with author Lupe Haas
what would you do if wrongly accused?
If you were wrongly accused of a crime, would you fight to prove your innocence or take a plea to avoid serving a longer sentence if convicted by a jury of your “peers?”
That seems like a no brainer, right? Of course, I would proclaim my innocence and prove it. However, after hearing from a friend that her mother did just that and is now paying the price for standing up for herself, changes my perspective.
Ceci, 66, was indicted, along with her superiors, for a real estate foreclosure scandal. While her bosses took a plea for a two-year jail sentence, the mother of two from Ecuador decided to prove her innocence in court.
Her daughter, Sylvia, also believed the justice system would prevail and agreed to fight the charges alongside her mother by helping financially. On November 2012, Ceci was found guilty and convicted of money laundering, grand theft, and 10 other counts. She is currently awaiting sentencing in a Ventura County women’s jail facility. She faces up to 11 years in prison,while her superiors involved in the scandal are free after serving their two-year prison sentence.
Unfortunately, what Ceci and Sylvia are finding out in the aftermath of the conviction is that—guilty or not—she should’ve taken the plea deal. “I wish I knew that it doesn’t matter whether you're innocent or not—It’s just how the system works,” said Sylvia, who recently hired a new attorney to appeal for a new trial for her mother. According to the lawyer, Ceci's original counsel, knowing the family's financial situation, should’ve insisted she take the plea— fighting criminal charges is not about guilt or innocence but how much cash you have to back up your case. “Basically people with no money get screwed,” Sylvia discovered.
Sylvia and her mother have exhausted their financial resources and started a fundraising page at GoFundMe.com to pay for the new representation. On the GoFundMe.com page, Sylvia describes her mother and why she fights for her freedom.
“Those of you who have met my mother know she is a mom in every sense of the word, and that her only crime is being too giving of herself and trusting of others. So to have her in jail, amongst criminals, is devastating to me and my family. She is a good, law-abiding, God-fearing woman who couldn't live with herself if she stole from others. She has been wrongfully convicted and does not deserve this fate. Please help me right this wrong and set her free! I haven't hugged my Mom since November, and I really miss not having her in my life.“
Ceci is not alone. Meet others who maintain their pleas of innocence, even after facing serious charges and sentencing from a flawed justice system, on the "Wrongly Convicted" episode of The Ricki Lake Show (airs Thursday, February 14).
For more information about Ceci and her situation, visit the Free Ceci page on GoFundMe.com.