Elected Officials…Are They Really There When You Need Them?

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So, a couple weeks ago I got a bug up my ass and decided to write to half the state pretty much begging for assistance in getting my criminal (that sounds so crazy) expunged. Thus far, I have had little response and absolutely no answers. First, I wrote to everyone on the Expungement Committee. Then someone replied to let me know that the Expungement Committee is no longer existences. Now they have a Special Committee on Review of Records Access of Circuit Court Documents. Not expungement by any means, but the closest thing they have to it. So, then I wrote to all the members of THAT committee. I then wrote to each individual member of The Wisconsin Supreme Court. It must have taken me 3 hours to search for all of that contact information.There is also the matter of Executive Clemency – AKA a Pardon from the Governor. Now, I do not qualify to apply for a pardon. The following are the qualifications:

You are eligible to apply for executive clemency if:

– you were convicted of a felony

and

– it has been five (5) years or more since you completed your sentence (including probation or parole).

You must apply for a waiver before applying for executive clemency if:

– you were convicted of a misdemeanor,

or

– it has been less than five (5) years since you completed your sentence,

or

you are presently incarcerated.

     

So, by those rules, I had to apply for a waiver. Still no word back. However, I found this anyway:

Pardon: A pardon is an act of official forgiveness that restores rights lost due to conviction. For example, a pardon of a felony conviction restores the ability to possess firearms, to hold public office, and to hold or be granted various licenses. The right to vote and the right to sit on a jury are automatically restored by the Department of Corrections once a person completes his/her sentence, including probation, parole or extended supervision.  

So, even if the waiver is granted…even if the pardon is then granted…the shit will STILL be on my record AND the CCAP website. So, what is the point to the Pardon?? None for me really as those are my barriers.

Here is the letter I sent…some wording is different depending on to whom I was writing…but you get the jist…

I am writing to you in regards to a matter which is weighing heavily on my life as well as the lives of my family. I am currently in the process of applying for Executive Clemency. However, the paperwork states that even with a Pardon, my records and information on CCAP will remain. Unfortunately my criminal history and CCAP are the root of my issues.

In 2005, I was charged with felony child abuse after my husband’s ex-wife falsely accused me. I had and have been a primary parent to my step daughter since she was 14 months old. She is now almost 11. Neither my husband nor I believe that corporal punishment is an effective form of discipline and between the two of us; we may have swatted her behind 3 or 4 times her entire life. I have many emails in which my husband and I asked my step daughter’s mother to stop slapping, hitting and pulling her hair as her forms of punishment. We were always met with an “I am her mother and I will do what I want” type answer. After one open handed swat on the behind, 36 hours after actually, she brought my step daughter to the ER. She later apologized, wrote a letter to the court and explained to me that she was pushed into it by her family. Of course, that was too little too late.

I was never arrested, given my rights, investigated or led to believe this would be anything to worry about. I was so very wrong. 6 months later – after no word at all – I received a summons in the mail explaining that I was being charged with felony child abuse. The CPS investigator (Todd O’Brien) who was assigned to my case was charged and fired earlier this year for not conducting the investigations he was claiming to have completed. Again, he never once met with any of us and simply sent the case to the D.A. I am convinced, and always have been that had he investigated, I would have never been charged. Needless to say my family, as I knew it, was destroyed and our lives were changed forever.

My attorney told me that juries do not like to hear the words step mother and abuse in the same sentence and that I would indeed be taking a risk. I had a one year old daughter at home. Therefore I hastily took a lesser plea (Alford) of misdemeanor battery. This is a mistake I will forever regret. I had over 20 character affidavits from psychiatrists to physicians to family members and friends. Everyone who knows me was astonished at the charges and clearly knew I was completely innocent. I am no child abuser.

Before this my record was clear in all regards. I never even had received a speeding ticket at that time in my life. I had no idea how the system really worked. And I was naive enough to believe that the powers that be would clearly see the truth and this would all be over.

