Friday, April 11, 2014

An Accusation with No Corroboration Can be the Only Evidence Against You in Virginia: Acquitted Norfolk Man Speaks Out

Thankfully for Mr. Arney (see article below) he had the resources to get to a trial and did not cave to the inevitable plea deal. 
  • For the people that say teenage girls don’t lie about such things, here’s another example.
  • For the people that say the state can’t just file charges and go to trial on a "she said, he said" without any other evidence, here you go.
  • For the people that say Commonwealth Attorneys don’t play games with charges, reduce charges instead of dropping charges because they won't admit there is no case or perhaps no crime at all or that they offer plea deals to people who are obviously innocent when they know most people are so scared or so broke they'll take it all to keep their conviction rates up. Well that’s what they did here. 
The system is broken and I don't mean it's not severe enough for the defendant or that it's too difficult for the victims. I mean accusations are too easy to make. That charges, bail and confinement to jail until a trial or deal is struck, is far too easy when there is no evidence, no witnesses and no injury . That the cost of an attorney who will actually invest their time into an investigation and an actual defense to prove a crime was not committed because the Prosecution no longer needs to prove guilt when it's a sexual claim far exceeds what most people can afford and so they become a victim of the state, wrongfully convicted being the label Sex Offender.

I know from personal experience that plea deals are offered in Virginia before the Prosecution interviews the defendant (5 months and 2 weeks since the false accusation was made), you are only given 5 minutes to make a decision about the plea and if you don’t take their "offer" they’ve told you your photo, name, address and charges will be released to the 6 O’clock news so everyone knows.   

5 minutes to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life and your families with no knowledge of the actual accusation, any facts of the case, the dates, the times, the witnesses, nothing because in Virginia a motion for discovery is denied. But with the plea deal you can take one misdemeanor and go home today but if you turn it down you’ll face two felonies that each carry a sentence of life plus 20 years. Plus you’ll need to spend another $20,000+ (that you don’t have) to go to trial which would be 6-9 months more away and in the meantime you’ll be dismissed from your place of employment because your job allows you to work with a misdemeanor but not if you’re facing a felony, you'll be "let go" (no pay, no benefits, nothing. How will you pay the additional $20,000 plus cover household expenses for the next 6-9 months if you’re dismissed from your job?  What do you do, you have 5 minutes under the threat of your photo being given to the local news? You take the damn deal and go home and the Commonwealth knows it.

More than 94% of criminal charges in Virginia end in a plea deal; his does not mean they are guilty of anything. They must evaluate their individual situation (ability to pay for a trial, can they continue to maintain their job, their home etc while fighting the charges or will they lose all of it defending their name), what the Commonwealth is claiming and the ability to prove otherwise. Mr Arney I congratulate you for fighting hallow charges that should have never been brought and winning! 

The only issue he may now have is websites that refuse to take down his mug-shot and the false sexual charges.


Acquitted Norfolk man speaks out, April 10, 2014     By Andy Fox

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – An accused sex offender is trying to clear his name. William Arney, Sr. was charged with a felony sex crime, but he knew he didn’t do it. All he could do was keep the faith that justice would, in the end, be served.

Where does a man go to clear his good name after a sex crime charge?

He went to court, and then he went to WAVY News’ Andy Fox to shed light on the process that locked him up, disrupted his life, embarrassed him.

“It was crazy. Never in my life did I think this could happen. Everybody’s kids love Billy Arney,” said Arney, who spoke to WAVY News after his victory in court Wednesday.

The fact is Arney went to jail. His long journey seeking justice began February 12, when a student at Bayview Elementary School – a student Arney claimed he’d never seen before – accused him of a sex crime. That resulted in a Felony Aggravated Sexual Battery charge.

Norfolk Police arrested Arney. He said he asked police what he had done. “Some girl said I smacked her on the butt or pinched her, I said ‘you got the wrong guy,’” Arney explained.

Arney knew they had the wrong guy, but he could only suffer through it. He had a child in the school, himself.

“It did mess my life up a little bit … I couldn’t go to the school to drop off my daughter. The judge told me I shouldn’t go to the school. I’ve been going to that school every day, taking my own child there. Everybody knows me at the school,” said Arney.

The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, realizing the felony wouldn’t stand, reduced it to misdemeanor assault and battery with a recommended sentence of one year in jail.
“I said ‘I am not pleading guilty to nothing because I’ve done nothing wrong … it’s a misdemeanor, but I haven’t done anything wrong,’” said Arney.

For Arney, there was no compromise, and he would clear his name only through a trial.

“I didn’t want them to drop the charge because if they dropped the charge, or dismissed the charge, that still would have put doubt in peoples’ minds. I want the judge to hear the whole story,” added Arney.

In the end, the judge did hear the story and set Arney free.

“The judge heard their story, and heard mine and he asked me, and I told him that I would never in my life do nothing to them. And he said, ‘not guilty.’ And it made me feel good and as soon as it was over, I got up and walked out of the courtroom because I knew I had done nothing wrong,” said Arney.

During his ordeal, Arney asked ‘God, why me?’

“Well, I thought that several times, but I figured He knew I had strong shoulders, and he was just putting me through a test,” Arney told WAVY News’ Andy Fox.

Before February 12, Arney would take his own child to school every day. Thursday was the first day he returned to the school.

“Yes, I dropped my child off at the school. It felt good, but I am learning this lesson … anyone can say anything,” he said.

Amanda Howie with the Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney sent WAVY News this statement:

Once our Office received the case file from investigators, we reviewed the evidence and the law and met with the involved parties. We concluded the evidence supported a misdemeanor charge of Assault and Battery, so we amended the warrant of Aggravated Sexual Battery, a felony, to Assault and Battery, a misdemeanor, and went forward with trial on that charge yesterday. The Court didn’t find the evidence was beyond a reasonable doubt and dismissed the Assault and Battery charge.