WEATHER »
Ben Greenspon in an early court appearance. What started as petty theft and forgery grew to a spree of bank robberies that eventually landed him a life sentence in 2000.

Ben Greenspon in an early court appearance. What started as petty theft and forgery grew to a spree of bank robberies that eventually landed him a life sentence in 2000.


Surfer, Robber, Writer, Lifer

Getting to Know Ben Greenspon, Santa Barbara’s Bank-Robbing Son


Thursday, November 17, 2011
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Comments
Share Article

I still can’t say exactly what it was about Ben Greenspon’s story that drew me in. Part of it was the almost incomprehensible disconnection between his life sentence in prison and his ordinary boyhood — one that sounds not unlike my own early years in Santa Barbara.

Ben was born in 1972. He was a typical Southern California kid — an adventurous, energetic boy who grew up running wild on a beautiful property off San Marcos Pass owned by his loving mother and stepfather. He went to Mountain View School, La Colina, and San Marcos High. He was a good student and a talented competitive surfer. Those who knew him in his childhood and teen years remember him as charmed, charismatic: the kind of guy who attracted people — and luck — without seeming to try.

First tattoo, age 16. “And no,” his mother wrote, “he didn’t have permission.”
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

First tattoo, age 16. “And no,” his mother wrote, “he didn’t have permission.”

He also had a habit of breaking the rules: At eight, he was stealing candy bars; at 12, he would wait for his dad to go to work, then load the car with surfboards and drive to the beach. In high school, he was popular, partying with the Montecito crowd. He started stealing VCRs from his friends’ parents and pawning them for extra cash, then forging checks. He was in and out of juvenile detention centers, but the experience of incarceration didn’t seem to deter him.

November 12, 2008

As a boy I ran away every day. I never went far, and I always came back happier, free. It wasn’t until I was a man that I lost my way, and ran away for real.

Before long, he was robbing banks and treating his friends to lavish gifts: sports cars, designer suits, weekend gambling sprees. In 1994, at age 21, Ben was arrested for bank robbery and sentenced to seven years in federal prison. In 2000, he was released on parole, and reunited with his family. He was stunned to be free again; his mother remembers him standing in shock in a supermarket, paralyzed by so many choices of what to eat for dinner. Yet within weeks, Ben borrowed his mother’s car, walked into a bank in San Luis Obispo unarmed, and walked out with a bag full of cash.

Serving time in his early twenties.
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

Serving time in his early twenties.

This time, his spree of robberies lasted less than two months. On April 25, 2000, a high-speed chase culminated in Ben struggling with a female police officer. He has always maintained that he was trying to get her to shoot him — he says he knew his luck was over, and he didn’t want to live beyond that day.

But live he did. He faced 11 felony counts, including attempted murder of a peace officer — a charge that was eventually dropped. Yet between his prior convictions and his latest slew of crimes, he was sentenced to 132 years to life in prison under California’s three-strikes law.

January 5, 2009

I ran and ran, and never considered that I was a traitor to my loved ones. Now I live with the guilt, and when my mom’s eyes tear up during a visit I see a galaxy of burnt bridges.

I first heard about Ben’s story in 2008, when I was working as an arts editor for The Independent. At a story-idea meeting one afternoon, I mentioned my interest in prison art. “That’s funny,” said one of my colleagues. “My girlfriend’s brother is in prison for life, and he’s helping other inmates get their art to the public.”

I wrote my first letter to Ben that week, and he wrote back. As our correspondence continued, I realized that what I had thought of as an interesting visual art story was something else entirely. Yes, Ben was encouraging fellow prisoners to draw and paint, but the real story here was about one man’s determination to live a meaningful life, even if it was a life behind bars. This time, I wasn’t dealing with a play or a novel or a film. It wasn’t a metaphor — something I remembered with a new shock every time I opened another of Ben’s letters. I was corresponding with a man who had broken the social contract so many times, and so flagrantly, that society had banished him.

March 22, 2009

I’m full of things to say but have no one to say them to. I’m sure of who I am now — who I would be — but nobody knows that, and that’s where the trail fades off into the woods.

And yet, amid the tragedy, disappointment, and waste, I discovered hope in the form of Ben’s creative impulse. Faced with a life in prison, he had begun not only to encourage others in their artistic pursuits but also to write — and to write prolifically. He wrote letters, essays, short stories, and novels. He asked fellow prisoners to create drawings based on his writing. He turned down recreational time in order to write. I was being let in on one man’s struggle to find his voice, even when his freedom was lost forever.

June 2, 2009

I have more regrets every year, and my once grand ego is a wilted, common daffodil … I’m a fool, a selfish fool … but hope is a thing that both floats and sinks. I’m still floating.

It’s been six months now since Ben and I stopped corresponding, but his letters still haunt me. It isn’t their literary merit that makes them so unforgettable; it’s that they represent a voice society has all but silenced. It’s a voice thick with guilt, frustration, and sorrow, but against all odds, it’s also a voice of hope.

In writing this story, it isn’t my intention to report the facts of Ben Greenspon’s case; that’s already been done. Nor is it my aim to make sense of his crimes, or to offer any kind of resolution. My intent is simply to bear witness to a Santa Barbara boy who isn’t coming home — Ben Greenspon: surfer, robber, writer, lifer.

By Courtesy Photo

Greenspon faced 11 felony counts, including attempted murder of a police officer (a charge that was eventually dropped).

Meeting Ben: Face-to-Face with a Bank Robber

The first thing I noticed were the shoes: thick, white rubber soles and black canvas uppers — a kind of off-brand, low-top Converse that made the men look like oversized boys.

I caught his eye when he entered the room, dressed like the rest of them in a blue chambray shirt and darker blue pants with yellow stitching. He grinned and seemed to bounce across the linoleum floor, glancing at the guard beside him, then at me, and then away again. And then, given his orders, he walked to my table, Table 9, where a pile of paper napkins lay beside two sporks in their plastic wrappers. We shook hands and grinned at each other, and I saw the thin, sharp creases at the outside corners of his eyes, the way his stubble and his short hair were flecked with white.

“So,” he said, sitting down across from me with his knees apart, placing both hands palm down on the table as if it were a regulation he followed instinctively. “How was the drive?” Beneath the table, his knees took up an insistent bouncing.

