Tag Archives: Falsely Accused

THE FALLOUT BEGINS

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA


This is the first post to my story in about two years.  Time seems to get away from you, and even with the best of intentions to post regularly, it just didn’t happen.  I was inspired to continue my story now after the unfortunate passing of my attorney, who truly became my friend.  Protecting the public from DA’s who knowingly proceed with the prosecution of innocent people was a passion of his.  I am so proud to have known him, and of the strength he gave to me throughout my ordeal.  

And to the followers of my story – as always there are no words to express my gratitude for the overwhelming support you have shown to my blog over the years.  I want to ensure that you get to hear the full story as well.  So…here is the next ‘chapter’ in my life’s story!


After an arrest for a “crime” such as this, you have no idea how fast your life falls apart.  In my first meeting with my attorney, he cautioned me to be prepared for the fallout.  But, there is really no way to fathom what is actually ahead.  I thought I would use this brief post to share a bit of how drastically my life changed, and began to unravel after word of my arrest got out.

Career – As soon as I notified my boss of the arrest, I was immediately suspend from my position.  For over a decade I had dedicated my life to my career.  It was really all I knew – and now that was stripped from me.  My routine consisted of going to work, giving my all, and making a difference in my community every day.  What was I going to do now without a job to go to every day?  Who was going to pick up my work and make sure it was done to my standard?  How quickly could I appeal and get the suspension overturned?

Professional Reputation – Prior to my arrest I was well known in my profession.  I regularly presented professional development classes in my area.  I was asked to speak from time-to-time on particular topics that I was especially known for.  I had won “prestigious” awards for excellence in my field.  The suspension from my position was expected, but the real, crippling blow came just a week later when I received a certified letter in the mail advising that my professional certifications were being suspended as well.  Any chances of winning my job back were now gone.  Any opportunities to teach on the side had just vanished as well, and along with it the reputation I had worked so hard to built.

Finances – This is by far the biggest unexpected impact.  In the blink of an eye, 100% of your income is gone.  The bills – mortgages, car payments, insurance, utilities -, however, don’t stop!  In fact, your financial obligations now grow wildly beyond all expectations.  Legal retainers, professional fees and more eat through your savings in no time at all.  How are you supposed to live with no income, and new out of control debt?  Is it ever possible to overcome this?

Community Involvement – Another area that was very important to me was involvement in my community.  It was something I was committed to since, literally, my high school days.  I was physically made sick when just days after my arrest I received a letter from the civic organization that received the majority of volunteer hours stating that I did not “meet their high moral standards of membership”.  This is an organization I had sacrificed significantly to support over the years – an organization who’s leaders I was friends with, whom had been to my home countless times.  An organization who’s members I had personally supported when they had fallen on hard times.  And now, for the first time in my life, I was the one who needed support and the leaders I had unconditionally supported for YEARS didn’t even pick up a phone to ask me what was going on, to send their support, to ask questions.  MY organization sent me a letter…

News Coverage – About a week following the arrest my family found a short story buried in our local paper about me, and of course the article clearly insuanted guilt without providing any actual evidence.  The real scare came the following day when my office called and told me there was a news crew there looking for information on me.  They set up a remote feed truck in the parking lot of my office.  Shortly after that a neighbor called to tell me there were news vans in front of my house!  My co-workers already knew what was going on, but my neighbors were about to find out in the worst possible way. What was I going to do now?

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Thank You All!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your support of my story!  I truly apologize that I have gone so long without an update.  When I set out on this journey of sharing my story, I truly underestimated the time it would take to maintain this blog!  I do intend on continuing the story ASAP though – so, please hang in there with me!

And, for the HUNDREDS of you that have sent me email of support…WOW – and thank you!  I genuinely wish I had the time to respond to every one of your personally, because your words, questions, pleas for help truly mean so much for me.  Unfortunately, the time available after work and family doesn’t allow a personal response to everyone right now.  If I could find a way to finance my blog – I would happily dedicate all my time to finding you resources in your local communities that could help you – but that just isn’t the case!

Again – I have no words to express what the overwhelming support for my story means.  Thank you for your patience with waiting for the next ‘chapter’ – and I am committing to you all that I will finish the entire story (which actually hasn’t fully ended yet…) as time permits!

