This is something that happens in courtrooms across the U.S. every hour of the day. Pleading guilty when you're not guilty is all about weighing the options. Going to trial, whether you're guilty, innocent, or something in-between, is always a gamble and in many cases it is your life at stake.
I've always been a gambler of sorts – not in an addicted way, but more involving a lack of fear and a refusal to back down when I know I'm correct and the other side is worse than most could imagine. Of course I never claimed actual innocence in the case and always stated that I was not guilty as charged. The charges were serious overkill and that's on them: they lost.
My co-defendant, Rocky, did not exactly have the same opportunity for a trial as I did, but I have already told that story on this blog. Read The State of Florida Drugs Its Witnesses for part of the story. The rest of the story is stated in various articles here, but the shortened story is that Rocky had a $900,000 bond. When he had a hearing to reduce the bond, the judge gave him a $0 bond – as in no amount of money or property could secure his release. Rocky pled guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering (RICO) and agreed to testify against me to get a $20,000 bond and be released from the Orange County jail. Yes, I know that this is a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, but trust me; it doesn't matter. Prosecutors screwed him in the end anyway. This often happens here.
It should matter, but those in power in this country do whatever the hell they want, disregarding law. This is, of course, something that I learned during the course of the case, before we ever made it to trial. I'm sure that it happens often in U.S. courts.
I will never forget the case of Lev Trakhtenberg. Lev sure wasn't guilty as charged, but similar to me he wasn't completely innocent. He may have been guilty of visa fraud (stating a lie on visa applications for dancers), but he sure wasn't a sex trafficker. If you know Lev at all you know that calling him a sex trafficker is laughable. He's a nice guy that wouldn't harm a soul. If you're interested in Lev's story, read The US System of Injustice.
Today Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to five charges. If you're interested in my background on the Khadr case, read The Show Trial of Omar Khadr. I later stated that his attorney had a serious health problem and the trial was postponed. Apparently he was talked into a plea deal in the interim.
I think that we could all understand why Omar Khadr took the deal, right? He weighed his options which were life in a U.S. Supermax prison vs. pleading and actually being free some day and serving the remainder of his eight year sentence in Canada within a year or so. What would you choose regardless of guilt or innocence or something in-between? Before you answer consider that he was being judged by a jury consisting of hardline military members in a War on Terror case.
Prosecutors intend to have the widow of the soldier that died testify at Khadr's sentencing. She will be pleading with the judge for a more severe sentence. I sure hope she isn't successful as prosecutors made a DEAL to get that plea and they should, by law, be required to stick to the deal. Prosecutors do lie and say or do anything to get a plea though, so only time will tell in this case.
I read an article somewhere early this morning – sorry that I cannot recall where – that stated Omar Khadr's head was down and as he answered the judge's questions relating to his so-called guilt in each of the counts. As he answered the questions he held his head in his hands. As with many victims of the US system of injustice, he had no choice except to lie or the plea would not have been accepted. I am sure that it is a lesson that he will never forget care of the land of the free.