Freedom for a Friend

by Wayne T. Dowdy

balance

In the American Criminal Justice system that falls under the Executive branch of the Federal Government, the President of the United States is over the Department of Justice.  Political campaigns designed to get votes by former presidents declaring War on Drugs and War on Crime, lead to the mass incarceration in America.  The first wave of attacks against the citizens came under the guise of the Sentence Reform Act of 1984, where Congress abolished parole for federal offenders and required that prisoners serve eighty-five percent of their sentences, all of which lead to a boom in the incarceration industry.  Hundreds of politicians lined their pockets with cash as a result of the boom due to the influence of private prison corporations.  [1]

The Honorable Eric Holder, former United States Attorney General, and President Barack Obama implemented programs to reduce the federal prison population, reign in overzealous prosecutors, slow the prison growth rate, and other measures to reduce recidivism.  One plan was Clemency Project 2014.  In it President Obama planned to grant clemency to drug offenders serving unjust sentences.  One to benefit from the project was my friend:  Alphonso D.

obama granting clemencyOn December 17, 2015, President Barack Obama granted clemency to ninety-five federal prisoners and pardoned two; sixty-seven of whom are in prison serving lengthy prison sentences for conspiracy to commit drug offenses and other associated charges, thirty-eight of whom had life without parole.

The next day I stood speaking to a factory supervisor when I was blessed with a unique experience.  My friend strutted in flaunting a larger than normal smile.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“Great now!  I was granted clemency,” Alphonso said.

A smile erupted on my face as tears of joy filled my eyes.  The news made me almost as happy as if President Obama had granted my petition for commutation of sentence.  I have a release date.  He did not.

Alphonso is a well-mannered, polite, soft-spoken, and respectful man in his mid-fifties.  On February 12, 1996, a judge sentenced him to life without parole for Conspiracy to Violate Narcotic Laws (crack), in the Western District of North Carolina.   (Crack is cocaine base people smoke, which is an alkaloid, and not a hydrochloride like powder cocaine that people snort or inject to get high on.)

No actual drugs existed in the conspiracy that lead him to prison to live out the remainder of his life, that is, until President Obama intervened and showed compassion by granting his petition for commutation of sentence.  He will be released on April 16, 2016.  The government convicted him under the conspiracy theory for “ghost dope.”  He deserved the President’s compassion.

CRIMINAL CONSPIRACIES:  Conspiracy is a law Congress first enacted in 1909 as the CONSPIRACY ACT (Offenses Against the U.S.), which prosecutors used to convict mobsters and other criminals without any physical or scientific evidence.  In 1948, Congress enacted Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 371, “Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States”; then in 1970, added Title 21 U.S.C., Section 846, “Attempt and Conspiracy” to their arsenal to prosecute drug offenses and allow prosecutors to seek the same sentence as provided for the primary offense; e.g., life without parole for certain drug offenses.  Prosecutors use Title 18, Section 2, “Principals,” and other statutes to achieve the same result in other offenses.

A criminal conspiracy may be based on little more than informants or witnesses claiming a defendant planned to or committed a crime.  Under Section 371, if the government convinces the judge or jurors of an overt act used to activate the plan to violate the law, the defendant gets convicted in most cases.

Prosecutors do not have to prove an overt act under Section 846.  Overt acts may be as simple as making a phone call, or instructing someone who to see or where to go to buy illicit drugs, weapons, or anything used to knowingly violate laws.

Under 18 U.S.C., Section 371, the stiffest penalty is five-years imprisonment and a fine.  Under the conspiracy theory, prosecutors may charge defendants for all crimes involved in the conspiracy; e.g., armed bank robbery, through Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery.  (See PERSONALLY below.)

BAD DEALS:  When threatened with absurd prison sentences, some defendants plead guilty to crimes they did not commit because it comes as a package deal to help investigators clear the books, or to avoid an excessive sentence when the government refuses to believe their informant is lying.  Some prosecutors use perjured testimony to get convictions.  Numerous people in American prisons have been freed with DNA evidence that proved witnesses lied or made mistakes.  In some cases, prosecutors, and or law enforcement officials, concealed exculpatory evidence to get convictions (exculpatory evidence proves innocence).

In my opinion, conspiracy became the most abused law in American history.  Many unjust incarcerations resulted from prosecutors who abused the law and forced people into providing false testimony to convict another person; prosecutors also use the law to retaliate against those who won’t cooperate.  Law books are filled with incidents where defendants went to prison due to overzealous prosecutors.

INFORMATION FOR SALE:  On December 14, 2012, Brad Heath reported in USA TODAY about a ring of inmates at the United States Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, selling information to other inmates to use for sentence reductions.  Conspiracy plots were formed inside the prison to fabricate evidence against defendants to get sentence reductions.  Heath stated, “Snitching has become so commonplace that in the past five years at least 48,895 federal convicts, one of every eight, had their prison sentences reduced in exchange for helping government investigators, a USA TODAY examination of hundreds of thousands of court cases found.  The deals can chop off a decade or more off their sentences. …..”