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Choosing the RIGHT Lawyer!

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

The day I got arrested was, to this point, the darkest day of my life!  I never thought this accusation would actually go anywhere…I knew I didn’t do anything wrong.  It had been what seemed like a long time since I was interrogated by the Prosecutor.  Yet – I had just been arrested, been bailed out of jail, and met with a criminal defense attorney.  These are all things I never would have predicted.  As I mentioned before – I wasn’t even sure if this attorney was actually going to be any help.  I seemed like more of a bother to him, than an important case he was going to focus on.  But I had never been in this situation.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever even known anyone else who has been in this situation – so I thought there was nowhere to turn for advice!

After leaving the lawyer’s office I didn’t know what to do next.  I knew the “news” of my arrest was going to get out quickly – so I thought I should make sure I tell those closest to me personally.  I drove to work first, and told my co-workers and friends what had happened.  I knew they knew my character, and would be behind me in this.  Their support was more than I could have even hoped for.  Hugs – crying – disbelief.  And I felt a little better, if that is even possible, just knowing that this wasn’t a secret and that maybe I would have supporters to help me get through this.  After I left work…it hit me.  My father…  He did not know any of this.  When I was first told of the allegations, I was sure the truth would be evident to the investigators and noting would come of it, so I didn’t want to worry my father.  But, now that I had been arrested – he had to know.  But, how do you tell your father this kind of thing?  I couldn’t do it!  There is no way you can call your father and say “Dad, I was just arrested – for child molestation”.  I couldn’t make that call.  That night, when my mom returned home, she made the call for me.  This turned out to be the best call – and literally changed the path of my story for the better.

My Dad is an extremely smart, successful and intelligent man.  He has many contacts through his work.  One of them happens to be friends with a nationally renowned legal expert.  When my father told his friend what was happening, he put him in touch with this expert immediately.  The information he gave to my father was literally invaluable.  Here is a synopsis of his advice:

  •  A local lawyer is not what you needed for this kind of charge.  He said this charge is literally a life or death situation, and the best chance is with a nationally known expert in this kind of case.
  • He said to personally meet with, and interview several of the top attorneys, and choose who you feel most comfortable with.  He provided a list of four experts in the immediate area, as well as one national expert on these cases.
  • In the meeting with the attorneys, he advised the following questions were critically important to consider:
    • Is the attorney a member f the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)?
    • What is their track record in cases like this?
    • Who will be the actual attorney leading the case?
    • Who will prepare the case for trial and argue in court?
    • How many others will work on the case, who are they, and what is their expertise?
    • How will you help with non-legal matters like preventing damaging publicity?  He said this can be one of the most important points because history proves that people change what they know and believe when they read and hear things in the news, and are even less likely to continue to be supportive if the case becomes controversial.  He said that often once strong supporters will change their minds once a story appears in the media, and even once the truth comes out they never return as friends.
  • Finally – he advised that Mr. Murphy’s plan to seek a bail reduction hearing was completely inappropriate given the nature of the charges.  He said that a bail reduction hearing would bring the case publicly into a court room, and in front of the media…and the goal of any attorney right now should be to keep the publicity around the case to a minimum until they can do their own investigation.  This advice alone convinced me that Mr. Murphy was the not the lawyer for me.
January 24, 2007
After speaking to this expert, we set up a meeting with the first attorney he recommended locally – Mr. William Buckman (Mr. Buckman’s actual name and information are being used with his permission).  On the day of our first meeting with Mr. Buckman the differences between him and Mr. Murphy were evident immediately upon entering his office.  In contrast to the chaos and mess that we encounter in Mr. Murphy’s office, Mr. Buckman’s office was incredibly clean, orderly, decorated and welcoming.  We were greeted by his staff, and offered a beverage while we waited.  In the waiting area there we countless awards on his walls signifying his accomplishments, and respect.  Mr. Buckman was ranked as one of the top 100 attorneys in the state, was on the Board of Trustees of the ACLU, was the President of the states Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and was on the Board of Directors of the NACDL…  Previously he was a Public Defender, and he tried one of the first capital murder cases in our State’s history.  One of the most impressive things to me, though, were scrap books of cases he had tried, along with very personal letters from previous clients about how Bill had impacted their lives.
Shortly after arriving Mr. Buckman came out of his office and greeted us.  I will never forget his warm smile.  Him and I went into his conference room where he asked me to fill him in on the particulars of the case.  He reviewed the complaints and accusations.  Then he was incredibly honest with me.  He told me that this is the worst kind of criminal charge.  He told me that sexual abuse charges against children have one of the highest conviction rates.  He told me that this is one of the only criminal charges where the police need NO physical evidence to convict, only the word of another.  He also said that it is one of the charges where, regardless of the facts, there is a presumption of guilt.  While the law says “innocent until proven guilty” – in this case most people assume you are guilty until you prove you are innocent.  He reviewed the worst case scenarios with me – a conviction could mean more than 35 years in prison.
After our talk, he brought my family in, and discussed some of what we had talked about, and shared a bit about his plan if we choose him to take the case.  He agreed that we should not proceed with the bail reduction hearing.  He asked me to develop a list of references his investigators could interview.  He asked if I would be comfortable submitting to a polygraph examination with an independent examiner – which I, of course, agreed to.  He closed by letting us know that we should talk as a family, and let him know how we felt, and invited me to contact him with any questions.
Upon leaving his office I knew that Mr. Buckman was the attorney for me.  I didn’t have to talk to anyone else.  I felt completely comfortable with Mr. Buckman from the first moment I met him.  And, more importantly, I was confident that he knew, without a doubt, that I was innocent!  I felt good.  I believed if there was a chance for this to turn out ok, Mr. Buckman was that chance for me.  I decided to retain him, and he went to work on my case immediately!

