PART 1: THE TARGET
NICK KYPREOS: For 5 1/2 years everybody was pretty much under the impression that David Frost was your target. Who was your target?
MIKE DANTON: My intended victim was my biological father Steve Jefferson.
KYPREOS: Why did you want your biological father killed?
DANTON: It was more of a mental thing with me where I was under the impression that there was a hitman coming from Canada which the media agencies broadcast fairly clearly. It was in black and white in all the newspapers. That’s what my state of mind, I was believing that there was somebody actually coming after me to end my life and the way that I looked at it was I don’t want to die, I don’t know really what was going on in actuality, just my mind told me that this was going to happen and I reacted and I made a terrible mistake.
KYPREOS: You never admitted the identification of your target. Why?
DANTON: The U.S. government was under the impression that Dave was my intended target. My plea agreement, which is public knowledge and I never plead guilty to Dave being the target. From day one I’ve never said that Dave was the target. That was newspapers and the government agencies leaking that to the press and they ran with it. Reason being why I didn’t say anything was, you’re in the U.S. justice system, you’re at their beck and call. The plea agreement stated that obviously I plead guilty to the crime. But the victim is where we were having our argument over. When it came out in the ending they were wrong. We signed a plea agreement that stated that the defendant – myself – says that David Frost was not the intended victim of this crime. Whereas the U.S. government states that they believe he was the victim. And that’s were we left it. The U.S. government with all the games they play in their justice system, they could have used any reason whatsoever to deny my transfer back to Canada so we just figured listen, they want to believe that it’s Dave than we’ll leave it at that. I know the truth. Everybody that was involved in the case knew the truth that was on my side. So the way that I had it set up was I’ll just let it be and when I want to talk I’ll state the facts and it’s nothing that’s fabricated, this is public knowledge. Anybody can look it up. I never plead guilty to Dave being the target.
KYPREOS: Do you sit today and wonder what if your hitman ever went though with it?
DANTON: Thankfully it didn’t happen. I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason. Somebody or something was looking after me at that point. Whatever’s out there just took control of the situation and knew that it was a bad scenario, it wasn’t a very good use of judgment. There was holes in everything and I think that’s a big reason why nothing ending up happening and I’m thankful for that because that’s not me, that’s not my in character to intentionally hurt someone. It’s kind of funny coming from somebody who will fight anybody in the game of hockey, but that’s a job, you’re doing that for your teammates, you’re doing that for your fans, for your team, for yourself. But I’m not of the character who could just walk down the street intentionally hurting people.
KYPREOS: So where does that stem from then? Just someone that’s pleading for help? That’s sick? That needs guidance?
DANTON: I definitely think it was a cry for help. There was a lot of things going on in my head. I was a 23-year-old man but in actuality I was more like a 12-year-old boy being alone, away from his family, away from his friends, away from his loved ones. I didn’t know how to deal with it. With everything that was going on with the paranoia, with the poor impulse control, with the lack of confidence to do things on my own. You take into account the shoulder injury that I sustained half-way through the season with all the medications that I was taking. It put my head in an altered state and that was costly. Everything just culminating together just burned down. Everything just came crashing down.
KYPREOS: But there’s more to that because you’ve gone on record that you’ve had an abusive upbringing.
DANTON: For sure.
KYPREOS: Is that the root to a lot of your problems?
DANTON: The one thing that I’ve done this past 5 1/2 years is I learned a lot about myself. I learned a lot about what’s gone on in my past. How to deal with it. The present, the future, everything like that. I’ve had to accept a past that is pretty chilling. There’s abuses that come in all forms and I’ve had to deal with those.
KYPREOS: How bad was the abuse?
DANTON: It was bad. It was bad.
KYPREOS: Did you ever talk to anybody back then about it?