MY CASE:  The government paid the witness against me with eight and a half years, in place of the threatened-life-sentence.  He went inside the bank with a gun.  I sat in a second getaway vehicle, without a gun, down the road from the bank and got sentenced to 420-months.  However, the result in my case does not compare to that of Sammy the Bull and former mob boss, John Gotti.  (Read “The Truth About Incarceration” for more on Gotti and the deal made with Sammy the Bull to testify on him.  [2])

In the Story Highlights, Heath wrote, “Inmates who operated the schemes have alleged that agents knew what they were up to [over] the past five years[.]”  Then he wrote, “Those schemes are generally illegal because the people who buy information usually lie to federal agents about where they got the information.  They also show how staggeringly valuable good information has become; prices ran into tens of thousands of dollars, or up to $250,000 in one case, court records show. …..  Prosecutors have said they were troubled that informants were paying for some of the secrets they passed on to federal agents.  Judges are outraged.  But the inmates who operated the schemes have repeatedly alleged that agents knew all along what they were up to, and sometimes even gave them the information they sold.”

MONEY TALKS:  At the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas, I once read confidential reports (three depositions) obtained by Private Investigators in the case of an alleged, wealthy, Canadian Mob Boss (Allan R.), who is in prison for smuggling large shipments of cocaine into America.  Those documents, filed in court, showed where Spanish drug enforcement agents primed a witness with information to tell American authorities about the man the witness first stated he did not know.  After extradition to the State of Texas for a drug case, the informant made a second deposition and claimed to know A.R.

Texas authorities primed him with more information to carry to the State of Florida, where he made a third deposition and agreed to testify against A.R. in an alleged murder of a Florida State Patrol officer.  During the Discovery process, the prosecution only revealed the last deposition made in Florida.  Had A.R. not been a millionaire with International connections, he would have been convicted, but when he proved the government concealed the other two depositions, and proved the witness had lied, the court dismissed the case.

Allan R.’s case is one where justice prevailed, even if it was at the price he paid to hire the Spanish private investigator, and high-powered attorneys in America, needed to obtain information to win against the most powerful criminal justice system in the world.

MORE ON CONSPIRACY:  Reports of corruption in the judicial system by way of paid informants are not new.  Numerous television segments have reported similar incidents, where defendants admitted they lied to get additional time off their sentences, or to get rich.

In 2002, Congress amended one federal statute to put a $500,000 cap on the amount of payment a government informant could receive, without special approval from the Attorney General.  That was because of outrageous reports about “snitches” becoming millionaires by setting people up to get twenty-five percent of seized proceeds.  Prosecutors still used those snitches to get convictions, and more often than not, relied on the conspiracy theory/principles to obtain the conviction to take the defendant’s assets.

REAL CRIMES:  If an actual crime occurs, conspiracy principles apply to the extent that a defendant may be held accountable for all acts committed within the conspiracy, regardless of whether he or she had knowledge of the acts charged in the indictment.  Most criminal offenses require an “intentional” or “willful” act to be proven as an element of the offense, but many prosecutors twist facts to get a conviction by coercing witnesses into saying what is needed to convict the defendant.

A person does not have to voluntarily play a role in the commission of the crime(s).  Perhaps that sounds unbelievable but it is true.  I know hundreds of men in prison due to testimony of people they had not seen or did not know, who helped put them in prison for quantities of drugs that never existed.

PERSONALLY:  I am in prison based upon conspiracy principles, where the government convicted me for all acts because I was with the cohorts who committed crimes I did not agree to commit.  I was involved.  I am not saying otherwise; however, I learned more about the crimes during the jury trial than I knew before the trial began.  Under conspiracy laws, though, I am as guilty as the ones who went inside the bank with guns, even though I did not intend to commit the crimes of conviction when I joined another conspiracy with the cohorts.

(For a brief summary about my involvement,  read “No Sympathy” for free as an eBook or on my blogs [3].  In it I reference “The Price of Change,” which contains excerpts from my trial and past events that changed me.  I also wrote about going to trial with a lunatic.  I combined two essays to make a special eBook:  “Fence Rows & the Price of Change.”  No Sympathy and The Price of Change show my experience with criminal justice and the high cost of recidivism.)

CONCLUSION:  In June 2014, I filed a petition for commutation of sentence; if granted, I plan to help reduce recidivism.  As No Sympathy shows, I am a man with a mission.

___________________________________

[1] For more on prisons for profit, read “The Truth About Incarceration, Part II” (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/category/prison-politics/); and “An Inside View of the Criminal Justice System,” first published by PrisonLawBlog.com, Oct. 2014.

[2] “The Truth About Incarceration” (Part I), first published on PrisonLawBlog.com, Nov. 2014.

[3] (https://straightfromthepen.wordpress.com/) (http://waynedowdy.weebly.com);

Visit http://www.straightfromthepen.com or https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy to purchase eBooks, essays, or to buy ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN, containing twelve essays, one short story and three poems; also available through Midnight Express Books or from your favorite online or offline bookstore.

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