Prisonist.org: Edited by Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, Executive Director of Family ReEntry, serving the CT Criminal Justice Community & Co-Founder of Progressive Prison Ministries, the First Ministry in the U.S. Created to Support Individuals, Families & Organizations with White-Collar and Other Nonviolent Incarceration Issues.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Going Up The Country, By Jeff Grant

Progressive Prison Project
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut
 
 
Going Up The Country
 
By Jeff Grant 


Sat., Oct. 26th, Weston, CT:  Up again way too early this morning - I can't believe it's already been a month since The Nantucket Project and I haven't posted a word of my own on this blog... 
 
Maybe it's blog burn-out?  It was certainly a labor of love banging out daily blog posts from Nantucket (thank you to all our friends who texted & emailed us back your thoughts & comments, very much appreciated as always!).  Or, maybe, it's just that Lynn and I just haven't slowed down a bit.  We've been busy (probably too busy). 

We've moved. Yep, after almost thirty years in Greenwich/Rye - the last nine years together - Lynn & I have pulled up stakes and we've gone up the country.  Weston, Connecticut is not so far from Greenwich, but many of our dearest friends live there so of course we are sad to leave you.  But we have still have ministries in Greenwich so we will see you.  As you know, we have ministries in Bridgeport - and we travel pretty much all over the state on any given day - so Weston is a much more central location  (and we've already discovered local budget eating like Orem's Diner and take home from Peter's - more suggestions are welcomed).  Please call & visit soon.  
 
Last Weds. evening we held the first "The Art of Surviving Prison" Workshop at The First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan - Lynn, Lynn's mom Mimi (visiting from Mesa, AZ), and our friends Maria & Dan were there in support.  It was part of a Weds. evening Religion & Race Adult Education series run by the church - there was a really terrific turnout of people from church and community who were very interested in prison issues and social justice.  Thanks to Rev. Paul Gilmore for the invitation and hospitality. 
 
We've been to all sorts of interesting places - the Family ReEntry Benefit was a smash!  Our thanks to Tony Kiniry for inviting us to the dedication of Pivot Ministries' new house on the East Side of Bridgeport (we caught up with Mayor Bill Finch there too!)  Pivot & the Prison Ministries of the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport have collaborated on a couple of projects recently.  We together brought a Faith-based ATR-III site to Bridgeport (it's now open at Pivot) and we started a new Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every Wednesday at noon at the church, 126 Washington Ave. All good stuff.
 
Our thanks to Tina Daniels for the invite to the Women's Prison Assn. Dinner at the Central Park Boathouse.  It was inspiring to hear the stories of women ex-offenders who have been helped by this important organization.  And we finally got to meet Piper Kerman too, a trailblazer in public awareness of our mission!  Piper alert number two: Community Partners in Action will be hosting Piper as the speaker on December 12th at Hartford Stage - I'm looking forward to being with her again and hearing her important message. 
 
The morning after Piper, on Dec. 13th at 6:30 am, we will back in Greenwich at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club for the Greenwich Leadership Forum.  David Miller, the Director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative hosts GLF - he will be interviewing me in front of this gathering of good people who have committed to ethical business practices.  David is a beautiful, righteous man and reverend - for example, he took the train up from Princeton at his own expense to give the Homily at our dear friend Bob Lister's funeral.  I'd better be on my toes that early in the morning - David asks probing and evocative questions. 
 
Last, but certainly not least, after moving, we are getting to spend some quality time with friends and family.  This weekend we are going up to Saratoga to be with family; next weekend I will be officiating at the wedding of dear college friends' children (yep, we're that old) and then a visit to Florida to be with more family.  We feel blessed to be living a life of service and abundance. 
 
May God bless you and keep you always. 
 
___________________

Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA  06604
 
(0) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Sunday, October 20, 2013

WSJ: How Prosecutors Rig Trials by Freezing Assets, By Harvey Silverglate


.

