I am describing a federal criminal prosecution I was involved with many years ago. I was innocent.
If you read my blog regularly, I apologize for the delay from my last blog. The last one got me. I have never been able to get the words out until now and it’s not “smooth”. Subconsciously, I think I was waiting to be bulletproof. That day will never come.
I received a big thick package from the US Department of Justice in the mail. I wasn’t expecting anything and I had learned to strongly dislike getting the mail. Sometimes one of my three young kids would bring me the mail and see that it was a big package thinking, the bigger, the better and they would hand it to me with wide-eyed anticipation of something “cool” inside. As I glanced at the return address, I knew they would be irritated with me when I would not open it in front of them.
I took the package and went and sat on the back steps alone. This looked like a serious package.
I opened it to find that it was my sentencing package. Wow, this was pretty gut-wrenching to see all the things I was found guilty of and what the Government could do to me if they got their way – all in black in white. I read through the description of the crimes I had not committed and how many years of prison time I could serve while listening to my kids playing in the next room. I read a little of the sentencing information and tempered my review to keep my emotions in check. It was a remarkably similar feeling to the day that the prosecutor called me years ago to tell me that I was the target of an investigation – that same overwhelming disbelief. I felt the weight of the package in my hand and it felt very, very heavy to me.
The Government wanted to get on with sentencing as soon as possible, in part, I believed because an investor arbitration was scheduled soon. The same cooperating Government witnesses that testified against me at trial were going to be sitting beside me, defending themselves. What an odd situation, I thought.
In spite of an arbitration and Rule 29/33 filing, I was told that I had to start asking my friends, family, and former co-workers for character letters. My attorney said that if sentencing were to take place, it was possible we wouldn’t have much notice. I should be prepared with these letters. If I were to get sentenced, I would produce these character letters to the Court. I would assimilate that whole process to asking people what they would say at your funeral. I am not kidding. You will probably never truly know what people think of you until you are dead or in such an unusual situation as this.
People that had known me for years or not long at all were shocked by what was happening to me. It put them in a tough spot with our relationships. They had to think about – did they not really know me and I was really a criminal OR did the Government convict an innocent person? Either way, there was an unsettling feeling on both sides. It was hard to ask for character letters and I would imagine equally hard to respond, even with the best relationships.
It was difficult and humbling to keep everyone up with what was going on with the case, so I answered the questions that I was asked, but I didn’t update everyone with each new development – partly because I didn’t really have the time and partly because it was just plain difficult to put it into words. My emotional energy was waning and I needed to protect my strength.
With my husband being so fearful, I was constantly confronted with his “what-if’s” for the future. I couldn’t go there either, all I had was “that day” and I wanted to live my life the best I could. When you are full of fear, often that is an overwhelming emotion and you don’t feel other things. I just didn’t want to do that.
I collected over 45 character letters in a few weeks. I still didn’t like to get mail. I would recognize the character letters when they came in the mail, but at first, I couldn’t open them. I would put them in a big envelope when I got them. I knew each one was a potential personal lifeline. I did open the letters eventually. I chose not to read the letters much. It broke my heart for both of us.
How would some best rescue you and would you let them?