Cameron Douglas’ Attorney Details Smuggling Drugs and Falling in Love With …
Cameron Douglas’ Attorney Details Smuggling Drugs and Falling in Love With Michael Douglas’ Incarcerated Son.
The attorney detailed her whirlwind relationship in The Hollywood Reporter—which has since ended—and how she even went so far as to smuggle drugs in prison for the convicted drug dealer. “I do not posit that ours is the greatest love story of all time,” she explained to the magazine. “Or even, really, a love story at all. WAKING at 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010, to the sound of agents from the Department of Justice hammering at her door, pajama-clad Manhattan attorney Jennifer Ridha is served a letter that informs her she is the target of a federal investigation. “Even though I know why they [the agents] are here, I’m still in shock,” recalls Ridha, 39, in her gripping new memoir “Criminal That I Am,” out May 12. “I have stepped out of my body and am watching this exchange happen to someone else.” The crime is supplying narcotics to one of her clients in prison — a junkie inmate by the name of Cameron Morrell Douglas, the eldest son of “Wall Street” actor Michael Douglas and grandson of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas.
In less than a year, lawyer Jennifer Ridha went from being part of the high-power defense team for Michael Douglas’ troubled son Cameron to being a criminal herself — after she was caught smuggling drugs to her client-turned-lover while he was behind bars. In ‘Criminal That I Am’ (Scribner, May 12), her candid memoir, Ridha opens up about how she fell in love with her client, committed crimes at his urging and had her life upended by their illicit relationship. In the summer of 2009, Douglas, now 36, was busted for heroin possession and selling massive amounts of crystal meth from the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort hotel.
In her new book, appropriately titled ‘Criminal That I Am,’ the 39-year-old describes how she smuggled anti-anxiety medication Xanax to the now 36-year-old addict. While part of his defense team, Ridha got romantically involved with Douglas, eventually smuggling drugs into his prison after he claimed he was suffering from anxiety. In her book, Ridha — whose 250-page mea culpa casts her more as a star-struck lover than a crooked professional — recalls her first few encounters with the showbiz loser, who appeared in a handful of B-list movies, such as 1997’s “Mr. He was arrested in New York City in July 2009 on a nonviolent drug offense — distribution of methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth — that subjects him to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years.
She described the experience of sneaking the drugs inside the penitentiary, saying, “By placing the pills in my pocket, I feel unsure that they will go unnoticed.” “The guard will be so preoccupied with his comprehensive tour of my chest region that he will not pay any attention to my jeans. She describes how the tall actor approaches her with a swagger when they meet in October 2009 at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) while she was employed by top legal firm Lankler Siffert & Wohl. He has twin tattoos on his forearms of the words “TICK” and “TOCK” — but the old English lettering is so poorly done, she misreads them as “D – – K” and “C – – K.” On a subsequent visit, the fashion-conscious inmate tells her that his too-loose prison jumpsuit has been altered by another prisoner, known as the “tailor” for the Gambino family.
Soon after she got more creative, she says, and hid pills in a balloon, which Cameron purportedly got back to his cell by shoving it in his rectum (he ended up with 30 pills to bring back to his cell). It turns out I am quite the criminal mastermind.” After being charged, Ridha’s own lawyer made “an appeal for leniency,” explaining to the “government that my personal circumstances contributed to my feelings for Cameron and my decision to commit crimes on his behalf.” She continued that her attorney “will explain that I had recently undergone a painful breakup; that I was miserable both personally and professionally; that I was planning a career change in the hope of finding a more rewarding existence. While it was supposed to be a favor, Douglas hates the outfit because, since thread is limited in the facility, the sewer finishes the garment with giant white stitches, like those on a baseball. “I look ridiculous,” he tells Ridha. After being removed from private school, he attended a public high school in a working-class community in Southern California that has poor graduation rates.
In an effort to make him feel better, the impressionable attorney brings a brown Sharpie to their next meeting so he can color in the stitching to match his chocolate-colored overalls. “I’ve just demonstrated to my client that his extralegal needs are my concern,” Ridha reflects in her memoir, adding: “Tending to Cameron’s hems is the very first step in my criminal journey.” As time goes on, she becomes increasingly charmed by him, visiting him every day at MCC and getting close to his concerned mother, Diandra, first wife of Michael Douglas. Ridha confides in him how she broke up with her boyfriend because he didn’t want children and, when she asks about his current squeeze, personal assistant-turned-girlfriend Kelly Scott, Douglas seems indifferent.
Jennifer says authorities cut her a deal, by offering to drop the charges — on the condition she convinced Cameron to testify against two dealers who supplied him with the meth. Desperate to ease his symptoms — Douglas is constantly drenched in sweat and breaks out in hives — she raids her medicine cabinet for Xanax that she was previously prescribed by a doctor for her own anxiety. But if you were a child of the 1980s, you perhaps know him better from a trilogy of sexually imbued movies, each of which was released at a pivotal moment in your pubescent development: just prior to undergoing puberty (Fatal Attraction), during the prime of your adolescence (Basic Instinct) and just after reaching adulthood (Disclosure). The first time she smuggles in the Xanax, in January 2010, she brings only two pills, which she later conceals in a pretzel bag that she hands Douglas during one of their briefings in an all-glass office.
