PART ONE: February 16, 2004 - My name is Michael Andrew Ballard. I am a prisoner at the Adult Correctional Institution, (ACI) in Cranston, Rhode Island 02920. I have now been a prisoner for twenty six (26) years. I was convicted of kidnapping in l979. I swear that all I say here is the truth. I challenge anyone who disputes anything that I say in the following story not to be the truth.
Media requests to interview me have been plentiful throughout the years. I have declined all requests for personal reasons. During the trial, I also declined because the media was unkind, prejudicial, and uninformed with their days and months of adverse publicity. The media was more concerned with selling newspapers and commercial time than they were with the truth. When my picture appeared in the newspaper, they went so far as to distort my face making me look like some sort of fiend. The two confessed kidnapper’s photos appeared to come from their high school year books. Do to limited space I will only be able to give you short but accurate excerpts of events as they occurred.
March 8, 1979
I was standing beside the car I was driving in the Town of Swansea MA when I was approached by approximately twenty Rhode Island State Police (RISP) and FBI agents (who did not identify themselves as such). The first act of lawlessness I was to experience with these people was the denting of the roof of the car and using my head to do it. After working over my ribs and groin areas, while I was handcuffed behind my back in the rear seat of one of their cars, I was brought to the State Police Headquarters in Rhode Island (RI). I was interrogated for some six hours and denied repeated requests to call my attorney.
March 9, 1979
The following morning I was allowed to call my attorney and he spent the entire day trying to locate me. Later in the day I was taken by the Rhode Island State Police (RISP) to the Federal courthouse in Providence, RI where I was handed over to the Federal Government (FEDS) and charged with kidnapping. Neither one of these two governments were concerned with the Extradition Act. Rhode Island lodged a detainer with the FEDS.
One week later, Rhode Island served the FEDS with a Habeas Corpus for my body to be brought to the Rhode Island District Court to be arraigned on state kidnapping charges. Federal Marshals transported me to the Rhode Island District Court. I informed the Judge that I was awaiting the arrival of my lawyer. The Judge said that I was being held without bail and that when my lawyer arrived, I could tell him that. The Federal Marshals took custody of me and returned me to their Federal holding prison in New Bedford, MA. Neither one of these two governments were concerned with the Interstate Agreement on Detainers.
One week later I was taken to the Federal courthouse and informed that all Federal charges against me were being dismissed. Rhode Island served the FEDS with a Mittimus, and I was handed over the Rhode Island State Police who brought me to the Rhode Island State Prison. To this day I still have trouble recognizing a Mittimus as a proper document to be used in this situation. Extradition would seem the legal way to go unless Rhode Island believes that because the Federal Building/Courthouse shares the same real estate with Rhode Island, that it is not a separate entity, a state within a state. I was taken to the Rhode Island Superior Court the following day to be arraigned. I informed the Judge that I had not yet hired a State lawyer. The Judge set a new date for the arraignment. I WAS NEVER RETURNED FOR ARRAIGNMENT.
April l0, 11, 12-1979
Until the above dates, I was kept separated from the two confessed kidnappers when I was handcuffed to them while attending a BAIL HEARING. My new lawyer informed me that the two of them implicated me in their crime. He told me that the government had signed statements from each of them. These statements said that I not only planned this crime, but I also participated with them in the kidnapping of the two teenagers who were sixteen and seventeen years old. My lawyer also told me that these two kidnappers said in their statements that I removed the two victims from one car and place them in the trunk of another car and then drove us all to a location where the victims would be held until a ransom was paid. Their statement said that once we arrived there, I also removed the victims from the car and escorted them to the holding place. The victims would testify about their ordeal that day. They would also testify that they had CLEAR VISION of that days happenings and CLEAR VISION OF THEIR KIDNAPPERS.
The prosecutor asked the victims to approach the three accused and to place their hands on the shoulder of each of their kidnappers. Each victim placed their hand on the two confessed kidnappers. They merely looked at me, turned away, and returned to the government’s side of the courtroom. My lawyer looked at me confused. For the next two days my name was not mentioned by anyone. The end result of this hearing was not as I expected it to be. Instead, I expected that the charges would be dismissed. One kidnapper was released on bail, and I was HELD "WITHOUT BAIL". My lawyer was instructed by me to appeal to the State Supreme Court. I paid him in full.
This bum of a man and lawyer never filed for the hearing transcripts nor did he appeal to the State Supreme Court. The only thing he did do was to steal my money. This bum also neglected to tell me that his law partner was representing one of the co-defendants. He also forgot to tell me that he was an elected official in the district where the victims and their wealthy and politically powerful parents lived. The victim’s parents owned one of the most popular family restaurants in the State. I was ambushed, and this would be just a sample of what was to follow.