DANTON: No. It’s one of those things where when it happens you really don’t know what’s going on. Especially at such a young age, you don’t know if that’s the norm. Like so many things that were going on with me when I was a younger kid. I didn’t know what was the norm. Go to friends’ houses and things that were happening there weren’t happening at my place so I was wondering, is my life messed up or is their life messed up? So as you get older, I figured things out. That ok, those things that happened to me, there not supposed to happen, there not normal. When it was happening, those things, you don’t know that it’s wrong, still, at the same time it doesn’t feel right and I don’t know how else to explain it. This shit happened, I’ve dealt with it. Am I glad that it’s happened? Yes and no. Obviously nobody wants to got through the daily punishment of getting there ass kicked in.
KYPREOS: Was moving out or changing your name from Mike Jefferson to Mike Danton your answer for wiping the slate clean? Getting away from it all?
DANTON: Moving out and changing my name, they came about seven years apart from ach other. Moving out was more, I’ve had it. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to get beat everyday. The conditions of the house. Cockroaches, no toilet paper, no soap, no food, no clothes, no TV, no telephone. One day the phone would be working, next day the TV wouldn’t be working. Just constant no money, no food, no bills being paid. I couldn’t do that anymore. I’d had enough and I was getting to the age where I wanted to stand up for myself but I was still too scared to. So I went somewhere else where I felt comfortable. Changing of the name, that came when I finally started accepting some of the things that I’ve gone through, some of his actions. I just wanted to wipe the slate clean. I didn’t want the name Jefferson to be misconstrued with the person that I am.
KYPREOS: How about your relationship with your Mom and your brother since you’ve been out? Have you talked to them?
DANTON: No. No. Prison’s a funny thing. Whenever you hit adversity in life like I did, obviously prison being that, you find out who the good people are and who the bad people are. Who are your true friends. I’m not going to say that Sue and family members didn’t write me over the years, they did. But the issues that I had with the family, they went back a long way prior to my incarceration. I tried to make family members understand what was going on and they didn’t want to believe it. So if they wanted to take Steve’s side and they wanted to believe he wasn’t physically abusive then I can’t change the way people think. All I can do is make decisions. I don’t want to be associated with anybody like that. The other funny thing is the letters would come maybe once every 9 months, 10 months. Sometimes a year in between letters and bout 3 months prior to my release I got a letter maybe every 3 weeks from a family member. So it was almost like well he’s coming out soon so maybe we should step up the attempts in trying to contact him It’s one of the things about going to prison, you find out who your true friends are. It’s sad because there’s some people that you always thought would be there no matter what and they dropped off.
PART II: FROST RELATIONSHIP
KYPREOS: Mike, describe your relationship with David Frost. Because it’s been described as cult-like, abusive, a sexual relationship between you and Dave. What is your relationship with him?
DANTON: Well it’s not sexual I can tell you that. This homosexual stuff that came out in the beginning, when I found that out, not to kind of put this down or anything but I was laughing. It was funny to me. I don’t know, the relationship with Dave, I think people need to really understand it wasn’t a player/agent relationship. I think that’s where a lot of the views were kind of distorted and the media kind off took off with how bizarre this is and an agent to be able to have that type of control or influence on a young man. It wasn’t a player/agent relationship. Dave and his family took me in for the first time when I was 11. I was hovering back and forth between 11 and 14 and I made the transition fully when I was 14. So from the age of 14 I had always looked at Dave as a father figure. This was more of a son/father relationship where I felt comfortable with Dave. I trusted him and I let him deal with my hockey issues. Which would make the outsider believe that it was a player/agent relationship because Dave would talk on my behalf. He would do contract things.
KYPREOS: But the stories kept growing and growing. That he was sending you hand signals during the game. That you would use your cell phone and talk to him in between periods. Any of that happen?
DANTON: Laughable. How are you going to use a cell phone in between periods of an NHL game without somebody seeing it? And if someone’s going to see it, wouldn’t you nip it in the ass right away? Things were just totally out of control where I heard so many things, you couldn’t keep up with them. But it comes back down to the public not knowing the type of relationship. Not saying it would have been ok in a father/son relationship to call your father in between periods, it didn’t happen. But I’m saying the relationship between Dave and I wasn’t a player/agent relationship at all. He wasn’t someone that I talked to every three weeks or once a month where he’d tell me ‘hey go up and down the wing, get the puck out of the zone, finish your checks and shoot as many pucks on net as you can’, we talked on a daily basis. If I wasn’t talking to him on a daily basis, I talked to his wife, I talked to his kids and that’s the type of relationship that we had.
