When two New Jersey policemen mistake author Jack Shepherd for an underworld drug dealer as he drives home from a meeting with his publisher, they chase his truck on the New Jersey Turnpike and use an unauthorized procedure to stop him. The actions of the police backfire when they realize that Jack is not the notorious drug dealer, but by then it's too late to undo the damage and the only way out for the police is to suppress the evidence and fabricate a story that implicates Jack based on his drunkenness. Jack's attorney advises him to plead guilty to a lesser offense, which would result in a short stay at a minimum-security facility. The sentencing judge accepted the plea bargain, but uses Jack's case as an example and gives him to the maximum sentence. While in prison, a hardened criminal named Salvador Salinis thinks Jack is an acquaintance and yells the name "Parodi" before attacking him. This attack is the first clue as to whom the police thought he was and the first clue to Jack's freedom.