How a Missouri Man Could Die in Prison for Weed

How a Missouri Man Could Die in Prison for Weed
Kholood Eid
Jeff Mizanskey has sat behind bars for twenty years. His only hope of getting out is clemency from the governor.

On a dark rural highway, a week before Christmas in 1993, two Hispanic males barreled east through Missouri in a 1978 Mercury Cougar. Stashed in the trunk was nearly 100 pounds of marijuana.

"Since I've been here in prison, I've met lots of people in for murder, rape, robberies, all kinds of violent crimes. I've seen a lot of them go home on parole. Don't I ever get a chance?"

It had taken the men fourteen hours to drive up from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and as Jorge Ibaudo napped in the back seat, Jose Reyes steered toward their final destination — a Super 8 hotel in Sedalia some 40 miles away.

Reyes didn't notice trooper David Schwalm with the Missouri Highway Patrol. That stretch of Highway 50 doesn't get much out-of-state traffic, and something about the car with New Mexico plates seemed suspicious — a hunch Schwalm would confirm moments later when he pulled over the vehicle. Neither Reyes nor Ibaudo could speak much English, but what they did manage to relay — that they were traveling to Sedalia to "meet a friend" — was fishy enough for Schwalm to ask them to pop the trunk. Today the state trooper remains in disbelief about what he saw as he lifted the lid.

"It was like some teenagers tried to do it for the first time," Schwalm says of the bricks of marijuana he easily found tucked under the trunk's carpeting and sloppily stuffed into the rear fender wells.

Back at the Johnson County Sheriff's Department, corporal James Wingo of the highway patrol's narcotics unit sat Reyes and Ibaudo down and offered them a deal: Cooperate with police to nab the buyer, and the prosecutor might go easy on them. Hell, there was even a possibility they'd be let go like it never happened.

Reyes cooperated right away, according to Schwalm, telling the cops that the drugs were destined for a man named Atilano Quintana. A quick call over to the Sedalia Police Department confirmed that Quintana was the real deal.

"Customs was going after Quintana," says Wingo, now a sergeant with the highway patrol. "Customs was investigating him at the time, and [Reyes and Ibaudo] were sources for Quintana, and they were bringing him the weed."

Reyes and Ibaudo were scheduled to meet Quintana at the hotel the next morning. Wingo — now working with the Sedalia police — encouraged them to do so, but only after the cops set up surveillance equipment in the adjoining hotel room. Around 8 a.m. a truck pulled into the Super 8 parking lot and two men exited: Quintana and a skinny white guy with a thick mustache. One of the Sedalia officers recognized the second man as Jeff Mizanskey, a local pothead with two prior arrests for weed who was known to sell a bag every now and then.

Sedalia police didn't know Mizanskey was coming, but they were glad he did.

"Mizanskey wasn't a target or who we expected to be showing up," Wingo recalls. "It was the Quintana guy — that's who [Reyes and Ibaudo] said they were taking the weed to. Mizanskey just sweetened the pot. He was well-known in Pettis County."

The cops watched Quintana and Mizanskey walk into the room. Mizanskey took a seat on a bed as Quintana talked business in Spanish with the two men. None of the Sedalia cops spoke Spanish, but it was not hard to understand what was going down.

To Wingo it looked like Quintana was the one conducting the deal. Mizanskey was there for backup.

"You do a dope deal, you bring your extra hand around," Wingo says. "For lack of a better word, [Mizanskey] was his 'helper,' I guess. They were just part of a conspiracy, and Mizanskey worked for Quintana."

On their video feed the cops witnessed Quintana pass Mizanskey a brick of weed and ask him how much he thought it weighed.

"About three or four," Mizanskey responded, as he handed it back. Minutes later Quintana and Mizanskey walked out of the room and climbed back into the truck. Police would surround the vehicle moments later as it drove away from the hotel.

Twenty years later and Ibaudo's and Reyes' whereabouts are unknown, though the Missouri Highway Patrol confirms that Ibaudo was let go without charges and Reyes spent a year in the county jail. Quintana — the man authorities initially targeted — got a ten-year sentence, did his time and moved back to New Mexico where he died in 2010. As for Jeff Mizanskey, the person who arguably played the most minor role inside the Super 8 that December morning, he got a life term in prison.

Today Mizanskey remains in prison, where he holds the distinction of being the only Missouri inmate serving a life sentence without parole for nonviolent marijuana offenses.


On a recent November morning at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, Jeff Mizanskey shuffles into the empty, florescent-lit visiting room accompanied by a female prison guard.

At the age of 60 Mizanskey walks with a limp and stands a slight five-foot-eight. He carries with him a bit of a paunch and wears the same mustache he did twenty years ago, though the whiskers have long faded to gray. A baseball-size lipoma protrudes out of his left forearm. The benign tumor started out about the size of a nickel fifteen years ago, but prison doctors at the time weren't concerned.