He was the same good-looking man I’d seen in all the photographs — the ones in the newspaper when he was first sentenced, and the more recent ones his mother had shown me, snapshots taken on prison visits, in front of a wall mural depicting a rain forest with giant, fakey leaves and an implausible waterfall. He was shorter than I’d imagined. When he smiled, dimples puckered his handsome face, making him look closer to 17 than 37.

I told him about the sunrise swell at Rincon, the smell of the cows on I-5, and the wrong turn that had cost me an extra 20 minutes of backtracking down a little highway through a place called Pumpkin Corner. I didn’t tell him how they’d turned me away at the security check at first because my pants were “too form-fitting in the rear,” how I’d returned to my car, changed into the second pair I’d brought, and finally walked through the metal detector and into the steel cage topped with razor wire, feeling conscious of my ass moving beneath the thin, black fabric. Good thing I’d read the visitor’s guidelines carefully and brought backups: a few changes of clothes, a pack of notepads with no spiral binding, and a quiver of pencils, their points stubbed to rounded tips.

What am I doing here? I had asked myself as I walked with the other visitors — mostly young women, some with infants in their arms — past the cell blocks to Visiting Room B. I knew the easy answer: I was a journalist pursuing a story, the story of a hometown boy who lost control and landed himself a life sentence. But beneath that answer was something deeper, some fascination I did not want to admit to myself.

Nobody had handed me this assignment. I was the one who’d reached out to Ben, encouraging him to write to me. What was it that had made my heart race every time I saw his blocky script on an envelope in the newsroom mailbox: Pleasant Valley State Prison, B. Greenspon, T-12702, D2-214? I had written back — dozens of letters over the course of nearly a year — and I had agreed to make the six-hour drive to visit him, still not knowing what the story really was, or even if there was one. Early that morning, before setting out, I had applied eyeliner and mascara. At the gas station in Coalinga, I’d bought spearmint gum to cover up the smell of coffee on my breath.

Now, sitting four feet from him, I felt my body flush with adrenaline, felt that heady mix of excitement and fear that enlivens me on a first date but also when I stand on the mat at the martial arts dojo and prepare to demonstrate my response to a simulated knife attack. I’m a black belt, I told myself now, though sitting here surrounded by men facing serious sentences for serious crimes, it felt like weak defense. From across the table, Ben winked. How had I imagined that a blunt No. 2 and a yellow legal pad could shield me from this man?

I had brought $25 in quarters — no bills, as instructed — and I offered to buy him lunch from the vending machines in the visiting room. He led me to one, and chose a slice of pepperoni pizza, a can of Sprite, and beef taquitos. I found a bean-and-cheese burrito, and dropping my quarters in one by one, looked over to see him peering into the microwave where his food was heating. He’s 37 years old, I thought, and he’ll never go to the supermarket to buy groceries, never slice a fresh tomato with a sharp knife, or grind his own coffee in the morning.

What do you talk about with a man who has been sentenced to live his life in prison, and to die there? I listened as he described his teenage years in Santa Barbara: surfing dawn patrol at Hammonds, acid trips at the Farmers Market, lounging poolside at the Coral Casino with gorgeous girls who drove Jags and Bimmers and stole cocaine from their parents. I listened to his story about attempting to escape from a temporary detention center in Washington state, looked when he pointed out the scars on his hands from trying to punch through two panes of shattered glass. “I was so close to freedom,” he said. “I couldn’t not try for it.”

“I never saw it as an act of desperation,” he explained. “It was my career.”

He told me how good he had been at robbing banks. “I never saw it as an act of desperation,” he explained. “It was my career.” And he described the ways he had spent the money: renting out strip clubs in Tucson, hitting Las Vegas with three beautiful women and a backpack full of cash.

In the next breath, he lamented his stupidity, insisting that all that mattered to him now was his family and his writing; he wanted to publish a novel and a collection of short stories and to write a screenplay, and could I help him? Part of me wanted to say yes, but I mumbled something noncommittal. He’d already sent me many of his stories — tales of Indian chiefs and talking birds, magic sea turtles and forbidden love and dark, unresolved vendettas.

I thought of all those women I had read about and disdained — the ones who fell in love with inmates on death row, desperate women drawn in by the magnetic field surrounding danger and death, by bad-boy allure, the sex appeal of crime, or the misplaced desire to fix something broken. How far was I from them now, sitting here gazing into an inmate’s eyes and wishing I could smooth his brow, give him hope, give him some kind of future?

“I haven’t had a visitor since February,” he told me, and I pictured his mother, the way she’d rolled her eyes again and again during our interview so as to keep from crying. “Do you know how long I’ve been in places like this?” Ben asked me. “Sixteen years. Almost two decades.”

I offered him more food. He chose Buffalo wings, a slice of chocolate-chip cheesecake, a pint of ice cream. At the table next to us, a young mother rearranged the baby under her arm, jiggling it to keep it quiet. The inmate beside her — the father, I thought — stared past her, his jaw clenched, his face unreadable. Ben shifted in his plastic chair. “Do you ever think about fatherhood — being a dad?” I asked him. “Nawww,” he said. “I mean, I try not to think too much about the future, you know? I don’t have much of one.” He looked at his hands, brown hands flecked with little white scars, the flat fingernails short and clean.

“It kills my mom to come here,” he said, and looked at me, and his eyes were wet and pink. “It kills her, so I don’t ask anymore. I try not to ask for anything.”

The most recent photo of Ben, taken on a prison visit circa 2007.
Click to enlarge photo

Courtesy Photo

The most recent photo of Ben, taken on a prison visit circa 2007.

Incarcerated, Unforgettable

Ben has switched prisons twice since we began corresponding, but my questions haven’t changed: What drove him to do what he did? Was this outcome avoidable, or inevitable? Should his community take any responsibility? What might Ben do with another chance? Is forgiveness even an option? What would it look like?

Though I’ve spent months turning these questions over, I haven’t reached any answers. What I’ve gained in pursuing this story isn’t a solution; it’s simply the ability to see Ben as a human being. Through our correspondence, I’ve allowed myself to relate to him as something other than a bank robber: as a fellow Santa Barbara native, a fellow lover of nature and adventure, a fellow writer. And by meeting him in person, I have negated the possibility of ever forgetting Ben Greenspon.