I would represent myself for awhile. I hoped that when the dust settled that I would have a clearer view of what to expect. I had no intentions of going against the advice of our l6th President about having a fool for a client. I would take on another lawyer. He appeared to be a nice person. When I asked other prisoners about him, every one spoke well of him. As it showed when the trial began, the Judge, who would be presiding over this trial, was very hand picked. My lawyer failed to tell me that this Judge was not the type of jurist I needed for this type of trial. This was a cop’s Judge, which meant that cops could no wrong in his eyes. Here I was about to call the State Police and FBI a bunch of lawless thugs.
The head of the Rhode Island State Police is known as the Colonel. The Colonel and his troopers ran rough shod over Governors and anyone else who got in their way. This Judge or any lawyers in this smallest State in the Union would never consider bumping heads with the Colonel. My lawyer knew of this Judge’s reputation, and the Colonels, but he said nothing to me. As the trial heated up, the Gung Ho appearance he put on, when we talked about him representing me would turn more towards retreat.
TRIAL: Selecting a Jury
Ever since they hung the wrong person nearly a hundred years earlier, Rhode Islanders had not experienced a criminal case with as much publicity as this case. About thirty (30) motions were filed by the defense. As we tried to select twelve impartial citizens to hear this case and determine my future, a motion to postpone the trial, change of venue, sequester the Jury and to question each perspective juror out of the presence of other perspective jurors would be of concern at this time. As I mentioned earlier, and after the victims clearly demonstrated that I was not one of their kidnappers by not touching me, I was still having great difficulty accepting that the government was allowing this prosecution to continue. After all the grandstanding by the Governor, Attorney General and the Colonel in an election year, it would have continued even if a bus full of nuns testified that I was giving them golf lessons on the day in question.
More than eighty per cent of the first panel of prospective jurors said that they had formed an opinion. One of these people jumped up and said that I should get a longer prison sentence than the two co-defendants. That entire panel was dismissed. A second panel was brought in and eighty per cent claimed the same bias as the first panel.
When asked by the defense for a ruling on the motions I mentioned in an earlier paragraph, the judge said that he would reserve his rulings until an evaluation of the perspective jurors could be made. The most often asked question to the prospective jurors was whether "they would be a sequestered (locked up) jury?" The Judge ASSURED THEM that the jury would not be sequestered. He gave them this adamant assurance, PRIOR TO HIS RULINGS ON THE DEFENSES PENDING MOTION, which he denied.
All witnesses would be sequestered except one. A certain State Police detective would be allowed to remain in the court room (at the table of the prosecution) to assist them. No objection by the defense. It seemed obvious to me that: Who would be better to serve as the eyes and ears for the Colonel then one of his own men. The detective would even be allowed to testify. His testimony would prove to be crucial in the eyes of this judge, when it came to the defense argument, that the police had no probable cause to arrest me. This detective testified that after he received a communication at his Command Post that a kidnapper was arrested, this person implicated me in this crime. At his location there was a person whose name he stated who said that he knew me and gave him a description of me. **NOTE: This person who claimed he knew me and gave a description of me was not called as a witness (Hearsay Testimony)?
This State Police detective would testify how he broadcasted my name and description (via a helicopter) to all the State Police in the field. He would testify that he recognized every one of their voices as they acknowledged his communication. He went on to identify them all by name.
When these State Policemen were called to testify, the prosecution did not ask any of them about the communication, (via a helicopter) with this State Police detective. On cross examination the question was asked. Not one of them knew what the hell the defense lawyer was talking about. "WHAT HELICOPTER?"
**NOTE: My defense lawyer said to me "What about this helicopter?" "Where did this helicopter come from?" He is saying this because there was no mention of this testimony by this detective and certainly no mention of a helicopter in the DISCOVERY PACKAGE that the government gave to the defense. My defense lawyer made his comments and objections to me and not to the Court.
The State listed both co-defendants as witnesses for the State. One co-defendant took the 5th and the other one would be the state’s star witness. This witness testified that he and I discussed and planned this crime at the Town Coffee Diner in the town where I lived. He testified that it was during the lunch hour and that we sat in a booth.
This witness would also testify that after he was arrested, he refused to answer any questions asked by the State Police until he spoke to his lawyer. He testified on cross examination by the defense that after about "six hours of interrogation in a secluded area at the Rhode Island State Police Headquarters, he was not allowed to contact his lawyer". He testified that he just gave in and confessed along with implicating me in his crime. When asked the time he confessed and implicated me, he said around midnight. **NOTE: The State Police detective who testified that he arrested this state’s witness testified that he confessed at 6pm which gave them probable cause to arrest me at 7pm. **NOTE: Why would this witness (for the State) contradict the testimony of the State Police, when it would be the State and the State Police who would be recommending leniency for him at his sentencing?