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93 comments
el_urogallo
el_urogallo

I feel bad for his kids.  Why the heck did he not stop slinging weed after strike 2?  It should've been obvious to anyone that he wasn't cut out for that line of work.

Nathan Arnold
Nathan Arnold

That's because meth production has been so crippled that only the cartels are manufacturing for a profit at this point :(another bag of apples) Meanwhile, Hemp/Cannabis is such a potent economic force that any person who can grow a weed can create an in-demand product. That, in itself, is amazing. They don't want you coming up though, this is all a gamed-up law scenario that has enabled the ruling of class of corporations to dictate the punishment onto a person for a plant.

Nathan Arnold
Nathan Arnold

This is such bad press for pot prohibition, I love it!

Adela Falk
Adela Falk

thank you for sharing his story....just got off the phone with Jeff and he wanted you all to know how thankful he is ...... and to please call the governor..

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Animal abusers get their victims given back to them, yet this guy, who hurt no one, is in jail for life. Our justice system is BULLSHIT.

Barbara Brown Lyon
Barbara Brown Lyon

But in my community, you can blow up your house with meth and get NOTHING! Maybe a slap on the hands.... Or if you play your cards right, you can get a local church to rebuild the house you blew up, give you clothes and money to restart your life, and no charges filed.

WeedBiz
WeedBiz

Missouri will likely see a ballot initiative in 2014 to legalize medical marijuana. Let's hope someone with some common sense that has the power to do something looks at this case.

modelhntr
modelhntr

I wonder what the prosecutor will say to God when he is about to be thrown into Hell "with no hope of parole".  Somehow I don't think he will think that a "fair" sentence.  People like him are the problem with this country.  He makes himself bigger, trying for the Statehouse, while walking over the bodies of the people he so overzealously prosecutes.  What a disgrace to the law.  Justice is supposed to be balanced with mercy, but mercy, compassion, common sense and impartiality all died at the hands of republican fear mongers under Ronny Raygun -- the actor, and then continued under the House of Bush.  As far as the prosecutor in this case -- maybe someone should lock him in a cell; place a banquet of food and drink just out of his reach -- and just walk away.  Sentence:  Life in the cell without the possibility of food.

queenofelbridge
queenofelbridge

This is an absolute outrage. I pray that he gets out and soon. Marijuana is the least of the world's problems!! Worry about something that matters.....this man's life!!!!

chatwithchuck
chatwithchuck

What a waste of good Nanny State money. We all know, marijuana is only dangerous if you're caught with it! 

This story perfectly defines the atrocities of Marijuana Prohibition.


Atrocity  (-trs-t)n. pl. a·troc·i·ties

1. Appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behavior; monstrousness.

2. An appalling or atrocious act, situation, or object, especially an act of unusual or illegal cruelty inflicted by an armed force on civilians or prisoners.

generin68
generin68

As long as he has been in prison for his crime, Sedalia should be a drug free city. Well, its not.  Its probably worse than it was before this man went to prison.  These people that hold these offices and are suppose to uphold the law, only do so when it benefits them.  I am sure the one's who own these private prisons are making money hand over fist off of people that are poor.  I am sure there is a meth house on every other corner, if not every corner.  Let the man go, he is not bothering anybody.  He was not out harming other people.  He was minding his own business and making a living for his family. 

Jim Phillips
Jim Phillips

3 strikes and you are out was a knee jerk thing. It needs to be looked at, bunch this damn bunch in Jefferson City could make it worse.

Steve Podgorski
Steve Podgorski

blanket amnesty would not likely be the way to go.. but having a really really hard look at our incarceration policies and helping those that are clearly victims of it seems overdue at this point

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well there's another [fill in the blank] heard from: Our "lovely government" can tax, regulate, mandate and charge anything WE damn well tell them to. It's called a representative republic Victoria. Witness ObamaCare. Get back to school, understand our form of government then come back and comment accordingly.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well at least here's someone involved. I'm not so sure blanket amnesty is the solution but at least it's a proposal.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well folks, here's a reason we have these laws and ObamaCare.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Doesn't matter if you "buy into" the social contract or not. Violate it and find out what happens to yer ass.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Nope: He broke several codified laws supported by society, went to trial as proscribed by society, was judged by society and sent to prison by society. A travesty of justice is when the rapist/child molester/murderer gets off on a technicality.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well if that "Book" includes committing crimes then be prepared to be judged.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Question: Did you get a second chance after doing something patently stupid but not illegal or did you get a second chance after committing a felony? Two different things. The felon get's a second chance after doing his time. If you don't like the sentence, work towards increasing or reducing it.

Rhonda Whelan
Rhonda Whelan

Why is it people have lost sight that he's a drug dealer? He wasn't some dude who happened to get popped with a joint in the ashtray. This guy had enough pot to sell to all the kids in my entire town. A drug dealer is a drug dealer no matter the drug. He's right where he belongs. They need to increase the time and punishments for drug offenses. Maybe that would be a start to cleaning all these trash felons off the streets.

