Maye’s attorneys met with her. This is her description of the meeting. I am pasting it from her communication with me and making modifications only to protect identities.
Given that [the judge] has shown and verbalized his bias and prejudice against me before I ever stepped foot in his court room, I’m told he’ll never concede his presence in this case, because he attached to it far too much. Had it been a bench trial I would have been sentenced to death row by that man. And even if he by Gods good grace, gets pushed off the case, we could end up with a judge far worse. Because the consensus in Utah county is all the same; a single, young, black, pregnant female. She must be guilty and a nuisance to society. Afterall what is one more black body off the streets and locked away! The judges, they’ll look out for each other. So we’re looking at a unfair advantage either way and thus an unfair trial. “We’ve thought long and hard about what were going to say next. But first we want you to know, we believe you.” My attorneys say. What does that mean? I wonder. Panick increasingly rising throughout my veins. “We’ve got to start looking at different options.” I freeze. For the first time in months, I clutch my belly, fighting tears, promising my baby that I will protect her. Secretly praying she can’t feel my fear. “Remember to win means to avoid prison time. You’re are going to be a mother and that is our priority, making sure you get to live a life with your baby. We’ll do everything we can. But considering taking a plea deal is our advice and we both strongly recommend it.” I sit there stunned. A plea deal? And jeopardize my innocence? Absolutely NOT. How could I ever explain to people the truth if I’m labeled as guilty though innocent? Who would believe… My thoughts trail off. I sit there in a room full of people who believe in me, feeling forced to take a plea that requires that I lie when I’ve spent the last few years embracing the truth. Lies that could ruin my life. I began to cry, helplessly. My life is about to change for the worse, by invitation……”
Conflicted. What did any of this mean? It was all a blur, a foggy moment that lasted way too long. Like a concentration camp, I was a prisoner for no true reason other than existing and speaking. My lawyers were promising about trial, given the stories, time lines and [accusers’] inability to recollect the same thing consistently when asked. .. I get rewarded with 21 first degree felonies, 5 second degree felonies, looking at 25 yrs to life minimum. For one charge. I don’t care what happens, I will NEVER admit to something I didn’t do. I would never hurt anyone. But to honor my innocence is to risk the rest of my life in prison, which is something I’m willing to do. However, to honor my innocence is to risk abandoning the most precious gift God has granted to man. The life growing inside my womb. A life that deserves a chance to live with the love of a mother. A chance I was never given. I promised if ever I was granted the blessing of a child, I would give that beautiful spirit everything I went without. That includes unconditional love and respect and the sacrifice of doing what’s hard for the sole benefit of that child. My child. I’m 8 months pregnant contemplating the risk of the rest of my life. How utterly and completely selfish of me. This was never meant to be about me, how could I not have seen that sooner? This is a test from God to see how unselfish I can be, despite the risk involved and no doubt the assassination my character and reputation will under go. So what will it be? My innocence while in prison? Or a lie but free? “My name is XXXXXX XXXXX. And I am now a convicted sex offender. I had to choose between the risk of spending the rest of my life in prison, though innocent of the crimes, or taking a plea deal to love and raise my baby….. I chose life.” My daughter is my innocence.
It is not my purpose to explore the accusations, only her treatment in a United States of America courtroom. Her attorneys ultimately advised her to take the offered plea deal, which would dismiss all charges from when she was eight years old and erase any future prison time, though she would be on the sex offenders’ list for twelve years. I did hear the accusations detailed in court. I had particular reasons for being suspicious of all of them. But I have chosen not to detail that side of the story.
If anyone reading this wonders if this woman perhaps deserved the treatment she received, if her “crimes” somehow merited the violation of due process, I will say emphaticaly that she did nothing to deserve this.
But in this context, I have to introduce the line I heard when Trayvon Martin was murdered. My mother was watching a conservative news station and I heard the words, “Trayvon Martin was no angel.” I didn’t stay to hear what charges they would level against him just weeks after his death, but I recognized the pattern. When George Floyd was killed, I knew that I would soon hear some variation of the “Trayvon Marton was no angel” trope. Indeed, it came with the Candace Owens youtube. Of course that youtube included a disclaimer (they all do), but anyone who celebrated or shared her words should look closely at this FB comment: “I have never, ever seen [Candace Owens] parroted by anyone who wasn’t 1) white, and 2) attempting to downplay racial inequality.
Let those words play as a caution. If we are to do what we as a human family must do–which is to heal and come together in peace–we must pay attention to those who are hurting.
What I have reported this week is the story of one woman and one court case, which I witnessed. I wish it were unique. Consider that any time a claim is leveled against the Black Lives Matter movement (the claim du jour is that it’s Marxist), people like Maye are dismissed and their trauma ignored. Whenever a youtube or a meme suggests that Blacks would have no problem if they just obeyed the law, or if they worked on their own problems, if the fathers in their families were more present, the stereotype which played such an enormous role in this case is magnified.
It is easy to answer the complications of this case with a cliche. But cliches merely unite like-minded people. They do not heal. What’s called for right now is healing.