I'm the founder of Change.org. I started this journey because I had little way of translating my passion for a cause into effective action, and I hope we can deepen engagement in social issues and empower people to make a difference in their communities and the world around them.
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Clemency for Josephine Ledesma Serving Life Without Parole
My mom, Josephine Ledesma, is a first time nonviolent drug offender who has already served 24 years of a life sentence for conspiracy to transport drugs.My mom never used or sold drugs, but agreed to give someone an envelope of money who was going to transport drugs from California to Tennessee at the request of a family member. She readily admits that she was wrong to get involved, but she shouldn’t die in prison -- 24 years ago is more than enough. I was 11 years old when she was arrested in 1990 and I will never forget that day. My two brothers were 13 and 7 years old.When the person who was transporting drugs was arrested, he agreed to “cooperate.” Because my mother went to trial, she was held responsible for everything that all the co-conspirators did and labeled a “leader,” enhancing her sentence. If she had cooperated, she would be home by now. Our mom has been a mentor to many women and a model prisoner. She works hard every day at a prison call center and is in charge of the payroll for over 200 employees. She organizes the Spanish Christian services and Bible studies and has been awarded numerous certificates for completing different classes. It’s not right for someone in prison to work so hard at rehabilitation if they are never given a second chance to apply those skills. She has 9 grandchildren who ask us all the time, "When is Grandma Josie coming home?"My mom has always been our rock. From prison she has been there to listen, give us advice, but most importantly to pray for us, always. She is a wonderful, caring and compassionate woman. But only a commutation of her sentence from President Obama can bring her home. She will be 58 years old this year and has already served 24 years for her mistake.Please sign this petition and help us unite with our mother. Thank you, Lizette Ledesma
Dear NCAA: My Mom Is a Rape Survivor and You Can Help
My mother and I are asking the NCAA to ban violent athletes. Please read my letter and sign our petition. Let the NCAA know that sports are NOT more important than human lives! Dear NCAA, My name is Darius Adams. I’m the son of Brenda Tracy who is a public rape survivor. It was 2010 when my mom first told me that she was raped. I was 17. We were sitting in our car in our driveway. I remember it because it was a life-changing moment for me. She didn’t tell me because she wanted to. She told me because she had to. She was trying to save my life. I was out of control at the time. I was angry and broken and I didn’t care if I lived or not. I remember her crying and struggling to get the words out “I was raped.” She apologized to me over and over and asked me not to hate her. “Please don’t be ashamed of me. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I still can’t understand why she was apologizing to me, but after that talk, I started to see her as a different person. I saw her as someone who had been hurt, and she was just doing the best she could as a single mother with two kids. It was then that I began to turn my life around — mostly for myself, but also for my mom. I wanted her to be proud of me. I wanted to make sure that what she went through and all the sacrifices she made for me and my brother were not in vain. It was 2014 when my mother went public with her story. I wasn’t prepared. She hadn’t told me the details in 2010, but now every ugly detail was on the internet in an article by John Canzano at the Oregonian. To this day, I haven’t read it all. I can’t. I just can’t. What I do know is that my mom was drugged and gang-raped by four football players in 1998. I know that Oregon State University gave two of them 25 hours community service and Coach Mike Riley gave them a one-game suspension. I know that the police threw away her rape kit and the DA lied to her about her case. I know that Oregon State cared more about football and money than my mom. I know that my mom wanted to kill herself, and I know that she almost did. And all because other people decided that football, money and reputation was more important than me and my brother having a mother. I was scared when the article first came out. I didn’t know how people would react to us. Would they attack my mom? Would they say terrible things about her? Would I have to defend her? And what would I say? But a great thing happened. People reached out to us and they supported us. They expressed their love and gratitude for my mom coming forward and being brave enough to tell her story. I was proud of her. It was the first time I saw her happy. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of her. I’ve heard her say more than one time, “I walked out of my prison of shame and silence that day,” and she did. I could see it. Ever since then my mom has worked hard to help others. She’s passed five laws in Oregon. She’s won numerous awards. We just went to Washington, DC where she received the National Service Courage Award from the United States Attorney General. She also changed a Pac 12 rule so that athletes with serious misconduct issues can’t transfer into our conference. She’s my hero. And that’s why I’m writing to you. I’m a college athlete, and I watch ESPN religiously. There’s a serious problem in sports. We don’t take sexual violence seriously enough. Seventeen years ago Coach Mike Riley suspended the men that hurt my mom for one game and just yesterday I saw the story about Baylor. Nothing has changed. Schools are still more worried about money and football than people’s lives. I’m a grown man now. I would never hurt a woman that way and I know that most men wouldn’t. Why are we protecting this small group of men? Why are we allowing them to destroy people’s lives? All of these victims have families and they get hurt too. I’m still dealing with what happened to my mom. We need to do something right now, and I think it starts with the NCAA creating a policy that bans violent athletes. Enough is enough. It’s been 17 years and nothing has changed. How many more years do we have to wait for something to happen? As the NCAA you have authority over many schools. YOU can change this. These schools have proven that they are not going to do the right thing. I believe it is your responsibility to step in. And please don’t do it for me or my mom. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Sincerely, Darius Adams
Free Davontae Sanford, sentenced to 39 years for a crime someone else has confessed to.
