Help Ryan Get a Reduction of Sentence
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My name is Ryan Pope. I want to tell you about my childhood and situation. I was born in Ft Hood TX because my father was stationed at the army base there. I grew up in Lake Wales FL. My last name was originally Underwood. My mother divorced my father when I was 2 or 3 and remarried a man, who adopted me and my siblings and we inherited his last name. I was the youngest. Every year for summer vacation we would go to Alabama to visit our adopted father's family. The summer of 92 we were preparing to go, but we couldn't find a topper for his new truck so we built one out of wood. We put a mattress back there to be comfortable for the ride. Once there, the family all went to the hospital to visit my Aunt having her baby, and we stayed behind. We decided to go to the store for some snacks. When we left the store, me and my sister were in the back of the truck. A cadillac hit us on the passenger side. Me and my sister were both flown from the truck, my brother was thrown through the windshield, and my mother flew out the window and was pinned and killed. My sister was in a coma for 2 months missing my moms funeral. I was only 9 years old. Shortly after, our adopted father remarried our babysitter, who had 3 daughters of her own. He used to beat us all the time and HRS (children and family services now) used to check on . She started influencing him and he started neglecting and disowning us, showing favoritism to her children. I started having suicidal thoughts at 10 years old. Me and my brother would cry about our mom and he would tell us to get over it. In the summertime she would make us leave the house while he was at work from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. while her kids stayed there. I was always a gifted student and athlete. I was in honors classes and played sports. When my sister turned 18, me and my brother moved in with her at her house. So now, I've lost my mother and departed from my abusive adopted father with no parental guidance at all. Next thing you know I was introduced to marijuana. Then I wanted to get higher because weed wasn't enough. I ended up turning my sister's house into a party house and had all druggie friends. I started skipping school and committing crime to support my drug habit. After a few arrests I went to a level 6 program, Avon Park Youth Academy, in 2000 for a whole year. There I earned my GED, however the program didn't help me with my drug problem. I got out and went right back to drugs. I was doing every drug imaginable. In 2001 at the age of 18, I first attempted suicide. I'm one of the kindest, most humble people in the world when I'm sober. I had a 9mm pointed to my head and pulled the trigger but the firing pin broke. I was high on my drug of choice, methamphetamine. Drugs were always my downfall. I committed my first crimes as an adult in 2001, fleeing and eluding, and possession of Meth, and was sentenced to 1 year and 1 day in prison. I was released on August 27, 2002 and didn't waste any time, I only got worse. I started injecting the Meth instead of smoking it. In May 2003 I was pulled over. My license was suspended so I signed my brothers name on the tickets. The officer was familiar with me and arrested me for forgery and uttering a forged document. I was placed on community control for the charges. I reunited with my biological father and was staying with him while I was on house arrest. I started doing good, got a job, got off drugs and was reporting to my probation officer regularly. One day my father comes home and tells me he wants me out of his house. So I turned to some old friends, however it took me further away from my job and I began having problems getting to and from work. I turned to drugs and was on the run. While on the run I ended up in Polk City in a trailer park away from everybody and anybody I knew. I was up for 2 weeks on Meth and desperate to get high again. I ended up robbing a Loves Truck Stop and was apprehended in a swamp area next to the store. They formally charged me with robbery with a deadly weapon. Waiting for trial for the robbery I pled out to open court for violating probation on the prior charges, and was sentenced to 5 years for that. I seen a psychologist prior to trial, who diagnosed me as drug dependant and recommended me for drug treatment program. When I brought that to my lawyers attention he told me not to worry about that as I was facing PRR (prison release reoffender ) and the judge would not send me to a drug treatment program anyway. The same day of trial in November 2004, prior to the trial starting my lawyer moved to suppress a statement that was allegedly made after I was arrested, in handcuffs and not read my Miranda rights. The officer that arrested me told the other officers that they needed to find the gun. He then said that I stated "I didn't have a gun, I only had knife". What I actually said as "I didn't have a gun, that would be my life". At the suppression hearing the judge denied it saying I was an excited utterance and for public safety. This is only evidence pertaining to anything regarding a weapon. The victim testified at trial that she was never threatened with a weapon, she never seen a weapon, nor was a weapon ever found or recovered. That's simply because I never had a weapon. For a robbery with a weapon conviction to stick, you have to have proof of possession of a weapon during commission of a crime. My appellant counsel filed an Anders Brief stating there wasn't anything to appeal. Not knowing at the time that I could file a 3.850 on him for not filing the insufficiency of evidence on the weapon, I filed a 3.850 on my trial counsel. One of grounds was that my trial counsel was ineffective for failing to show video of the robbery which shows I had no weapon. The judge and my counsel both conceded to this being error but said it wasn't overwhelming enough to change the outcome of the trial. I also filed my 2254 Federal Habeas Corpus which also denied. On the verdict form there was no specific finding of what the supposed weapon was. The definition of weapon they used in the jury instructions said "anything that can be used to cause death or great bodily harm". I was wrongfully convicted of robbery with a weapon. I'm only guilty of the robbery, not the weapon. The judge sentenced me to 30 years PRR (mandatory sentence), and ran it consecutive to the 5 years which gave me 35 years total. If I can get the weapon dropped, it will change it from a 1st degree, to a second degree, strong armed robbery which carries 15 years. I have over 15 years. Since I've been incarcerated I've lost both my grandparents, my father, and most recently the most devastating loss of all, my brother Eric in February of 2014 in a hit-and-run where a drunk driver struck and killed him on his bicycle. He was my best friend and it's been tremendously hard dealing with him being gone. I met my girlfriend shortly before he passed away, and she has given me all the emotional, mental, and financial support she possibly can. The loss of my brother inspired me to do better and quit drugs. after 20 years of drug use I see my life in a totally different perspective now. She has two young daughters, ages nine and eleven, that I now call and look to as my own. I enrolled in the tech support software computer class and recently graduated. I currently work in the library here at Hamilton C.I. I'm going on 2 years of being drug free without the help of any drug treatment. I am reaching out because I need help. I know that I can get out and be there for my family and be successful. I want to get out to my family.....my sister being the only immediate family member I have left. I currently have 21 years left on my sentence and would be missing all the best years of our lives. If you could help me in any way it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time
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