January 3 and April 18 will always be very special days in my life. As the reader of this letter, I must let you know that it is by the grace of God that I am able to share this Christian testimony with you.
My story begins on May 9, 1996. I was arrested and booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on marijuana possession charges. Though the events which lead up to this are relevant, they are not the focus of this story. Let’s just say that what the officers did was unethical and I should not have been arrested.
After being arrested, I called my mom and asked her to call her friend (the bails bondsman) and ask her to come down to the Santa Clara County Jail and bail me out.
Well, in those days I was very arrogant and cocky. The thought of me actually being arrested and booked was ridiculous. I figured that I would just bail out and that would be that. I sat arrogantly in the holding tank expecting to be bailed out at any moment (it didn’t happen).
What I did not know was that because of a crime which happened 20 years earlier in my youth, I was now a three strikes candidate.
While I waited to be bailed out, one of the CO’s (Correctional officers) told me that I didn’t make bail and would have to go upstairs to a cell. I was sure he was mistaken. I sat on my bunk all night thinking, any moment I will be bailed out (no such luck).
When morning came, I called my mother to find out why bail had not been posted for me. My mom told me that her friend (the bails bondsman) had gone down to the Santa Clara County Jail and was informed that bail for me was being denied by the night duty judge who insisted that I appear in arraignment court before bail would be set.
This infuriated me. I called my high-powered lawyer and told him that I was being denied bail and asked him how much would it cost for him to come to arraignment court and negotiate my bail.
My lawyer said, “The reason that you are probably being denied bail is because they want to make it high. It will probably be about $100,000. You can afford that, right?”
I said, “Yes, I can, but I have a very bad feeling about this. I would feel more comfortable if you were in court with me, even if it is only for a five minute appearance.”
My lawyer told me that he would charge me $2,500 for the appearance.
When I arrived in the courtroom, to my dismay, I was informed that I had three strikes. I asked my lawyer if this was true and he looked very sad and nodded his head yes.
At that time I was informed that my bail was $500,000. I remember that day very well. My legs were like a wet noodle; I found it very difficult to walk back to my cell.
I always considered myself to be a very tough guy, but I am not ashamed to tell you that I cried like a baby all the way up to my cell.
When I went into my cell, I was very distraught. I saw a Bible on the table in my cell and I picked it up (it was the New Testament) and I read it.
After reading it, I became very religious. This is an important statement, because there is a difference in being religious and really trusting God, as I found out.
After reading the New Testament, I began begging God to get me out of jail and pleading with him, making all sorts of promises. I told God that if he got me out of jail, I would make sure that all of my friends and nephews went to church. I foolishly continued to promise this and that.
God listened to my pleas and by his grace and his grace only, I made bail. During that time there were over 300 three-strikers in Santa Clara County, all facing life and I and one other person were the only ones who had managed to get out on bail and they (The District Attorney’s office) were furious.
Shortly after my release I heard that the other person was taken back into custody and the rules had been changed, so that all three-strikers in Santa Clara County were no longer granted bail.
Now I was the only three-striker who was out on bail and the pressure was on by the District Attorney to try to get me back into custody.
As mentioned before, I had made all sorts of promises to God prior to my release. But somehow, now that I was free, those promises were now replaced with my need to make people think of how great a person I was and how I wanted them to remember me.
I bought my nephew a new car, because I wanted him to remember his great uncle. I bought my adopted daughter-in-law a new van, because I wanted her to remember how great a person I was. I helped a few people get into I.T.T. Technical Institute, because I wanted them to go to school and remember how great a person I was. I helped other nephews get great jobs, because I wanted them to remember how great their uncle was.
I wanted to leave a legacy of what a good person I was, so that when I was eventually sentenced to life, everyone would remember me. I was so consumed in doing this that I paid very little attention to my case and the amount of money that I was spending on my own legacy.
In the end, the district attorney got his way and through certain events, I was re-arrested in Sacramento and brought back down to Santa Clara County to face charges.
Within weeks of me being brought back into the county jail, my nephew’s car was stolen and totaled in a crash. My adopted daughter-in-law drove the wrong way on a one-way street and her van was totaled. My other nephew lost his job because of fighting and everyone else dropped out of I.T.T. Coincidence? I think not.
I was devastated. Not only was I going to lose my freedom forever because of three strikes, everything that I had built up for myself as my legacy—a testimony to myself—had been totally destroyed.
