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Lawrence Phillips Letters Paint Haunting Picture of His Life in Prison (Pics)
Former NFL running back Lawrence Phillips is serving a 39-year prison sentence for numerous assault convictions. In April he became a murder suspect when his cellmate at California’s Kern Valley State Prison wound up dead. Now USA Today has obtained letters Phillips wrote by hand to several former coaches and friends that paint a picture of his life in prison, and they are absolutely haunting.
It’s unclear how USA Today got the letters. My initial guess, given the content, is that Phillips’ friends wanted to make the letters public to set up a possible self-defense argument in the murder of his cellmate. But again, that’s just a guess.
What I do know is that Phillips makes a number of thoughtful observations about life in prison and his own predicament. And that he has remarkably good penmanship.
Here’s a letter he wrote to his high school football coach, Tony Zane, dated January 14, 2014:
Dear Coach Zane,
How are you doing? I’m doing well. As you might have noticed on the envelope, I have been moved from the cell I was in. I spent some days in the hole for refusing to room with a gang member. They have now took my privileges, which include yard (exercise), canteen, vendor packages, and all personal property for 180 days. I will of course appeal this decision as I was refusing to room with gang members after already having had incidents with gang members.
At any rate, I just wanted to write to you and let you know in case that the package I requested was returned. I have not received any mail since moving, so I do not know if you sent the package. They are supposed to re-route mail, but they usually don’t check and make sure they guy in the cell is the correct guy to receive the mail. At any rate, I will appeal the situation and I should get relief due to my several incidents involving gang members.
We are on lock down at this time due to a murder and the stabbing of five other dudes.
I hope you and your family are well and had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Here’s one to his high school vice principle and coach Ty Pagone dated June 15, 2014:
Dear Coach Pagone,
I received your letter and package a day apart. We do get the packages in lock down as the companies do not really want the items back.
We have been in lock down about 80% of the time. You would be surprised at what these altercations are about! Nonsense! But when your world is this small all one has to care about is nonsense. That is why I do not want any of these idiots in the cell with me.
All they they want to do is the drugs, make knives and make alcohol. Then they say when they get out they will not come back. I tell them of course you will. You are doing the same thing that got you locked up. Of course they do not want to hear that. It is like speaking to a brick wall.
Now I understand how people must have felt talking to me. So needless to say I have zero friends inside here. Not one person is in line with my way of thinking.
Well that’s all from here, Pagone. I will stay out of trouble. I might have to endure some write-ups for refusing a cell mate though. Better that than them getting me into serious trouble.
Here’s one dated September 14, 2014, written to somebody named Coach D:
Dear Coach D,
Huskers kicked butt out there. I only listened to the radio. The game was not televised here. (Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah) has a real chance at the Heisman and the Huskers could win the Big 10, although the Big 10 is a bit watered down with the injury to O-State Q.B. (Braxton Miller).
NFL is going through some stuff. Unfair to blame the NFL for what guys do. … These misdeeds by the players (are) being used by the liberal parties and the media to further their particular interests. Next they will be forcing out owners like they did with the Los Angeles Clippers owner (Donald Sterling).
Well, there is nothing new happening here. We are still locked down. One of the guards was assaulted so it may be awhile. Coach D, this place is a jungle. Trouble everywhere. One must swallow his pride constantly or one will always be in the hole. But we must deal with the situation we put ourselves in.
And here’s another one to Coach D dated May 3, 2015, after the death of Phillips’ cellmate:
Dear Coach D,
How are you doing coach? I am doing well.
As far as the package, due to my current situation I may not be allowed it. So if you have not already sent the package do not send it.
I cannot speak of the situation here but I am alright. Please let anyone know who asks you that.
I hear Husker spring practices are a little more spirited. That is a plus. I do not think teams will ever practice how we practiced. … If a team ever comes back to that mentality, they will crush the college ranks.
Alright Coach D, that’s all from here.
You can read the rest of the Lawrence Phillips letters over at For the Win.