The Judge allowed the introduction of a statement that the State Police said I gave to them. On direct examination by the government, the State Police detective was allowed to read THEIR statement to the jury. On cross examination by the defense, this detective was asked to tell the jury, who signed this statement? He replied, "NO ONE". Imagine an unsigned statement was read into evidence.
A forensic expert testified that he found hair samples and fingerprints in the vehicle that transported the victims. This is the same vehicle that (the two confessed kidnappers said in their statements) and one of them who was the state’s star witness testified to before the Jury that it was I who put the victims in the vehicle and drove it some fifty miles to the locations where the victims would be held until a ransom was paid. Their statements and direct testimony also said that it was I who removed the victims from the vehicle.
On cross examination by the defense, the forensic expert witness was asked whose hair samples and fingerprints were found in and outside of the vehicle. He testified that the hair samples and fingerprints belonged to the TWO VICTIMS AND TWO CO-DEFENDANTS. My lawyer asked, "Did any of those hair samples and fingerprints belong to Michael Ballard?" He answered, "NO." **NOTE: My hair was quite long. This was not a Court of Law this was a circus. The Judge should have put an end to this but ambition guided him.
My dog in this fight knew early on that he was in way over his head with this bunch. He had his chances to seek a mistrial, but he took a pass at my expense. The trial mercifully came to an end. The defense would give its summation followed by the government. Now it came time for this Judge to give his charge to the jury, and he would instruct them on HIS version of the trial and GUIDE THEM to the verdict. He expected them to render. You recall that this Judge allowed a State Police witness to read to the jury an alleged unsigned State statement that the police claim I made. "I testified that I gave no such statement to the police".
This Judge in his charge to the jury told this jury seventeen (17) times that I gave the State Police a statement. This Judge ignored the fact that I denied giving this statement. Instead of using the term ALLEGED STATEMENT, he expressed his judgment of the ALLEGED STATEMENT by telling the jury that I did give a statement.
The Justices on the State Supreme Court would rally around their brother and clear up this prejudicial jury charge by unanimously ruling that any bell that was RUNG during his charge was UNRUNG when he told the jury at the beginning of his charge that it was THEIR recollection of the facts that counted. This Judge defined reasonable doubt as being an "actual and substantial doubt". The jury would ask that he repeat the reasonable doubt part of his instruction at three separate times during their deliberations. On appeal the State Supreme Court Justices would bail their brother out AGAIN.
The way in which the Justices who presided over the l979 session went about ruling on this issue, can only be described as unethical, pathetic and bordering on being fraudulent. This fraternity dishonored the men and women prior to and after l979 who served on the Court with honor and dignity. This is what they did.
They ruled in a State v Thorpe 4292d785 in a footnote that thereafter "trial Justices in discussing the reasonable doubt doctrine shall omit any reference to "substantial doubt". They go on to say that because Thorpe was "filed on May 8, 1981 and my trial took place in l979, the trial Justice in State v Ballard 439A2d1375N12 did not have the benefit of our "critical comment concerning the definition of "reasonable doubt" as a substantial doubt". We cannot fault the trial Justice for instructing the Jury on the law as it existed at that time. However, this l979 Court fails to tell the readers of their ruling how they went about doing it.
Is it common practice for the Rhode Island State Supreme Court to change "Laws that no one is challenging?" The Court must have felt an urgency to make this change and hide it in a footnote in a case that raised "NO JURY INSTRUCTION ISSUES". To add further insult to the Court, they did not give to me the benefit of this rule change even as my appellate brief sat before them.
The Jury requested to hear just the cross examination by the defense of the testimony of the State’s star witness the kidnapper. The time was about 8pm when the Jury returned to the Court Room. The Jury requested that they be allowed to continue their deliberations. The Judge replied telling them to call home for a toothbrush, etc. The Judge told them that he was sequestering them for the remainder of their deliberations.
They were in shock. The Judge told them at the beginning of this trial that he would not lock them up. Now he was reneging on that promise. The trial was taking place in the Capitol city that has an abundance of hotels. The Judge shipped them to the furthest end of the State which took two hours round trip by bus. The following morning twelve haggard-looking people took their places in the Jury box. The Courtroom was packed. The front row seats were occupied with State Police, the victims, and their parents. The Jury wanted to hear the Judge give his instructions "once more," and he obliged them. My only hope would be the "jurors who had it right" would stick to their guns and convince the other jurors to join them in a not-guilty verdict.
Seven hours later they returned with a guilty verdict. Except for the "ringer" a marshal told me about sometime later, I have never harbored any ill feelings towards these jurors. They were never allowed to do their job properly. The "intimidation" was just too much for some of them.
