Deborah White -- #38074-066
My husband, my five-year-old son, and myself live on and take care of our own farm. Our farm is what some would call a "three tier" farm. After my husband became disabled in May of 1993 I became the sole caregiver to the raising of our son, running the farm and feeding the livestock.
Drugs were found on our property approximately three-quarters of a mile away from our home. There were absolutely no drugs found in the house. There were some scales and hemp seeds. The hemp seeds were not tested in court to prove that they were sterilized. We raise fighting roosters for a living and you have to have the scales to weigh and measure the food and vitamins. It all has to be precise! This was stated and the proven in court from a key expert character witness. There were no fingerprints, videotapes, wiring device recordings, or testimony pertaining to the sale or use of drugs by my husband or I.
Since being sentenced I have been diligently going over our transcripts. I have found major discrepancies. In the indictment on the fifth charge my husband was charged with a certain name brand pistol that was NOT found to be logged in the evidence listing. Now, my question is this, how one be convicted of a charge when there is no evidence? No proof of property seized? My lawyer stated to me that it does not matter because it was seized, therefore a conviction can be made. He also stated that it did not matter that the search warrant was not in my name at the time of the search on my property. I have been studying and researching various cases and found this not to be true. I understand there has to be a search warrant and a copy of property seized.
I pray that our appeal works and we are released. I also hope that the chief judges on our appeal can see all of the wrong in this case. I do not have a high school education and can see the wrong done to my family by the justice system. As of yet I cannot get anyone to listen to me. Until our very last chance is used I will not let this keep going on with my family. I will fight tooth and nail to put my family back together. My son needs us.
I have been Alderson Federal Prison Camp for 1-1/2 years now. I have not been allowed to speak with my husband on the phone. They tell me that Ashland Federal Correctional Institution does not allow inmate to inmate phone calls. My husband does not read or write very well. So I do not receive mail from him very often. I always make a point to write to him twice a week. Right now he is in the Regional in Beckley, WV. They do not allow any correspondence from inmate to inmate. There is no way to even get permission. This is not fair! I believe that it is cruel and unusual punishment.
My story is as follows:
April 3, 1997-- My son and I were feeding our roosters, and we heard some noise coming up our driveway. It was a green tractor with two people on it. I saw my brother-in-law, Marvin and a friend of his get down from the tractor. Marvin parked the tractor in my driveway. At that same moment we were watching the tractor park, a helicopter flew over my property and looked as if it was watching the tractor. Marvin had said that he bought the tractor and was bringing it for our use. Anyway, the helicopter flew over, around, and then left. This all took place around 5:00 5:30 P.M.
April 4, 1997-- My son and I were alone on the farm while my husband and nephew went to load hay with the tractor. We needed the tractor to load twelve, one-thousand, round bales of hay that we sold to a preacher from Danese, West Virginia. As my husband and nephew were doing this all craziness broke out up at our house. A lot of law men came roaring up our driveway. They got out of their vehicles and drew their guns on me as they told me to come out with my hands up. They then told me that they were federal marshals and had a search warrant for Marvin White's property. I told them that this was not his property and that he did not live here. I was then told that they were searching anyway. They asked me where Marvin was. I said that I did not know. I asked them if they had a search warrant with my name or my husband's name on it. They said that it was being faxed to them at any minute. I told them they could not search my place without a warrant. They continued to do so anyway.
My little boy was scared to death and ran into the house to hide. I asked if I could please go find him and was told, "no." I was then handcuffed and made to sit on one of my picnic tables outside. About five minutes later my son ran out of the house even more scared of the police. They kept asking where Marvin was. I stated that he lives about five miles down the road. They still had no search warrant.
About forty-five minutes later my husband came driving up and could not get in our driveway. So he started pulling out to our other gate. They thought he was going to leave our property. They took off running with their guns drawn yelling for him to stop. He stopped and they took him and my nephew out of the truck. They handcuffed them and brought them to the house. My husband asked me what was going on and I said that they had no search warrant. I also told him that they were searching for a stolen John Deere tractor, obviously the one Marvin said that he bought. They took my husband to jail and ordered my son and I off of our property. This was around 5:30 p.m. I left the number to my sister's house. It wasn't until 10:15 that night before they called me, and Mr. Mitchem said that I could come home. Before his call, I phoned my daughter and her family. I told her to come up from Clay, West Virginia, to her aunt's house. I still did not know if I was going to jail. They already had taken her dad. After I spoke with them is when the park ranger called and told me I could come back to my house.
When I came back and pulled into the driveway the park ranger gave me a warrant with my name on it. He then told me major evidence was found. It was marijuana that he was referring to. The plants were found on the hill in a four-wheel drive vehicle. I said that I knew nothing about them. He said the tractor belonged to the park rangers and that it was not Marvin's. It was stolen property and charges would be brought up. They left after this conversation. Eleven days after this all took place they let my husband out of jail on a $10,000 personal bond. They charged him with theft of a stolen government tractor.
April 11, 1997-- They searched Marvin White's property while there was no one at home. Around one week later they arrested Marvin and William Sorrells for the theft of the tractor. Now they had three people arrested for the same crime. About three months later, after the release of my husband, we received a paper telling us that the charges against my husband has been dropped (without prejudice).
We tried to get on with our lives. In July they came up with a second superseding indictment. We could not figure out what was going on. At the same time Marvin got a paper telling him that everything was dropped on him (without prejudice). So we thought that everything was going to be all right.
December 1997-- I heard on the news that my husband, Marvin, William, and myself were all indicted on the theft of the tractor, marijuana plants, and the growing of marijuana. It scared me pretty badly. We also got charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. I had and still have papers to prove having back civil rights for my husband. They were returned in 1990. We were under the assumption that we were not in the wrong for owning firearms.
All three of us appeared in court, plus William Sorrells. This is when we started feeling like we were in a three-ring circus. They dropped the charges on William, added my husband, dropped my husband again, added Michael White, and then re-added my husband yet again. So there were three people charged with the theft of the tractor. When we started the court proceedings Michael was given a acquittal, and then Marvin, my husband, and I were convicted on the charges we're currently serving our sentences on.
I am here for something I did not do. All of the court transcripts prove that I am not guilty. I was only mentioned having three things to do with the whole affair. First, I lived on the property with my husband and son. Second, I was feeding the roosters at the time the helicopter flew by and saw the tractor. Third, I gave Hassel Tony a cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup and I never knew that was a crime. I feel I am in prison for feeding roosters. I have received a sixty-month sentence for what I have stated in this letter. My husband also has the same sentence. My brother-in-law Marvin received a seventy-eight month sentence. Can you call this justice? I have a letter offering my husband a plea bargain. I enclosed a copy. We did not accept the plea, that is how I got into this whole situation.
Since the tractor was stolen and it was supposed to belong to Marvin, why us? I cannot say for sure if the drugs were Marvin's or not. All I know is that they were not my husband's or mine. While on federal bond for this situation in 1997 to November 1998 we had to have urine tests done for drugs. They were always clean and drug-free.