In the end, Ben and I have agreed on this: Writing is the most powerful way we have found to tell our truths and unburden our hearts. The very act of writing down our stories gives us courage, even when, as Ben puts it, the trail fades off into the woods.

A Child of the Sea

I thought it was important to give Ben a chance to tell his story in his own words. I could have chosen from scores of his letters or stories, but I thought this essay captured his writing style, his love of his home and family, and how he sees his life today. I’ve edited it slightly. — ES

As a child of the sea, I’ve never seen a wave that wasn’t beautiful. As a boy I ran away every day. I never went far, and I always came back happier, free. It wasn’t until I was a man that I lost my way, and ran away for real. Even now, as a much older man, I look back and try to see past the corners of my life.

Memory is a vague comfort, sort of like a friendly stranger. My grief for the lost pieces can hide in the shadows of my tiny cell. I’ve learned to pretend there’s only a little space between our worlds. But in my world there are no waves, and no place to rest my surfboard. I hold onto a fading book of memories. I’m sure one day they’ll all be gone. When that day comes I’ll return to the ocean, somehow. Until then I’ve given myself the space I need, though judgment and regret lurk always.

Click to enlarge photo

If I could stand at the edge of the cliff that overlooks Jalama and feel the salty breeze, I’d remember my childhood and the life I’ve left behind. As a child I never realized the day would come when I’d wish I could go back and do it over again. As children how many of us can imagine our fate? Time and waves are alike in so many ways … when the last wave crashes, time will stop for me. I just pray that in the next journey I’ll have wisdom, and the judgment of the man I am today. I wonder where all my childhood friends are now. Some are dead, but I’m sure we’ll surf together again. I’ve seen the edge of my life, and I’ve stepped back, trying to be closer to the child I was, rather than the man I became.

I always seemed to find myself at the beach. I could be the center of a massive manhunt and forget all of it, everything. One of the most powerful memories in my life is being on a balcony in Mazatlan, looking out at the ocean, knowing my life was about to change in a way that would never be undone. Sometimes you just know … and I knew. The waves were perfect; they crashed gracefully and lulled my worst fears. I was with a woman I loved, and I wanted to tell her. I tried to let her know that one day I’d be gone, but she only heard my voice, not my words. Being together was enough to cover up truths.

I’ve been tossed around for close to two decades since that day on the balcony, and the woman I loved has lived a good life, without me. If she were to ask me why, or how, or am I sorry, I’d be speechless. I’d probably cry like a child. As a man I’m not supposed to let salty tears flow, yet I’m a far cry from the ocean’s comfort. I doubt anything I’ve ever said was heard. My life has been full of secrets and deceit. The help I’ve given the people in my life was false; the joy I had was gone before the sun set.

I often sort myself into two piles: the good and the bad. It seems like the bad pile is way bigger, but my heart wishes it weren’t so. I really did care. Whoever I helped I cared for, a lot. Can you forgive me? As a child, forgiveness was easy, and so fulfilling. As a child I’d forgive anything, and the waves would always be part of me, begging me to forgive. — Ben Greenspon, 2009

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

What a life of victimizing people this man has lead, with one opportunity after another to straighten out until he finally escalated his antisocial behavior to get himself where he is today. I somewhat remember this case. As I recall, his assault on the officer was quite violent. Just because he was acquitted of attempted murder doesn't mean he didn't violently assault someone. (Lying through omission?)

Sociopaths have quite a way of charming their way through life and getting people to feel sorry for them.

I think it would have been balanced journalism to have the assaulted officer interviewed for this interview.

There are lots of Ben Greenspons who can turn on the charisma.

I wish him peace, but his track record is consistent with someone who should not be out in public.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 1:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"I still can’t say exactly what it was about Ben Greenspon’s story that drew me in."

Gauche or not, I wonder if there is perhaps an ethnic commonality here, spurring this PR drive? Just wondering!

Adonis_Tate (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 3:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Adonis_Tate: Bad Boys have a certain roguish charm. Richard "The Night Stalker" Ramirez, has had many women make romantic overtures toward him despite his multiple murder convictions. Same thing with Charles Manson.

From what I can see, the author is not romantically attracted to Greenspon, nor is she drawn to him for the reason you listed, but she simply doesn't realize that bad people can have good sides to them.

Even the worst people can have a soft side to them: Hitler loved animals, and Al Capone loved his mother, but that doesn't make up for the evil they did.

Also, people on the political Left often tend to be much more likely to sympathize with criminals blaming society for their bad deeds and that may well come into play here.

Would the author let this man live with her and have access to her personal possessions?...who knows, but clearly she doesn't see the pain he's caused over his entire life to society.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 4:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Socio/psychopath....all very charming. Watch out girl, I had a friend who was "charmed" by beautifully written letters of a prisoner - don't be fooled.....take heed......they're ALL charming and he's trying to reel you in.

What could happen if he's in for life? How about you trying to help him escape? And you will never succeed and YOU will be in prison.

topcat (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Freedom brought him Chaos but Imprisonment brought him Control.
I really believe Mr. Greenspon, would not change a thing regarding his life of crime, he would just be a repeat offender but his is the same as many, a quick buck at everyones expense and only remorse at being caught.
The writting was good but for a drama, a cheap drama at that but maybe a made-for-tv Movie....

dou4now (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's sad that he chose to be such a loser and hurt his family that way. This is a good example of how it's not always the parent's fault that their kids are screwed up. He put himself there, why glorify it? I've had a few friends that were habitual offenders and they wrote great letters while they were in prison, so articulate and solid... and then they would get out and break another law and be sentenced to be back there again for a few years. It seems that those who act like they thrive on freedom are actually the people that can't handle having it, it's almost like they WANT to get caught and be incarcerated.

