By Cheri Sicard
After growing up on a farm and serving in the marines, north Florida native Billy Dekle found his true passion in aviation. His early career in the 70s and 80s flying planeloads of marijuana into south Florida is the stuff of Carl Hiaasen novels and Jimmy Buffett songs, with hair-raising flights and narrow escapes from unsavory characters. While he never hurt anyone, the activity earned him one federal and two state felony convictions for marijuana before his real trouble began in 1990 when Billy Dekle was arrested for the marijuana conspiracy case that would land him a life sentence.
Believing in his Constitutional right to take his case to trial, Billy refused to “cooperate” with authorities and implicate others. Of course that did not stop others, trying to avoid long prison sentences, from implicating him. At the end of the trial, like so many others who fought conspiracy charges and lost, Billy Dekle was looking at a sentence of life without possibility of parole for a nonviolent marijuana conspiracy. Now two decades later, the pilot who did nothing more than transport the marijuana, is the only defendant from his case still behind bars.
Once incarcerated, Billy tried to make the best of his terrible situation. He worked in the prison and tried to remain optimistic that the laws would change or clemency would come.
Even in prison Billy’s love for aviation continued. He decorated his cell with photos of vintage airplanes, but little did he know those innocent pictures would be used against him.
One day in May 2012, after serving 22 years, the previous 14 without a single incident report, Billy Dekle was suddenly and without any explanation removed from his cell and taken to the SHU (special housing unit AKA solitary confinement).
No answers or explanations were given to Billy why he was taken to the SHU and why he was subsequently scheduled for transfer back to a maximum-security penitentiary far away from his family. The only cryptic explanation he was offered was that the warden “wasn’t comfortable” with Billy’s presence in his facility.
It took Billy 5 months in the SHU to finally piece together what happened. Mental illness is rampant in prisons and Billy’s former cellmate, Jim, was housed with a mentally unstable inmate named Bob. Bob was responsible for several murders, a kidnapping, rape, and torture. Because of a perceived slight over not getting the right slice of pizza, Bob had a vendetta against both Jim and Billy – the man was mentally unstable. Bob decided to kill himself, but not before exacting a diabolical revenge plot on his former cellmate Jim, and Jim’s new cellmate, Billy Dekle.
Bob’s suicide note claimed that Jim and Billy were planning to escape from prison. The photos of the vintage airplanes decorating Billy’s cell were used as evidence that the rantings of this mad man might be true, despite the fact that prison officials had no other reason to suspect this. Just to be sure, after holding him in the SHU for 5 months, prison authorities shipped Billy Dekle, a nonviolent marijuana offender, back to a maximum-security penitentiary where he still resides and where he will die if the president does not grant him clemency.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
Write a Clemency Support Letter
Billy Dekle has a clemency petition filed at the pardon attorney’s office. He could use letters of support. If you need help writing a Clemency Support letter, there are great tips here
Please send all clemency support letters to Billy’s daughter Amy, she will collect them and make sure copies get sent to both the pardon attorney, Deborah Leff, and President Obama. While you should address your letter to the Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff, please send your signed support letter to:
P.O. Box 508
Lake City, FL 32056
Write to Billy Dekle
Billy loves getting cards and letters. Write to him here:
Billy Dekle #04327-018
PO Box 2099
Pollock, LA 71467
Put Money on Billy’s Commissary Account
Prisoners are paid pennies on the dollar for their labor yet have to pay for everything including phone and email time, stamps and paper, toiletries, food to have in their cells in case of lockdowns, shoes, clothing, and more.
To put money on a prisoner’s books send a postal money order (yes it must be a POSTAL money order or the Bureau of Prisons won’t accept it) to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Inmate Name, Inmate Register Number, In this case:
William Dekle #04327-018
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
or go to Western Union and find the link on the bottom of the page “send money to an inmate” and follow the instructions.
——————————————————————————Cheri Sicard is the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women (2015, Seal Press) and The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook (2012, Z-Dog Media). Her blog is www.CannabisCheri.com.