By Scott Thompson
MEET THE woman who met the man of her dreams at SIXTEEN but was left devastated when only weeks later he was sentenced to TWENTY THREE YEARS in prison – but they continued to maintain their relationship for TEN YEARS before finally getting MARRIED and consummating their relationship BEHIND BARS.
Self-employed personal trainer, Nina Hoffler (29) from Phoenix, Arizona, USA met her husband Michael Hoffler (30) in October 2006 through friends at a fast food parking lot when they were just teenagers aged 16 and 17.
His handsome looks and a strong demeanour made him incredibly mysterious which stole Nina’s heart. One of their friends explained that he would likely be going to prison soon on an assault charge and Nina told him that she would write to him while he was serving his time.
In December 2006 Michael was involved in an armed robbery in Northern California which ultimately lead to him being sentenced to 23 years in prison. Locally Michael’s story quickly spread on the front pages of newspapers and although he was the youngest out of the group, he was given the harshest sentence due to being tried as an adult. Determined to keep to her promise, Nina wrote him a letter.
During the first three years of his sentence their relationship blossomed and Nina knew she was in love and although she feared judgement from others she continued writing daily letters to him.
It wasn’t until 2012 that they kissed for the first time during their first in person prison visit. After this they became even closer and Nina started to visit Michael more regularly.
Michael proposed to Nina on June 4, 2016 and the couple tied the knot at Ironwood State Prison on January 6, 2017.
“I met Michael on the streets through mutual friends when we were teens. It was a get together at a Wendy’s parking lot, although he swears it was a Taco Bell,” Nina said.
“In that very instant that I met him I thought he was the most handsome man I’d ever seen. He seemed incredibly guarded and super mysterious, as if he had so much going on inside his head.
“I remember asking ‘what’s going on with you?’ and his friend chimed in to say ‘he’s going through it right now, he just found out he might be getting locked up for a few years’. Without skipping a beat I looked at him and said ‘I’ll write to you’.
“Michael was trying to get money together to pay for a lawyer to support his case on an assault charge and a few weeks later in December 2006 he was involved and caught in an armed robbery in El Dorado, Northern California.
“This place is a really small town and when the press found out it was plastered all over the local news headlines. Michael was the youngest of the group and tried as an adult aged 17. Because he was all over the news and received a mandatory minimum gun enhancement, he received the longest sentence having been given 23 years in total.
“When I found out he had been locked up I took out a piece of paper and a pen and stuck to my promise. I wrote something like, ‘I told you I’d write to you, even though I didn’t think you believed me when I said it’.
“Over the next three years our connection slowly developed and I knew I was in love with him, but I was also very afraid of what people would think about me being with a man who was serving a long time in prison. For this reason, the only two people who knew were my mother and my closest friends.
“In February 2016 I was finally allowing myself to be honest with my true feelings for Michael and I didn’t care what other people thought anymore.
“Michael had clearly made significant emotional and behavioural changes and it was clear to me that he was becoming the man I always believed he would be. At last I started sharing the news with everyone and I started posting pictures of us together at prison visits through Instagram. This made Michael smile so much, he knew he wasn’t a secret anymore.
“In 2012 we had our first kiss at our first in person prison visit and during a visit on June 4, 2016 he proposed to me and I was so happy and of course I said yes. We got married January 6, 2017 at Ironwood State Prison.”
Being married allowed the couple conjugal visits of up to 48 hours where they can be totally alone which has allowed them to become intimate for the very first time, a decade after meeting.
In 2014 a new law was passed that would allow youth offenders in California to have their sentence examined after their fifteenth year served. This could grant Michael parole in 90 days from the approved grant. He is now serving his thirteenth year and they are waiting patiently for his hearing.
“On May 4, 2017 we were able to consummate our marriage, and this meant for the very first time ever we could have conjugal visits and be intimate with each other, after a decade of correspondence. This was incredible for both of us,” she continued.
“The units are small two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments. Each unit is connected by separate fenced yards. The kitchen has a sink, fridge/freezer, toaster oven, microwave and cabinets. The living room has a small couch, TV and a small music player for radio or CDs. There’s also a small dining table and a few chairs. There is a shower and bathtub in the bathroom. Finally, the main bedroom has a queen size bed and the other room has two twin beds.
“I have to bring my marriage license every time I visit and can bring a small canvas duffle bag with clothes for three days. I can bring most toiletries which has to be ready and open for inspection. I also have to bring all bedding. I can even bring some nice lingerie so long as it doesn’t have any underwire in it.
“In 2014, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, a non-profit organisation founded by Hangover executive producer Scott Bundick, helped to write and pass SB260. This allows youth offenders in California to appear before a Youth Parole Board on their fifteenth year served.
“This brought new hope to me and Michael and many others who were locked up as children. We are patiently waiting for his date of hearing. Also, we hope another bill passes in the coming weeks that might help move his hearing forward as a result of good time credit earned for positive rehabilitation programming in self-help groups and college, which Michael is diligent in participating.
“I am so optimistic and faithful in his ability to be found suitable for parole. If for some reason they deny him between three and seven years I would simply have to step up and do more as his wife. I’d need to be on top of helping him find deeper emotional past trauma and help him communicate these emotions and triggers more freely, so he is better prepared for the next parole hearing. It would be incredibly heart breaking to hear him say he was denied parole and I know he would feel as though he let me down.”
Nina is incredibly excited about Michael leaving prison and coming home and whether it is sooner or later she says she’s in this for the long haul.
“A huge sense of relief will completely consume me when I see him take his first steps as a free man. It will be like I am living in a dream I have been locked into since I was just 16 years old,” said Nina.
“To see that gorgeous smile of his when he pops out of that van that will drive him to the front gate will be a priceless moment I will never forget.
“I don’t know yet when he will be coming out. Either way I’m here and we will always be fighting this together. I signed up for better or for worse, not always roses and daises.
“On a final note I want to shed light on an issue that is a major problem in the USA. We need to stop locking up children and throwing away the key. Children have a greater capacity for change when given appropriate rehabilitation.”
Here is a link to the contributor’s Instagram.