I am writing about my personal prosecution experience.
When we left the Courtroom after I could hardly move from hearing the verdict, my husband could not seem to find his way home. Literally. He went around in circles a few times, until I asked him if he wanted me to drive. It was one of the few words uttered during the 30 minute drive home. I think my husband knew, there was not much to say. He was a bit angry that my attorney didn’t allow him in the Courtroom during the trial, so he didn’t know much about how it had played out besides my brief daily report.
As we arrived home, I went to my room to lay down for as long as I wanted to. No plans to do anything or talk to anyone. Just rest and be still.
The phone was ringing and people stopped by. I was on the local evening news. I was oblivious to it all until my husband said something about what to tell the kids about the verdict. I sat up straight in bed and said, we are not going to tell them anything at this time. I will explain to their teachers and parents of their friends as needed. There was no reason to alarm the kids. Period.
I had read my daily faith email on the day of the verdict and it said that I would be tested at trial. It definitely felt like I had been tested.
The day after the verdict, my husband asked me why I got up. Why didn’t I just pull the sheets up over me and stay there? My 5 year old daughter saw that I wasn’t dressed up as usual and asked me if I could walk her to school. I thought that was the best offer I had heard in a long time and said that I would love to do that. In that moment, my daughter helped set the tone for possibilities, one day at a time. Get up and do what you can that day. Within a week or so, I started to learn some of my options. With a guilty verdict, the battle got steeper, but the truth hadn’t changed.
I received a big thick package from the US Department of Justice in the mail within a short time after the verdict. I wasn’t expecting anything and I had learned to hate getting 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 a sentencing package. Wow, this was pretty gut-wrenching to see all the things I was found guilty of and what they 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. Prior to the Government trial, there was supposed to be an investor arbitration, but the prosecutor intervened and asked the Court to postpone it until after the Government trial to somehow avoid confusion. I didn’t see why there should be confusion, the facts don’t change. The facts help alleviate confusion. The same cooperating Government witnesses that testified against me were going to be sitting beside me at arbitration, defending themselves.
After the trial, the Judge had given us plenty of time to file a Rule 29/33 to set aside the jury verdict and/or have a new trial. The deadline was approaching and we had to submit our brief on the same day that I was diagnosed with pneumonia and told to stay in bed for a few days. I was literally sick and tired, but I spent the day at my attorney’s office, as I was asked to do to make sure that the filing was complete.
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.
I felt like I had never felt before. It’s hard to put into words. On one hand I had never worked so hard at anything in my life, so it showed me that I had a capacity to do things well beyond what I had ever imagined. On the other hand, I failed. I was found guilty of a crime I didn’t commit. What comforted me the most was my faith and the fact that I had done all that I could. I was not responsible for the results.
Can you just look at what can I do today and not get distracted by much of anything else?