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The fight continues to free Pastor Eric Payne from the Georgia Department of Corrections. I initially wrote about this situation in Criminal Injustice and Pastor Eric Payne. https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/07/10/criminal-injustice-and-pastor-eric-payne/ This blog is a follow-up that includes correspondence from Pastor Eric Payne and his loving and carring wife, who continues to fight for the freedom of her husband.
Please pay attention to the minute amount of cocaine used to sentence him to 15-years. I wrote about a similar situation in Freedom for Another Friend, where a friend was serving life without parole, in part, due to a prior conviction for small amount of cocaine, used to enhance his federal sentence. https://straightfromthepen.com/2016/08/09/freedom-for-another-friend/
Pastor Eric Payne
By now you’re aware of what my attorney did to us in taking our money, NOT doing a thing, at the last minute dropping my case. Further, I’m sure you know about the “cruel, unusual, unjust, unfair, and sadistic punishment and game” the parole chief and State recently played on me and my family.
But I DO have some things to say about receiving 15 years for the victimless and nonviolent crime of Felony Possession of Cocaine (.001 gram/residue).
It was a bad decision, but I went back to “hustling” after a series of unfortunate financial struggles in my personal life, businesses, and church. I felt that I was suffocating and everywhere I turned I received no monetary assistance.
Once arrested I received “no bond” for the first 90 days and then a “$190,000.00 bond” afterwards. My Public Defender consistently expressed that he could not understand why the Chief Asst. District Attorney who handled murders, robberies, sex crimes, and all violent crimes was assigned to prosecute. I couldn’t understand it either especially since prior to this case (2013) I had not been in trouble with the law since 2002 in another state. In fact, I had not even had so much as a “Pedestrian Warning” or traffic ticket in GA!
My Public Defender even tried the slick move of claiming I had a drug problem. I paid to be interviewed by two separate residential drug rehabilitation programs and was accepted. Yet the prosecutor refused to agree with the recommendation. Thus, the judge would not consent to me being sent there in conjunction with long-term probation.
After 10 1/2 months sitting in jail working on various details, never receiving any discipline referrals (write-ups), being a role model inmate, and speaking to youths brought in for speeches, I pled to the mercy of the court.
I had a host of letters, pictures of me doing community service through my church, certifications, my pastor’s license and ordination papers, my church charter certificate, and everything needed to validate the launch of my own church presented to the courts yet it wasn’t enough to sway the judge’s (an African-American who preaches in south GA and who has a son with a history of criminal activity, drug involvement and drug addiction) decision to sentence me to 15 years in prison.
Even after the judge’s decision over 30 Detention Officers signed a petition asking the judge to reconsider because I had worked for them for nearly a year and they witnessed first-hand my character, behavior, and work ethic. The judge ignored their request, turned the petition over to the Sheriff, and all 30 officers were suspended and some prevented from advancing or becoming a deputy.
I was wrong for selling drugs and being in possession of the .001 gram (residue) of cocaine. But I felt then, as I feel now, that my charge was ridiculous, and my sentence was/is excessive. I’ve seen men who were in possession of WAY more drugs than myself and who were actually caught selling or trafficking drugs receive much less jail or prison time (including house arrest and/or probation) than myself.
I had (and STILL have) a valid, proven, and verifiable history of being an asset and positive contribution to my family, church, community, and society. Whether through personal contact or through Social Media, I’ve been a “plus” in the lives of those I’ve come in contact with.
Daily my wife, 4 minor children, family, friends, and church pray that someone will finally “listen” to us and begin the process of releasing me. At worst, we hope and pray that someone will listen and bring attention to the changes that need to be made on behalf of those in Sates custody and not just Federal custody (where it’s obvious that all of the “breaks” and opportunities go).
My family and I hope someone will help us.
Thank you for listening.
Theresa Payne Speaks Out
My husband was paroled
to Palm Beach County FL (by approved Interstate Compact) in October
2018 then snatched from our family in February 2018 due to a “clerical
error” between the GDOC and Parole system. He worked hard, was active in
our community, and committed no new crimes, had not old/active warrants, and
violated no conditions of his parole.
Me and my children have suffered due to this unfairness, injustice, and cruel and unusual punishment. My husband has suffered as well.
On July 23, 2019 I received a call from Chief Hawkins (Albany/Dougherty County) stating my husband had a TPM (Tentative Parole Month) of July 31, 2019. From July 23rd thru July 25th I had several conversations with chief Hawkins and he repeatedly stated and confirmed via his computer that my husband’s TPM was set for July 31, 2019. Again, Chief Hawkins initiated the call to me with the news of my husband’s TPM.
I notified my husband, shared the fantastic news with our four minor children, told many family members (including my husband’s 95 year old mother), church members, and friends and proceeded to make plans and arrangements for my husband’s return home to West Palm Beach, FL.
I confirmed through the GDOC website and through Counselor Palmer (Montgomery State Prison staff member) that my husband did NOT have a TPM – only a PED for July 2020. Further, my husband personally spoke to Senior Counselor Youmans a (MSP) and Counselor Palmer (MSP) whom both confirmed that my husband did NOT have a TPM whatsoever. Yet, Chief Hawkins persisted and remained adamant in saying my Husband’s TPM was July 31, 2019.
On the afternoon of Thursday, July 25, 2019 I spoke with Chief Hawkins who then changed his statement now saying my husband in fact did NOT have a TPM at all and that, all along, my husband on had a PED for July, 2020.
Chief Hawkins has added additional stress, pain, and suffering to our family’s already sad and horrible situation. How can I fully explain this to our children? How do I share this devastating news to our family and friends? How is my husband expected to deal with yet another unwarranted shock and letdown? We did not ask for this unjust treatment.
It’s clear that Chief Hawkins actions have treated me, my children, and my husband with even greater cruel and unusual punishment than we’ve already been experiencing since February 27, 2019. Again, we did not ask for any of this emotional roller-coaster, mental anguish, harsh treatment, nor, frankly, this cruel “game” being played on us at every point in our travesty.
We also had 2 lawyers that advised us that they could help us and within a matter of months, both have dropped the case leaving my husband without any legal representation.
Who is left who has any type of compassion?
[Mrs. Payne attached a character reference letter from the Mayor of their town that I cannot post until receiving his consent.]
Theresa A. Payne
Co-Founder at New Zion Assembly – The New Church
Founder at Focused On Purpose