Davontae Sanford has been in prison for nearly nine years for a crime he did not commit. In 2007, Sanford, a partially blind, developmentally disabled 14-year-old child, was interrogated by police after four people were murdered on Runyon Street in his neighborhood. He was questioned twice without the presence of his parents or an attorney. In the second of his two statements, he implicated himself as one of the shooters, but later “told a psychologist that he had made it all up because the police had told him he could go home if he would ‘just [tell] them something.’” Two weeks after Davontae was convicted of the crime, another man confessed and gave unknown details of the murder and led authorities to one of the murder weapons. However, hitman Vincent “Vito” Smothers was never charged in the quadruple homicide for which Mr. Sanford now wastes away in prison. According to the Marshall Project, although Smothers denied Sanford’s involvement in the murders, prosecutors offered him a shorter sentence for all of the 12 murders he had confessed to if he promised not to testify in Sanford’s defense. What more do officials need to be convinced that this is a horrible miscarriage of justice and that Davontae Sanford should not be behind bars? Please join me in asking Gov. Rick Snyder to grant Sanford clemency and free him from his unjust 39-year sentence. Sanford’s trial lawyer had a long record of incompetence and has since been suspended from practicing in the state of Michigan. For reasons still unknown, Robert Slameka decided not to even challenge Sanford’s confession in court, even though it was clear that his age and disability, and the way it was acquired, should have raised blaring red flags. Vincent Smothers is now serving time for having several murders. After having told police that he was responsible for the crime Davontae was being punished for, he spoke these words in an interview with the Associated Press: “He’s not guilty. He didn’t do it… I understand what prison life is like; it’s miserable. To be here and be innocent – I don’t know what it’s like. He’s a kid, and I hate for him to do the kind of time they’re giving him.” It is shocking that such compassion came from a man responsible for killing a dozen people, while the prosecutor and judge in Davontae’s case seem incapable of the same. Please join me in standing up for justice. Ask Gov. Snyder to do the right thing and grant Davontae Sanford clemency. One day in jail for a crime you did not commit is too long, nine years is a nightmare. Let’s help end Davontae’s nightmare.
President Obama: Commutation for Weldon Angelos - 55 years for marijuana
My brother Weldon Angelos, who was on his way to becoming a successful musician--writing and producing songs with artists such as Snoop Dogg and other acclaimed musicians--has been in federal prison for over 12 years. He faces 43 more years. All because he sold small amounts of marijuana and possessed--only possessed, didn't use--a gun at the same time! Even the judge who sentenced Weldon disagreed with the mandatory sentence of 55 years. The father of two young boys and a daughter, Weldon had never before been in trouble with the law. He was convicted when he was 24 years old of selling small amounts of marijuana to a confidential informant three times. The informant, who was a childhood acquaintance of Weldon, testified that a gun was present (never brandished or used) during two of the pot deals, which were friendly encounters in a store parking lot. When the police officers presented a warrant for Weldon's arrest, he consented to a search of his home, where officers found some marijuana and three guns, one in a locked brief case and the other two in a locked safe. The conservative federal judge Paul Cassell, appointed by President George W. Bush, sentenced Weldon to one day in prison on the marijuana charges. But, to the judge's dismay, he had to sentence Weldon to 55 years in prison because Weldon possessed a gun during a drug offense, which was mandatory under federal law, even though Weldon had never before been convicted of a crime. Judge Cassell called the sentence "cruel, unjust, and even irrational," and "one of those rare cases where the system has malfunctioned." Members of Congress have also publicly decried the injustice of Weldon's sentence, including Senators Rand Paul (R- Ky.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Ut.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.), and over 100 former federal prosecutors and judges joined together to challenge Weldon's outrageous sentence. Judge Cassell highlighted that Weldon's sentence is far longer than the sentences received for "child rape (11 years)," "second-degree murder (14 years)," and even "aircraft hijacking (24 years)." Had Weldon been prosecuted in state court, the judge noted, Weldon would have served about 2 years in prison. In 2004, Judge Cassell called upon the President to commute Weldon's unjust sentence. Since then, Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah, and dozens of prominent celebrities, activists, book authors, legal scholars, business leaders (including Koch Industries), and former elected and appointed government officials have joined Judge Cassell in calling on President Obama to release Weldon from prison. But that hasn't happened yet. After 12 years, Weldon is still in prison. It breaks my heart. My father feared he would die without ever seeing Weldon free from prison. And on January 4, 2015, that's exactly what happen. Our father died without seeing his son free from behind bars. The Constitution provides the President with the power of commutation to reach a humane, merciful, just result. Please help us reach that result by signing and sharing this petition.