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Former Hollywood business manager Jonathan Schwartz is preparing for prison after admitting to stealing millions of dollars from his clients and pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return.
U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee sentenced Schwartz to six years behind bars during a May 3 hearing. Before turning himself over into custody on July 11, he sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how he felt during that hearing, how he’s preparing to serve his time and how his life has changed now that he’s one year sober. (This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
What are you thinking now that the sentencing hearing is over?
As I’ve had a chance to reflect, I have tremendous remorse for the victims. I have embarrassment for my children. But I’m also in a place where I have a lot of mental clarity about my future. I deserved the consequences handed down by the honorable Dolly Gee. I can’t say I’m looking forward to prison, but I’m looking forward to learning from my experience there so that I can continue to better myself and work on my addiction and my recovery in a healthy way. So that I can prove, mostly to my children, that we learn from our mistakes and we never make them again, and that we rise and become stronger and better human beings. That’s really what my motivation is going to be every day in prison, is to one day have my kids become proud of me again.
What was it like for you during the hearing?
The hardest thing for me, amongst many very difficult things to sit and hear, was the disrespect that addiction received. It hurt not only me, but, as you saw in the courtroom, half the courtroom was addicts who supported me during this year, who felt personally attacked by that. Many things were falsely said about addiction. Very rarely can addicts just stop what they’re doing in their active addictions. There’s a reason why we have Gamblers Anonymous. There’s a reason why we have Alcoholics Anonymous. There’s a reason why we have rehabilitation centers all across the world. I’m not making an excuse for anything that I did. As my attorney Nathan Hochman articulated so well in court, we are not using addiction as an excuse. We are using it as an explanation. If there’s one takeaway from court, it’s that I felt like that was dismissed.
How will you continue your treatment while you’re serving your sentence?
My treatment is a life treatment. I’ve been to an AA and GA meeting every day since the hearing. In prison, I hope to enter a residential drug and alcohol program wherein, it’s a very — from my understanding, and I’m not an expert in this nor do I profess to be — it’s a very challenging and very extensive program there at the prison. One year of sobriety is not enough. I hope I can be a part of that program and learn. Then when I get out, whenever that time may be, I will continue in the program as I am today because I can’t just not go. I never want to relapse. I want to be a good example for people to follow, not a bad one like I’ve been so far.
People say in these situations that in order to ask for help, in order to really address the problems, you have to hit rock bottom. What to you was that moment?
When I was in my active addiction, you don’t think logically like that. Mr. Hochman didn’t know me from a hole in a wall, but he took a keen interest in making sure that I first and foremost sought help and started my journey to recovery. Otherwise, he wanted nothing to do with me. He pretty much fired me. It was that. It was the pain in my children’s eyes when I shared with them what was going on — that, to me, was rock bottom. Do you have to hit rock bottom? I don’t think so. But for me, because I hid this from so many people, because I didn’t want to burden people with my problems, I had to hit rock bottom.
How much of that do you think is due to the fact that you experienced your dad having the same problem with gambling growing up?
I don’t profess to being an expert in addiction. I can only speak from my experience and from what I’ve been told by those that are experts. It certainly played a role. I mean, my father was an addict. Addiction is genetic. Is every child of an addict an addict? No, but I’m one of those that is. When you combine that with a lot of my other childhood trauma, and my poor choices, I became a degenerate addict — something I’m not proud of at all.
Given that there is a genetic component to this, what are you going to do to try and make sure your kids don’t struggle with the same things you struggled with?
I have raised them to know that addictions run in the family. They just didn’t know I was referring to myself. I’ve taken my youngest son, who’s 13 years old, to a GA meeting on a Saturday and an AA meeting on a Saturday night. He got so much love, so much compassion, and asked such beautiful questions. I’m showing him through experience that it’s dangerous to even have a sip of alcohol for him because of his genetic makeup. Even to go and play fantasy sports wouldn’t be healthy for him today. I will continue to educate him and hope that while I’m away, if he has questions, he can write me, or when we talk, he can ask me. I’m trying to teach my children what I didn’t have growing up, which is to be vulnerable, to have courage to ask for help, and know that they have a loving father who is here for them, despite being away at prison, to answer questions and teach them good values, despite my poor choices.
What do you hope that other people who are similarly situated to you, with stressful jobs and addictive personalities, learn from you?
First and foremost, I think they have to learn to hold themselves accountable for their actions, like I will continue to do for the rest of my life. I screwed up, OK? I didn’t know right from wrong because I was an active addict, because I had major childhood trauma. I want those people to know that there are resources out there to help you, so seek help. Don’t live a double life of withholding depression and anxiety and fear. I made a lot of money, but money didn’t buy me happiness. I was absolutely miserable, every day. Please go ask for help because there are so many people out there that love you, that will help you, and I just never learned how to ask for help. That’s my own character defect, and that’s something that I’m learning to do.
What kind of work are you doing with Justin Paperny? I met him at the hearing and he said he was helping you.
Justin is preparing me for prison, what it is like in there. I read his book and I just need to be educated on what it’s like. Am I scared to go to prison? Sure, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. Is it surreal? Sure. But I deserve it. I did a bad thing. I have to be strong for not only myself, but for my children. I’m going to go in there with a good attitude. I’m going to go in there and know that I have to learn to be a better human being. I’m going to continue to work to be of service to people, whether it’s writing letters or maybe a blog that I write from prison on how to help people with addiction.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but he worked on Wall Street, right?
Yeah, he was a stockbroker who did something wrong and acknowledged it and held himself accountable and wanted to share his experiences when he got [out]. He never had someone who could tell him what it’s like when you first check in, and how long it’s going to take to get yourself somewhat acclimated. Listen, it’s not like I’m going to be happy there every day, but I’m going to try my best to live a productive and happy life there. Anybody that I can reach out to now, I reach out to and ask for help. I’m very different than the person I was a year ago, who was in his active addiction. I’m vulnerable. I’m not afraid to cry, as you can see. I’m not afraid to ask for help. I’m not afraid to say, “I’m scared.”
What do you think you’re going to do after you’ve served your time? Have you given that any thought to that?
Yes. I don’t know with absolute certainty what I’m going to do, but I believe God has picked me to be a voice for addiction, for mental illness and for childhood trauma. So I would like to lecture all across the world and make sure people don’t follow in my footsteps. I think, because of not who I am but because of who I worked with, there will be a lot of credibility and a lot of great interest, and hopefully a lot of people whose lives I can change. I’ve already received phone calls from people who want me to help their children right now — two, specifically. Before I go away I intend to help those kids, one with a gambling addiction and one with a drug addiction. There’s no greater joy right now for me than to be of service to those people, and I want to be of service to everybody when I get out.
Is there anything else we didn’t address that you’d like to add?
I want to thank my loving mom, Joyce, who’s battling stage four cancer, my children, my fiancée, my friends, my sponsor and all those who suffer from the disease of addiction, the Aleph Institute, Chabad of North Ranch, Beit T’Shuvah, the RA MA Institute Venice, and God.
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