KYPREOS: Can you see that being manipulative? Can you see how the public might say that’s the act of a man that’s pulling your strings as a puppeteer?
DANTON: Yeah. I think it depends what type of context the material is. They need to know that a lot of the conversations, especially in a legal trial, they’re bits and pieces of everything put together. A good example of this was when my lawyers and I were going through some transcripts of some telephone conversations between me and the undercover police officer and my lawyers wanted to know what I was saying about some certain things. What we caught was the undercover policeman, he actually brought it up to me how he wanted things to go. And I said ‘I don’t know. I’ve never done this thing before. I have no idea’. Then later on in the conversation he told me how he was going to do it and I said ‘Yeah, I guess that soundS good’. The U.S. government totally took the first part of the conversation out and made it seem like I was the one telling him how I wanted it to be done. And it was caught because he said something in the second part of the conversation like ‘remember before’ and the remember before part wasn’t there. So those are the little things that when you’re in a trial, the government is gonna try and do what they’re gonna have to do to convict you and you’re attorney’s are gonna have to do what they have to do to make them not convict you. The moral of the story here is that bits and pieces were taken out from all the conversations and things were fabricated. Dave was probably, we haven’t talked about it, my thinking is…
KYPREOS: Was he nervous, scared?
KYPREOS: Did he still think he might have been the target at that point?
DANTON: That’s what I was thinking is maybe he need some reassurance. With him saying ‘do you love me?’ ‘Of course I do’. ‘well say it’. Maybe his way of saying ‘say that you love me’ So I know that no one is coming after me to try and kill me. So maybe that was behind his thinking.
KYPREOS: While you were serving time Frost stood trial for sexual exploitation and using your credit card while you were in jail. Where you aware of any of this?
DANTON: The credit card stuff I had given him and his wife Bridgette power of attorney. Obviously I couldn’t deal with day-to-day finances and other things that require signatures from prison so I made a legal power of attorney to both of them. So how this whole credit card thing came about was whenever I needed money in prison, because it was the quickest way, Dave or Bridgette would send me money, their money, to my prison account. They would just take my credit card and if he sent me $200 or $500 and figure it out through my credit card for expenses that he needed so that’s how that came up. With regards to the sexual exploitation, I was there at that time where the whole accusation throughout the whole year was taking place. He was acquitted on both of them. Dave’s just like everybody else, me included. Dave’s had poor judgment at times and he’s made bad decisions and I think that him and I both throughout this last 5 1/2 years we’ve gotten some, a lot of bad press simply because a lot of people didn’t really know the details. But when it comes down to it, I’ve accepted what I’ve done, he’s dealt with what he’s done and I’m moving forward just like he’s moving forward Everything is behind me.
KYPREOS: In hindsight, were you just too dependant on David Frost back then?
DANTON: A lot of the doctors’ notes that have been written, they don’t talk about me being a 23 year-old man. Combining both sets of doctors at the time of the incident, April 2004 I was hovering anywhere between and 8 year-old and a 14 year-old at all times. Growing up for the first 11 years of my life not knowing about brushing your teeth, simple things like deodorant, bank accounts, having conversations with people. When I had to deal with things at school and in hockey, I didn’t have the confidence to make decisions. To handle conversations on my own. So that’s when Dave and Bridgette took over as my parental figures.
KYPREOS: All you had to do was play hockey?
DANTON: That’s it. They started gearing me in everything. This is what you do here. You gotta brush your teeth here. Wear deodorant here. We’ll get you some clothes. This is how you gotta act in school, it was easy. I was lazy. I didn’t want to think for myself, I didn’t want to act for myself. There was no responsibility whatsoever. There is now obviously, but back then I was happy just being a little bugger and playing hockey.
PART III: BEHIND BARS
KYPREOS: Mike what was prison like for a guy that knows nothing but hockey?