I was sentenced to one year probation. After six months, the probation was amended and terminated with enthusiastic consent by my probation officer and therapist. My attorney, whom I did not know prior to this ordeal, assisted with this hearing at no cost. It was always clear to anyone and everyone in my life that I am far, far from a child abuser. Once again, I thought it was finally over. It wasn’t’t. I am reminded every time I fill out a job application and subsequently do not receive an interview. I am reminded when I am told I cannot participate in my daughter’s kindergarten class or go with her on field trips. I am reminded when my goals of social work and local political office are gone forever. I am reminded every time someone sees this information on CCAP. This has really made my life so much less than what it could have been. I am hurting. My family is hurting. Clearly there is much more to this story and I am more than willing to share it with anyone who will listen. I have been writing about this experience and have most of everything in the written word if you would like me to send it to you. Most of the available jobs in this area for which I am experienced are care related and I am not eligible to even apply. Many check CCAP as a free source of background checks even if I can apply. Also (and most hurtful), not being able to be an active parent in my children’s school is heartbreaking as I take motherhood as my most important job. It is everything to me. Always has been, even before my natural daughter was born. I did everything for my step daughter and she was never once taken out of my care. Not once during any of this. I have been the only one to take her to the doctor or the dentist or to help her with homework. I potty trained her, dealt with all daycare providers, purchased all school supplies. I have taken care of her for 10 years now and she is a remarkable girl to show for it. Again, I was never arrested, interviewed, investigated. I was simply accused of a crime of which I am not guilty by an unstable woman who has since recanted with a letter to the judge. And my mistake was taking the plea and not fighting this charge. I was simply a scared, naive woman with a baby at home who could never imagine even a moment in jail.

I wanted to add that as I was writing this, I was turned down for an account on Care.com to be a housekeeper due to this criminal history. Yet another blow to the gut. I am a positive active member of society. I vote in every election, I donate and I am responsible. I cannot verbalize how these constant turn downs and embarrassments destroy me almost daily.

I am appealing to you as my last ditch effort to have these charges expunged and removed from my record as well as CCAP. This would improve my life more than you can possibly imagine. Thank you so much for your time.

Best Regards,

Rep. Schneider’s response:

Thank you. There is nothing more I can do for you as I was defeated in the election in November by people who criticized my efforts to help people like you. None of the people who I tried to help over the last several years would even lift a finger to help me when I was in trouble.The Representative from Racine, Bob Turner, sat on my bills to address this issue for months during the last session of the legislature. I could not believe it since he was black and so many people who find themselves caught up in this system are black as well. I hope you have written to all the committee members with your story and that it will have an impact although I know that people representing the media like Bill Lueders don’t give a royal flying f…. what happens to innocent people with this system. They want all the dirt they can dig up on anyone and so do employers and landlords and it has been very very frustrating for me to hear of all these situations similar to yours and having it fall on deaf ears in the legislature. It is downright sinful when the state itself creates a system that bears false witness every day of the year. I would also suggest you write to the Supreme Court justices (each and every one) with you story. Hopefully there will eventually be a change but right now I am defeated and a has been and will no longer be able to carry on the fight. I am sorry. Perhaps you could write to the moron who defeated me but since his religious cohorts have already attacked me on this issue I presume it will also fall on deaf ears with him. And frankly, the Republicans have sent so many looney tunes to the legislature and particularly after my defeat no one will dare to take up this issue. In many cases I have witnessed over the years there are simply too many gutless wonders in the legislature who care nothing about justice but only about reelection. I am sorry.

Clearly, he is quite angry. I cannot say that I blame him.

Because of this response, I decided to write to Rep. Turner:



Dear Representative Turner,

I sent the following to what I thought was the Wisconsin Expungement Committee. I have since learned there is no such committee anymore but one to oversee the “fairness” of CCAP. I sent this to all of the members and to Representative Schneider whom I heard was passionate about these CCAP issues. My husband and I both supported your campaign and he walked door to door in your canvasses with the CWA. Now, I hope you can help us. It appears I have exhausted all the possibilities of which I am aware and I suppose I am hoping you may have a suggestion on how I can further proceed to improve my life in regards to the following matter. Please do let me know if you have any advice. I have already started the steps to applying for executive clemency, however, it doesn’t’t appear that will help my problem. Thank you for your time.

His response:

Dear Ms. Rayne: (yes, it says Rayne…lol)

Thank you for your message regarding the Wisconsin Legislative Council’s Special Committee to Review Records Access of Circuit Court Documents. I have attached the link for the committee’s schedule of meetings and study documents, which also includes a list of the committee members and the mission statement of the committee. State Representative Kelda Helen Roys of Madison is the Chair of this Committee. The committee is currently developing a list of options (changes) to CCAP that it will consider among its final recommendations. That policy paper should be available on the website within a week or so. I do not serve on this committee.