The two kidnappers were each sentenced to twenty five years. This is the same sentence they were offered if neither testified for the government. The one who did testify thought he could do better if he testified. I WAS OFFERED THE SAME SENTENCE FOR A GUILTY PLEA and I was never the least bit tempted to do so. I instructed the lawyer not to ask this Judge for mercy. I criticized the Judge for some of his rulings and "condoning the lawless actions by the police". This Judge said that the way the police handled this case was just like a James Bond 007 movie. He sentenced me to serve two consecutive life sentences plus a consecutive six five years. Then he listened for that gasping reaction from the spectators. "Maximum John" Bourcier lived for this moment. "Maximum John" had hit the high note.
BAIL PENDING APPEAL
The same Judge would deny this motion. The same Judge who sentenced me to the longest sentence in Rhode Island history along with the GREATEST DISPARITY EVER BETWEEN A CO-DEFENDANT was about to tell me what a nice person he felt I was. He did not feel that I would be involved in crime nor did he feel that I was a threat to society. He was denying my motion for bail because he did not feel that I would stick around for the result of my pending appeal. I had trouble believing what this Judge was telling me.
Just weeks earlier he had handed me a perpetual sentence. Now a few weeks later he is telling me what a nice person he thinks I am. Are judges in Rhode Island required to go through some sort of mental evaluation before being allowed to determine the fate of another human being?
The Rhode Island Supreme Court denied all fifteen issues in the appeal.
HABEAS CORPUS-FEDERAL COURT
The Habeas publicity, exhibits, trail transcripts and other exhibits were hand delivered to the Clerk of the Court for Federal District Court. A receipt was given identifying what was received by the Clerk of the Court. On the day that the Habeas was to be heard, my lawyer was informed that the ENTIRE PACKAGE that was delivered to the Clerk of the Court (which I have a receipt for) was missing. The Habeas was dismissed without prejudice and the Court would put someone in charge of locating them. My lawyer quit that same day. I made continuous inquiries about the missing items only to be ignored. I asked the Court to appoint a lawyer for me. They appointed a lawyer that was just weeks away from being disbarred. What came about in the months and years that followed was just another low point in the judicial system. Everyone except me believed that I was a political prisoner. My lawyer said to me that no matter how strong by issues were, I would never win. They said that the publicity issue alone was the best that they ever saw. As an American I could not bring myself to believe that "Political Prisoners" existed in my country, but I was naïve.
I had now been a prisoner for six years. I was taken from the prison and brought to the Courthouse where I was tried. Since I had nothing pending in the State Court, I had no idea why I was taken to the Courthouse. I was taken directly to the office of the head State Marshal.
A gentleman sitting behind a desk introduced himself to me. He said that he was a prosecutor with the State Attorney General’s office. He said that he was aware of what was being done to me and what was being done to me was wrong. He told me to be patient and that he would speak to me again soon. He advised me not to discuss our meeting with anyone. As I was taken back to the Maximum Security Prison all I could think about was that some one realized the truth and that I would soon be a free man. Since l981 I have been in possession of a notarized recantation from one of the kidnappers who was serving his sentence in another state as was his co-defendant. The person who said that he was going to correct a terrible wrong and champion my freedom was made a better offer for his conscience. He was appointed to the Bench. Again I had no dog in the fight.
SENTENCE REDUCTION 1993
Seeking a reduction in my sentence would be like asking for mercy at the time I was sentenced. The sword would be plunged deep into my pride, but I had to try even if it meant I would be asking the same Judge who sentenced me. I filed the Motions Pro Se and asked for an appointed counsel.
Maximum John would not appoint a lawyer on his own. He told me to find a lawyer and he would appoint whoever I chose. He knew the intimidation of the Colonel still existed with this case, and he was not about to ask a member of his Bar Association to step into a no-win situation.
I began contacting lawyers. Twenty five of the ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY I spoke with expressed an interest in representing me and scheduled a date and time to come to the prison to speak with me. No one came and I called their offices to ask the reason why they failed to come. Their secretaries said the lawyer was no available, out of town, etc. One even said that her boss had to go to Europe to represent a client at a trial. Was the Colonel or some one with equal influence listening at the other end of the prison telephone that I was using?
I wrote the Judge and explained that I contacted l50 lawyers and was unable to find one to represent me. The Judge had me brought to his Courtroom and seemed to relish reading my letter in open court to me and to whomever else was there. The only change he made with what I wrote (and what he said) was that I had contacted 300 lawyers and been denied their representation. Why he would choose to inflate the number left me shaking my head.
The Judge once told me that he Rhode Island Bar Association was a small Bar and what they did not have in quantity they made up for in quality. Here he was boasting about 300 members of his beloved association refusing to represent a citizen of the United States of America. I thought perhaps that after reading in the newspaper the Judge’s comments about the "three hundred lawyers" that he RI Bar Association would have come alive and one of the members would offer their services. They were all silent.
Maximum John refused to reduce the sentence. I appealed to the State Supreme Court where at that time there were only four sitting Justices. This bunch decided to play it safe by splitting their vote evenly (two-two) thereby automatically sustaining the lower court denial. They also did this without an opinion or how each member would vote. I could refile the appeal when they had enough members to break the time.