Dave Noones
Dave Noones

No he could die in prison because (he ) broke a law. Many innocents have died during his days So don't feel bad for him. Change the laws and move on. Fuck him.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

"If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."

Rhonda Whelan
Rhonda Whelan

"This is a story will make you re-think the state's drug penalties." No, this is a story that makes me aware that the journalist cannot write or speak correct grammar and nor can the editors. You are missing the word "that" between story and will. It's hard to take your articles seriously when there are blatantly poor grammar issues.

viscers
viscers

Really though, all non violent drug offenders should be released immediately.


The less time they spend around real criminals, the better. For us and them.

viscers
viscers

If you think law equates with morality and justice, I know a few countries that you might want to visit.

drewjord
drewjord

 but those technicalities are found in codified laws (procedural statutes) supported by society, proscribed by society, and constitutionally validated by the same judiciary you refer to. Either you support the law 100% or you can admit that some laws are bad laws. You think the law that lets a murderer go on a technicality is a bad law, because you don't understand the 900 years of so of jurisprudence and case law which have lead to the adoption of those principles of justice. I think a law that routinely over imprisons non violent offenders is a bad law because I have a brain.

modelhntr
modelhntr

You, sir, are full of shit.  Felons do NOT get a second chance anymore.  They come out of prison to a world of fear and hate.  A world of nearly universal background checks for every job.  Most people coming out of prison have nothing except the "gate money" some state give them to get to the next town from the prison.  This has become a society of labelers, putting everyone into nice little categories.  If you fall into the category of felon -- you better learn to be a better thief because nobody is wiling to give a second chance.


drewjord
drewjord

you suffer from the illusion that illegal and immoral are equivalent. Most crimes are both but some are only the former. We should only punish for the latter imo

Chevy
Chevy

Incredible myopic ignorance Rhonda.

Chevy
Chevy

You win the stupidest commenter here award. What a blockhead comment. We don't need people like you. People like you should be put in prioson. Alcohol and tobacco are the real killers. I dislike your attitude more than can be stated here, and you have extreme character flaw.

viscers
viscers

Firstly, you have no evidence he was selling to kids, you have as much evidence of that as you do the local liquor store is doing the same.


The war on drugs is a failure, it has destroyed far more lives, ruined jobs, families and communities than the drugs themselves ever could. This war has shown us that increasing penalties does nothing to help, it only causes more destruction. 
When you have a SWAT team bashing down people's doors, terrorizing their children, and murdering their dogs for a few grams of cannabis, (which happens today in this country) Tell me which is most harmful.

drewjord
drewjord

I detect so much crazy coming from you it's not funny. I bet you hear that often. This article is about how non violent offenders are routinely over punished, and this guy is facing life without parole for selling weed, or being with someone selling weed if you believe him. Doesn't matter if you do, how could you say that the time and punishments are too low? how is that even an option? People like you are the reason why America is the laughing stock of the world when it comes to criminal law and justice. I can tell fact checking is a difficult exercise for you, but do a very quick google search for the relationship between incarceration periods and drug offences before you open your mouth and make a fool of yourself the next time. If you were actually concerned for the chiildren of your town you'd advocate for regulation rather than criminalization.

walkergreer
walkergreer

You must have been abused as a child in order to be such a angry hard ass. F U

modelhntr
modelhntr

You must be a cop -- or persecutor (spelled the way I mean it).  Probably drive drunk from the bar and then put down a guy for smoking some weed.  Pull your backwoods ass into the 21st century and look around.  Weed is coming in and hopefully, people like you will be going out.


Chevy
Chevy

This is just as idiotic as your actual opinion on the article. So typos are the focus here? Rotten. Everything you say is shameful and ignorant. Get a life.

flbartzen
flbartzen

REALLY THAT IS WHAT YOU GET OUT OF THIS STORY.....GET OVER IT THINK ABOUT THE REAL ISSUE. WTF? HOWS THAT GRAMMAR?.

parxjunk
parxjunk

"No, this is a story that makes me aware that the journalist cannot write or speak correct grammar and nor can the editors."  Hehehe, the irony is delicious.  The word "and" is completely extraneous and doesn't belong that sentence, and if it did it would require a comma.  Also, in the sentence "It's hard to take your articles seriously when there are blatantly poor grammar issues", you use an adverb (blatantly) to modify a noun rather than a verb.  You should have either used the adjective "blatant" or else referred to the author's writing, an action, as "blatantly poor" instead of the grammar issues, a thing or things.  Grammar Nazis are annoying, but hypocritical ones are downright hilarious... Thanks!  ;)

viscers
viscers

@parxjunk Take a bow.


Also, people who try to attack content of an article by picking at grammar are implicitly admitting that they can't actually refute the points of discussion made, or else they would have done that instead.

 
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