This may sound weird but I was always a little bit jealous at them for getting a break from the responsibilities of life while I was out here working my butt off, a single mother taking care of my son. But there they had all the time in the world to read, write, learn to play the guitar, get college credits and do arts & crafts.... can you imagine? Yeah, he made the choice to be there, he must like it or he would have avoided trouble when he was out.

santabarbarasand (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It would be nice if he were joined by the white collar criminals that are looting our treasury.

ramoncramon (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is outstanding writing. I think the author is doing exactly what she says she is doing: Telling a story. I read curiosity there, as well as trepidation, excitement, sadness. I feel like I had a glimpse into a local boy's life who turned to crime. It's hard to see those in prison as "like us." It's scary to wonder how someone with a seemingly idyllic life can turn to such anti-social and stupid behavior. Nobody gets away with bank robbery. Duh. As a parent, I can't imagine the horror, grief and deep shame it must feel like to raise a child who ends up in prison for life. I feel guilty when my boy crashes into another soccer player. I cannot imagine what his parents have gone through and hope I never know first hand.

This is a superb story with no moral. It's just a tale of a local boy who turned to a life of crime. It's powerful in it's simplicity. If he truly is a sociopath, all the more sad.

Outstanding job, Elizabeth.

NoSpamMan (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 10:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A life sentence for bank robbery seems overboard. I'd think the boards of Citi, Chase, Schwab, Goldman-Sachs et all would be doing life sentences as well.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for the article. It gives me something to line the bottom of my birdcage with. The only sorrow Ben feels is sorrow that he got caught . If not for the 3 strikes law, he would still be out terrorizing bank tellers. The bullet hole in his leg serves as a permanent reminder that bad things happen to bad people. Enjoy your 132 years to life, Ben.

415female (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KenV: "A life sentence for bank robbery seems overboard."

You obviously didn't get the point or are letting your "occupy" hatred block the point from sinking in.
This has NOTHING to do w/ your squabbles w/ capitalism, it has everything to do w/ the average person. Let it go Ken, let it go, just for this 1 instance @ least.

I knew a guy like Mr. Greenspon whenI lived in the Culver City/West L.A./Santa Monica/Venice area.
His name was Paul Barkin & he was notorious for ripping ANYBODY off, so much in fact that we used to call him "PB13, the 1 man gang."
Numerous attempts were made by Paul to "straighten out" & avoid the pen, but time after time he got sent back in.
Why? He couldn't stay away from the thug life, it offered a high & an acceptance that he favored over being the average person.
Paul was a very likeable person, athletic, good looking, had all these gifts, but his penchant for the criminal life outweighed common sense.
In the end he was out free, apparently keeping his nose clean for a while. Then the drug raid happened & he was in the middle of it.
Some say he commited suicide in his cell, some say he was shot on the scene, some say the cops faked his suicide so they wouldn't have to release him to commit more crimes.
People say anything, that's what people do. But what I never heard anybody say was how much of a screwup Paul was & that is a symptom on enablement.
Paul already felt entitled to what others had, enablers let him go down a path that eventually ended his life.
But the thing is Paul was definitely NOT a victim. He was a thug, made no secret of it & in the end got what was coming.

Ken, by the way, what Citi, Chase, Schwab, Goldman-Sachs et al are doing is perfectly legal under the current legal system & therefore doesn't merit a life sentence for bank robbery. But it doesn't make what they do right.
W/ that said it comes down to law versus sentiment. Those corporations are within the law, out of your sentiment.
Whom/what do you believe a judge will side w/ in court? A notion (what you have) or a writ (what the law is)?
Like the old saying goes: "Just because you can, it don't mean that you should." :) henry

hank (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 1:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

For all those who are judging Ben as a bad person. Please read this. I knew Ben very well. He was my older brother's best friend and a good friend of mine.

While there is no disputing that Ben made the wrong choices from a very young age. He is not a bad or violent person. He did not want to or try to hurt the officer that shot him. He asked her repeatedly to shoot him. He wanted to die because he knew he had been caught and was facing life. Something that he had talked to other inmates about when he was locked up previously. Death by cop. This is a fact and Ben felt terrible that he had frightened the female officer.

Ben is a good guy and I blame the system as much as I blame his choices. Drug addicts need help. He was in and out of juvenile detention since 16 years old. It was all he knew. When he got out at 28. He had no idea of how to hold a job or how to live a normal life. Does this excuse him from robbing banks or any of the other charges? No, but if Ben would have more help at a young age (specifically with addiction) and not just locked up every time. Things may have been different. Maybe not but I see the young kids today and many of them need help and guidance.

The bottom line is that Ben is not a bad guy. Thankfully I did not go down the same road as he did. My older brother (Ben's best friend) also chose the wrong path and ended up losing his battle with addiction in 2005. I am happy that I had Ben as a friend. More like another older brother and still feel that way about him today.

I am not sure what is worse. Ending up in prison for life or losing your life to drug addiction. Either way, both those boys needed help and ultimately addiction ways the motivation.

I will miss them both forever. At least I can still go visit Ben. I just wish we could be hanging at the beach instead of sitting in a prison visting room.

Thank you Elizabeth for the wonderful article.

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 2:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

System17: "I am not sure what is worse. Ending up in prison for life or losing your life to drug addiction."

Lose/lose scenario, sadly enough & 1 usually leads to the other :) henry

hank (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Regardless, a life sentence for stealing is extreme.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This punk used a gun in committing a crime. He held up not one, but two banks. One with a weapon. It's by the sheer grace of god no one was killed or wounded. We all have crossroads in our lives. Some of us have gotten in trouble for them and learned not to make the same mistake twice. Others reached out for help. The fact of the matter here is that he only stopped because he got caught. Did he ask for forgiveness from the people he pointed a gun at? Or the ones he stole from? Lot's of people come from poor, dysfunctional homes and don't become habitual criminals.

Well written article. But I don't have one ounce of sympathy for him. He dug his own hole. May he rot in his cell.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 4:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"For those that are judging Ben as a bad person..."?
Forgawdsakes people grow up. He earned it.
This article was creepy.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 4:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

BeachFan: He never used a gun! He is doing his time. And who are you to judge him without seeing life through his eyes or feeling his emotions. That is just ignorant. Wake up people and realize that everybody needs to be forgiven. He made mistakes. Many mistakes and he is paying the price. It doesn't mean that the person inside is bad.

italiansurg: Your comment doesn't even really deserve acknowledgment. You may be the one that needs to grow up and realize addiction is a disease. If it is not treated, you end up dead or in prison.