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut


This article is so important to the families 
of people accused of white collar 
and other nonviolent crimes that I offer 
it here for your consideration - Jeff


WALL STREET JOURNAL OPINION  
October 6, 2013, 7:13 p.m. ET 

How Prosecutors Rig Trials by Freezing Assets 

Is it fair to seize all a defendant owns without showing its criminal source? The Supreme Court will rule.

by, Harvey Silverglate

On Oct. 16, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a claim brought by husband and wife Brian and Kerri Kaley. The Kaleys are asking the high court to answer a serious and hotly contested question in the federal criminal justice system: Does the Constitution allow federal prosecutors to seize or freeze a defendant's assets before the prosecution has shown at a pretrial hearing that those assets were illegally obtained? 

Such asset freezes often prevent a defendant from hiring the trial counsel of his choice to mount a vigorous defense, thus increasing the likelihood of the government extracting a guilty plea or verdict. Because asset forfeiture almost automatically follows conviction, a pretrial freeze ultimately enables the Justice Department to grab the frozen assets for use by executive-branch law enforcement agencies. It is a neat, vicious circle. 

What crimes are the Kaleys charged with? Kerri Kaley was a sales representative for a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson . Beginning in 2005, the feds in Florida investigated her, her husband Brian, and other sales reps for reselling medical devices given to them by hospitals. The hospitals had previously bought and stocked the devices but no longer needed or wanted the overstock since the company was offering new products. Knowing that the J&J subsidiary had already been paid for the now-obsolete products and was focused instead on selling new models, the sales reps resold the old devices and kept the proceeds. 

The feds had various theories for why this "gray market" activity was a crime, even though prosecutors could not agree on who owned the overstocked devices and, by extension, who were the supposed victims of the Kaleys' alleged thefts. The J&J subsidiary never claimed to be a victim. 

The Kaleys were confident that they would prevail at trial if they could retain their preferred lawyers. A third defendant did go to trial with her counsel of choice and was acquitted. But the Justice Department made it impossible for the Kaleys to pay their chosen lawyers for trial. 
 
The government insisted that as long as the Kaleys' assets—including bank accounts and their home— could be traced to the sale of the medical devices, all of those assets could be frozen. The Kaleys were not allowed to go a step further and show that their activities were in no way criminal, since this would be determined by a trial. But the Kaleys insisted that if the government wanted to freeze their funds, the court had to hold a pretrial hearing on the question of the legality of how the funds were earned. 

The Kaleys complained that the asset freeze effectively deprived them of their Sixth Amendment right to the counsel of their choice—the couple couldn't afford to hire the defense that they wanted. Prosecutors and the trial judge responded that the Kaleys could proceed with a public defender. This wouldn't have been an encouraging prospect for them, for while public counsel is often quite skilled, such legal aid wouldn't meet the requirements the Kaleys believed they needed for this complex defense. Choice of counsel in a free society, one would think, lies with the defendant, not with the prosecutor or the judge. (The Kaleys' chosen trial lawyers have agreed to stick with the case during the pretrial tussling over the asset-freeze question, but trying the case before a jury would be much more expensive and would require the frozen funds.) 

Federal asset-forfeiture statutes like the one the Kaleys are fighting are actually a relatively recent invention. Before 1970, when Congress adopted the first provisions seeking to strip organized-crime figures of ill-gotten racketeering gains, there were no such laws (with the exception of the Civil War-era Confiscation Acts providing for the forfeiture of property of Confederate soldiers). 

Since 1970, however, such federal statutes have expanded to cover a breathtaking number of crimes, from the sale of fraudulent passports and contraband cigarettes right up to murder and drug trafficking. An authoritative treatise, the 4th edition of the encyclopedia "Federal Practice & Procedure," asserts that federal forfeiture is now available "for almost every crime." In January, the New York Times quoted Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as saying that asset forfeiture is "an important part of the culture" and "an example of the government being efficient and bringing home the bacon." In 2012 alone, federal prosecutors seized more than $4 billion in assets. The Justice Department is allowed by law to put that bacon to use however prosecutors wish—to pay informants, provide snazzy cars to cooperating witnesses, whatever. 

The Kaleys are hardly alone. The recently completed prosecution of Conrad Black indicates starkly how such seizures can torpedo a defendant's chance of getting a fair trial. In his 2007 high-profile case, Mr. Black, a former newspaper publisher indicted for alleged fraud and related crimes in the sale of Hollinger International, endured a federal freeze of his major unencumbered asset, the cash proceeds from the sale of his New York City apartment. That freeze prevented him from being able to retain the legal counsel upon whom he had relied before the asset freeze. 