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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First Experience With A Lawyer

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

Upon leaving the processing area after my mom had posted my $25,000 bail, we were instructed by Mr. Murphy, the attorney I had talked with earlier, to proceed directly to his office.  It turns out he was only 1 block away, so we arrived quickly.  If you remember, Mr. Murphy had been recommended to me by an attorney friend – so I had a lot of confidence in him as we headed to the office, and was optimistic that he would provide some reassurances about what would happen next.  I later learned, and will cover in a subsequent post, that attorney selection is extraordinarily vital to the outcome of the case…and having the wrong attorney can impact your life forever!

As we walk into Mr. Murphy’s office,  which is in a very large, old, historic looking home,  I am first struck by how cluttered and unorganized it is.  There are piles of papers and folders on every surface in the place – the floor, tables, desks – they are all covered with papers.  We head down the main hallway, where we are greeted by Mr. Murphy’s assistant.  She seems very nice, and asks us to sit down.  She tells us Mr. Murphy will be with us shortly, and has us fill out some paperwork.  She points us towards some chairs, and doesn’t interact with us again.

After some time, a man, who turns out to be Mr. Murphy, comes down the hall and ushers us into a conference room.  He pushes some piles of papers out-of-the-way, and we sit at opposite sides of the table.  He asks to see a copy of the charges.  He took what felt like forever looking over the charges.  He then pulls a law-book out from under a pile of papers, and looks through it for even longer.  Finally he says “Wow, they are throwing the book at you”.  He proceeds to explain that the charges filed against me are ‘first degree’ felony charges, that carry up to 37 years in prison.  He goes on to say that “this will be tough to beat”.

He tells us that the first thing he wants to do is file for a bail reduction hearing to get some of the bail money back to use towards the defense.  He introduces me to his detective and says that we will be working together a lot in the coming weeks.  He ends the meeting fairly abruptly and says that his office will be in touch once he speaks to the prosecutor and the bail reduction motion is filed, and he will let us know what the next steps are.  He really had nothing else to say…

I entered Mr. Murphy’s office with confidence that he would be the man who could help me – but left feeling like even he thought I was guilty.  He provided no reassurances, he didn’t even seem to care what my side of the story was.  But, I thought, what other choice is there?

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Leicester police seek charges against teen who reported rape

Here is a news story about a police department in Leicester, Massachusetts who is trying to get stiffer penalties for those who make false allegations.

Some excerpts:

“Citing fraudulent crime reports in his town and around the area, Police Chief James J. Hurley said stiffer penalties for filing false police reports are needed. Those accused face harsher penalties than those making false claims against them, he said.”
“Chief Hurley said, ‘The punishment for this type of crime needs to be increased. If you fraudulently accuse someone of a crime that could put them in jail for 20 years, then the person who fraudulently reports the crime should face the same penalty.'”