However, 2009 Assembly Bill 340 (authored by Rep. Schneider) was referred to the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee, which I chaired during the 2009-10 Session of the Legislature. At the public hearing held on this bill, many stories were told by people who had cases dismissed or had been pardoned, but whose information remained on CCAP, preventing them from finding suitable housing and/or employment. I recommend that you follow the work of this study committee closely, as the committee will likely recommended legislation for introduction during the 2011-2012 session of the Legislature. I am also copying your own State Representative, Representative Robin Vos, on this message, to ensure he is aware of your concerns. Again, thank you for sharing your views and experience with me.

My response to him:

Dear Representative Turner,

I emailed the entire committee a few days ago. I also emailed Rep. Schneider who mentioned your name which is why I forwarded this on to you. He claims you held up a bill last year which would help people in my position (I will paste his message at the end of this email). I sent this to you in hopes that you would help a bill like that pass in the future. I am not sure that people really understand the damage this can do to a person’s life. Any accusation can be made against anyone and you are then on your own to prove your innocence…it is clearly NOT the other way around. I checked out the site you forwarded and did not see a calendar of future meetings, but I will look closer. Do you happen to know if these meetings are open to the public? I will also keep an eye out for the new policies.

I have spoken to Rep. Vos about this in the past and am sad that he no longer chairs the Expungement Committee and that there is no longer such a committee.

I suppose you have to be rich to afford an attorney to have a life after such an event. Unfortunately, we are not in that position. From the very few responses I have had regarding this matter, it seems evident that I am stuck without help or hope for a positive outcome.

And then this was a response from his assistant:

Dear Ms. Geyer,

I just checked the attachment to Representative Turner’s e-mail to you and it was fully functional, with links to all written documents that the committee staff has produced thus far.  As the Committee Clerk for the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee, I can assure you that Representative Turner did not “hold the bill” in committee as Representative Schneider suggests.  There were not enough votes among the committee members (Republican or Democrat) to pass it because of the way it was written.  When bills do not have the support needed to pass them out of Committee, Committee chairs generally do not schedule them for a vote.  The Legislative Council Committee’s recommendations will hopefully be a better work product than Representative Schneider’s bill.  Yes, the Legislative Study Committees are open to the public, and many of them are either taped live or for later broadcast on Wisconsin Eye.  I fully agree with you that you are in a situation that is not fair and people in the Legislature are working hard to correct the parts of the Circuit Court Automated Program to address these inequities.   I suggest you address future correspondence to Representative Roys.  If you cannot get your link to function, please let me know and I will send it in a different format. 

 

I have not heard anything since. I feel, once again, completely defeated.

I have no idea what the HELL is going on with the fonts on this stupid site. If you don’t know HTML it is virtually impossible to fix these issues and it is very annoying. So my apologies. Guess I need some tutorials…

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About Heather Rayne

I am a mom, wife, writer, volunteer, eater of food, lover of animals and avid TV enthusiast. I am opinionated, honest, compassionate and sensitive. I can also be difficult, hard headed and emotional. I consider myself to have a great sense of humor and am very attracted to that in others. I am striving to live an authentic life. I am attempting to learn how to find happiness in the now. I always have hope to be a better person. That being said - I can be vulgar, negative and even a little bitchy at times. I say what I mean and my filter is often dysfunctional. With me, what you see is what you get. I have strong opinions and am quick to speak my mind. This can cause problems from time to time but I do not ever intend to hurt or offend anyone. With that - be warned. I do hope you enjoy my site. Thanks for visiting and have a swell day.

3 responses »

  1. So, I’ve got a Facebook group that now has at least 20 Wisconsin legislators on it. If there was ever a good place and time to make your case, this would be it. Get a hold of me!

  2. I hate CCAP. It should be private. People don’t use it for what it’s intended. I went thru a foreclosure because I shouldn’t have bought a house. My fault? Absolutely. Do I need the world to know about it? Obviously not. When I got the job I have now, I explained anything they might find on CCAP. I was brutally honest with my future employer. They appreciated that. I told them what I learned from it and how it made me better.

    Not only that, but by telling them my dirt, it was off my chest. I didn’t have to wonder if they would find out or how they would react. I told them. And it was done.

    Good luck with the legistlature on what you are trying to have accomplished. I DO find it heartbreaking that you can’t take part in your daughter’s classroom. There has to be a way to take part in school activities.

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