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 5:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Very moving, haunting, even, and very, very sad. Thank you for the story, for giving us outside at least a degree of understanding. I agree with Ken_Volok: a life sentence for stealing seems way, way over the top of fairness.
Three strikes should be re-assessed and it should be applied, if at all, only to those who commit violent crimes against society.

at_large (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 5:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yup, he was drug addicted from the time he was 8... He ended up in prison which pleases me. He exhibits all the attributes of a classic sociopath; part and partial of their M.O. is finding a vast pool of willing lame brains to believe in their b.s.
Another physician that is a friend of mine, a child psychoanalyst, and personally responsible for the bulk of the Marin County messed up youth, does not buy into any of the victim theories either. In her 25 year career she has come to the same conclusion; most of these folks are just wired wrong. This does not mean we throw them away but does mean you cannot "cure" them either. The choices are not simple and once they get to this point they need to be incarcerated.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Three strikes needs a huge overhaul. Its costing us more than all the state universities combined for the fiscally minded, and prison isn't the solution for every case to begin with.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

my daughter, who works at Rabobank wrote this comment on Facebook:

I can't tell you how sick it makes me feel that this criminal was put on the front of The Independent (yet again) so that his life story can be told trying to evoke sympathy from readers that he really is a nice guy and drugs are to blame for all his problems not himself.
I was held at gunpoint by this guy TWICE and I testified against him in the court that sentenced him to life in prison. Our community is a safer on without this guy on the streets.

braesmom (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So yes, he did use a gun! The poor little girl who calls him her friend has also been charmed by this sociopath. Life in prison is deserved. He is a violent criminal. Of course he seems like a good kid. He was charming his whole life and now he doesn't have the temptations to rob banks. I'm sure his prisonmate's things go missing all the time though. The author of this piece needs to wise up. Her infatuation with him is quite apparent. Hopefully her editor smacks her to wake her up.

Mosie313 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 8:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Three strikes needs a huge overhaul. Its costing us more than all the state universities combined for the fiscally minded, and prison isn't the solution for every case to begin with.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 6:46 p.m

I agree with you on three strikes Ken, and I think perhaps Greenspon is better off in a mental institution, but when people simply cannot reform their ways they need to be permanently taken out of society.

A local defense attorney (I don't know if he still practices) named Jake Stoddard was complaining in the News-Press about the three strikes law and asked "how did it become so draconian" (meaning our overall system) This appeared in the paper c.1995. I responded with a letter that was published explaining how Stoddard defended Malcolm Joseph Robbins. (http://www.cncpunishment.com/forums/a...) I pointed out that Robbins admitted to raping and then strangling six-year-old Christopher Finney in 1980. Long into short: Robbins got the death penalty, then Stoddard broke into tears begging the court to spare Robbins since Robbins was now a born-again Christian. The ploy worked. Still not satisfied, Stoddard then went for round 3 and got the court to reduce the sentence to 25-to-life. Finally, by about 1983, the death sentence was reinstated and Robbins is still on death row. Had Stoddard got his way, Robbins could have been out by the time he was about 42 years old.

Here is my point: People are tired of being victimized by psychopaths and sociopaths who con their way through the system and get off time and again. When the Silent Majority of people who do not rob, rape, kill, and destroy people's lives feel as though the system does not protect them--even while they are told NOT to act in a "vigilante" way--they end up passing the three strikes law out of frustration.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 8:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

thanks braesmom for finally putting some soul and humanity into the real victims in this situation, it sure as heck is not Greenspon...
system17-your post seems particularly idiotic at this point, doesn't it...yup, I'm the problem here...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 8:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Italiansurg: You keep saying that I follow you, but now you're following me.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

KenV: "Three strikes needs a huge overhaul. Its costing us more than all the state universities combined."

I totally agree w/ how it is costing us moneteraly, but you're not stating 1 of the reasons why: Opportunistic lawyers.
These type of lawyers pervert the appeals process, strring the incarcerated felon's family along w/ false hopes, they tie up the courts & in the end walk away squeaky clean for "representing the under-represented."
These lawyers are just as bad as the bank intitutions you mentioned before :) henry

hank (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ben never hurt anybody. He had a paper bag. Not a gun. He is remorseful for putting people in a fearful situation at the banks and the officer that shot him. You are all out of your minds making judgement on a human being that you did not know. Any human being for that matter. This is what is wrong with the world these days. Instead of helping each other, we criticize. Look around at the world. Our government is broken. Our once great country is losing ground fast and it's all because we are selfish. It's not just Ben's actions. It's everybody! Help each other. Ben F!@#$ed up and is paying the price. Everybody else needs to take a good look at themselves like Ben is forced to in prison. Myself included. He can't change the past. Neither can you or I. Move forward, forgive, forget and help your fellow human beings. Otherwise, you are part of the problem.

And addiction... Don't get me started. Most crimes are because of addiction. Wether it is drug addiction, addiction to adrenaline, addiction to money, etc... It's what drives the criminals. They NEED help. Period! Addiction is the most overlooked, least understood disease on the planet. Most people don't even realize it is a disease. It's like cancer for the mind. And I have seen it all.

So please... Try not to judge, try to forgive, try to be united. Bad things happen. People do bad things. As a whole, I believe all human beings are good.

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion in the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

--Albert Einsteint...

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Schwyzer could have found someone more deserving of her pathos. Why give him the print?
This kid had all the opportunities. He had plenty of chances and warnings to go straight. He chose to be a loser.
I personally know those he robbed. They were held at gunpoint and could have died by this sociopath.
Three-strikes works by keeping scum where they belong- Locked up amongst other scum. Take away his pen and let him rot!

junkfoodjunky (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

italiansurg: No... My post seems far from idiotic. I have known the man "Ben Greenspon" for most of my life. You ask any close friend of his and you will get the same response. Ben has a huge heart. Just misguided as many young people are today.

It's actually funny that you put this all on Ben. Our society is responsible for the so called bad kids. Divorce, MIA dads, parents that use drugs, not enough counseling for kids, and teens have nobody that they trust.

It makes my posts all the more relevant. Ben is one of many people, kids, teens that grew up too fast without anybody to trust. Got addicted to the freedom and power of drugs, money and feeling like a somebody. It happens every day to lots of people. Ben just seems to be the scapegoat at this point. If it makes you all think about it more, great. The article has done it's purpose. If not, you live in the dark.

