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Jo Ann Winter


Jo Ann (bottom left) with daughters Dania,
Danell and grandson Brandon


There is a great deal of injustice in the judicial system in the United States. It is a mistake to take a conspiracy case to trial. An individual becomes a number in the game of justice played by judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and unindicted co-conspirators.

For four months, beginning in September 1992, I was temporarily employed by three men who formed a partnership and opened a new business that dealt with the manufacture and repair of car hauler trailers. I was the secretary, and my duties included obtaining licenses and permits necessary for doing business and handling receivables and payables that related to said business.

Approximately six months after that brief employment, one of the partners was arrested for a state drug delivery charge.

This person was a friend and was involved in a relationship with my daughter. That relationship had been on going for several years. Naturally, I was concerned about the situation and was available to assist in any way possible. I contacted his friends and associates and raised enough money to post bond and obtain counsel. He was arrested again later that year for failure to comply with a judge's order and again I contacted his friends and associates to request additional funds. During this period of turmoil, I gave a pager subscribed in my name to my daughter. I also had a telephone installed in my name for my daughter. The relationship ended - my daughter relocated - but the pager and telephone service remained in the possession of the friend. There were numerous subsequent contacts with his friends and associates then and through the date of his trial for the above mentioned state charge which concluded in October of 1995.

One cannot imagine my surprise when I was arrested on Nov. 6, 1996, and charged with "Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Methamphetamine" and "Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering." I had neither drugs, nor money in my possession. I was released immediately after my arrest on a personal recognizance bond. I was no threat to society. I did not obstruct justice. I believed in justice. I went to each court appearance. I proceeded to trial with a court appointed lawyer.

At trial an indicted co-conspirator testified that I was present at a location when he was there to conduct a drug deal. This is where I worked. I saw no such transaction. He received money from the federal government and time off his sentence from a previous state case for his testimony. Another unindicted coconspirator said that someone made a statement to her about me. It wasn't true. She is free. Another unindicted co-conspirator said that she had never seen me, but she saw my car once or twice. She is free. Two other unindicted co-conspirators gave testimony in the trial. They already had sentences of 85 months and 79 months from an alleged related case. One of those will be free in about 18 months.

The jury returned a guilty verdict and I was then taken into custody and have remained in custody since May 7, 1997.

I read a newspaper article dated May 8, 1997, regarding my case. I learned then that I was part of a conspiracy that "Imported 400 pounds of illegal stimulants worth $3 million." This was news to me. In June, a U.S. Probation Officer came to see me and confirmed some personal data that was already on file. In late June, I received a copy of the Pre-Sentence Report. Only then did I learn that I was a "Violent Crime Offender," and that I was guilty of activities not even mentioned during the trial. I was sentenced on July 30, 1997, to 276 months (23 years)! Eight of the alleged co-conspirators received sentences that were much less than mine. I don't even know five of these people. The newspaper reported that I would only serve 228 months.

If I had been part of the Million Dollar Conspiracy that the newspaper reported, I believe I would have paid a lawyer "BIG BUCKS" for my defense and today I would be in some obscure location enjoying my retirement. Instead I am separated from my family. I am 900 miles from home. At age 51, I feel I am serving a LIFE sentence. I NO LONGER BELIEVE IN JUSTICE.

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