”
The superintendent shrugged his shoulders, said he was sorry, and walked away. The man was a coward. I lost all respect for him at that moment.
What’s more, the Superintendent expressed no interest at all in knowing anything about the guard that was working for Harold. He surely knew that part of the story. And the higher-ups in security surely knew it too. Had anyone in the administration asked me about the guard, I would have given them the name.
But I was actually glad they didn’t ask. The guard was not a bad guy. He was apparently caught in Harold’s web. And he wasn’t the only one.
The counselor met with Harold and somehow managed to convince him that it was not a good idea to pursue the purchase of Mr. W’s business. Besides that, Mr. W. had decided not to meet with Harold. The episode came to a close. But there are a couple of afternotes to this story.
A month or so after this all took place, a guard came to me and wanted to know the story directly from me. This guard (I’ll call him Officer K.) knew Mr. W. and had been in his class in high school. Officer K. was someone I knew as a good guard (there are good guards and not-so-good guards in prison). He also knew Harold. Officer K. was upset about the guard that was working for Harold. He asked his name. I wouldn’t give it. He then said he was going to ask Harold about all of this and get his story.
Awhile after that, I saw Officer K. and asked him if he had spoken to Harold. He said that he had. Harold told him that he had every intention of buying Mr. W’s company but “Some guy named Herrick Kimball ruined it all.”
I thought Officer K. might be joking, but he was serious. “How did Harold get my name?” I asked.
“I don’t know. But he knows who you are.”
Wow. That made me kind of uncomfortable. My imagination started running wild. I got a little paranoid after that. I half expected a big black car with darkened windows and New Jersey license plates to pull into my driveway at home. I imagined big guys in dark suits with sunglasses getting out of the car. I decided that if that happened, I would not go out and talk to them. I would just start shooting.
Fortunately, it was not too many months after these things took place that Harold was transferred to another prison. Something had happened. A couple guards were “locked out” pending an investigation (the guard that advocated for Harold with Mr. W. was not one of them). The rumor was that relatives of these guards were given jobs by Carnival Cruise Lines, as a result of Harold’s influence. It turns out Harold’s “family” owns the company. Or.... maybe they just own 51%.