I enjoy the different perspectives and I thank you for making me think but if you don't know Ben. Sorry... It just doesn't say much. Just another 1 of the 7,000,000,000 people on the planet trying to survive and be happy. Seems like he failed but he is still trying to make his life worth something while locked up for life. That says more to me than I can say for most people who think that their status, money, possessions, etc... in life somehow make them better. Ben has nothing and he has found a way to be positive...

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

junkfoodjunky: Once again. You have it all wrong. Ben never hurt anybody. Frightened, yes. Hurt no. He didn't have a gun and would have never shot anybody. It's still not the point... The point is addiction. If you have never experienced it, you won't understand it. And that is OK. Just hope people can have more opened minds. If I saw Ben today. I would not be frightened at all. I would bring my 8 year old daughter. I would give him a big hug and introduce him to my little girl. Ben is harmless and just made bad choices. The prison system is inadequate at best to help people like Ben. Not to mention, completely overcrowded because there is no treatment for addicts. They throw them in with murders, rapists, etc... So what are the going to learn? hmmm... Enough said.

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

system17-
this guys addiction problem didn't get him life. His stealing problem did. Jeez, he was ripping people off as an 8 yr. old!

junkfoodjunky (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 9:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

junkfoodjunky: You are clueless... I am sorry that you are so blind to the world. It's really sad. He never stole a penny from me, my family, friends or anybody I know. If somebody is stealing at 8. It isn't on them. They need help... I stole stuff at 5. Yet I am a good person today. We aren't alone in this world. It's an illusion. All Ben needed was help. Hope somebody is there to help you if you need it. Everybody needs help sometime in their life.

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 10:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

junkfoodjunky: And it had everything to do with addiction. Addiction doesn't mean drugs and alcohol...

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 10:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Poor system17, you need to separate your feelings and rationalizations about your friend from the rest of the world that must coexist with sociopaths like this guy. If this comment stream is a catharcis for you that's OK but it does not change reality. Regardless about my opinion on 3 strikes, which I agree has targeted the wrong people but I'm fine this guy is in for life, I'm more than pleased his "good heart" will stop beating behind bars.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 10:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Some people on this board are in complete denial about Greenspon. Fact number one: He used a gun in his robberies and threatened to shoot people if they did not follow his demands. There was no paper bag, there was a gun. Fact number two: Just because he did not shoot anyone during his crime sprees that he used a gun in (he pointed it directly at me there is no mistaking a GUN in your face), does not mean that he did not injure people. I stood next to a mother of three crying her eyes out who she was completely terrified that he would shoot her as he held a gun to our backs. I have co-workers who had to seek therapy for the emotional and mental anguish they went through because of this man's selfish crimes. Two of them quit banking all together because they were so traumatized. I had never been in a violent armed robbery until I came face to face with Greenspon. I suffered post tramautic stress, nightmares, etc. I think diminishing someone's emotional trauma in these types of situations is completely insensitve. He may not have stole anything from you, but he did from me. My feeling of safety in the world will never be the same.

Tangie35 (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 11:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Tangie35-Every time I hear people making excuses for lowlifes I instead think about the vast majority of people that despite difficult circumstances do not become refuse. Along with the post from braesmom I hope some of the proponents of blaming society for this crap pause, if only for a moment, and consider the havoc that these criminals create for decent people instead of making excuses for the deviants. At least this idiot is not Latino or we'd be subjected to a public forum of stupidity from PUEBLO as well...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 17, 2011 at 11:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

When you steal you hurt people. I imagine his parents must have been hurt by his actions too. One can be hurt in ways that are not merely physical.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 2:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I too, knew Greenspon, and like system17 am biased about the story. It's easy too deem him a scumbag, refuse, psychopathic terror. Fact of the matter is that he became exactly that. We who knew him, knew a different person than the one in the papers. It was absolutely messed up and selfish what he did, and how he affected his victims lives, and what he became. Heartbreakingly so.

There is a thing called "unconditional love", that many people who have people like Ben, or any addict, in their lives must relate too. From an outsiders view it's easy to take the callused approach. "Let him rot!" If you had a gun in your face you are entitled to that sentiment.

outsider11 (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks outsider11 for the perspective. Seriously.
The fact that you admit he became a scumbag is what is operative to the majority of people that did not know him OR were assaulted by his inability be a productive member of society at large. The rest of us only are affected by his binary decision to stop being a decent person.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 11:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love happy endings, really I do. That there are places like PRISON to keep subhuman animals away from the rest of us always brings a smile to my face. Lifer---in this cretin's case, that's a happy happy song. Have fun, loser! Be sure to drop a postcard when your cellie allows you to, ya' hear now?

Draxor (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 1:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

outside11: Thank you. I believe you got the point across that I was trying to present. I let my emotions get into it. I don't deny that Ben "absolutely messed up and selfish what he did, and how he affected his victims lives, and what he became". He did.

My issue is, I do not believe he is that same messup up selfish person today. I know the time he has spent in prison has given him time to reflect on his mistakes and how they affected other people. I am not saying to release him as I don't feel he would be able to adjust to society very well. I do know for a fact that he spoke about how horrible he felt about making people fear for their lives. And yes, he hurt his family as well. In fact, I am hurt as his friend that he took things so far. But I do not believe for a second that Ben would ever have pulled the trigger. I know a that a gun was not used in at least some of the robberies. I will have to look into that myself. Wether you are starring at a bag that you think has a gun in it or a gun itself is irrelevant.

As you said "unconditional love". I believe every human being deserves it from somebody. Wether anybody on here wishes to forgive Ben. It's not my issue. To err is human to forgive divine. I forgive and feel empathy for those who had their lives negatively changed by Ben's actions. Nobody can change their past. They can only try to be a better person in the future. In this article, the feeling I got was that Ben was trying to be a better person even though he is locked up for life.

Ben became a monster and you can be in denial about the role addiction played. It was very much a factor. Those who knew him can attest to that. I still know from my own experience that he does have a big heart and his actions while selfish, were not meant to hurt people.

system17 (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 1:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Elizabeth for this story. It is a sad one, and on that shows a man's journey to nowhere.