I sat in my cell feeling totally defeated. I saw the Bible on my cellmate’s table and I picked it up and began to read it from the very beginning. There was a difference this time. I read it because I wanted to and did not expect God to save me. I had accepted the fact that I was going to get 25 to life.
A short time after I began reading the Bible I began realizing what a disgusting person I had been all of my life. The words in the Bible (God’s words), convicted me so badly that I threw myself on the ground and confessed my sins to God and asked him to let Christ come into my life.
During the same week that I dedicated my life to following Christ, my attorney (Susan Shores) came to see me. She told me that I would not get 25 to life and that she knew a judge who would not give me a life sentence for having marijuana.
I could not believe it. There was hope for me?
Well, I kept on studying the Bible, started attending Bible studies, and even started a Bible study in my dorm which consisted of 15 other three-strikers. They were all facing life sentences, but because they also trusted God, they are all now home with their families (but that’s another story).
My prayer during this time was to ask God to bless my attorney with wisdom. I am mentioning this because when you pray to God you better be careful of what you ask—because you just might get it.
11 months into my case, my attorney came to see me and informed me that she could no longer defend me. That she had defended too many three-strikers and now it was affecting her emotionally and physically.
I told her that I needed her and that without her I would more than likely get a life sentence. Susan told me that her doctor had informed her that she had been internalizing all of the stress that is involved with defending three-strikers. If she did not take time off, it would affect her health.
She apologized and told me that I would have a new attorney (Louella Tsai).
At my first meeting with my new attorney, she told me right out that I was going to get life. She said that we were going to file a 1538.5 suppression motion, but that it would not work because no judge in Santa Clara County would grant it. For a judge to grant it, he or she would have to admit that the officers were lying. She said that no judge in Santa Clara County would ever admit that any officer would lie.
The motion was filed and the judge heard testimony in the case. After the hearing, the judge stated that she would send us a written response within a week.
One week passed and I called my attorney to see if she had received any response from the judge. My attorney said, “We cannot not win this case. The judge is going to rule against us.”
Later that week, I spoke to some Christian brothers who were housed in the dorm with me. They told me that the Holy Spirit had told them to tell me something about my case. This made me get really upset. I was sick and tired of Christian brothers always saying that they had a message for me from the Holy Spirit, who for some reason only talked with them and no one else. Why was that? How come I never heard the Holy Spirit talk to me? What was so different about me?
That night, when I locked down in my cell, I called out to God. In a loud voice I said, “God, I am sick and tired of people saying that the Holy Spirit spoke to them about me! What makes them so special that they can hear the Holy Spirit and I cannot? I want to hear your voice God, me, personally. Please speak to me so that I can hear you for myself.”
I waited all night just to hear God’s voice. I even got a little scared, because I wondered if he spoke to me, would I be able to deal with it? Would it scare me?
I stayed up the entire night and there was no voice to be heard from God. The funny part about it was that I was sort of relieved.
I sat on my bunk and picked up my Bible to read a few verses and the strangest thing happened. The words in the Bible were speaking to me. No matter what page I turned to, God was speaking to me. Right then and there, he was answering all of my questions in a voice that I could understand and a voice I did not fear. I knew right then and there beyond a doubt that God is alive and he is real—REAL!
I fed on every word that was being given to me and I walked out of my cell with confidence and though I had been up all night, I was not tired. I had no fear about what was ahead of me.
I called my attorney later in the week, just to hear from her that the judge still had not made a decision and that I should not depend on her ruling in my favor, because it just wouldn’t happen.
I told my attorney that I had faith and my attorney responded, “You’re the only one.”
In the fourth week, I called my attorney and she said, “I don’t believe it. The judge granted the motion in your favor and the case was dismissed.”
It didn’t end there. The district attorney re-filed against me and I had to fight the case again from the beginning. During this time I had been incarcerated in the Santa Clara County Jail at Elmwood for approximately eighteen months.
By the time my attorney was ready to file another 1538.5 suppression motion, 12 months had passed bringing the total amount of time of my incarceration up to thirty months.
Because so much time had passed, witnesses for my case had began to move on with their lives and were hard to find and were just tired of coming to court.
It had become almost impossible to find some of my key witnesses, so I just explained to God that I did not want to involve witnesses in my case any longer. I would just go into court with him, and whatever he decided, I would trust.
