An angry prisoner told a judge Wednesday that he is ready to die in prison as a protest against the way he has been treated by the federal government.
Frank J. Morrocco, who suffers from leukemia, told U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin that he will refuse all medical treatment in jail because he feels he has been unfairly prosecuted for alleged violations of probation.
The 56-year-old Amherst resident initially told Curtin he wanted to plead guilty to a violation, but he changed course and lashed out at the judge and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony M. Bruce.
“I’m not accepting the plea. I refuse to be treated the way I’m being treated,” Morrocco said. “You people want me dead. You wanted me dead 20 years ago ... You can have my body.”
Curtin scheduled a hearing for 2 p.m. March 13.
If Morrocco is found guilty of violating his probation, he could face another eight to 14 months in federal prison.
Morrocco is an ex-convict who was released on probation in late 2011 after spending 20 years in prison for cocaine trafficking. He suffers from a rare form of leukemia. Curtin sent him to jail Jan. 23 because of allegations that Morrocco violated his probation after Amherst police arrested him twice on shoplifting charges in the past three months.
Morrocco said he intentionally got himself arrested Nov. 16 – stealing various items from a grocery store in full view of store employees – because he could not afford to pay for health insurance. At that time, Morrocco said he wanted to be in prison so he could get high-quality health care he could not afford as a free man.
Following that arrest, friends and family members agreed to pay for Morrocco’s health insurance, and a judge allowed him to remain free, on the condition that he not get into further trouble.
On Dec. 24, Morrocco was arrested again, this time accused of shoplifting at an Amherst department store. In this case, Morrocco said a woman friend who had gone to the store with him shoplifted, but Morrocco said he had nothing to do with the theft.
In letters and a telephone interview with The Buffalo News, Morrocco called Bruce and Curtin “ruthless” men and accused them of carrying a vendetta against him, going back to the early 1990s, when his drug case was litigated.
“Their story is lies,” Morrocco said. “I’m refusing [all medical treatment] for my leukemia ... They put me in prison. I’m going to die here.”
Authorities deny any vendetta against Morrocco and say they are only following the law in his case.
According to Bruce, Morrocco has had other run-ins with law enforcement and individuals since his release from prison, and by virtue of those actions, he has violated his probation.
His attorney, Jeremy D. Schwartz, said Morrocco needed to be released from jail this week in order to begin treatment Monday at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Now, that is not going to happen, Schwartz said.
In court, Morrocco said he was initially ready to plead guilty to violating probation by using marijuana last September, but he said he changed his mind after realizing Curtin was not going to allow him to be released from jail.
Morrocco is being held in the Federal Detention Center in Batavia. He said he was offered treatment by the medical staff there but refused it as a protest against the federal government.