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  • Cassie Jo Monaco

Our Net Worth Will Never Create Self-Worth

My husband Chris is in month 46 of being an incarcerated citizen in federal prison or as most people like to use the dehumanizing word inmate. Chris's release date is September 16, 2020. I am hoping and praying my husband comes home alive. You see, we have a story that I desired a journalist would pick up and write. But I guess on paper a white, middle-aged man who stole over a million dollars is not that compelling. There is a story here about a good man who did something very wrong, but it wasn't greed that led him to his offense. I would never defend my husband's crime; however, I came to understand and sympathize with why. I want the guts of the story heard, not just "Baltimore man indicted for stealing 1.6 million dollars." I met Chris Camut in 2009 by happenstance at a social function. A handsome man beyond description with a movie star smile that continues to dazzle me. He came across as quiet, and I could tell he was a humble man. We had the opportunity over the year to connect a few times at various social events. We began a slight friendship of sorts to where we exchanged contact information. It was shortly after our few encounters that I lost complete contact with Chris. I never tried to call or communicate. He had left my mind until Thanksgiving Day of 2011. I was busily cooking Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen of my two-bedroom apartment in the Annapolis Towne Centre that I loved so much. My phone dinged, alerting me to a text message. It was from Chris. It had been a year since I had heard anything from him. His text was a simple "Happy Thanksgiving." I responded with the same and added that a lot has happened in a year. He agreed with my statement. He followed up moments later with a text asking if I would like to meet the next evening to catch up. " I said yes, I would." We agreed to meet the following evening in Baltimore at Pazo's. I valet parked my white Infiniti G37x coupe. That was the first semi-fancy impractical car I had ever purchased. I walked into Pazo; it has a very trendy Mediterranean feel. There are a bar and comfortable open seating with oversized colorful sofas and chairs. The restaurant was full of people in a festive holiday spirit, as most places would be the day after Thanksgiving. As I entered, I quickly scanned the room to locate Chris. There he stood waving at me to get my attention in his kelly green sweater and brilliant smile. The same smile I see every time he walks into the visiting room at the prison to greet me. He had scouted out a perfect sitting area for us, a nice comfortable sofa with a table in front of us to hold our drinks and food. We greeted each other with a light embrace. Chris ordered me a Crown and ginger, and he was indulging in a vodka soda. I noticed Chris was much thinner than the year prior. He explained he was just completing treatment for Thyroid cancer. Our conversation and laughter started and never ended until It was time for me to leave. During the evening, two separate people had come over to remark about how engaged we were with each other. I ended our evening by 11:00, explaining I had a boot camp exercise class to get to very early the next morning. As always, Chris was the perfect gentleman we walked out of the restaurant together as we waited for our vehicles. We ended our evening with a kiss on the cheek. I was at that moment and still am entirely smitten with Chris Camut. Chris and I began dating, and our relationship was as full of unbridled passion as it was tumultuous. I stopped seeing Chris so many times. He would not let me go. He felt solace when he was with me. He was not forthright with his "impending divorce." It wasn't only the divorce; it was that Chris often could not be in the present. His mind often elsewhere, and when I would ask him what was wrong, his response one hundred percent of the time would be " I am tired." He was often sick with stomach problems; now, it is all so clear knowing the pressure he was under with a double life and deceit. I fell madly in love with Chris. It was hard not to. He is kind, affectionate, loving, humble, funny, and such a romantic. I did not expect ever to marry Chris. One of my biggest issues was witnessing how Chris's kids kind of "owned" him for lack of better term. The entitlement of his kids would send me through the roof, and I knew I could not live like that for the rest of my life. Chris gave, gave and gave to the point of his demise. He equated the giving of every whim his kids had would earn him and keep their love. Somewhere in Chris's life, that has now become clear to me in the three journals he has written in prison that are raw, honest, insightful, and somewhat painful to read that being Chris Camut was not good enough. He had this enormous pressure on him to earn a hefty salary and provide a lavish lifestyle. Chris grew up in Johnstown, PA, in a hard-working blue-collar family. Chris always athletic but found he excelled at swimming at a very young age. Chris attended the University of Maryland on a swimming scholarship and eventually earning his MBA at the University of Chicago. I asked him once what was his most proud moment, and he said the day he opened the envelope from the University