HIV-positive gay man, busted for crystal distribution, could be incarcerated for life
At a March town meeting about crystal meth, representatives from state and federal law enforcement agencies described meth dealers as “predators” who are selling poison to the gay community.
Sitting in his prison-issue pajamas and bathrobe, Bryant Seifried doesn’t look like someone who sold poison or preyed upon the gay community. Handsome and slender, with salt and pepper hair, wearing glasses with silver frames, Seifried looks younger than his 54 years.
He has been incarcerated since May of 2002 after he pled guilty to selling crystal meth. With a sentence of four-to-life, he must serve four years before he is eligible for parole, but he could remain in state prison for the rest of his life.
Seifried’s dealing began in the 80s when he was supplying friends with small amounts of the drug.
“I was helping my friends out,” he said. “It just grew. It became this monster until I was making $50,000 a month. I did very well.”
Eventually he was dealing in pounds of the drug and “from the late 80s all the way up through the 90s.” Selling meth was his primary source of income though he was also earning money as a hand and foot model in the film industry in California.
In 2001, Seifried was caught sending shipments of meth to some New York dealers in an investigation run by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of Special Narcotics, a state office that prosecutes drug felonies throughout New York City. Seifried was arrested in Los Angeles and brought to New York City for trial.
In his view, he was only helping people have fun.
“People party, they love to party,” Seifried said.
While press accounts assert that crystal use is correlated with unsafe sex and the spread of HIV as well as damage to the health of users, especially HIV-positive users, Seifried said that is not what he saw.
“I read these articles and I think ‘What the hell are these people talking about?’” he said. “I know hundreds of people who use meth… I know a handful of people who used meth and became addicted to it.”
Contradicting recent studies that found that crystal is particularly harmful to people who are HIV-positive, Seifried asserted that meth appeared to benefit those people and he added that other dealers have reported seeing a similar phenomenon.
“In the 80s, the people who were positive who were using meth weren’t dying,” he said. “I know very few people who have passed from HIV who were using meth.”
Seifried occasionally enjoyed crystal himself and he reported no ill effects from the drug.
“Maybe once or twice a month from 95 to 2001 someone would call and say ‘Let’s go down to Palm Springs,’” the former Californian said. “I was never addicted to it… It was for recreation.”
Seifried said he bought directly from meth labs. His product was very pure, if meth can be said to be pure. It was not cut with any noxious chemicals, he maintained.
“I was very close to the labs that were making it,” Seifried said. “It was always clean. Nobody was getting sick, nobody was dying.”
His business had none of the violence that is associated with the trade in other drugs. There were no rival crystal dealers killing each other over street corner sales. Seifried said that in the 80s and 90s he was one of five dealers who were supplying most of the crystal to the gay community in Southern California. They knew each other and there were no fights among them.
“There were no guns, there was no violence, there were no territories,” said Seifried who is gay. “We were acquaintances… None of us were arrested, none of us felt threatened. The labs were getting busted.”
After his arrest he had little information to trade to get a lighter sentence. The only dealers Seifried knew in New York were the men who received his shipments. Those men and their distributors had already been arrested.
“They were not interested in anything on the West Coast,” Seifried said. “I doubt I would have told them anyway… I did what I did. It’s only part of my life. I’m not ashamed of it.”
It is only part of his life. Seifried is a father, a grandfather, and a person with AIDS. He has friends in California who send him clothes and books.
Seifried was born and raised in Kansas, but by his late teens he had had enough of life in the Midwest. He left for a modeling career in New York City. When he was not modeling, he was working as a prostitute under the name Kent Turner.
“I modeled during the day, prostituted at night, did very well,” he said. “That’s the only thing that makes my life interesting, the men who hired me to have sex.”
Seifried declined to name those clients. By the mid-70s Seifried had returned to Kansas where he married and had a son. The marriage ended and in 1980 Seifried followed a male lover to California. Seifried’s son lived with him and the son has since had his own child.
Seifried, who had no criminal record prior to his arrest, is separated from his family and friends in California. By choice, he gets only phone calls and letters.
“I don’t want them to turn around and leave me here,” Seifried said. “I’ll pick up with them when I get out of here.”
His 90-minute interview with a Gay City News reporter in the Coxsackie Correctional Facility, a maximum-security men’s prison in upstate New York, was the first visit he has had since being incarcerated.
When he first entered the corrections system, his experience was horrific. On Rikers Island, the New York City jail, he was assaulted twice, once at knifepoint, by other inmates. Now, roughly two years later, he even jokes about prison.
“This is the worst vacation I’ve ever taken,” Seifried said though in another moment he said “There’s no comfort here… I’m not used to living here. I hate every minute I’m in here.”
Currently, he is being held in a medical unit following a mild heart attack. That keeps him out of the general population.
“I know it can be worse,” he said. “I’m not with the real violent guys.”
But the medical needs that keep him separate from the general population are a double-edged sword. While he said his medical care was good, three of the veins that carry blood to his heart are largely blocked and Seifried needs bypass surgery. His T cells, a measure of the state of his immune system, and blood platelets are low and he has an enlarged spleen. That complicates the prospects for surgery.
“Sooner or later I will have a heart attack,” he said. “I just hope it’s not major.”
In the meantime, Seifried counts the days until he gets out of prison. He assumes his first parole board, set for May of 2005, will release him.
He stays away from other inmates and he keeps to himself.
“This is the last place you want to make friends,” Seifried said.
“You just don’t let things get to you. There is nothing you can change in here so I just let time go by.”
Courtresy of stuart fink
Bryant Seifried says he cant’ understand why crystal has set off the alarm it has in the gay community.