In the spring of 2007 Alexander Brown made the trip from his mother’s home in Wilimington NC across the state to reside with me, his father, in the mountains of Haywood County. Barely 17, Alexander was there only 2-3 months before he and a group of his new ‘friends’ got into trouble in a cemetery. The group of 5 was guilty of damaging 12 headstones in the town of Waynesville, NC. A foolish crime no doubt, of adolescents and mischief, but certainly not a crime deserving of 6-8 years in prison for a first time offender of a non-violent crime.
After being interrogated by the Waynesville Police Department without a guardian or attorney present and without being read his Miranda rights, Alexander confessed to his part in the crime, cooperating with the police fully and even giving a written confession. But the other boys, all lifelong friends, pointed the finger of blame at Alexander simply because he was the new guy in town and they didn’t want to implicate each other, being long time friends. Alexander was charged with 11 of the 12 felonious counts. One other boy was charged with one count.
Alexander was assigned a court appointed attorney, Bill Jones, considered the best defense attorney in the county. Nearly a year later (violation of the 6th amendments ‘speedy trial’ stipulation), pleading guilty on all charges, without so much as a plea agreement or even securing concurrent sentencing for his client, Bill Jones stood in the shadows of the court room while prosecutor Mike Bonfoey balanced his poor crime/punishment ratio by squeezing every drop of punishment he could out of Alexander. Judge Mark E. Powell, in a disgusting display of judicial vindictiveness, sentenced Alexander to 6-8 months per charge and made the charges “consecutive” going against the default sentencing structure for first time, non-violent offenders and resulting in a 6-8 year sentence. Powell stated in open court “I would send you to prison for every day possible if it were up to me. I would forget about you before I even got home.” (documented in certified court transcripts which are available for download within the ‘blog’ section of the freealexander.org website). He allowed Alexander probation on the grounds that he earn his GED, work full time, and re-pay the county nearly $15,000 in restitution at $400 per month. Alexander, with no work history and 11 felonies around his neck, in the midst of a recession, did his best to pay, but a year and a half later was finally brought into court and his full sentence was activated by judge Bradley B. Letts, who also had the opportunity to change some or all of the consecutive charges to concurrent. Unfortunately, Alexander’s attorney during the probation revocation, Pam Smith, proved even less willing to do her job than Jones and according to the official court transcript, actually encouraged the judge to revoke her client’s probation, failing to even mention, let alone ask, for concurrent sentencing . This 17 year old first time offender of a non-violent crime was sent to prison for 6-8 years on that day, February 5th 2010.
Alexander’s mother and I and a few others wrote letters to Governor Bev Perdue in NC, asking her to review the case, to no avail. We hired an attorney, Jennifer Foster, from Asheville, to appeal the case, using church donated funds, but after 6 months of waiting we finally realized that Foster had no intentions of pursuing the case and had actually wasted 6 months of our son’s life waiting for nothing. We set up a website at http://freealexander.org and began a petition of our own. To date we have managed to gather 174 signatures, all with damning comments about the way our son has been treated by the criminal justice system. We managed to get the regional newscast interested and had the story featured on the nightly news. When contacted by the reporter with WLOS ABC NEWS 13, District Attorney Bonfoey stated “He chose to go to prison.”
Alexander served the first 18 months of his time in the notorious Polk facility in Durham, a processing facility that most people only spend a few short weeks in. He has now served 28 months of his sentence and has been a model inmate, earning his GED and working a full time job(ironically, also stipulations of his probation). He has blossomed into a beautiful young man who will be turning 22 this June. He loves to read and is interested in criminal justice and longs for the day that he is permitted to return home to his family; a family and parents that love and miss their son very much.
In closing I want to state, as a parent, that there is more than one way to murder a 17 year old. You can kill them with a bullet, you can kill them with a knife, and you can kill them by selling off justice to the highest bidder hence burying them alive in a cage to waste away during the best, most productive years of their lives. It’s my assertion that the State of North Carolina, on behalf of the County of Haywood has in fact taken the precious life of my first born and in a horrible miscarriage of justice cost my son his fair shot at a normal, successful, productive life. Alexander needs your help. His mother and I and hundreds of others have been praying for a miracle. Please sign this petition now while it’s still fresh in your mind.
The life of our son can still be salvaged. Please help us help Alexander. God Bless you.