Smith County Justice
I co-signed a small business loan with my ex-wife several years ago. After a couple of years, she left me and I could not continue to repay the loan. The bank tried to sue me for the balance of the loan. Under specific attorney advice, I filed for bankruptcy. Several days later, I was arrested for two counts of felony theft! This was a complete surprise, because absolutely everyone that I consulted with about this assured me that this was a civil matter and that I could never go to jail for it.
Wrong!!! They have never dealt with Smith County! In case you don’t know, Smith County Texas has it’s “own brand of justice”.
I had never been in any kind of trouble with the law before in my life. I was in my early thirty’s and had a professional degree; and, was a licensed chiropractor.
Of course, due to my lack of knowledge and interaction with law enforcement, I was scared. I quickly bonded out on a $5K bail-bond. I began making phone calls and showed up before the court as instructed. When I arrived, they called out my name on the docket and yelled out, “are you here for RAPE”???
I quietly said, “no”. I was beet-red–of that I am certain.
I told them I was being charged with felony theft, but had not stolen anything at all.
The coordinator looked over some papers, and then said, “oh, we are dropping those charges. The case will be thrown out due to lack of evidence.”
I was relieved. I knew I had done nothing criminal! Irresponsible, perhaps…but not criminal.
That relief lasted a full five seconds.
The court coordinator looked at me snidely, and said, “oh, don’t worry, we will find something to charge you with that we can make stick!”
For the next three years, I was kept under perpetual indictment for “Hindering Secured Creditors”. Now, there was evidence placed before the judge that there was no hindering whatsoever. Additionally, attorney’s made it known to the judge that Southside Bank was in fact NOT a secured creditor. He did not care. They scheduled me for court once a month like clock work. I had to drive about twenty hours round trip each time. Each time I presented in court, I was sent away. I was told that there was not enough evidence to proceed, and that they would re-set my appearance for the following month. This continued until finally, I was unable to appear. This began a vicious cycle of being arrested every time I was unable to appear in court–even when I would call before hand and get permission from the court for a continuance. Each time I was arrested, the bond jumped up. Seventy five thousand. Two hundred thousand. And, ultimately no bond.
I was illegally extradited THREE times within the State of Texas!!!
This was destroying my life, my career, my family, trust of friends, etc. It made me begin to do things that were not desirable, such as doing drugs and drinking a lot. I have been clean and sober for several years now, however.
I was horrified of law enforcement. And, it did not matter where I went, because the “long arm” of Smith County was always there. Always communicating with the local officers and agencies of whatever town I was living and working in…good ‘ol boys style.
I could go on and on; however, for time’s sake, I will just say that once all of this had taken its toll on me and my life, I had accumulated about two year’s worth of jail time without ever having gone to trial, or being proven guilty of anything!
I was shifted around from county to county. Court dates were delayed. You name it, it happened to me. They made sure of that. I was even beaten by gang members. I slept beside murderers and molesters. God Forgive them all.
When I finally got before the judge after all of this time, I was influenced to “TAKE” a “deal”. I was offered “time-served” for a twelve month sentence. I had accumulated double that much time in incarceration. I was told that it would all be over; and, that I would get to go home that day. All I had to do was “sign”.
I broke. I signed.
I was sent back to jail. I was transferred and stored in another county for a couple of more months. I was then sent back to Smith County, where I fully expected to be released. I was not.
I was transferred yet again to State Jail. Prison.
I was held for about one month; and, then–finally–released.
It was supposed to be over at that point. It was just the beginning. When I notified my State license board of my situation they revoked my professional license.
Everything escalated from there.
Now it is difficult for me to find any kind of long-term permanent full time employment that pays decent. They all run third-party “consumer” background checks these days. BTW, this “conviction” only shows up on those reports. That’s right, the Texas DPS does not even have it on record in the State Criminal History report!!! I believe this is because Smith County did not report it properly to the State, but rather handled this bogus case “in house”, so to speak. I have also been denied my own place to live (rent) for myself and my daughter because they also ran one of those third party checks. Everything was fine until they found out I was a “criminal”. They refuse to rent to criminals. Even though the charge was false, and the sentence nonetheless has been satisfied.
It has been about five years since the disposition date of my one and only felony conviction and it still haunts me everyday. I am told that this can not be expunged, sealed, non-disclosed, pardoned, etc. etc. I do not understand this. No one would want or need to do this with a non-conviction–but it seems that this is what it takes to qualify! It does not make sense. If they had ever told me that this would be an unspoken addition to my sentence, I would have refused to ever agree to take that “deal”, like I did with about a half a dozen other bogus charges they tried to stick me with over that three year period. Funny how those just “went away” when I refused to admit guilt. None of them are on my record, with the exception of two dismissed/discharged incidences. And, people still try to look at those as “convictions”, regardless of the fact that they are clearly marked “quashed”, “dismissed”, “discharged”, etc.
The biggest irony is that much like the prosecutor openly admitted in court–absolutely none of these people that are looking down their noses at me, denying me employment or housing, and labeling me a “criminal”–even have a clue as to what “Hindering a Secured Creditor” IS!!! It was a bogus charge to attempt to collect and prosecute for a civil bank loan. That’s what it is. Nothing more.
They just pay a couple of bucks to get an inaccurate printout that they can read saying I have a felony conviction. Then they file it away with their denial as support of their decision and judgment.
The sad thing is that I am very capable of performing almost any job in the world. I am extremely loyal, with a strong work ethic. I am the type of person that goes above and beyond what is expected. I am honest and trustworthy. I would not take a penny that I found on the floor that did not belong to me. Most of all, I have not had so much as a ticket since all of this was “over”; and, I never intend to again. If you have even spent anytime in jail for something you did not do, then you know exactly what I am talking about. There is no way I would ever willingly commit a crime. People should take this into consideration when hiring someone. You don’t hear about “that ex-felon did this or that at work when they were given a second-chance”…because it is rare that they get second chances. And when they do, they have something to prove. They stay to themselves and they do their work. Period. No, what you hear about constantly in the news is “we never saw it coming!” Or, “he was such a nice guy. A good person.” Until he shot up the office, or blew up his family. Those are the one’s we should watch out for–not the one’s who are rehabilitated; or, attempting to be.
The truth of the matter, unfortunately, is that society judges without proper knowledge and consideration. People are quick to point the finger at others. What they do not realize is that when you do that, three fingers are inherently pointing back at you. This kind of mentality and ignorance actually contributes to the elevation of re-peat criminals (truly guilty) and revisits to crime and prison for the majority of the population. What else are they supposed to do when they can’t work, can’t live, and are oppressed? Repeat business is good for the human storage institutions, though, isn’t it? Perhaps this is why they keep a man down when he’s down. Well, I am not that man.
One day soon, everything will be considered “Illegal” and everyone with be considered a criminal. In fact, no one is completely innocent. Everyone has broken at least one law in their lifetime. They have simply not been the “unfortunate” ones to have been caught….YET. They live in a much nicer, much more controlled “prison”.
What my experience did for me was to bring me to rock bottom. Like so many, I found that when you are on your knees is when you learn to stand. When you are at your weakest, GOD shows His strength in you and through you.
So, I am thankful for that and I know that this life is temporary. I am focused ahead, I trust my Creator. He will never leave nor forsake me, as society clearly chooses to do. For that, I am truly thankful.
I would like to close by reminding each and every conscience out there that this world is in fact a prison. It just has a nice blue roof on top. One Day Soon, this too shall pass, and it will be revealed that EACH and EVERY person alive and dead is a LAW BREAKER. Judge not, lest YE BE JUDGED–and everyone will be.
Thanks for reading the short version of my story.