You may have heard of the hundreds of cases over the years in Texas involving wrongfully convicted individuals due to overzealous prosecutors, the State withholding evidence, and/or witness coercion.
This petition is for Eric Reed Marascio whose trial and subsequent conviction are no different.
On October 13, 2008, Eric was arrested on one count of Money Laundering and his indictment reads as follows: "Eric Reed Marascio on or about December 6, 2007, in Collin County, Texas, did then and there knowingly facilitate a transaction, to wit: Ashley's purchase of the residential property located at 505 Carrington Lane, Texas, involving the proceeds of criminal activity, to wit: U.S. currency in the amount of $200,000 or more, and said funds were derived from the commission of the offense of False State to Obtain Property or Credit in the amount of $200,000 or more, a felony offense under the laws of the State of Texas." While he qualified for probation and without any prior convictions, Eric was sentenced to an outrageous 75 years in prison and briefly herein is his story.
Eric was respected in his community as a humanitarian, business owner, and job provider. Unfortunately, due to his arrest and initial incarceration of nearly 60 days, he had lost everything he owned. Once released on bond, he worked with an attorney to file a Federal suit against the State for his immediate release of the fictitious charge. Upon the filing of the suit, Eric was additionally indicted with "Tampering w/Government Records". This was simply an issue the State had in the "wording" of the suit, but it subsequently allowed the State to re-arrest Eric. For the next 21 months, he was held in solitary confinement to await trail and to effectively be circumvented in the pursuit of his Federal lawsuit. Due to this denial of access to the courts, the suit was dismissed without his knowledge.
Without funds for a lawyer, Eric was appointed by the court an attorney named, "Bill". After 13 months of no investigative work or court appearances, Eric as a layman of the law, asked Bill: "Should you be filing [any] motions or something?" Bill's response as he leaned back in his chair to cross his arms stated: "I don't know. What do you suggest?" Eric had no response, but he knew that he [he who?] had only filed one motion in that time and that was for a private investigator named "Billy". Billy was his [whose friend?] good friend of 30+ years and was also running for Constable in the county at the time. Eric asked Bill and Billy how many real estate and mortgage fraud cases they had investigated or tried. Their answer? None. After a plethora of other indications of ineffective counsel signs including a non-willingness to depose any witnesses, introduce evidence at trial, call witnesses, hire experts, and simply not investigate, Eric was left with no choice but to terminate both of them and take on the daunting task of self-representation (pro-se).
Choosing to go Pro Se is almost always a suicide move, as it usually involves specialized court procedures and knowledge of the law that even the most seasoned attorneys have yet to master. But in a case that simply involves a money trail, there is no better person that would know more about his role or lack thereof, in the specific transaction then the Defendant himself. This combined with Eric's naive belief in "The Justice System", deterred him from pursuing any other avenues. Eric strongly believed that once he secured an investigator who could obtain the favorable evidence needed, depose State's witnesses, access the law library, and be appointed a mortgage/real estate expert, he ultimately could prove his innocence.
Eric had less than 90 days to prepare for the trial. This was manageable considering he was allowed access to the law library 25 hours a week. Which was still far less library access time than an attorney)
OBSTACLE #1: The State influenced the Sheriff (who represents the jail) and had Eric brought before the court with the Sheriff's attorneys to suppress Eric's access to the law library so he could no longer defend himself! Eric's law library time was reduced to a mere 5 hours a week.
OBSTACLE #2: The time to prepare became not only insufficient for him, but impossible. So Eric filed a "Motion for Extension of Time" to postpone the trial. That was denied. The judge's reason was that "you had 18 months to prepare already." This was of course untrue as those months belonged to his former attorney Bill, who had not performed his job duties as required by the courts.
OBSTACLE #3: Being in solitary confinement, Eric requested the assistance of an investigator. So he filed a motion in court. That was denied as well. The judge stated: "You had an investigator for 18 months and you fired him." This was partly false. THE investigator was terminated for NOT investigating! That combined with his lack of knowledge on anything related to mortgage or real estate related, friendship with Billy of 30 years, and campaigning for Constable, made him a virus worthy of termination. An unbiased investigator was needed. But the motion was denied.
OBSTACLE #4: Knowing that he was not involved in falsifying any documents, Eric filed a motion with the court for a handwriting expert to combat the State's claims concerning the mortgage documents. That motion was denied. Eric's name was shown to be signed in a part of the mortgage documents with the use of a Power of Attorney, by a man named "Sam". The Power of Attorney that was attached to the mortgage documents had neither Sam's signature and/or Eric's signature authorizing the use of a P.O.A. and/or mortgage document.
OBSTACLE #5: Not being a licensed mortgage and/or real estate person and not having any knowledge as to the processes of each position; Eric filed a motion with the court for an expert in each field; both were denied. This left Eric helpless in deciphering the loan documents.
OBSTACLE #6: Eric filed an unprecedented 50+ motions in less than 90 days with the court and less than 8% were approved which adding to the already minimizing chance for success. Which the Defendant believes was the plan of the court from the inception.
OBSTACLE #7: With an abundance of biased and prejudicial remarks and actions by the judge against Eric due to his opting for self-representation; Eric filed several motions to recuse and disqualify the judge. These too were denied. Eric ultimately filed a complaint with the Texas Judicial Conduct Board prior to the trial, which inevitably pitted the judge against Eric at trial.
OBSTACLE #8: Eric made numerous requests to the State and through the court for "exculpatory evidence (favorable)". Such as his hard drive; which not only could have proven his innocence, but would have given him access to the address book. Having this vital contact information for numerous potential witnesses, would have been invaluable. All requests denied.
