First, there was the conviction of Victoria Sprouse in Charlotte, which I have detailed in this post. However, the federal court in Raleigh seems determined to outdo the injustices of the Sprouse case with the wrongful conviction of Johnny Gaskins.
I recently wrote a piece on this conviction, but Ruth Sheehan of the News & Observer has penned what I think is superb commentary. Her point is well-taken: Gaskins has not committed any "crimes," and his actions certainly were understandable, given the harassment the feds have given him. I quote her here:
The feds have been investigating Gaskins for years. He'd successfully defended alleged drug dealers in federal court. So when the feds started poking around Gaskins' finances, they no doubt thought they'd find evidence of money laundering.
They did not.
Instead, they found that Gaskins had earned $355,000 in cash over five years and had filed all the appropriate paperwork on it and had paid his taxes.
But Gaskins had grown paranoid, justifiably or not, over the years. The feds determined that Gaskins, after storing his fortune initially in a home safe (OK, so it wasn't a mattress), was depositing it in increments of just below $10,000 -- the threshold requiring the bank to report the deposits.
That's a reporting threshold that is mainly used to help the IRS track down tax scofflaws. Except, of course, Gaskins had reported all of his earnings on forms that not only included the payments but also the source of the money and who paid it.
"He gave the government more information than the banks ever would," said Dan Boyce, Gaskins' lawyer.
I don't think anyone can say it better.
My hope is that other attorneys in North Carolina stand up and take notice. The government has gone after someone who dared represent clients that the government is trying to put into jail. I suspect that after he convinced a jury not to give the death penalty to someone who had murdered a cop, the prosecutors of the state -- federal and state -- decided it was open season on Gaskins.
As I said in my article, I think that the judge and jury here deserve special blame for this injustice. A jury does not have to do what prosecutors say, and no matter what a judge tells them in his or her charge, a jury is free to decide what it wants.
Unfortunately, jurors decided that a non-crime was a crime. The prosecutors have obtained their revenge, and an innocent man faces what effectively is a life sentence. Way to go, North Carolina! You have done it again!