A link to the full article is below:

Leicester police seek charges against teen who reported rape.

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I Was Arrested!

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

Two months had passed since I was interrogated for hours by detectives after being falsely accused of molesting a child.  As the days went by, I was becoming more and more confident that there was nothing to worry about.  Some things Detective Smith had said as I was leaving the office after the interrogation led me to believe he actually knew I was telling the truth.  I also couldn’t imagine that if they believed I had abused this kid that they would allow me to continue ‘roaming the streets’ for two months.  We also had been advised by an attorney that if we didn’t hear anything else from them it was pretty safe to assume they dropped it…

January 10, 2007:

This started out as any other Wednesday for me.  I woke up, got dressed for work, and was in early.  It was a fairly slow day, if I remember right.  My co-worker and I had to go off-site for a while that morning.  Interestingly enough – she was the only person at my workplace I had told about the allegations against me because she was a regular close co-worker of mine – and we shared pretty much everything.

11:30 AM – We were having a very good morning – getting things done, when my phone rang.  We were in the middle of things at the time, and as I did not recognize the phone number, I did not answer the call.  I continued to get calls from this number for the next few minutes – so finally I answered.  To my surprise (and horror) Detective Smith was on the other end!  He advised me that he was at my home, and needed to speak with me as soon as possible.  (As a side note – this is just one of the many things that makes no sense about the Prosecutors Office.  Detective Smith knew where I worked, and how many hours a week I put in…so why would they EVER think I would be home at 11:30AM in the middle of the week?).  I advised the detective that I was working off-site, and was not immediately available.  He asked where I was, and I told him.  I later found out that where we were was apparently outside of the Detective’s jurisdiction.  He asked when we could meet, and I told him I would call him as soon as I was back in the area.

As I hung up the phone, my heart was pounding.  It can not be a good thing that the detective is trying to contact me after two months.  I placed a call to the attorney friend I had spoken to about this earlier.  His advice – do not speak to the detective about anything, and he gave me the number of a criminal defense attorney friend, Mr. Murphy.  He told me to call and speak to him before I did anything else.  Oh wow – a criminal defense attorney.  Who would ever think that they would need a criminal defense attorney?  I strived everyday to live my life right…to set an example for others…to take care of people who were less fortunate than me…to give when I had excess…and now I was about to call a criminal defense attorney!  When I called, I got Mr. Murphy’s secretary.  I briefly explained to her the situation, and she advised me that Mr. Murphy was in court, but she would try to interrupt him and have him call me back as soon as possible.

12:00 PM – I told my co-worker about the phone call, and we were actually about to head to another off-site place, when Detective Smith called back.   He asked if I was available yet, and I told him that I was still working.  He asked me where I was – and I thought it would be very bad if I wasn’t honest with him, and I told him where we were headed.  He told me to stay there, and he would come to that site to talk to me.  A few minutes later I received a call from Mr. Murphy, the attorney.  I explained the whole thing to him.  His words frightened me!  He said “They are coming to arrest you.”.  He told me to make sure I went with them peacefully, and to hang up and tell my family to contact him so he could coach them through the next steps.  He told me to tell the detective that I had retained him as my attorney and to say nothing else to them.  He also advised me to let him know what my bail was as soon as I knew so he could start making those arrangements.  BAIL?  I hadn’t even considered any of this!

12:30 PM – Detective Smith and his partner walk into the work site I was at.  He asks if there is somewhere private we could talk so he didn’t have to ‘do this’ in front of everyone.  I led him to an office.  Detective Smith says “I have a warrant for your arrest issued by a Superior Court Judge”.  He then proceeded to read the warrant to me (edited slightly to remove identifying information):

Under oath the complainant (Detective Smith) says that to the best of his knowledge within the jurisdiction of this court; The defendant did commit sexual assault by committing an act of sexual contact with the victim when he was less than 13 years old, and the defendant being at least four years older than the victim in violation of the statute.

Within the jurisdiction of this court, the defendant, having assumed the responsibility for the care of the victim, did engage in sexual conduct which impaired or debauched the morals of the victim in violation of the statute.