You are taught that they epitomize Hollywood’s misogynistic depiction of independent women, that when a woman steps out of her conventional role, she is no longer worthy of the audience’s sympathy. Then, in order to bring in more pills, Ridha adopts the tried-and-true method of placing them in a kids’ party balloon, which she again smuggles into the correctional center in her pocket. Nor do the quotes attributed to him in Susan Faludi’s Backlash, in which Cameron Douglas’ father announces he is “sick” of feminists and that “guys are going through a terrible crisis right now because of women’s unreasonable demands.” This quote perhaps leaves you with the impression that Cameron Douglas’ father is kind of disgusting. Cameron is often described with words like “scion,” “heir” and “descendant.” You might come to wonder if Cameron’s famous lineage helps to explain the DEA’s avid interest in his case. This certainly could explain why so many resources were expended on uncovering drug dealing that was short-lived and, by the time of Cameron’s arrest, long over.
When the move is postponed and she sees him the following day, Douglas tells his lawyer that he loves her, too, getting out of his seat and walking over to her. “He seems taller, greater, than when he is sitting across from me,” she recalls, like a smitten teen. “He grabs me and kisses me. And I kiss him back.” Unable to consummate their passion, the pair has to rely on phone calls and the occasional visit to Lewisburg, where Ridha first travels in July 2010. I often tell Cameron that I bet that if he had been some run-of-the-mill pill pusher in a well-to-do neighborhood, none of this would have ever happened. It’s at Lewisburg that Ridha describes their first-ever meal together — a pink lunchmeat sandwich and a chicken-cutlet sub, purchased from a vending machine. At this juncture, the lovebirds are allowed to kiss “appropriately,” but throughout their romance, the only parts of Ridha’s body that Douglas gets to see are above the neck and below the knee.
In keeping with the surroundings, his outer exterior is rough — his athletic frame is covered in thick brown canvas and his forearms are inked with tattoos. To her dismay, Douglas is questioned at his associates’ trial about his misbehavior in jail and admits he “got into a relationship” with one of his female defense lawyers.
Worse, he reveals that she repeatedly smuggled Xanax into MCC and that he split the haul with pals. “It is a heavy slap in the face,” writes Ridha, who discovers the details from her former colleagues at the law firm. “Cameron did not only lie and mislead. In the weeks that follow, Ridha lives the life of a hermit, piling on weight as she comfort-eats on her couch while blaming everyone for her situation, even The Post. Yet he possesses an instinct for human behavior that allows him to see through any ruse, even the stock lines that sophisticated clients usually accept from their attorneys without question. Three and a half years on, however, the former attorney is slowly rebuilding her reputation and has become a graduate student in legal anthropology, urban studies and criminal justice. I privately wonder whether walking away from the family business and into the dicey field of drug trafficking allowed Cameron to demonstrate a perverse but rare fortitude among men, allowing him to step out of an otherwise endless shadow.
Despite these shared woes — or maybe because of them — there is something about being around Cameron that makes me feel better about being in the world. When I reflexively pull mine back he uses his ankle to still it in place, the inside of his calf leg now pressed purposely against the outside of mine. Co-counsel is quietly explaining what happened in court when a man inserts himself into the discussion, joining the circle as though he has something to add. After a moment, I say: “I will go and see him this weekend.” Cameron Douglas’ mother grabs my hand with both of hers — perhaps compensating for the lack of her hand at the start of the meeting — and looks at me with big, wet eyes. Two different voices in my head: the rational part of my brain, which tells me to stop thinking about it and go to sleep; and the less rational part of my brain.
Instead, I convince myself that this is not much different from what I’ve done before, and that while I am taking a sizable risk for Cameron, by agreeing to take the fall he is taking an even bigger risk for me. As I stand there, my shoes sticking to the tile floor, I already seem to know that I have chosen the wrong path, a path almost certain to cause harm to someone whom I ostensibly love.
The government refers to 10 weeks’ worth of emails and phone calls following Cameron’s transfer out of MCC as evidence that I committed my crimes out of love. My lawyer asks me about my relationship with Cameron. “Don’t be embarrassed,” he tells me. “I just need to understand it for when you are asked about it.” “I’m not embarrassed,” I tell him. I learn this one evening when my cellphone rings, the number listed as “unknown,” the caller on the other end a recording by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In the brief romantic time we spent together, I learned to decipher the difference between an “I love you” that means “I am sorry”; an “I love you” that means “you are going to hate what I am about to say”; and an “I love you” that means, to a certain degree, “I love you.” When I hear the expectant tone in his voice, I know that he probably is asking whether or not I forgive.
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