Authors: Joe Biel,Joe Biel
An Incarcerated Boxer Goes Undercover for
John McCain's Boxing Bill
Edited by Lauren Hage, Erik Spellmeyer, and Tim Wheeler
First Published May 1, 2013
First printing of 3,000 copies
636 SE 11th Ave.
Portland, OR 97214
Distributed by Independent Publisher's Group, Chicago and Turnaround, UK
Printed in the U.S.
The primary sources for this material are the hundreds of letters from Joey Torrey and his memoir:
Bamboozled: The Joey Torrey Story,
which is also available from Microcosm Publishing:
Hiding out from the authorities in Mexico
Getting in the limo to go to his pro fight
Running his sports memorabilia operation from prison
Making “friends” on the outside
”As I enter my 35
year of incarceration after being eligible for parole since 1994, if there had been any lingering shreds of innocence left in me, they were dashed away within the pitiful drama of a blind judicial system and a corrupt United States Attorney General's Office.
As I feel my soul has been eaten away a little each day, each month, each year. Steadily ignored year after year as the false hopes of freedom saps my heart and breaks my spirit. Many in the world's media have claimed that my actions were grotesque consequences of well-earned despair, a metaphor for the hopelessness that I wake to with every false hope of freedom by nihilistic attorneys who hold my freedom in one hand; in exchange for a bag of silver in the other.
NO MAN'S FREEDOM SHOULD HAVE A PRICE!”
âJoey Torrey, Fall of 2012
Fear of God is what Kim Joseph Torrey, burly and heavily tattooed, might instill in a passer-by on the sidewalk. Yet Chris Baca, President/
CEO of Youth Development, Inc (YDI), a New Mexico based organization that provides assistance to youths and their families, says the former boxer and convicted murderer he often had as a guest in his home is anything but a thug. “Once you get past the exterior, this is an amazing man,” he says. “Talented, intelligent, with a thirst for life.”
While serving time at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas, Torrey called Baca and told him he could deliver NFL rushing leader Emmitt Smith for a paid-admission speaking engagement to benefit YDI.
“I thought, âYeah, and Joey could get [actor who died of AIDS] Rock Hudson to rise from the grave,'” Baca recalls. “But lo and behold, he did what he said he'd do.”
Torrey's determination and ability to achieve what he sets his mind to is great, but how he ended up locked up in New Mexico is another story.
Convicted on a plea bargain in 1979 of murdering JosÃ© Ramirez, a gas station attendant he claims was his boxing manager, Torrey has been in prison for two-thirds of his life.
Joey Torrey, or “Torres” as he often refers to himself, is a peculiar case. On the surface his story appears to be about justice gone awry. Aside from the particulars of an admittedly far-from-perfect criminal justice system, Joey's case asks the heavier questions. How much does one's moral compass correct itself over twenty or thirty years? What if that personâlike Torreyâseems to lack solid morals in his upbringing, environment, peers, and professional life? Will decades in prison typically instill a moral compass or reduce you to the lowest common denomenator of your peers? How is it ultimately decided whether or not a person can re-integrate into “civilized” society?
The fable within this fable as well as Torrey's contradictions, inconsistencies, and idiosyncrasies make the story ever more complicated and compelling.
One thing Joey frequently sets his mind to is telling a good story. According to Joey's former probation officer, Torrey is so good at manipulation that his parents described him as a “skillful fabricator of stories who can weave fantasy and fiction together in a most convincing fashion.”
Did they mean “fact” and “fiction?” Or do they mean that the fabric of his stories contain little relationship to realityâ that he is so good at crafting stories and convincing himself that they are reality; that it becomes his truth? We may never know if that was a simple typo or a case of unknowingly-telling literary license.
For many years Joey told his story to celebrities and pro sports heroes who rushed to his defense and did favors for him, but they each seem to disappear from his life in a way that gives me pause. Their extreme persistence, strong words, and determination seem to suddenly disappear. Joey had a similar knack for attracting reporters to visit him in prison and prompting stories clearly written from the bond formed between them.
And perhaps the best example is my own. In 2006 I started to receive frequent and heartfelt letters at an increasingly prolific rate from Torrey in prison. He tried very hard to bond with me. He has sent me holiday cards for the past six years. He crafted beautiful portraits of my partner and I. Then he would talk about those gifts as an obligation I had to him. He was quickly able to understand my motivations and concerns in the world. What he seemed to lack in empathy he made up for in spates of apparent honesty and his ability to lick wounds and move on to the next thing he wanted from me. On some level, this is survival in prison and it is necessary to create a bond with the outside world, but Torrey takes this act to a refined art form repeatedly throughout his life. Joey's storytelling caused his “friends” from the world of professional sports to advocate his release, pay his bills, and buy him cars before they disappeared from his life.
But a few details in his story don't quite match the official one. Joey insists that the case against him is for the murder of JosÃ© Ramirez but Los Angeles prosecutor Pamela Frohreich dug through a shallow grave of paperwork to discover Torrey was actually charged with murdering a 21-year-old gas station
attendant named Armando Cardenas Jasso who had no connection to boxing.