Probable cause is found for the issuance of this complaint.  Pursuant to this warrant you are hereby commanded to arrest the named defendant and bring that person before the court to answer the complaint.  Bail amount is set at $25,000 cash or bond, and the defendant may have no contact with the victim.

He then advised me that I had to empty my pockets, and remove my belt and shoelaces.  I asked if I could leave my personal items with my co-worker, which he allowed me to do.  He advised that I might want to take my phone so I had phone numbers I might need.  He then told me that even though it was against their policy he was not going to handcuff me since I had been so cooperative this whole time.  He told me to make sure my hands were visible the whole time, and that I had to walk between the two detectives.  He allowed me to call my mother and tell her the bail amount, but said that is all I could talk about and I would be allowed to use the phone again once I was processed.  I was escorted to their car, and placed in the backseat with the detective I had not met before.  During the drive to the jail, Detective Smith made small talk with me as if we were out for a Sunday drive.  He continued to do things that again made me think he knew I was being truthful (telling me this was all just procedure at the interrogation, asking to go to a private room to arrest me, not handcuffing me in violation of their policies, and now making small talk on the drive).

When we arrived at the jail I actually felt fairly calm and relaxed due to Detective Smith’s attitude.  As we got out of the car he told me to put my hands together like I was handcuffed until we got inside, and he led me by the arm like you see on TV.  I was placed into an interrogation room, and was told them would be back with me shortly.  Detective Smith returned and explained the process to me.  He told me that I would have to fill out some forms, and go over for fingerprinting and photographs.  He asked if I thought my family would be able to arrange bail.  I told him that I hoped so.  He told me he would make the processing take as long as possible, so that if they could arrange bail before we were done I wouldn’t have to go into the jail (another kind gesture).  He explained that once I was processed into holding at the jail it took a lot longer for a release on bail to occur.  He also said “you don’t want to go in there with this kind of charge”.

As I waited for what seemed like hours, I heard a man who must have been Detective Smith’s supervisor say to him “Is he in custody?”.  Detective Smith said “yes”, and the other man said “Then restrain him like he is in custody”.  Detective Smith then came in and apologized, and  attached my leg to a long handcuff bolted to the floor.  He said when we left this room he would have to handcuff me from now on.  I was taken downstairs for fingerprints and photographs by another detective who strangely enough said something to me like “we don’t judge you here” and “we can only do what the bosses tell us to do”.   I ask to use the restroom – and have to be watched by the Detectives…  I am returned to the interrogation room where I am again chained to the floor.

More time goes by, and Detective Smith comes in and tells my mom has arrived with the bail, and that he will have to walk me over to the jail intake where the bail will be processed.  He handcuffs me again, and we walk outside and into the jail building.  My mom, and best friend Charles are there.  She tells me how they will only accept CASH, and she had to rush around to banks, and meet with branch managers, etc. to be able to withdraw that much cash, and she didn’t think she was going to be able to get it done before they closed for the day. Luckily, she had always saved money at home which she was able to use to come up with enough cash to pay the bail.  We stood in the lobby at the jail and counted envelopes full of money for a long time before she was able to give them the money (plus a ‘filing fee’).

Finally – Detective Smith took off the handcuffs, shook my hand, and said “good luck”…as we walked out of the jail.

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Witch Hunt

Today, I was made aware of a movie project – called Witch Hunt– it is a documentary produced and narrated by Sean Penn.

This movie highlights the story of John Stoll, and dozens of other men and women, who found themselves falsely accused – and falsely convicted – of child molestation in Kern County, California!

Below is the synopsis as it appears on the movie’s website:

On the night John Stoll was roused from his bed and carted off to jail, his attitude bordered on the cavalier.
“Aren’t you worried?” His lawyer wondered.
“Hell no, I ain’t worried,” John answered. “I didn’t do this. You can’t convict me of something I didn’t do.”

It was more than two decades before John Stoll was free again.

