Sunday, August 12, 2007

In Memoriam: Alva Mae Groves Another Casualty In the No Win War On Drugs

The Following is printed with the permission of Howard Kieffer of BOPWatch. When are we going to realize that we have got to approach the drug problem in America from a new and more understanding angle???



In Memoriam - Alva Mae Groves - Sentenced to 24 years in prison at at age 72.



Alva Mae Groves

Sentenced to 24 years in prison at age 72

Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base

(Ms. Groves passed away on August 9, 2007, still incarcerated in federal
prison. Our condolences and sympathies to her family.)

"When I was arrested I had $1,000.00 in the bank from selling eggs and
candy. Most of it was deposited in change - nickels, dimes and quarters
- and the bankers substantiated this fact. I earned that money one egg
at a time, one soda pop at a time, one candy bar at a time. It wasn't
from selling drugs as the government contends."

I am 86 years old and have been incarcerated since 1994. I was charged
with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and Distributing
Cocaine Base, and I was also charged with possessing a gun. The court
sentenced me to 24 years in prison on these charges.

My real crime, according to today's laws of betrayal, was refusing to
testify against my sons, children of my womb, that were conceived,
birthed and raised with love, of which there were fourteen children in
all - nine girls and six boys. The government said I could have received
a reduction in my sentence if I would have testified, but since I
couldn't do such a thing, prosecutors then said I was a
manager/supervisor in this offense, thereby raising my offense level by
three points and increasing my sentence substantially.

Of course I didn't really understand all this talk about enhancements,
acceptance of responsibility, and so on, that had to do with my
sentencing. But I did understand that since I wouldn't turn against my
own family that I was going to receive a very lengthy prison term. Never
did I dream it would be twenty-five years.

On advice of my attorney, I accepted a deal for a sentence that also had
me signing all appeal rights away. I was also denied a three-level
decrease in my sentence for acceptance of responsibility because my
attorney advised me not to speak without him present. As I say, I didn't
understand all the legal jargon and totally relied on my attorney's
assistance. I still don't understand how one can sign their right to
appeal away when one hasn't even received their sentence. It's all
beyond me. I know I sat there and watched while my whole family was
buried by sentences of thirty years (my daughter Margaret),
seventeen-and- a-half years (my granddaughter Pam) and my other sons, one
who received a natural life. I still don't understand all of it.

When this all began back in 1994, I was 72 years old and lived out in a
trailer in Clayton, North Carolina. That trailer sat on a lot belonging
to my son, William Robert, where I lived with and cared for my two
granddaughters, Fontara (11 years old) and Jasmine (9 years old), my
youngest son's children. The only money I received came from SSI and
what money I could earn selling eggs from my laying hens (I had about
100 chickens). I also cleaned houses when I was able, and sold candy
bars and soft drinks to the kids coming from school in the afternoons.

We lived six miles out of town and there weren't any stores close by. My
children were always welcome at my home and would come to check on me
and help me as they could. My doors were always locked when I was gone,
but my children had keys to get in. The day I was arrested I was working
in my garden at my son's house about five miles from my home. I had
woods around my own home and no place for a garden. I was working in
this garden the day the Sheriff's department came and arrested me. While
I was gardening five miles away, the police broke into my home. They
said they had found drugs, but I don't believe that.

After I was arrested, they wanted me to testify against my son Ricky. I
worked hard all my life and I raised my children to be responsible and
to work for what they wanted. They all knew how I felt about an honest
day's work. If any of my children, including Ricky, were doing anything
less than that, they wouldn't have let know about it because they know
how I feel. If I can tend my chickens, clean houses, and sell soda pops
and candy to make money at 72 years old, they can all work too. I did
the best I could to raise my children and grandchildren. But just as it
is with anyone else's children, I had no control over what they did when
they were grown and on their own.

When I was arrested I had $1,000.00 in the bank from selling eggs and
candy. Most of it was deposited in change -- nickels, dimes and quarters
- and the bankers substantiated this fact. I earned that money one egg
at a time, one soda pop at a time, one candy bar at a time. It wasn't
from selling drugs as the government contends.

Six of my family members are in prison because the government wanted my
son Ricky. They offered me home confinement if I would testify against
him, but he is my son, and I couldn't do that anymore than I could do
anything else that would harm any of my children. When I refused to
testify against Ricky in exchange for home confinement, the police got
mad and said I was the drug kingpin and that my family was selling drugs
for me. I think this was the only way they could justify, or try to
justify, arresting a 72-year-old woman who sold eggs for a living. The
government gave other people all reduced sentences for their statements.
All these people belonged to the government. I've never even seen half
of them.

I have now been in prison for close to eight years. As I unknowingly
signed all my rights to appeal away, the only thing I could do was
petition the President of the United States for a Commutation of
Sentence. From FCI Tallahassee, I was transferred to the Medical
Facility in Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas, due to health problems. My
application for a Commutation of Sentence was submitted while there in
February of 2000. I have since been transferred back here to FCI
Tallahassee and my application is still pending.

I realize everyone has a day to die; death is a fate that will not be
cheated. But I don't want to die in prison. I want to die at home
surrounded by the love of what's left of my family. I do not have enough
years left of my life to finish serving this twenty-four year sentence
as I am already 80 years old. I'm appealing to anyone to write letters
for me to the Pardon Attorney's Office in Washington while my
application is still pending.

Thank you.

Alva Mae Groves 15230-056
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