My name is [redacted], I am 28 years old, I am a father of three, I’m from Odessa Texas and I am currently serving a sentence that I believe I do not deserve.
This is my story.
On August 15, 2018, after I was picked up from a friend’s house, he was taking me back to the place where I was staying. I had been in the car for less than two minutes when my friend turned right and we were stopped and automatically asked to get out of the car. We were initially pulled over for not using the turn signal. Whenever we were searched I had a syringe in my pocket, my co-defendant had a scale in his, which gave rise to the police to search the vehicle, at which point they located a backpack on the passenger seat which I admitted was mine and had a gun. At the time I was traffic-stopped I was not a convicted felon.
I want to declare that I have never been on probation or in any other sentence ordered by a court, however I was out and free on bond for charges that I accumulated in a period of eight months and even then I never signed a document that prohibited me from carrying a weapon as a requirement or stipulation of my bail.
During the search the police found a small amount of marijuana in the center console. I was not aware of the existence of the marijuana or any other narcotic in that car that was unrelated.
After the search was complete, we were taken to the police station for further questioning in which I did not want to speak without an attorney present, thus leading me to federal detention on charges of prohibited person in possession of a firearm while my co-defendant was taken to county jail for marijuana but at the end of the day my co-defendant made it to federal holding stating that the tow truck driver found his drugs under his car and turned it over to the police.
I want to state that this is the first time I had heard of any narcotic being in his possession, those were his belongings in his car and that is why during my judicial process and until the day of the sentence I maintained that I did not know about the existence of those drugs in that car and additionally my co-defendant wrote an affidavit and acknowledged to the courts on record at his sentencing hearing pleading under penalty of purge that I did not know that he had possession of those narcotics in his car and that the drugs were wholly and entirely his property, not mine. It wasn’t until the district attorney maintained that this affidavit was just a piece of paper and the court made my lawyer withdraw from my case that day due to a conflict of interest but when I appointed a new lawyer I pleaded guilty because I was cornered in front of the decision to go to trial, probably lose and get 25 years in prison, or plead guilty and get the mandatory minimum. I was given 2 criminal history points. Both were fines that I never did jail time on and that even with those 2 points my sentence under the sentencing guideline table would have been 78 to 97 months but because of the mandatory minimums I was given 180 months
This is what the criminal justice system generally does, it is an unbreakable institution, that does not admit mistakes, that makes you feel that you will never be able to exercise your right and that you must sometimes even admit something in order not to receive something worse.
While no criminal justice system is entirely perfect, neither is that of the United States. Most people you meet in prison, they come from broken homes, no family ties, so when they come out, they come out with nothing. When these sentences are not only harsh but they are also so long the criminal justice system is only making the fact of rebuilding a life, recovering ties and returning to the free world increasingly difficult, and for many something that never comes.
When you incarcerate an individual, you incarcerate their entire family, and that’s what most people don’t take into consideration. I need to go home sooner for my children, who are the ones for whom I have been keeping it together all these years. The criminal justice system does not take parental relationships into account when sentencing adults. It becomes much harder to maintain a relationship with a parent who is far away and behind bars, and it’s difficult for the parent to take an active role in caretaking.
For ten whole years I did things right. I had a family, a good job, at 23 I bought a house and my children never lacked for anything. I’m ready to do all that again. I’ve done things right for most of my life, but I made the mistake of surrounding myself with the wrong people and doing things wrong for ten months and I’m paying for it.
I have remained quiet and accepted my sentence, but what is fair has to be said. I think I have been wrongly sentenced. I don’t intend to go home tomorrow through the front door, I just want to be heard because I refuse to pay for a crime I did not commit. I want a second chance from someone who can listen to my case. If I am really wrong I will continue to serve my sentence as I have been doing this past few years, but since I know I didn’t commit the crime I am blamed for I feel I really need to be heard one more time.