Executive Producer Sean Penn proudly presents “Witch Hunt,” a gripping indictment of the United States justice system told through the lens of one small town. It’s John Stoll’s story, but it’s also the story of dozens of other men and women who found themselves ensnared in a spiral of fear, ignorance and hysteria. These people are Americans, working class moms and dads, who were rounded up with little or no evidence, charged and convicted of almost unimaginable crimes. All sexual. All crimes against children. Years, sometimes decades later, they would find freedom again, but their lives and the lives of their children would be changed forever. This film shows viewers what the real crime in this case is, not molestation, but the crime of coercion. Viewers hear from the child witnesses who were forced to lie on the witness stand as they describe scary sessions with sheriff’s deputies in which they were told — not asked — about sexual experiences that happened to them. Their coerced testimony led to dozens of convictions. Many times their own parents were the ones they put behind bars.

Soon after the trials, the children started to crack. They told adults of the lies they’d been forced to tell on the stand and hoped it would make a difference. It didn’t and the convicted continued to sit in prison. As the allegations grew more outlandish, California’s Attorney General wrote a scathing report on the court misconduct, but instead of being buried by criticism, Kern County District Attorney Ed Jagels thrived, doing what he did best– putting people away. He boasted one of the highest conviction rates in the country. This strategy served him well. Jagels is still in office today. Through new interviews, archival footage, and unflinching narration by Mr. Penn, the filmmakers construct an intimate film that illustrates a universal point; when power is allowed to exist without oversight from the press, the community or law enforcement, the rights of everyday citizens can be lost for decades. National film critic Marshall Fine says, “This is a chilling story about American law-enforcement run amok and untethered. It’s particularly timely in the wake of revelations about the way the Bush administration has trampled American civil rights. A movie that can’t help but move you – to tears and to action.”

I immediately purchased, and watched this movie…and, even having personally gone through a similar story, I find it frightening to think that this kind of thing can happen to anyone.  One of the most impactful quotes for me from this movie is from Jeff Modahl, who served 15 years in prison before his conviction was overturned.  Jeff speaks about false allegations and says, “This does happen – and it can be you, your neighbor, your son or daughter.  It can happen right now in your own home.  There’s no rhyme or reason why it happens.  If somebody wants to do it – it can happen.”

I highly recommend this movie to everyone.  It will certainly make you think twice, even three times, every time you hear an allegation!  For more information on the movie, and how it benefits the California Innocence Project, please click HERE.  To purchase the DVD, please click HERE, or to download from iTunes click HERE.

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Life goes on?

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

What do you do the day after you are accused of a horrible and unthinkable crime that you didn’t commit?  Where do you start?  Are there things you should be doing?  There is no handbook for this type of scenario.  But the thoughts about all the “what if’s” begin in your head.  How do you go on “if” you lose the career you had worked on for your entire life?  What if you lose your home…your savings…your friends…?  What is the penalty for this kind of crime?  Worst case scenarios start immediately.

The first thing I could think of was to try to figure out what yesterday really meant.  Is it a good thing that I was not arrested – just questioned and let go?  Did the detective actually know I was telling the truth like I thought he did?  Should I tell my friends what happened?  How do you figure all of this out?

Fortunately – my mother has a close friend who is an attorney, and a local level prosecutor.  While he never handles cases of this magnitude, he was an amazing source of information on how things like this work.  What he told us, though, was the start of my total disbelief in our justice system!  He told us, of course, that when an allegation like this is brought to the police, they have to fully investigate it.  That makes perfect sense to me.  I hope they would investigate something this serious…but what made no sense is that they owe the ‘accused’ no more explanation than that.  We learned that the techniques they use in their ‘interrogation’ are designed only to get a confession – NOT to determine the truth.  The detectives don’t even have to give factual information to you in an interrogation in order to get a confession.  They can tell you that there were accusations made that actually were not.  They can phrase questions in a way to lead you to believe things that are not true.  They can promise you things about “deals” and “everything will be ok” if you just confess.  They can outright lie about the reason you are being questioned…all are legally acceptable ‘interrogation techniques’.

After the interrogation, the police don’t ever have to follow-up with you again.  The advice we were given is that if we heard nothing more about this for the next 90 days it is safe to assume they have dropped the investigation.  But – there are no rules either – they can sit on the accusations for a year if they want before they decide to act.  If they decide they are dropping the case – they don’t tell the ‘accused’…so you spend your entire life wondering.  So – our friend’s advice was to just go on with life as if this never happened…because you may never hear anything about it again.  Easier said than done!