I don’t have to tell you that my attorneys (God blessed me with two at that time) were very upset with my decision. They told me that it was hard enough to win the case when it was my nephew’s and my testimony against two police officers, but now I was going to be the only witness in my defense against the testimony of three police officers.
They (my attorneys) did not understand that everything was in God’s hands and all I asked of God was for the truth to be known.
The 1538.5 suppression hearing which was only suppose to only take three hours began in May 1999 and ended in November 1999.
Now all that was left was for the judge to submit her ruling in writing to everyone.
The weeks went by and during this time something very interesting happened.
I had developed a very bad problem with my knee. It had been swollen for three month and the swelling would not go down. As a result, I could not bend my leg at the knee and had to keep it straight at all times.
This was also very difficult for me, because walking was hard enough, but I also lived on the upper level of the dorm and had to use the hand-rail to walk slowly up and down the stairs.
Even when I prayed in my cell each morning and evening I could only bend one leg and the other I had to keep straight (this was very awkward, but after three months I had gotten use to it).
I spoke with my mother on the telephone and she begged me to go and see the jail doctor. She said that she feared that I could have a blood clot in my knee and that it would become loose and go to my heart and kill me.
My fear was that if I went to the doctor, he would tell me that I needed surgery and that would mean I would be sent out to Valley Medical Center.
You are probably wondering why I thought that would be bad. Well, anyone who is sent to Valley Medical Center is rolled up and moved downtown to the main jail, which is a very dirty and disgusting place.
I had lived in M5, at Elmwood, which is located in Milpitas, California, for 34 months and my cell had become my home away from home. I had spent many hours praying and talking with God there. I also had developed several friendships with other Christian brothers who were also facing what I was facing. Now don’t get me wrong, I would never want to spend the rest of my life in that cell, but if I had to be in jail in Santa Clara County, that is where I would want to be.
After much pleading from my mother, I decided to go and see the jail doctor. He examined my leg and told me that there was a definite problem. He said that I would have to go to Valley Medical Center to have it drained.
I pleaded with him and asked him if he could just drain it in his office. He told me no. It had to be done at the hospital.
He told me that he would schedule an appointment for me to see the orthopedics surgeon, who would x-ray my knee and schedule me for transfer to Valley Medical Center for surgery.
Man, I felt distraught. I returned to my dorm and to my cell. I told one of my friends that I would be transferred to Valley Medical Center. I asked him to help me roll up all of my property in my cell so when the officers came to get my property it would all be in order.
Within minutes of me telling a few people that I would be transferred, inmates in my dorm went to the dorm officer to ask if they could get my job as lead dorm trustee.
For those of you who have never been in custody before, a trustee is a job which is assigned to an inmate worker. In M5, a trustee is responsible for making sure that the dorm is cleaned, that food is passed out during all of the meals, distributing out laundry and any other related duties.
The benefits are that you are able to get extra food, extra clothing, extra bedding, and extra television time and are not locked down as often as the general population.
This had been my job for at least 2.5 years of my incarceration.
As I sat in my cell and continued to pack up all of my property, I felt very distraught. A thought came to my mind, something that I thought I would never consider, because I did not believe in it.
I considered asking God to heal my knee. Now I know that you are probably wondering how I could believe in God but not believe in the healing process.
I did believe in God, but I also believed that only the apostles had the power to heal and that it was not in our ability in today’s society. I have seen too many people putting their hands on people to try and heal them and nothing happened. So, I believed what I did.
Now here I was in my cell not wanting to be transferred. Who else could I turn to? I got on my knees (knee, because I had to keep one leg straight). I felt really embarrassed about this.
I put my right hand on my right knee and prayed sincerely. I asked God if he could please heal my knee. I told him the truth and why, even though I already knew that he knows everything and I asked this in Jesus’ name. This was around 4:30am.
Later on that evening, around 7:00pm, I was taken out to see the orthopedic surgeon (which is located in the Elmwood complex across the road from my dorm).
The doctor examined my knee and compared it to the chart that the other doctor had taken the day before.
He said, “This is strange. The swelling in your knee seems to be smaller than yesterday.” I did not give it much thought, because I still knew that I would be transferred to Valley Medical Center.
He took an x-ray and said, “This is very strange. I want to wait a couple of days and see you again. And then I will schedule you to go out for surgery.”
