24-year-old, Ramad Chatman was found not guilty by a jury of his peers but will still serve seven years in prison.
In 2012 Chatman was convicted of breaking and entering for stealing a television worth $120. Even though this was his first offense, Chatman was sentenced to five years’ probation. During his probation period, court papers show that he paid his restitution, attended every meeting, finished his community service and even kept himself employed.
In 2014 Chatman was identified as a suspect in a convenience store robbery. Although he was on probation, which means that he was required to submit his whereabouts to law-enforcement officials monthly, Chatman was never arrested for the robbery. In fact, according to him, he had no idea that he was a suspect.
In 2015 Chatman learned that he had been accused of the crime so he turned himself in. Chatman said that he only turned himself in for the crime because he knew he was innocent.
When he was arrested, Chatman offered to plead guilty to assault in exchange for having the armed robbery charge dropped, but the Judge Jack Niedrach rejected the deal. Chatman wanted to enter an “Alford plea,” which means the defendant pleads guilty but maintains his innocence, but the judge declined his request.
Chatman went to trial. During the trial, the police had no evidence for the case. They didn’t find a weapon. They didn’t recover any money. There was no video. In fact, the clerk who identified Chatman ID’d him on Facebook over a year after the robbery. So the jury found Chatman not guilty of all charges.
But apparently Judge Jack Niedrach wanted to send this young Black man to jail, so he did.
Niedrach revoked Chatman’s probation and sentenced him to 10 years. Chatman will serve a minimum of 7 years, which means he will sit in prison until 2022.
Chatman’s original probation would have been finished five years after he was sentenced on July 6, 2012. Although that initial punishment seems harsh, Chatman complied with every requirement of the court. Even when faced with other criminal accusations, he turned himself in. By all accounts, he was a model citizen.
So Ramad Chatman is either imprisoned for 7 years for stealing a $120 TV in 2012 or is wasting away behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit and was found not guilty of. Either is an injustice.