I am an actress and writer and it is one of the most freeing forms of expression, and especially for one that no longer has that freedom by his own choices he made. Society is the biggest judge and jury, and we no longer care or want to care about people who have been thrown away by laws and codes. He made some horrible choices and is paying for it, and I believe every one has had moments where they look back and wish they could have done it differently. Moments where the comfort of being a child out weigh the reality of being an adult and the weight that comes with it. Some handle it better than other, he obviously could not handle it and his writing reflects that.

I think you captured that beautifully elizabeth, and highlighted the lost child with him. I am not here to judge him, but respond to a beautifully written article. I can appreciate beautiful writing which is what I saw from both.

Ranigirl (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 1:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Growing up, I knew more than one guy who lived the same narrative arc as Ben. A couple of them ended up in prison (one in a foreign prison), others died from drugs, one or two pulled out of the dive soon enough to survive, but their lives are not very pretty to look at presently. And yes, they and Ben are bad people. The definition of a bad person is a person who does bad things. Each of us is no more and no less than our actions, and every action creates irreversible consequences: There is no redemption, no atonement. While this story is interesting, I was disappointed that it avoided the big question: Why do narcissistic sociopaths become narcissistic sociopaths? I was hoping that question would be plumbed by this story, but alas it just turned into a human interest piece. I lost interest in people like Ben a long time ago.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 1:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

(This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of use policy.)

danimal (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 3:47 p.m.

Ranigirl, thanks for the bottom line. I got interrupted, but I too thought that it was a well written piece. It just so happens that I knew Ben, and as ashamed of him as I am, and even though there are many people out there with good reason to think the opposite of what I'm about to say, it was good to know that his brain and intellect have not gone to complete s h i t.

It's a risky thing to read. Especially if one can keep their mind open the whole time...

I have the feeling that you, italiansurg of ego, got on your soap box after you read the first few lines. No one elected you to speak for them. You don't need to tell me "...what is operative to the majority of people..." or "The rest of us only are affected by..." Speak for yourself!

Eckermann, I think a human interest piece has done it's job if you are left wondering about bigger questions...

outsider11 (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The story is neither novel nor enlightening. Get out and read some more about how many people have been taken in by sociopaths.
The article is still creepy and I read the whole thing.
Love your friend all you want.
The majority are still hoping he expires behind bars and enough people expressed identical opinions to mine to insure your claim of my posts being unilateral was frivolous.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 4:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

italiansurg of ego-That is fine that YOUR opinion is that it is neither novel nor enlightening. You are entitled to your own opinion, and many other people have that same opinion, that's fine, that's great, that's what it's all about. The people that were in line with what you were saying didn't feel the need to speak for everyone else.

Do you actually think that everyone who might agree with you also thinks "At least this guy is not Latino..."

Hey I'm going to speak to the majority too, it sounds fun, can I borrow your soapbox for a second? I found one.

"Hey majority! Don't 'hope' Ben expires behind bars! He most definitely will rot/die there, no doubt about it!"

italiansurg of ego, if sociopaths are "...finding a vast pool of lame brains to believe their b.s." and, by the way, they also tend to be racist. Have you taken inventory?

Not to be calling anyone here a lame brain, other than you italiansurg of ego, and maybe Draxor, and myself for actually letting things get to me.

As system17 and the Beatles said "come together, love one another right now"

And I loved the post that Danimal had up. I'm sorry you had to take it down site staff...

outsider11 (anonymous profile)
November 18, 2011 at 8:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The MAJORITY of Americans are in favor of the death penalty(I'm NOT a proponent by the way but I am thrilled whenever some multi time loser is escorted off of the earth).
The MAJORITY of Americans are in favor of similar 3 Strikes laws(I'm NOT a proponent by the way as there's too much leeway in both directions but I am thrilled whenever some cretin like your buddy is in jail for life).
Unfortunately for your shallow point of view, those majorities include vast numbers of liberals, conservatives, progressives and neocons and include the gamut of political views, and yea, even Obama voters, of which I was one.

So while you're whiling away in fantasy land, there's the majority that I wrote about..

BTW-if you grew up watching this kid at close quarters become garbage, where's your responsibility in this great big village style bundle of love? Sounds more like you enabled his amoral path but weren't man enough to stop this jackass before he repeatedly put a gun to innocent people.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 19, 2011 at 4:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

got it bc. Danimal claimed to be a detective on the case, and I tend to believe it. He put his name at the bottom and REALLY provided an fiery inside point of view. I think it was obvious that he WAS a policeman on the case, 1 by the way he recalled the events that led up to Ben's capture, and 2 by the anger he expressed to the author about her showing compassion for a man that could have easily taken the life of a fellow officer as well as innocent by standards and the victims. It was just saucy, fiery, and a charged up inside point of view. I appreciated the passion that was behind it. BTW i really enjoyed your points...

italiansurg of ego, incase you get confused, this post is not in response to yours...

outsider11 (anonymous profile)
November 19, 2011 at 8:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

why was this article showcased on the front page of the Independent? it is like making the guy felt proud of his past actions. Even the title shows up the admiration the writer feels for him: Surfer, Robber, Writer, Lifer, it make it sounds like he was/is a great man. Oh well, I might be wrong but even the part where the writer describes her trip to see him in prison sounds too "romantic", like she wants to looks sexy for him; she also knows he will be reading the article too. Lets wait for the next article, he is probably going to get several compassionate visits from lonely women who sees him as a victim. He was a criminal and he is paying for his past actions. He got a chance to change and he destroyed his future one more time. There is nobody to blame but himself for his wrongdoing, so do not try to make him looks like a victim of society.

localsb (anonymous profile)
November 19, 2011 at 9:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Justice System has already spoken for the people by locking this guy up.

Anybody romanticizing how "he's not really a bad guy" & "he's just a victim of a disease" is delusional - they guy did the crime, now he's doing the time. Period.

HE made the decisions, HE took the actions, HE committed the crimes - and HE most certainly did use a gun.

Why this is even "newsworthy", even by Independent standards, is puzzling.