I returned to my dorm and did not think much of it. I had forgotten about my prayer to God.
The next day, I was walking up to my cell when I reached the top of the stairs; I realized that I did not hold onto the rail. I had walked up without holding onto the rail and did not even notice it.
I couldn’t believe it. I went down the stairs without holding onto the rail and walked back up again without holding onto the rail. Then it dawned on me: I HAD BEEN HEALED BY THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD!
I kept it a secret from everyone until later that evening. We had a prayer circle at the end of each day where everyone (inmates in my dorm) would get together and pray. At that time, I showed everyone my knee and showed them that I could bend it and told everyone what had happened.
I know that this is hard to believe for those of you who read this story, because if you would have told this to me two and a half years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it myself. But I was healed and no surgery was ever required.
There were 64 inmates (including me) in my dorm. There are now 64 witnesses who will testify to the truth of this. They were all there and they have all seen for themselves.
Shortly after this miracle, sometime around Christmas, my attorney informed me that the judge had again ruled in my favor and on January 3, 2000, by the grace of God, my case in Santa Clara County was dismissed again.
But the story doesn’t end here.
Before I continue, I want to take this time to thank some Christian brothers, free people who were inspired by God to come into the county jail once per week and visit with all of us and teach us God’s Word. No matter how tired they were from working out there in the free world they would still take the time to come in and share God’s word with us.
Those fine Christian brothers are:
Brother Ede Lee
A special thanks to brother Ede Lee, because he used to tell me that I should submit my will to God and ask that God’s will be done. I used to say that I was afraid of that, because maybe God’s will was that I would spend the rest of my life in prison.
His response was, “but you would still be free in Christ.”
Brother Lee, I now understand what you meant.
Now it’s time to go on. As I mentioned earlier, my case in Santa Clara County was dismissed on January 3, 2000. Yet I could not go home because I still had a case pending in Sacramento County.
I prayed and fasted and begged God not to let Sacramento County pick me up (even after all this time, I still had not learned to trust God’s will). Well, they came and picked me up alright and when I arrived in Sacramento County, I was informed that I was being charged with possession of marijuana and three strikes. Oh no! Not again.
During the process my attorney sent out an investigator, who interviewed a friend of mine who was there during the arrest. To my amazement, that person confessed to the crime, where most people would think, “Well he’s already in custody for it. Why should I confess?”
But by the grace of God, he confessed to it. His mother confirmed her son’s confession and a third party (a bounty hunter) also confessed that his partner was lying in regards to this issue.
Now I had three witnesses in my defense. My lawyer stated that she would submit the investigator’s findings to the district attorney and ask for a dismissal.
It should have been cut and dry, but it wasn’t.
The district attorney stated that since this was a three strikes case, he wanted his investigator to go out and interview all of the witnesses.
My attorney stated that the district attorney’s investigator not only received the same information that her investigator received, but that all three witnesses signed sworn statements to the fact.
She said that she was going to ask the district attorney to dismiss the case.
Months went by, because the district attorney kept postponing the court date that we needed to ask for a dismissal. He kept saying that he had not had time to research the case and had not had time to personally interview the witnesses.
My attorney stated that she was tired of waiting for the district attorney to dismiss the charges. She said that he was being stubborn because it was a three strikes case and that they (the deputy district attorneys) get a bonus every time they convict someone for a life sentence.
She said that we would just proceed on to trial and go for the win.
I was tired. Even though I could win, going to trial would mean that I would be in custody for another three years.
I asked God for help. I said, “Heavenly Father, I know that you can win this case, but I am just too tired. Please tell me what you want me to do. They do not offer deals to three-strikers, but if I walk into that courtroom tomorrow morning and they offer me a deal, then I will know it came from you. But if it does not happen, then I will know that you want me to take this to trial.
On April 18, 2000, when I walked into the courtroom, my attorney said that she wanted to have a private conference with me.
Inside of the interview room she said, “The district attorney still wants to pursue this case, even though all of the evidence exonerates you. He said that he doesn’t care about the truth; he just wants a conviction. He said he is willing to drop all of your strikes if you would be willing to plead to two years and one strike.”
I said yes before she could finish the statement. She said, “Stop and wait. Think about it. You can win this case. You are not guilty.” But my attorney did not know that God had told me what he wanted me to do.