The next appointment to fill one of the vacancies was NONE OTHER THAN Maximum John. Since he would be required to excuse himself, there would not be any point in refilling the appeal. I was forced to wait five years from the date of the tie vote to have the appeal heard and a decision reached.
This Court reduced the sentence from two consecutive life sentences to two concurrent life sentences. The bottom line? This Court did nothing. The Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution did not get a moment of recognition. The disparity between the two co-defendant’s sentences of twenty five years and Ballard’s two life sentences were not even acknowledged by the Court. There was no consideration given in that the two kidnappers served their sentences in a different state in a Minimum Security facility and work release program and by l997 they had been free for ten years. I had served every moment in a High Security prison and a Maximum Security prison.
In 1997 this Court had the opportunity to correct a terrible wrong. What they chose to do was to continue the wrong. This Court in its narration distorted the facts relating to the trial testimony. The truth is:
**Note: The victims testified that it was Savastano who
committed these acts. Savastano’s testimony was an obvious
act of perjury. The victims confirmed at a Bail Hearing on April
10, 11, 12, 1979 that Ballard was not one of their kidnappers.
** Note: The problem with distorting the facts after they are published in a law book is that it remains there forever. The person writing the opinion for the Court should know this.
Another motion for a sentence reduction was filed by Ballard pro se. The motion was denied and in the year 2000 Ballard appealed to the State Supreme Court. When Ballard heard nothing from the Clerk of the Court regarding his appeal, he inquired by mail as to the status of his appeal. The Chief Clerk for the High Court sent Ballard a reply stating that NO SUCH APPEAL has been filed with the Clerk of the Court and that Ballard must have filed with the wrong Court.
Ballard sent the Chief Clerk a copy of the entry that listed Ballard’s appeal with the Clerk of the State Supreme Court. Ballard also sent the Chief Clerk a copy of a letter from a lawyer who Ballard had sought stating that he had checked the files at the State Supreme Clerk’s office and that Ballard’s appeal was on file with that office. It has been four (4) years since the appeal was filed with the State Supreme Courts Chief Clerk, and he refuses to respond to Ballard’s inquiries. Mr. Chief Clerk for the RI State Supreme Court becomes another member of the gang to support the violation of" Human Rights".
POST CONVICTION RELIEF (2000)
In the year 2000, I filed a Post Conviction Relief Application. I did not file for an appointment of counsel. The Judge who the case was assigned to appointed a lawyer. In late 2003, I wrote this lawyer and inquired about the status of the application. He informed me that when time permits, he reads trial transcripts. I supplied these transcripts so that he did not have to waste time locating them. It is now 2004 and the former cop, prosecutor and the Judge appointed to represent me have done nothing. I wish I had room to tell you more.
In the past I have contacted Amnesty International, The American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU), a past Governor of the State of Rhode Island, and President Jimmy Carter. I asked each one to investigate my situation. Amnesty International replied and said that they are concerned with what is happening to me, but I fall a little short of their guidelines for their help. The American Civil Liberty Union did not reply. President Jimmy Carter’s office replied and said that the President can only get involved in Federal cases.
Twenty six years ago I made my living as a professional golfer. I have always believed that the most important virtue in a person’s life is honor for without honor you are nothing. Twenty six years ago I challenged the government to give me a polygraph test, and they did. They tested me five times, and I passed them all.
The victims clearly said that I was not one of their abductors. The DNA says that I was not there. The alleged co-defendant recanted. The testimony of the other co-defendant was ridiculous. I gave no statement to the police or anyone else, and to even suggest I did is insulting.
A political prisoner, in my opinion, is a person who is deliberately denied the protection afforded him/her by the Constitution of the United State of America by lawless agents of a State or the Federal government. The same also extends to those who sit in judgement.
Judge John Bourcier shortly after my trial where he found no misconduct with the police that he likened to the fictional character James Bond 007 had this to say about when a defendant comes before him claiming mistreatment by the police. Judge Bourcier said, that when a defendant comes in from Kennedy Plaza with a mark on him and says that he has been mistreated by a policeman, on the record I have to say it is awful that this goes on; and I can’t tell you what I think inside. He goes on to say to the Rhode Island citizens he is addressing, "I am sure that you feel the same way". Yes, John Bourcier said that.
I told you in a n earlier paragraph that during Judge Bourcier’s charge to the jury that he told the Jury that I had given the police a statement (implicating myself in this crime) as opposed to telling the Jury, "alleged statement" ESPECIALLY because I testified that I gave no such statement.