DANTON: It was an experience, that’s for sure. In everything I do in life I try and be the same I am everywhere. How I was in hockey is how I kind of was in prison. I didn’t take any shit but I didn’t go looking for anything. You get tested from place to place for sure but you never get treated normal per say. You either get treated really really good or really really poor because of that status. The people that like hockey will treat you better than the rest.
KYPREOS: They knew that you were a professional athlete? They knew your story?
DANTON: Yeah. Every time you go to a prison. It was my understanding that because I was a high-profile case what they said, the officers and the correctional workers, their education department and so forth, they’re alerted to who I am, what my case was and things like that. Yeah, it’s safe to say that everyone knew I played hockey, they knew of my case. Like I said, the hockey fans treated me pretty fair and the ones that either didn’t like hockey or didn’t like the fact that a couple staff members here and there treated me a little better than normal, they went the opposite way and I got detrimental treatment.
KYPREOS: Some pretty tough characters in there. As tough as the ones that you probably fought over you career. Did you ever worry about you safety?
DANTON: Worry about my safety? That’s not my mindset. I don’t worry about my safety or things of that nature. When you’re in a place like that, like I said earlier, you have to be cautious of your surroundings. There’s a lot of cowards in prison and a lot of guys trying to make names for themselves. So they don’t fight like you and I did on the ice with our fists. There’s a lot of knives and homemade weapons and things of that nature. I wasn’t scared of what could happen but I was definitely aware of my surroundings.
KYPREOS: Were you allowed to watch games?
DANTON: We were allowed. It just depended on the prison population if that is what they wanted to watch. Majority ruled and I was always left on the short end. Not a lot of hockey fans in prison. When I went to Minnesota though, me and some guys were able to watch the Cup Finals between Anaheim and Ottawa and the following year we were able to watch a couple games of the Minnesota/Colorado series. My first game I got to watch was when I was at Fort Dix, standing outside in the blistering snow. It was between Philadelphia and New Jersey. Other than playing hockey and winning the Sandstone Stanley Cup like I did, that was my connection to hockey in there.
PART IV: SUICIDE
KYPREOS: When you look back at your last 5 1/2 years, what kind of emotion do you have? Are you angry? Are you disappointed? Are you full of resentment?
DANTON: No. This is going to sound a little weird. I’m happy that it happened. I’m not happy that the crime happened. Thankfully nobody got hurt but I’m happy that the situation happened. I needed something in my life to change. It sucks, but going to prison changed my life and it saved my life. I grew up there pretty much. I learned about myself, I learned about other people, I learned about the issues that I had. It was a positive experience. You might look at me like I’m crazy saying that but it’s one of those things that I’m really fortunate for going to prison because I don’t think I’d be sitting here today if I didn’t go 5 1/2 years ago I was a time bomb waiting to go off. I knew nothing about nothing. I was just like a chicken with his head cut off. Just running around, just doing whatever he wanted to do having no responsibilities, no priorities and now everything’s is check. Priorities, responsibilities, and it’s been the happiest I’ve been in a long time.
KYPREOS: I’ve got to ask you. You mentioned the ticking time bomb. Did you ever think of killing yourself?
DANTON: Prior to incarceration, no. I don’t think I had the balls to do it even if I wanted to. When I went to prison it was a bad time for me. It was a down time and there were a couple occasions were I, and I’ve only talked about this a couple times, where I actually shredded the towels and made a little noose. It was in the same time zone as when the St. Louis season was ending that carried on into my incarceration. I just wasn’t happy with myself. I wasn’t happy with life in general. I was sick and tired of being alone. Sick and tired of being unwanted. Not having a purpose in life, not being successful. It’s funny that I say that because how may 23-year-old hockey players can say that they didn’t feel successful. Maybe they don’t think they’re successful enough but still they play in the best league in the world. But once again, things happen for a reason, it never happened. Now you look back and say thank God it didn’t happen.
KYPREOS: From that point where you’re shredding the towel to where we are today, when did you see a light at the end of the tunnel?