So I took the deal and was sentenced to two years and one strike. Now because of the one strike enhancement, it doubled my sentence, which meant that the two years was now a four-year sentence. Nevertheless, on April 18, I knew that someday I would be going home.
I promised the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that from that day forward, on January 3 and April 18 of every year, I would tell as many people as I could of God’s awesome power and how he came to my rescue when I thought that all hope was gone.
Now there is one last part to this story.
During the sentencing portion of my case the judge gave me good time credits for only four months. From January 5, 2000, to April 18, 2000. After this time I was remanded into the custody of the California Department of Corrections to start serving my sentence.
I was first transferred from Sacramento to DVI (Duel Vocational Institute) where I was processed through reception. Two weeks later I was sent to Susanville, Level–III, where I was informed that my release date from prison would be February 28, 2003.
Six months later, I was brought in for emergency classification, because they realized that they had made a mistake and my points were not Level-III, but Level–I and they asked me where I wanted to go. I didn’t know where. A friend of mine had transferred to CMC (California Men’s Colony), so I said, “Send me there I guess.” My counselor told me that they would never give me my first choice and to pick somewhere else. I said, “I don’t care, you pick.”
He said, “Susanville, Level-I.”
A few days later, my counselor called me in and said he didn’t believe it, but the CSR board had approved my first request and I was being sent to CMC.
So I arrived at CMC. While there, I began going over my court papers, because I could not believe that I had only received four months credit from the court. I had been in custody for three and a half years.
So I called my family and asked them if they would get me a lawyer. My dad did not think that they would give me any more time off. My younger brother, who is a professor at a local university, concurred with my dad. My sister, who is a deputy sheriff, said that she called the Sacramento Sheriff Records Department and there had been no mistake.
My mom was the only one who would at least try (thank God for mothers).
During this time I worked in the Unit II program office as an inmate posting clerk. I explained my situation to one of my co-workers (Joe Martinez) who was a sergeant’s clerk. He said that he had been studying to be a paralegal and he could file the necessary paperwork to the court for me.
Well, you know what they say about jailhouse lawyers. And I wasn’t too thrilled about this guy possibly messing up my paperwork, but the more he talked, the more I began to realize just how much he knew.
I thought about it. Had I not learned enough about God yet? Did not God take simple, uneducated fishermen and make them some of the most important people in our history?
So I told Joe to go ahead and fill out my legal paperwork. Joe told me that he would help me file a writ of habeas corpus requesting that the court grant me all of my back-time credits. He said that the court would turn it down at the informal level, but not to worry, because they always deny it at first. Then we would file an appeal which we should win.
So we submitted the writ of habeas corpus to the court and waited for the denial to come back so that we could file the appeal.
One week went by, then two, then three. Joe said that this was unusual, because the denial is usually sent back within the first week.
I am telling you that we were both really stressing.
On April 18, 2001, one year later from the date that I was sentenced, I knew that I had to keep my promise to God, so I met together with a few Christian brothers that I had met at CMC and I cooked for them. I told them the story of how God saved my life and all of the miracles that I had witnessed since January, 1997, through my final deliverance on April 18, 2000.
When we finished eating, I returned to the program office to finish up some work on my desk. To my surprise, I was told by the mailroom officer that I had legal mail waiting for me.
He handed me the letter and I was too afraid to open it. I knew it was the denial, but I didn’t want to read it.
When I opened it, it read that the court found that the writ of habeas corpus which was filed had good cause. The court also wanted to know if the district attorney’s office or CDC could provide any legal reason that it should not be granted.
One other thing that shocked Joe and me was that the judge cited a case in my favor on why the writ should be granted.
Joe and I were ecstatic. We rushed over to the law library to look up the case that the judge had cited on my behalf. In short, it was a Supreme Court ruling which stated that a person must be given all credits from the date of his/her incarceration.
Shortly afterward the judge granted the writ of habeas corpus. The district attorney’s office conceded that I should have been given credit from January 1997 through April 18, 2000, instead of only getting credits from January 2000 to April 2000.
The judge then issued an order that I be given 1,766 days credits off of my sentence and ordered my immediate release from the California Department of Corrections and that all extra credits be taken off of my parole.
I want to take the time to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read my testimony, and to help me to continue to keep my promise to God.
It is only by God’s grace that I am here now able to type this testimony on my very own computer, at my very own desk, in my very own office in the company that God has blessed me with.
Take care and may God’s grace be with you all.