“Shall I begin with the good or bad news?” I asked my sister yesterday.
“The good news,” she answered without hesitation. She’s an optimist.
I explained to her that I had agreed some months ago to purchase 20 acres of land on the northeast corner of the present land holdings of the Estrella Vista Trust, but had not yet begun making payments on it. The addition of this parcel, which has on it a deep arroyo which is one of the most interesting nearby natural features, would bring our total land holdings at Estrella Vista to 80 acres. The land owners, Cynthia and Les, have become loyal readers of the blog and supporters of our kids since we met over a year ago.
“I just heard today that they no longer want to sell me the land. They want to contribute it in support of our work for the kids.” Cynthia and Les believe in the vision of Estrella Vista becoming a permanent physical anchor in the lives of the kids we serve.
Cynthia asked me to add this statement to the post: “We are offering the land in hope of generational healing. The land was a gift to us from my father. Now we pass it along to you and the young people in the hope that all will receive solace, wisdom and healing. May the chains of abuse & suffering be broken. May there be a legacy of healing in their place. May the beauty of the land open as many hearts as there are stars in the night sky at Estrella Vista.”
This is a big public “Thank You” to Cynthia and Les. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for pushing us forward towards our vision. You truly are the wind in our sails!
With each new case we keep refining the model of how The Redemption Project works with attorneys, consultants, and others who comprise the support teams to help our kids. From the beginning, I have always made an effort to seek out “world class” talent when assembling these teams. I keep asking myself, ‘If I were a “rich dad” defending my own child, who would I ask for help if money and distance were no object?’
It has surprised me that upper-echelon professionals have been just as accessible to us as the also-rans, and just as affordable if not more so. They’re certainly a lot more fun to work with, and we learn a lot from them, too. When we have not stuck to this standard of only working with the best, the only things we’ve learned are hard-knock lessons.
I spent a good chunk of the last couple months helping convince Bill Kutmus, the top criminal defense lawyer in Iowa, to take the case of 13-year-old Noah Crooks. Noah is accused of having killed his mother Gretchen on March 24. After agreeing to take the case, Bill asked me to identify the best expert witness in a particular discipline and see what it would take to involve him or her in Noah’s defense.
Following up on a lead provided by a knowledgeable Diary reader, I learned that the best such expert in the world is in Europe. Hmmm… we talk about adhering to “world class” standards… here was a test of that commitment… so I contacted him.
We talked yesterday and had just concluded our conversation when Bill Kutmus called me to check on my progress. I was pleased to be able to tell him, “He’s intrigued with Noah’s case in the same way you are.” The two of them will be talking soon. All the extra it will cost us to engage this man instead of a US-based expert is the cost of a round-trip air fare. And this guy is the best in the whole world!
I feel very good about this. Noah Crooks has the full weight of the state against him. He will need the best of everything for an effective defense.
Now for the bad news. I spent a whole week trying to engage one of the best lawyers in America to take over James Prindle’s case. He needed to have half his fee in hand before committing to us, I appealed to past donors of large gifts for their help, almost all of them responded, but their gifts and pledges only got us halfway to where we needed to be. I was promised more help in the future. I asked this lawyer if he would commit on the basis of the financial commitments we had already secured, and he said no. Not our guy.
So I am now waiting for the return calls of four Tennessee law firms to which I have placed calls, and we are still officially represented by an untrustworthy lawyer who has apparently been co-opted by the prosecution through the actions of former prosecutor Judge Bobby Carter.
James’ sentencing hearing is tomorrow, our informant is feeding us additional information about the circumstances contributing to Neily Shea’s assault—information the police failed to turn up in their “investigation”—and no one in authority in Memphis wants to hear anything about this or the real perpetrator. (I now have a photograph of Deep Throat and other information about him which confirm that this guy knows what he is talking about.) This case involves more than the assault of Neily Shea Sanders. It involves the drug trade and child sex trafficking.
It is clear to me that the Memphis authorities do not care a stitch about understanding the full scope of what contributed to this crime or punishing the right persons—James is nothing to them but a “throw-away kid” who will do just fine as a scapegoat.
However things go tomorrow morning, we will only intensify our efforts to break open the real truth behind this shameful legal sham and the people and interests it is protecting.
I have just received a phone call from Major Polk of the Memphis Police Department. He asked for my e-mail address so the MPD’s public information office can provide a written statement, presumably explaining why they are doing nothing to learn the truth (although they won’t explain it that way). He promised it would arrive later this afternoon. I will reprint it here when it is received.
5:11 pm - Still no statement from MPD Public Information Office.
6:31 pm – Still no statement.
7:29 pm – Ditto.
8:23 pm – It’s obviously not coming. I’m going to take a nap.
It’s 9:40 pm and Stephen just called to say that Claiborne Ferguson finally answered his phone. Stephen called to tell Ferguson he was fired.
“I can’t leave the case. I’m on the hook. I’ve been appointed by the court,” he said.
Stephen answered that James wants him fired, too.
“You still owe me the balance of my fees,” Ferguson reportedly said.
“We’re not paying you a dime. You screwed up the case,” Stephen replied. He didn’t tell Ferguson that the donor who paid the bulk of Ferguson’s fees on the front end wants his pledge for the back end to be used to punish Ferguson for his betrayal of our and James’ trust.
“I guess I’ll be seeing you in court,” Ferguson said and hung up.
Whatever. He’s on Bobby Carter’s payroll, not ours. Carter is his client now. Let Carter pay him for services rendered. He certainly wasn’t working for us or for James.
This is one of those hard-knock lessons I told you about.
I suppose it is a virtue that we have been able to accomplish so much with volunteers and meager financial resources, but this week we are seeing the limits of this approach. If we had an extra $10,000 in our accounts, we would have been able to hire one of the best attorneys in America to stand beside James tomorrow morning as Bobby Carter passes his sentence. But as the situation is right now, James will be standing alone.
We have tried our best, but it was not sufficient. An innocent kid will be sent to a dangerous prison where who-knows-what horrors await him. This judge will not entertain sending James to Boys Town, no matter how much it will benefit James or save Tennessee taxpayers money.
The road ahead in exonerating James will be long and costly. Given the level of official intransigence we have seen so far, the road will be very difficult, too.
As so many things go in this imperfect world, it all boils down to money. Money, not as a solution in itself, but as a tool to be used to save kids like James from suffering they do not deserve. Will you please consider sending us a gift at this time so that we can help our kids when the help most counts?
One of the most inspiring things about this work is how hundreds of complete strangers reach out to help our kids. Even when the System fails to do the right thing, these strangers know what is right and push to make it happen. We “strangers” are a lifeline for our kids and for justice.
Will you please reach out today?
Groove of the Day