DANTON: Looking back at it now I don’t think I realize where the turning curve was. But when I was speaking with my doc, I accepted that I had a problem but when I started feeling better about myself was the knowledge that I could get better, that it was treatable, that I wasn’t going to be a messed up individual the rest of my life. But I think the real turning curve was when I started to see the change in myself and that was about year and a half in, 2 and a half years in really where I started noticing a big difference. Of course there are little changes all the time here and there. But when I really started being confident in making my own decisions, handling myself in certain situations, that’s when I knew that I was going to be alright, that I knew that it didn’t matter what I was going to face that I was going to be alright.
PART V: THE COMEBACK?
DANTON: My immediate plans? Hockey, that’s what I’m doing, that’s what I’m doing. I will play, its just a matter of when and where.
KYPREOS: What makes you think that you can pull this off?
DANTON: Confidence. Knowledge. It’s simple. I’ve been back in Canada now for a little over six months. I’ve been able to watch some games. I know I can fit in. I have things that not a lot of players have. I’m never going to be a 50-goal scorer. That’s not in my make-up. But I bring things to the rink that not a lot of guys can bring to the rink. A lot people say yeah, he’s been out 5 1/2 years, he’s a convicted felon. Claude Lemieux was out of hockey for 5 years and he’s 15 years older than me. If he can do it why can’t I do it. There’s no excuse. The big thing it that I got nothing else to lose Kyper. All I’ve known my whole life is hockey. That’s it. You corner somebody that has nothing left to lose and there back is up against the wall I tell you what, I wouldn’t want to bet against them.
KYPREOS: Why should a team take a chance on Mike Danton?
DANTON: Why shouldn’t they? Why not? I’m not a bad team guy. Granted, I’m a convicted felon, but there’s a lot of guys who have made mistakes. Guys got second chances and that’s all I’m looking for is a second chance. I’ve never been dubbed as a bad team guy. I just want a second chance. That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m not looking for pity, I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ve accepted everything I’ve done. I take full responsibility for everything I’ve done and I want to move forward and hockey is the only thing I know. I know that if a team takes a chance on me that I’m going to make that team better. That’s what it comes down to. It’s simple.
KYPREOS: What was it liking skating for the first time after 5 1/2 years in prison?
DANTON: To be honest with you I had a lot of concern because the largest amount of time that I was off was 2 1/2 weeks, three weeks before that. So my big things was shit, am I going to remember how to skate? Am I going to fall on my face? Thankfully there wasn’t too many people there. It was ok. I felt really good, it was like I was on the IR for a couple weeks. My stride, which was one of my biggest concerns, and my key strengths, was there. The timing with my stickhandling and my shot, that was little bit off which was weird because while I was in jail we could play floor hockey and stuff like that. You know me, I was sniping them top cheese, sniping them top cheese all the time so I thought that would actually be my strength coming out. But my stride, it was strong, it was quick, it was exactly where it left off.
KYPREOS: Do any of your future plans include David Frost?
DANTON: Hockey is my future. I’ve hit a fork in the road in my life and Dave is going down one road and he’s got his family and all that. I want to play hockey and Dave and I have talked and we both agree that it’s not the best thing in the world for Dave to be associated with my hockey. My road consists of hockey. Dave Frost is not involved with my hockey. I’m going down this fork in the road, Dave’s going down that fork in the road. I’m going that alone and that’s where I’m going.
KYPREOS: What do you want people to know about you today?
DANTON: I’m a good guy. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want pity. I want a second chance. I’ve made some mistakes. I’ve made some poor judgment but that was from somebody that was ill-informed of his life, of what was going on with him. I have knowledge of what I’m all about now. I love the person I am. I love my personality, I love my humour. But I love what I can bring to the table with regards to personal relationships and the game of hockey. And all I want is that second chance to play hockey. Doesn’t matter if you grow up an abused child or a child that got treated like he was golden, mostly every kids dream in Canada is to play hockey and win the Stanley Cup. The Stanly Cup of jail doesn’t count I got that one out of the way. But the Stanley Cup is every kids dream, I just want to be able to play again. That’s all I want to do, I want to be able to play.