"Now, sitting four feet from him, I felt my body flush with adrenaline, felt that heady mix of excitement and fear that enlivens me on a first date..." Oh yeah, you're really objective with your convict crush addled perspective...

cartoonz (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2011 at 10:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

...it's still creepy...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2011 at 1:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't think the author is glorifying criminals, let alone this one. It's a story more than anything else, and a story told from an inmate's perspective - a voice not usually heard outside the prison walls. I found myself curious and sucked in to reading the story. I do feel some sense of sadness for the man. I can see that he's a deep-thinker, a reflector, which I imagine is somewhat easy in prison - plenty of time to think. He shows some remorse, but he also appears to show some sort of pride in his misdeeds. I feel sorry for him, sorry that he can't command his own demons, and that he took his life that could've been full of opportunity in an opulent community and instead trashed it, dashed his parents' hopes and dreams for their child, and all for a few moments of excitement and glory. And he did it repeatedly. I'm sure he'd continue to do it if given the chance again. It's commendable that he's doing some positive. Sadly I think his memories and longings for the waves serve him better in prison than they would outside. Sometimes our memories are more colorful than the reality, especially when it's all that's left. It's better that he works on beauty rather than destruction.

Gaijin (anonymous profile)
November 21, 2011 at 4:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I was sitting on facebook and my mother sent me a link to this story, she went to high school with Ben, Im not sure how she stumbled upon the story, but I do have a pretty good idea of why she sent it to me. Im 18 years old, born in Santa Barbara and spent 13 years there. Although I have never robbed a bank I have gotten myself in more than my fair share of questionable situations. I am doing a lot better then I once was, I feel very lucky to be back on a productive path at such a young age. Having said that, I still lose my optimisum at times. I found this story somewhat of an inspiration. I think it is incredible to have everything taken from you and be in the most seemingly hopeless place in ones life and still strive for meaning. I created a profile just to comment on this story so I could thank the writer and Ben Greenspon for restoring some hope in my heart.

tessa3baby (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2011 at 9:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Elizabeth, thanks so much for your hard work and diligence putting this together!
Ben and I had great times as kids. "Children of the Sea" is right!

I do have to say though... Now as a parent of 4 (the eldest in college). There is a WHOLE other side to this story, which is Ben's upbringing. He was extremely independent from a young age for a reason. Necessity. He basically raised himself in my opinion. Him and I both were a product of being raised in broken homes, around alcoholism and drug abuse, poor kids raised in one of the most affluent communities in the country. It can be a strange dichotomy which either breaks you down or makes you stronger.

All I can say is I wish this story had a different ending

bassmanscot (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2011 at 10:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Romanticizing criminals is an old story. Some women just really dig bad boys. This poor fellow is probably bipolar or some other brain chemistry imbalance. However I use the word "poor" not because I believe his "mental illness" excuses his atrocious acts but because he will suffer for having been born the ways he is. I am pretty sure he didn't wake up one morning and think "Hey why don't I start doing really crazy things with no thought about the outcome and ruin my life". He got what he deserves but hating him is pointless.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2011 at 12:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Most of you people leaving comments are hypocrites!! judge yourself for the things youve done before you pass judgement on another. im a armord truck robber and i knew Ben Greenspon on the streets of SantaBarbra while i was taking a break from hitting trucks, spending some of the money i stole. I found Ben to be a very good friend and person . If you havent lived the lifestyle of being on the other side of the law then your opnion means NOTHING! i dont see you crying about the people killing for the better good of america , the countless children slaughtered over the years over oil so you can drive your car to work , no , you have to put two cents in on one person who decided to do something you will never understand because most of you are to scared to step out of line. sheep! Most of you, not all but most of you need to keep the hole below you nose shut because when you open it and express your opinion it shows how stupid you really are .

badboyforlife (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2013 at 2:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

wow, gotta go with Italiansurg on this one...and someone else who wrote "why was this article showcased on the front page of the Independent?" Glad he's in jail.
Now, there certainly IS a problem with 3 strikes and we need to ameliorate it.
welcome back, Hank, we missed you!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2013 at 4:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dr. Dan this story is from 2011.. unfortunately Hank isn't back.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 15, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

All these people here, who are entitled to your opinions, sure have alot to say about a person you may or may not know too well. I personally spent some time with Ben behind bars at calipatria state prison. We even, became cellmates for a moment. Sociopath he isn't...!!! The man, aside from a wild streak, was and is a generally big hearted, bright guy that is doing his time and taking his licks like a man. So to all you heavy critics who have an opinion on someone or s. omething or another, all you outraged citizens of a sick society, richard ramirez and ben greenspon are like night and day

richeerich (anonymous profile)
January 17, 2013 at 10:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

in the most humble and respectful way i disagree with many of the negative comments about this big hearted Ben Greenspon. I spent 3 years incarcerated with Ben and learned a lot about him. Yes he committed a crime and acknowledges that but what about the rapist sex offenders etc that get locked up for a little then go back to society and continue their nasty activities that could be with your kids? im sure those that have negative things to say have done "bad" things in your life. He helps people strive to get their GED and teaches the uneducated in prison. A great man that speaks positive about life that once had a bad habbit deserves a second chance back into society just as much as the pedophiles do.

Randall3539 (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 10:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow it looks like the Independent comment section has become like Yelp for prison cell mates. No moderation needed here at the Indy nope nope.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2014 at 11:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Randall: I have a theory--and really, it's just an opinion, but bear with me.
Perhaps Greenspon IS a nice person, in a controlled environment. No, I'm not taking the approach that he is being a good boy in hopes of impressing the parole board, but perhaps without the temptations available out in the free world he can function better. An analogy is a person who has quit drugs who is ok as long as they don't hang out where drugs are available.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2014 at 2:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To know Ben is to love him. He always has a smile on his face. He doesn't want anyone's sympathy. He admits to his wrong doings and deserves a chance. My children and I have visited him many times. My kids love him and he loves them. we hope to see him come home and surf again some day. I love you Ben.

ilovebenny (anonymous profile)
April 22, 2014 at 6:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

He threatened to kill my dad because my uncle was a prison guard, Ben found out we lived in town and sent a crazy letter to us, this was on one of his out of prison vacations.

It was credible enough that my dad was issued a concealed carry permit

I think prison is the perfect place for him and badboyforlife

dadof3 (anonymous profile)
April 23, 2014 at 9:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: