Shirley Reed is on a mission to help inmates, and now she could become one herself.
The state of Florida says the 62-year-old Jacksonville woman practiced law without a license and is charging her with a felony that could get her five years in prison. A meandering and sometimes venomous five-page court motion she filed on behalf of inmate Sadrack Cleus is their proof.
Reed says she has files on nearly 170 inmates as founder of an organization named Wrongfully Incarcerated and Convicted, whose members meet weekly at a Springfield church. The website she maintains for the group criticizes the police, public defenders, prosecutors and judges and vows “we won’t give up nor back down until justice is served.”
On Thursday morning, Reed strode to the lectern used by defense attorneys in Courtroom 308 of the Duval County Courthouse.
Dressed in black, she wasn’t backing down. She rejected the advice of Circuit Judge Steven Whittington to hire a lawyer or allow him to appoint one for her. She corrected the judge as to her last name, saying it should be Reed-Bell. She refused to enter a plea, so Whittington did it for her. The judge then set a hearing for the week of July 25 to hear motions filed in the case. Reed is filing those motions herself.
Sadrack Cleus, who is charged with attempted murder, was at the John E. Goode Pretrial Detention Facility in Jacksonville when Reed went to visit him March 6, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
“During the visit with inmate Cleus, defendant Reed advised inmate Cleus that she would sign and file a motion before the court, acting as his power of attorney,” the affidavit says. A sentence added in longhand says, “During the visit defendant Reed provided inmate Cleus with legal advice about his attorney being ineffective, and told him she would state so in the motion.”
That motion, filed March 28 in Circuit Court, is clearly written from Cleus’ perspective. Rather than referring to the defendant by name, as most court filings written by lawyers do, it uses the words I, me and my throughout — 60 times in all.
“I am also aware that officers that surround the home I was in on 03/26/2014 will deny-lye- a-bility that they would never engage in doing such things and followed the book according to the law and their arrest of me was perfectible legal,” it reads.
“It should be Noted,” the motion continues, “that JSO has an extensive history in lying, deceitfulness, dishonest, two-faced, unable to tell the truth, mendacious, double-dealing, evidence tampering, falsification of legal documents, giving false testimony under oath, covering up wrong doing by their fellow officer (s), cheating, stealing, and murdering of its citizens therefore their credibility is at ‘zero.’”
The motion is signed in longhand. “Signed in the Absence of My Signature Mr. Sadrack Cleus by My Permission on the Signature of My Durable Power of Attorney Shirley A. Reed.”
After Thursday’s hearing, Reed sat in a courthouse corridor with Bertie Vereen, the assistant president of her organization. She said, “Pastor Vereen and I have power of attorney over several of the inmates. We’ve never had this problem before.”
Vereen said the two women have made hundreds of jail visits to see inmates, sometimes five or more a day. Reed said she didn’t act as Cleus’ attorney; she merely used power of attorney to file the motion on his behalf.
Reed said she believes the charges are “clearly retaliation” for her comments at a May news conference when she compared the actions of police officers in a case she researched to those of former Jacksonville police sergeant Marc Garza. Garza was sentenced to nine months in jail for coaching a subordinate to write a bogus burglary report in August 2009.
“I’ve been going to that jail for years,” Reed said. “As soon as I appear on a panel and say we have another Marc Garza, I’m under arrest. That’s crazy.”
Richard Mantei, the assistant state attorney prosecuting Reed, had little reason to speak during Thursday’s arraignment hearing. Afterward, as he walked to another courtroom, he said, “She wrote a motion and she signed it.”
He called Reed “confused” as to the meaning of the term power of attorney. “Having power of attorney does not entitle you to practice law. And that’s what she did.”
Source: Jacksonville.com | Clay Zeigler & Sebastian Kitchen