From this day forward, I feel like nothing will ever be the same.  Are phone calls being listened to?  Are emails being read?  Quick trips to the store for milk are no longer an easy thing to do.  You look at everyone in the store…do they know?  You scan cars in the parking lot looking for an unmarked police car…are they watching me?  Leaving your house to check the mail raises so many new questions…  Who was in that car that just drove by?  Did I see a neighbor watching me from their window?  And forget about going out to eat…  A knock on the door makes your heart skip a beat every time…is this the knock before they arrest me?

But as the days and weeks go by – it actually becomes easier.  I return to work quickly – and it seems like nothing has changed at all.  No one seems to know.  Day to day activities become easier again as well.  I feel like I am not watching over my shoulder all the time anymore.  Christmas and New Years come and go.  Activities with friends and family happen as they always have.  My life actually feels like everything is back to normal now!  This has to be a good thing…right?

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Breaking the News

Please Note: Posts in the ‘My Story’ page always have the newest post on the top. If you would like to read the story from the beginning – start with “An Introduction”. Thanks for reading! ~IWFA

I had just been told by detectives that I was accused of sexually abusing a child.  Worse yet – accused by a friend…someone who I considered to be my family.  And…I did not do it!

What do you do when something like this happens to you?  This is something you aren’t taught in school.  What you are taught, though, by society…what you see in the media every day…is that “these people” – those accused of crimes like this – no longer have a life.  They are shunned by family, by friends, by the community.  They are the targets of violence.  They lose everything.  They live meaningless lives in dingy motels –  if they even survive the decades of abuse in prison.  What is going to happen to my life that I worked so hard to be successful at?  I strived to be a moral and ethical person every day.  I made the right decisions.  What about my career?  It is all I know and love.  My house?  My friends…what will they think?  Will they believe me?  My family – how do I even begin to tell my family about this?

As I get in my car to drive away from the prosecutor’s office I am numb.  I don’t know where I should go.  I don’t know who I should call.  I don’t know if I am even able to drive.  I remember turning my phone back on.  The detectives had made me turn it off earlier because it kept ringing.  There were so many messages from work…from my boss.  I had left hours ago to address what I thought was a simple problem with John.  I did not have a position where I could ignore these types of phone calls…but I went missing to them for 6 hours!  And at that point I couldn’t bear to return those calls.

I remember starting to drive towards home, making the turn out of that parking lot…and nothing else.  I don’t know how I arrived safely!  When I walked in my door John was sitting on the couch.  He didn’t expect for me to be able to come home, and jumped into my arms…and we both started crying.  I told him my life was over…everything I had worked for was gone!  I don’t remember much from that day…but I will never forget John saying to me at that moment “no one will believe it”.

Then, I remember feeling sick…almost feelingless…like I was watching all this happen from the outside somehow as the gravity of this allegation really started to sink in.  I climbed the stairs and got into bed.  I just wanted all of this to be over.  Before too long (I think..time seemed to stand still for a couple days) my best friend Charles was standing in my room with John.  I am told that I called him on the drive home, but I don’t remember that phone call.  He was at work, and immediately left without explanation to come make sure I was ok.  What a friend!  He asked me if I had told my parents what happened.  I told him there was no way I could tell them…how do you have that conversation?  I couldn’t do it.  Charles left my house – drove to my mother’s house – and told them the news.  Before too long he returned with my mom and step-dad.  She was crying…he was cursing about Michael – about how we let him into our family – took care of him when his own family didn’t – and now he does this.

I remember my mother saying “if you are innocent then you need to go on with your life”.  She said “you get up tomorrow morning and live like you are innocent”.  I shared my fears about my life…my job…my house…my friends.  This began what turned into an all-night discussion.  I called my boss, who arrived at my house in minutes.  John’s mom showed up soon after.  I called my immediate ex-girlfriend…she had a young son, so I thought she needed to hear about this directly from me.  She also dropped what she was doing and came right over.  The group of us sat around and talked all night.  My boss thought it was outrageous – he told me to take whatever time off I needed, and whenever I was ready to come back to just do so.  My girlfriend was extraordinarily supportive.  She told me there was no way she would have believed it no matter how she heard – and that no one else that knew me would either.

