A Seattle man who was given a second chance at freedom -- and half a million dollars -- after a wrongful conviction landed him in prison, is headed back behind bars for selling drugs and a gun to an undercover informant.
In 2013, the man was released after a decade in prison when the local Innocence Project made the case that the wrong man had been convicted of a robbery and assault. A year later, the man was awarded almost $500,000 from the state of Washington as recompense for the mistake. He was the first person to receive money from a wrongful-conviction compensation law passed in 2013.
The law allows those wrongfully convicted to collect damages from the state. In order to qualify for the money, the conviction would have to be overturned based on significant evidence of innocence, not a legal technicality. Those former inmates who are awarded money get $50,000 for each year of imprisonment and $25,000 for each year on parole. The state also pays as much as $75,000 for attorney's fees and child support owed while the person was in prison.
In 2003, the man was sentenced to 16½ years in prison after he was convicted by a jury of burglary and assault. However, the conviction was based solely on eyewitness testimony. After taking on the case in 2012, members of the Innocence Project proved the man had an alibi for the time the crimes were committed. The evidence was enough to convince a judge to vacate the conviction, dismiss the charges and order the man released from prison.
At the time, the man had big plans to get his life on track. But, this month -- two years ago after receiving the compensation -- he found himself in court again, pleading guilty before a federal court judge to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He now faces up to 10 more years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, a second firearm-related charge will be dismissed if he pleads guilty to two state felony charges -- possession of stolen property and vehicle prowl.
The charges stem from a January incident in which the man sold methamphetamine and a handgun to an undercover police informant. Through the informant, police learned the man also drove a getaway car after a burglary and was selling stolen firearms, including handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles. Before selling the police informant a handgun, he sold him a rifle similar to an AK-47.
The man was arrested along with three other people after police suspected they committed a burglary. A safe was found in the back of their vehicle and in the man's possession was a handgun, cash, brass knuckles, several ounces of methamphetamine and a small amount of heroin. In addition to selling drugs, police suspect the man was using them.
Despite the circumstances, everyone deserves a quality defense. If you are facing criminal charges in Washington State, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.