The Rhode Island State Supreme Court failed to take into consideration Bourcier’s pattern of expressing his opinion on the guilt of a defendant before a final determination has been made. While addressing the same group, he spoke about setting a trial date for two men who appeared before him earlier that day for murdering one of the defendant’s wives. Bourcier stated that they appeared to be guilty of murder. One defendant had an argument with his wife and apparently took her life and threw her overboard.
The 1979-1980 State Supreme Court condoned his pattern of
expressing his opinion knowing that the Commission on Judicial
Tenure and Discipline in the past had brought Bourcier before them
for this type of action. I CAN BE CONTACTED AND I HOPE THAT
YOU DO BECAUSE I NEED YOUR HELP.
Michael A. Ballard
Michael died shortly after being released from prison.
I begin part two of my
story by thanking the folks at Caught.net for the opportunity to
tell my story. There is no debate that a special gratitude should
go to them for keeping this wonderful and important outlet
operating for people who sometimes fall through the cracks of
society and are forgotten. It has been suggested that my
thinking is that of one who is still living in the l960’s and
l970’s. That I still believe that Americans and just plain
old folks (no matter where they live on this planet) will come out
and make themselves heard by means of protest and will support
those who suffer oppression by any state or federal government who
practice and condone human rights violations of its citizens in
secrecy. I want to continue to believe in the words of the
late United States President John F. Kennedy when he said:
“Those who see wrong and do nothing invite shame.
Those who see wrong and do something invite freedom”.
Two years ago I accepted an invitation by Caught.net. I did so even after refusing many offers by other media outlets over the course of many years. It was (and still is) paramount for me to protect the privacy of others who may be affected had I chosen to go public with this limited story. I have always believed that one of the most important virtues in a person is honor. If you must sleep in a bed of scorpions to protect the ones you love than so be it. This is never a hard decision; in fact, it is a “no brainer”.
Now it is time to talk a little about lawless acts by those who took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. I speak about those Federal and Rhode Island judges and prosecutors who declare the United States Constitution inoperative in the case of the State of Rhode Island v Michael Ballard, case number 79/365. An ancient Japanese philosopher said: “The nail that stands up will be hammered down”.
I felt that instead of whining, complaining, and accepting what was done to me by a bunch of lawless State and Federal Gestapo thugs and invite shame into my life, I would take a stand and expose these people who not only dishonored the United States Constitution but also the vast majority of good people in their respective field.
I had witnessed this behavior before and during the l960’s with the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicago Democratic Convention of l968, Caesar Chavez and the Chicago migrant workers to name a few.
I know that the majority of the law enforcement professionals are not lawless thugs. I know that the majority of prosecutors do not believe that the true test of their skills is to get an innocent person convicted. I know that the majority of lawyers will not sacrifice your freedom for future favors or personal gain. I also know that the majority of jurists will not accept instructions by the government or those in high places and deny motions of suppression of obvious constitutional violations. However, even if there is only one in the above professions that is one to many.
If you are one of the victims of this minority group, and I am, and your life has been flushed away and everything you think about seems to go against you, all your possessions flee from you and you stand alone on the very edge of time and space where the Divine Force has carried you and you are left alone to face the reality of yourself and you have no one but yourself to depend on, who do you turn to? I am turning to you the readers. My hope lies with you!
When I put Part I of my story on this web site in 2004, I did so at the risk of upsetting lawyers and judges who could adversely influence future litigation I would have before the Court and that what was currently pending. I decided to follow the lead of General Colin Powell. The General said: “that being responsible sometimes means pissing people off”. When I refused a Plea Bargain offer by the government that would have set me free twenty years ago I pissed a lot of people off.
The scuttlebutt at that time was:
Who is this s.o.b. of a golf pro think he is taking up the time of our prominent people and accusing our state and local police and the FBI of being lawless thugs? If you have read Part I of my story you can realize that what the government alleges could not have possibly taken place. As of this writing not one person has disputed me.
I am informed that my story gets a lot of attention. I only wish that those of you who have read this would respond by writing to me to express how you feel about what I have told you. I am disappointed that not one Christian brother or sister or religious organization offered moral support or assistance. I am also disappointed that no lawyers or firms offered any assistance.
I, like Nelson Mandela, who was a political prisoner in South Africa (for nearly as long as I) was jailed not because of any crimes but because he stood firm against human rights violators and the tyranny from that particular segment of a society that condoned the arbitrary use of such power. I have sworn eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man (Thomas Jefferson).
I believe the reason I am having a problem with Americans responding to my plea for help may be that the average citizen finds it hard to believe that American Courts practice a policy of confining its accused to greater prison sentences (if the accused rejects a plea bargain offer by the government) and elects to exercise their constitutional guarantees to be heard by a jury of their peers and subsequently be found guilty. The bottom line is that most people are convinced that if a person is found guilty after a trial by a jury (supposedly a jury of ones peers) than that person must be guilty. The truth is that although a jury gets it right the majority of the time, it is disastrous to so many lives when they do not.