OBSTACLE #9: Without any further options, Eric's family hired an investigator to work with Eric, named "David". Since David was not on Eric's approved visitation list, he filed a motion with the court to grant access for the investigator. With only 45 days left until trial, the judge waited nearly 30 days before granting the motion, which gave David and Eric less than 2 weeks to work together.
OBSTACLE #10: With the assistance of David, Eric was able to file 26 subpoenas for witnesses to show up for the first day of trial to meet with David. Not having any phone numbers, they were simply sent to their homes or business addresses, that was procured from the internet. On the first day of trial, at the first recess, Eric was worried that all of his witnesses were lingering in the hall. So still being under "confinement", he asked the judge: "Your honor, I had filed 26 subpoenas for witnesses and was wondering if the bailiff could give them the investigator's contact information?" The judge replied: "I sent them all home and told them to call back next week." Is that even legal???
All of these 10 obstacles only represent a fraction of the lunacy that Eric had to endure in even attempting to represent himself. While being in solitary confinement, he was denied access to the law library to properly defend himself, he was denied the proper experts required in proving his innocence, he was denied the ability to depose State's witnesses and interview his own, he was denied an investigator to assist in going through the nearly 500,000 documents that he was buried with, he was denied access to favorable evidence and so on, and so on.
Additional things to consider about Eric's case:
A. His indictment stated: "... said funds were derived from the commission of the offense of False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit ..." [as stated earlier in the petition]. Eric was not only never tried on that offense, but he was also proven innocent of that offense when he put the State's Investigator "Steve" on the stand as a witness and asked him about his guilt or innocence. Steve acknowledged on record that Eric was innocent of False Statement To Obtain Property Or Credit. So ask yourself, if one is innocent of a crime that was the basis for Money Laundering, how can that same person be guilty OF Money Laundering? The answer? You cannot.
B. The State hired CPA expert, "William" to take the stand and guide the court along the money trail via a PowerPoint presentation. Not only did William state that Eric had no involvement in the mortgage transaction, but he also showed that out of the $597,693 transaction; Eric only received $15,000. This was normal as it was his commission on the transaction because he owned the rental management company that was hired to oversee the house. Surely, a $15,000 commission does not warrant a 75 year prison sentence.
C. Eric's employee of nearly 2 years, "Trevor", was a 15 year licensed mortgage and real estate agent who had handled all document creation, submission, and filing. Trevor pled guilty to falsifying documents and forgery on the same transaction. In exchange, he simply had to testify that Eric "knew" about it. Trevor not only never spent a day in jail, but he was also never charged and still today is a free man. Further motivation for Trevor's deceit was that he owed $26,000 to Eric for a personal loan, which was proven in court and to date, never paid.
D. "Sam" and "Ashley" were 2 other parties involved in the transaction; receiving a combined total of $327,910. Both were offered the same deal as Trevor in exchange for the exact same statement. Both pled guilty and walked away free.
E. In contrast, it is important to see how Eric's charge and sentence given, stacks up with others that have been in the same situation. A woman, "Suzanne", in 2011 was charged with 6 counts of Money Laundering in the amount of about $530,000 in addition to 2 other charges. In the same state, same county, same city, and by the same D.A.'s office, she was convicted and received 10 years probation and 6 months of community service! Eric was charged with 1 count of Money Laundering and received a 75 year sentence. This is a clear representation that the State maliciously and vindictively sought Eric's conviction due to his Federal lawsuit, unwillingness to plead guilty, and his stand for the constitutional right to self-representation.
Eric is now on his 4th year of incarceration and gradually working his way through the appeal process while traversing the various dangerous obstacles that a newly convicted person finds in prison on a daily basis.
Eric not only is NOT a criminal, but very much a valued asset to the community. In 2005, Eric founded the Katrina Relief Foundation which was a non-profit organization to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In 2007, Eric assisted the Child Rescue Network by logging more than 6,000 driving miles to locate and reunite 2 abducted children with their mother. In 2008, just 10 days prior to his arrest, he was awarded a key to the city by the mayor. As a lifelong non-drinker, non-smoker, non-drug user, and non-gun owner, Eric has never been nor will never be a threat to the community. He is the total opposite of what we deem worthy of the title “criminal”. His time in the U.S. Air Force combined with his Catholic upbringing, instilled in him values, morals, determination, ambition, and optimism that are the basis of his principles.
Together as his family and friends, we ask that you please sign this petition and forward to your friends, family, employees, and anyone else in your address book. This will allow us to forward it to the Texas State Representatives in hopes that a new trial may be granted to Eric, so that he can be allowed the ability to prove his innocence as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, with fairness, due process, equality, and prevailing justice.
This case is not an application of justice by any stretch of the law or imagination. It is an example of the awesome police power of a self-ruling judicial system brought to bear upon an individual who, for whatever reason, came into the cross hairs of their ire and unjustly and prejudicially is suffering the consequences. This case demonstrates the belief of this system that they are a law unto themselves when it comes to crushing those individuals who, instead of meekly complying with their system like a lamb to the slaughter, instead dares to defy them and file a federal lawsuit against them. Eric is not presently serving a 75 year sentence in an environment of true violent criminals where his physical life is in jeopardy every day because he is guilty of money laundering. He is there because (1) he blindly trusted the wrong people in the beginning and (2) he defied the powers that be. NOT justice, not for anyone! If you agree that an injustice has occurred in this case, then please sign this petition.
If you would like to contact Eric directly, here is his direct address:
Eric R. Marascio
Mark Stiles Unit
3060 FM 3514
Beaumont, TX. 77705
Thank you and God bless you all for your time, energy, and efforts in helping us get justice for Eric!