Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Help Me Howard: A felon?
If you are watching, odds are you have not been arrested. But you may know someone who made a mistake, maybe a minor one. And the last thing they want is to have a conviction on their record so people make deals. But that can cause major problems, which is why one guy called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Nobody is perfect and when you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is just admit it.
Michael Nasca: "I did. I made my mistake. I own up to it."
Michael's story began back when times were good and he was in construction.
Michael Nasca: "I made very good money there. Made about $600 to $800 a week."
A fellow he knew was not doing well and begged Michael for some money.
Michael Nasca: "I lent them a $100 because they have a kid and I wanted to help them out."
Then as we know, the economy headed south. The construction business crumbled and Michael was out of work. So he asked his old friend to repay the money Michael had given him.
Michael Nasca: "'I need you to help me out. I helped you when you were hurting.' He said, 'na man I don't got no money, I don't got no money, I don't got no money.'"
Michael walked over to the man's car, and saw an iTouch sitting there.
Michael Nasca: "And then that's when I made the big mistake of taking that and saying, 'look I'm not giving this back to you until you pay me back my money'."
The man called the police. Michael was arrested and charged with burglary, felony. When he got to court, he admitted what he had done and accepted what he thought was a good deal.
Michael Nasca: "They told me that withheld adjudication meant that when I finished my probation, that I would no longer be a felon and I would get my rights back."
Michael said that has not happened. A group he was sent to to help him find a job called the OIC told him when he filled out a job application, he had to write down that he was a felon. You can imagine the response he gets when he says that on job applications.
Michael Nasca: "The HR department saw that I was a felon and said, 'Oh sorry. You can't work here,' and told me to leave."
Michael said he wrote down he was a felon on nine different job applications. Nine times he was told good bye.
When he got called for jury duty, he told them he was a felon. They said nope.
Michael Nasca: "'You're not a felon. You're not a felon because you have withheld adjudication.'"
Michael is simply confused. He is being told he has to claim he is a felon. He is being told, 'you are not a felon.'
Michael Nasca: "Oh, I'm so frustrated it's unbelievable."
Well Howard, is he a convicted felon or not?
Howard Finkelstein: "He is not a convicted felon and when Michael applies for a job the answer to the question is no, he is not a felon. Withheld adjudication means he was not found guilty of the offense and when he finishes his probation, he can have the entire case sealed from public view."
When I spoke to the head of the OIC, the Opportunities Industrialization Center that trains people to get jobs, I was told by Newton Sanon that his staff was under the impression that when you withhold adjudication it does not clear you of the felony. I explained the law and he asked if Howard could come to his center to speak to his staff to clear it up for them. Howard is going to go speak to them. And if you know someone facing a charge, make sure they know where they stand.
Howard Finkelstein: "I tell every client the same thing. If you are not guilty, don't take the plea. If you are guilty, you have to decide whether to take the sure thing, a lesser sentence or risk a harsher sentence if the jury doesn't believe you. And if you aren't sure what your record will look like in the future, ask the judge."
We all make mistakes, Michael made two, loaning who he thought was a friend money and then trying to get it back the wrong way.
Howard Finkelstein: "I wish so much that I can go back to that point and and just say, 'You know what, keep the $100 and just stay out of my life,' and just walk away."
Glad that Michael is now clear that in the eyes of the law, he is not a felon. Now he has to go out and find a job and it will be a lot easier with a clean record.
Guilty of letting a problem take charge of you? Don't make a plea. Just make a phone call. We aren't judge and jury, but we can execute a decent solution. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser 7News.
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