Mr. Black ultimately was convicted on two counts, winning on all the others in a shifting array of counts that numbered more than a dozen. Last year, having served his 42-month prison sentence, he filed a petition in federal court seeking to vacate his convictions on the ground that the government's asset- forfeiture tactics had deprived him of his counsel of choice. That effort foundered when the judge concluded that Mr. Black's trial counsel—not his counsel of choice, it must be noted, but rather the counsel he could afford after the asset freeze—had failed to properly raise and hence preserve the issue for later appellate review. 
 
The Supreme Court has now threatened to upset the game that is so lucrative for the government and disabling for defendants. On March 18, the court agreed to consider the Kaleys' claim that the asset freeze without a hearing on the merits of the underlying criminal charge violated their constitutional rights. At oral argument in mid-October, the broader question will be whether, after four decades of federal asset seizures, the high court will put a freeze on the Justice Department. 

Mr. Silverglate, a Boston criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer, is the author, most recently, of "Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent" (Encounter Books, updated second edition 2011). Harvey sent us a copy of his book to review - Spellbinding!

A version of this article appeared October 6, 2013, on page A17 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: How Prosecutors Rig Trials by Freezing Assets. 

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
_______________________


Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA  06604
 
(0) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Press Release: Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project Receives $4000 Grant From ABCUSA


The Prison Ministries of
The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue
Bridgeport, Connecticut 066o4 

PRESS RELEASE:

 Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project
bpapct.org 

The Prison Ministries of The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport announces that is the recipient of a $4000 Matthew 25 Grant from ABCUSA (the national body of the American Baptist Churches) to fund the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project!

We have opened the first pardons assistance office to cover all of Fairfield County (bpapct.org). 



The grant is specifically dedicated to be disbursed to clients to pay for their pardons related expenses such as transportation, police records, finger print costs, etc.
 

The Mission of the Bridgeport Pardons Assistance Project is to combat poverty, from the first day of an ex-offender’s release from prison, through a Culture of Pardons: public service, volunteerism, goodness, dedication, forgiveness, grace, discipline, faith, and family – these are kinds of things an ex-offender needs to obtain a Pardon. 

The BPAP is important for the Fairfield County reentry community because it marks real on-the-ground change borrowed from enlightened criminal justice theory espoused at the State of Connecticut Department of Corrections and by the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons and Paroles (with which dept. we are working closely).

Of course, not every ex-offender and family that applies for a Pardon will be granted one - but great things can and will happen for all who engage the process.  The point is create and engender a Culture of Pardons - the more ex-offenders who are granted pardons, the more we will combat lives of poverty for all ex-offenders and their families.

The BPAP’s objective is to bring professionalism and respect to a process at a time when our clients’ have already been through the most difficult and dehumanizing periods of their lives. Our volunteers have been trained at the State of Connecticut Board of Pardons & Paroles.  

The BPAP is part of a larger mission at the First Baptist Church of Bridgeport to welcome and offer a home to the reentry and recovery communities. We recognize it might be difficult to imagine in some churches - not in ours!  This plan has fully approved by both Senior Pastor Hopeton Scott and the full Congregation of The First Baptist Church of Bridgeport.


"We feel truly blessed in our mission to assist each and every person in the ex-offender community of Fairfield County to engage in a "Culture of Pardons" and to begin the pardon application process as soon as possible.  It is never too early to start the process of spiritual growth and transformation towards what just might lead to a pardon." 

For More Information:  Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div, 
Assoc. Minister / Director of Prison Ministries 
bpapct.org,
126 Washington Ave, Bridgeport, CT 06604 jgrant3074@bpapct.org, (203) 769-1096



__________________________



Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div
Director, Progressive Prison Project/
Innocent Spouse & Children Project
Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

Assoc. Minister/
Director of Prison Ministries
First Baptist Church of Bridgeport
126 Washington Avenue, 1st Fl.
Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA 06604

(o) +1203.769.1096
(m) +1203.339.5887
jgrant@progressiveprisonproject.org
jg3074@columbia.edu
progressiveprisonproject.org