While this should have taken away some of the edge because two of my biggest concerns really didn’t seem to be there anymore…nothing too much had changed for me mentally.  I reached a point where I just could no longer think about it…I could no longer function.  I went to bed thinking “NOW WHAT”.  What do I do when I wake up tomorrow?  What happens next?  Will everyone know?  Now what?

If you enjoy following my story please subscribe to this site by entering your email address at the very bottom of the page – then you will be notified immediately of new posts!  You can always unsubscribe at anytime! ~ IWFA Blog

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Gregory Taylor’s first day of freedom is a whirlwind

A news report from 2/18/10 that highlights some of the effects of a wrongful conviction! Click the article title below to be redirected to the full story, with video of his interview.

Gregory Taylor’s first day of freedom is a whirlwind

RALEIGH, N.C. — For his first full day of freedom in more than 16 years, Greg Taylor woke up and hit the gym for the same upper-body workout he did every Thursday in his cell.

Then he shook off the one thing he believes publicly branded him as a former prisoner: his eyewear.

After breakfast and a shower, he went to an eyeglass store in Durham to replace the thick, tortoise-shell frames given to prisoners with a pair of oval-shaped, chocolate-colored wire frames that more suit his long, narrow face.

It wasn’t just that the glasses were unfashionable, he said.

It’s what they said about him and his conviction in the beating death of a prostitute in Raleigh in 1991. Three judges decided Wednesday he was innocent of that crime and released him from his life sentence.

“People can look at them and say, ‘he just got out of prison,'” Taylor said. “I want to get rid of these.”

Taylor spoke to reporters while holding the hand of his 26-year-old daughter, Kristen Puryear, and pushing a stroller carrying his 23-month-old grandson, Charles.

He counted off all the loved ones he lost while behind bars: a grandmother, a sister, three uncles, a cousin, a dog and two cats. But it was when he discussed the happy events he missed that he choked up.

“Her 10th birthday party,” he said of his daughter.

“Her high school graduation was a big one,” he said. “These are the things you can’t get back.”

He also went back to prison – the Johnston County Correctional Center – to collect his personal belongings, some money in a prison trust fund and a $45 gate check that all prisoners who’ve served two years or more receive when they leave.

For Taylor, the trip was definitely different – after spending the last nine years beyond the facility’s barbed-wire fence.

“It’s a different perspective, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’m looking at the same fence, but from the other side, it doesn’t look familiar at all.”

Taylor also met with someone who was part of the chain of events leading to his exoneration: former state Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr., who launched the study panel that led to creating the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

Taylor’s case was the first exoneration to result from the work of the commission, which is the only state-run agency in the country dedicated to proving a convicted person’s innocence.

If the governor grants Taylor a pardon, he can apply for compensation from the state Industrial Commission for $50,000 a year up to a maximum of $750,000.

The rest of the day was a whirlwind catching up to a world that changed quickly in the time he was locked away.

In the gym, he found a spacious room with a wall of mirrors, banks of exercise equipment and state-of-the-art weights instead of an outdoor space with a view of a guard tower.

Before a technician examined his eyes at the store in Durham, Taylor had to sign his name on a computer screen. “I don’t understand,” he said before figuring it out.

Although he has read numerous books on computer programming, Taylor saw the Internet for the first time Wednesday night when his daughter gave him a brief tutorial on his laptop.

She updated his wardrobe with jeans, a black polo shirt and boxer-briefs, which he had never worn. He could only surmise that she didn’t know if he preferred boxers or briefs, so she split the difference.

When a friend tried to explain how a thumb drive would extend the storage space of his newly purchased digital camera, Taylor responded: “Oh, so it’s like film?”

His lack of knowledge about cell phones – he saw his first one this week – overwhelmed the sales clerk. “Wow. I don’t even know where to start,” she said.

All the bright and shiny newness seemed to take a toll on Taylor. “Everything has been smell and see and hear – no thoughts,” he said.

He slept with a light on Wednesday night, not so much a reaction to brightly lit prison cells, but because he wanted to be able to see the new surroundings of his daughter’s house if he woke up during the night. And it felt strange to shower in his bare feet after wearing flip-flops in the shower for so long.

“Do you wear shoes in the shower?” he asked two reporters

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