You do not punish persons for exercising their constitutional right to be judged in an open court by unbiased judges. Prosecutors who are there to seek out the truth and not there only to get a conviction at all cost. Unbiased jurors and defense attorneys who are competent enough to guarantee the defendant that all avenues were researched to secure the defendant’s constitutional protection.
If all of the above are not in place than the jury will most likely get it wrong. That is why (especially today) that you hear of so many people being released from imprisonment because of the lawless act by police, biased judges, over zealous prosecutors, incompetent lawyers and those who will bear false witness against thy neighbor.
The Rhode Island Judiciary adamantly denies that the accused is subjected to a greater sentence for exercising the right to trial guaranteed by the Constitution of the United State of America.
I challenge the State of Rhode Island to present one case where a defendant was given the same or a lesser sentence after refusing a plea bargain offer by the government and found guilty of the same charges by a jury. If the bargain offer was deemed sufficient by the government and all other concerned parties, for the crime the defendant is accused of, why then is that plea bargain offer now deemed insufficient, because the accused elected instead to exercise those rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America”. (Michael Ballard 2006)
Let me give some factual examples of where a defendant elected a jury trial opposed to being intimidated by an ultimatum in the form of a plea bargain.
Plea bargain offer of 5 year-sentence 25 years
Plea bargain offer of 8 year-sentence 65 years
Plea bargain offer of 2 year sentence-35 years
Plea bargain offer of 20 year sentence-life
This standard practice of Draconian Penalties is applied in Rhode Island for one reason. When this government makes you an offer you had better take it. The Judiciary will swear on a stack of Gideon Bibles (that this practice I speak of does not exist in Rhode Island). I say to my fellow human beings dressed in black, tell the people one case where this did not happen because I can tell them of so many where it has. I might add to the poor or those represented by the public defender.
I do not know how much more abuse this government and its agents want to inflict upon me. I wish that I could know who is indulging who-ever and who is pulling the strings to make sure that I continue in this pit of abuse.
I am often asked about my innocence or guilt. My reply is that after reading Part One you should be able to use your common sense and make up your own mind. My telling of some of the events of the past twenty eight years is told for one main reason: The Constitution of the United States of America. If you do not pay attention you will wake up one morning and discover that those protections you once took for granted may no longer exist.
I have a benefit that you do not have. I have a lot of time. So much that I spend a few hours each day observing the happenings in our world by means of different forms of media and books as well as vocal communication with unfettered people. I feel that if the United States Constitution was on the stock market, and you invested all you assets in it thirty years ago you would be filing bankruptcy today.
In Part One I mentioned a Post Conviction Application I had pending in the Superior Court in Rhode Island. I filed this motion in the year 2000 and it was finally heard in 2005 by Judge Netti Vogel. I was appointed a lawyer in 2000 (Christopher Gontarz) by the now Chief Justice Frank Williams when his honor was a Superior Court Justice. I did not request counsel but was appointed one. I had filed several issues plus two supplemental issues all of which I felt were viable issues.
I will not take up a lot of space telling you about a non-existent relationship with Attorney Gontarz for five (5) years and Justice Vogel questioning of him prior to her ruling on the issues raised, where Justice Vogel appeared to be asking Attorney Gontarz if “he was serious about these issues she was about to rule on?” Attorney Gontarz replied that he was standing by what was in the memorandum. A memorandum that I never read although I requested Gontarz to send me a copy before filing anything on my behalf. Instead of enhancing the issues I had raised, if necessary, he instead depleted them to the stage where they became ridiculous issues. That were doomed to be denied, and they were.
I do feel that Justice Vogel should have asked of me if I was aware of what was in the memorandum since this was originally a Post Conviction filed by me pro se. I would have told her that I had not read the memorandum even though I requested that Attorney Gontarz not file it before I was able to read it and approve it as I feel was my right to do. Although I heard very little of the narration by the Judge regarding her version of the travel of the case, I finally secured the transcripts of the hearing. I kept asking the Marshals who were guarding me if they could hear what the Judge was saying. They could not. I was, however, able to hear her call to someone in the rear of the courtroom that she would see them at 2pm for lunch. I have the transcripts and I have no other choice but to file another Post Conviction Application with the one issue being ineffective counsel which is an issue that gives me no pleasure. It was the late United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger who said that fifty percent of lawyers are incompetent. I am afraid that Attorney Christopher Gontarz fits squarely in that group of which the Chief Justice spoke along with Attorney William Poore (the lawyer I spoke of in Part 1) who I paid to appeal my case to the Supreme Court but instead stole my money.
It is very unlikely that I will be able to get a lawyer appointed that will go against another lawyer so it just might be best that I do go this one alone knowing that I am quite short on experience and expertise along with an ill equipped law library. I should have claimed ineffective assistance of counsel against the trial lawyer. But I felt that he did his best considering the intimidation he faced every day in the Court Room, and probably outside the Court Room. This poor guy came to me after the verdict with such relief in his face to tell me that the State Police told him that they were not mad at him because the jury stayed out so long.