of Chicago with his acceptance letter. Chris worked hard to get into the University of Chicago. He shows great affection to his former father-in-law for encouraging him to pursue his MBA. The new beginning of Chris's life began unfolding in August of 2014. He was now exposed and under investigation of the FBI. I felt sick to my stomach. I had never questioned Chris's finances; it was not any of my business. I took care of my finances and bills. I assumed there were investments and large amounts of savings. I figured this was how it was possible that private college and private high-school, cars, horse riding lessons, vacations, and why his ex-wife did not have to work. I know this paragraph must be as difficult to read as it is for me to write who are struggling every month to pay the mortgage and rent. I knew I would see Chris through this ordeal I would never abandon someone I loved when they have fallen from grace so far and so hard. Again I never thought we would marry. Well, I was wrong. Chris Camut swept me off my feet on November 25, 2011, and I have not yet, nor do I believe I will ever touch the ground again. The devotion, love, and adoration he has for me and shows me are some of my best riches. He demonstrates such gratitude and appreciation for bringing him back to the simple life. He often tells me how good it feels to him that I accept him as Chris Camut and that it is so liberating to be able to be himself, act himself and not put up a facade of someone he is not. He wrote a quote a few years ago in prison he says, " Our net-worth will never create self-worth." We married just three-months before him self-reporting to federal prison. On the day of him reporting, he looked at me and said: " Cassie, I am not going to squander my time here." He has not squandered his time. He has worked harder than anyone I have ever known on redemption and becoming an even better person. The freest my husband had felt in years was the day he reported to prison. He was stripped and exposed of all lies, deceit, and wrongdoings. He had nothing else to hide. He no longer had to look over his shoulder; he was now free to find the man he lost many years ago to unrealistic expectations. Chris's biggest fear has come to fruition. The day he reported to prison was the day his kids stopped communicating with him and even went as far as to change their last names. Chris's agonizing cry over all of this is still so painful for me to hear. In four years, not one Birthday card, Christmas card, or Father's day card. The adult kids will not email him and went as far as to block him from emailing them. On occasion, they will pick up a call from him. Chris made a horrible mistake, but he is so much more than his worst mistake. Aren't we all? He was always a good, loving, supportive, and doting father. I suppose too, doting. Today we are fighting for my husband's life. He was diagnosed with cancer last week. The thyroid cancer Chris had when we first met has metastasized. We do not know the severity of the cancer because the prisons are on lockdown due to the virus, and he cannot get out for a PET scan. Even if the prison were not on lockdown, it would be months before he would be taken out for an appointment. We have filed a request for compassionate release, which the warden has until May 10, 2020, to respond. If she denies or does not respond, then we can file with the courts for the Judge to decide. The same Judge that sentenced him. I pray his heart softens and shows my husband compassion. We cannot wait until September to address his cancer. We need him home now for Chris to have a chance to live. Healthcare in the Bureau of Prisons is not only neglectful, but they do not value the life of incarcerated citizens. My husband almost lost his life last November due to healthcare neglect. It is not only the healthcare that is neglectful, but it is a very inhumane environment that defies our eighth amendment daily. My husband has faced his consequences with dignity and courage. He, in my opinion, has earned the right to have a happy and peaceful life. I want the opportunity to go for evening walks holding my husband's hand, enjoy a glass of wine on the back porch, snuggle on the sofa watching a movie, making him my grilled cheese that he loves so much, laying in his arms at night ( my favorite place in the whole wide world) sitting with my husband at church and having an opportunity to be with our families sharing in holidays and milestones. My husband's sentence will never be complete until he pays back the 1.6 million dollars. Every month a payment is made to right his wrong. Something I appreciate about the members of our church and community is that they are all pulling for my husband. They show such love and concern for him. You see, they got to know and see Chris Camut for the good, kind, and loving man he is not his crime. I write and dedicate this for every incarcerated individual, their families, and to all who are suffering in silence from their own demons. Every person is a flawed human being. Sometimes our desperation, situation, or temptation leads us to act recklessly. If every person shared the story of their worst mistake, I believe we would find that none of us are all that different, and we would become a kinder society.

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