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Gay Times April 10 - Issue 379


Meet the real Phillip Morris

The real Phillip Morris spoke to Alex Hannaford for GT

The new Jim Carrey/Ewan McGregor movie, I Love You Phillip Morris, is based on the true story of two lovers who meet in jail. It may appear comedic now but for the real Phillip Morris it’s a very different tale.

This all started in 1989 when I rented a car to move from Houston to Atlanta. I was late returning it and was charged with “theft of service”. Two months later the law changed and it would have been a simple misdemeanour but I remained on probation until 1992. I started getting behind on restitution payments so they sent me to a centre for minimal risk offenders. I was in a group session and the conversation turned to religion and homosexuality. One of the guys became violent, saying he was going to beat me with a bat while I was asleep. I was scared for my life, left the centre and was considered an absconder. On 19 December 1994 I was sent to Harris County Jail. Ten days later I met Steven Russell in the law library and that was the day that changed my life.

Steve helped me reach a book from the shelf. Then we sat down and he began showing me the Texas Legal Directory. Steven Russell was listed as an attorney and the name on Steve’s prison wristband matched. I had no reason to doubt him. I had just met a lawyer in prison, or so I thought. You don’t find trustworthy people inside so when you meet someone charming like this it’s great. A few days later Steve got himself moved and we lived in a cell together until we both went to prison proper the following July. Here was somebody who was experiencing the same thing I was and who had taken a shine to me. We were so compatible. From day one I was always crying but he made me feel safe; he was my protector.

We were each sentenced to three years and sent to separate prisons in Rosharon, Texas. As far as I know, Steve was convicted of insurance fraud, but from day one he lied. I think Steve had called the judge pretending to be a colleague and persuaded him to give me that three years because he didn’t want me to get out before he did, fearing I’d go back to my ex-lover. This may sound implausible but that was what Steven Russell was capable of.

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