Here I was about to be sentenced by a mad man of a Judge to a sentence that Methuselah could not complete; and this guy is jubilant because the police are not angry with him because the jury did not return their verdict immediately.
The government’s case was so weak that right after the jury began its deliberations the Judge (who apparently spoke with the alternate jurors) told the defense lawyer and the prosecutor that the alternates did not believe the testimony by the police and that they should expect a long wait for a verdict. There was this one juror who was appointed foreman of this jury by the Judge. His name was Angelo Piacitelli. Well, Angelo neglected to tell the defense lawyer when asked if he knew personally any of the names of the people the defense lawyer was rattling off to him, names that included the presiding Judge who was sitting there bigger then life. Angelo said no but Angelo was not exactly telling the truth. You see Angelo campaigned for a State Senator (by the name of Hawkins) who nominated the presiding Justice for the judgeship that he now held. Angelo and the Judge were very familiar with each other. Angelo and the Judge campaigned for the Senator.
I of course gave this information to the lawyer that was given to me by a Marshal and later corroborated by a correctional officer. I assumed (like an idiot) that the lawyer would investigate. He did not.
It is no wonder that many lawyers throughout these many years have told me that the trial was nothing short of a joke. Everything that has been told to me by these people has come with a condition. The condition being that anything said by them to me is off the record. I have told each of them that what I need is for them to stand up in open court and repeat this information to a Judge, but they would never do that. This is one reason I remain a prisoner and wind up getting the likes of lawyers like Christopher Gontarz a former cop and former prosecutor for the State.
Every time I read the transcript of that post conviction hearing and see what Christopher Gontarz, of Middletown, RI did to me, my blood pressure rises twenty points. It does not decline when I get to the parts where Judge Netti Vogel allowed the hearing to take place. I often think of what that brave lawyer said to the tyrant Senator Joseph McCarthy “Have you no sense of decency Senator”?
I can only hope that if this distinguished attorney was alive today that he would give me permission to use his words so that I could echo them to the Judiciary in Rhode Island and all of its officers of the Court. I do not want the readers of my story to have the impression that I dislike all lawyers, judges and law enforcement people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I dislike the small percentage that dishonor their chosen profession. The Constitution of the United States of America should be revered by these people and all Americans who insist on taking claim to it in times of need.
Anthony Lewis, a columnist for the New York Times, ended his story about an 80-year-old Federal judge (who had a reputation as a judicial tyrant) who predicted the outcome of a case being tried before him. Lewis stated “Judges play a crucial role in the American system safeguarding our freedom. I happen to revere the judicial process. When it is subverted by judges themselves the dangers are great”.
It Should Be Noted That The Two Confessed Kidnappers, Alan Gomel Of Brocton, Massachusetts, Who Recanted His False Testimony Against Me, And Salvatore Savastano Who Along With Alan Gomel, Did No Harm To Their Victims, Have Been Free People For More Than Twenty Years. I, Who Was Convicted Of The Exact Charges As Gomel And Savastano, Am Still A Prisoner Twenty Years Later.
I hope that this story reaches some or all of the jurors who decided the case in l979 and that those jurors, if they chose, will communicate with me anonymously. I hope that they tell me about those days of deliberation and provide you anonymity.
Some people have asked me if I every sought assistance from God and ask the Lord for relief from this pain and suffering. I never have nor do I have any intention of doing so. My sincere belief has always been that there are so many in this world that are faced with greater suffering than I. God should attend to the neediest first and when he is finished doing that (and he has a spare moment) I certainly would appreciate anything he can do for me.
In closing this part of my story and I wish that I could tell you more, and maybe some day I will, I would like to say thank you to all of you at All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, who paid tribute to my mother, Helen C. Ballard, who passed away on September 2, 2002. She truly loved the Church. To all of you who attended All Saints Day School, where my mother loved teaching music for nearly 30 years, I hope that she left good memories with all of you. I hope that music will always play a positive role in all your lives. I know this would be Helen Ballard’s wish and I know that she loved all of you. I hope some day to visit your Church. I will do my best to be inconspicuous.
It is a guarantee that some day these human rights abuses will end for me. Perhaps if I am still alive when this takes place, I will learn why this government did what they did. Perhaps they think that I know something I do not know. Maybe they believe I know who killed President Kennedy, but I do not. Like those people in high places, I know who did not!
I do not want to get nuts on you but I have had an unwanted opportunity to observe the happenings in this world for the past 28 years. I am convinced of one thing that all of you should pay close attention to an age-old philosophy: Evil will triumph if good people do nothing. Thank you.
Michael died shortly after being released from prison.