Justice: Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted

 

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Andy Riendeau

Andy Riendeau, an American Indian who is also known as John Two Names, asserts his innocence of the crimes mentioned below, and believes his incarceration is in retaliation for his political activism for his People. You decide.

Years of police harassment lead to conviction... The John Two-Names (Andy Riendeau) Story

Submitted by John Two-Names (aka Andy J. Riendeau)

Edited by Barbara Jean McAtlin, Justice: Denied Staff

In 1992, I moved to Cullman County, Alabama, from Granite City, Illinois. Shortly after starting school in Granite City, I was labeled as "disrespectful" by school authorities. I was placed on probation after a run-in with one of the schools' teachers, who was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I transferred to another school and started dating the assistant district attorney's cousin. She would tell me about the abusive nature of her family, and she would come to school with bruises on her body. When I would ask her why she had not reported the crimes against her, she would tell me that she had, but her cousin would "take care" of the reports. He would suppress the allegations in order to keep the family name respectable. As a result of the abuse she was enduring, I helped her run away several times. I gained a lengthy juvenile record as a result, and yet nothing changed at her house. I was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and interference in custody. At the age of fifteen, I was emancipated as an adult and ordered to serve a year on supervised adult probation.

In 1994, the same situation occurred, but instead of just helping her run away, I took her to San Diego, California. Once we were in San Diego, we contacted an abuse shelter to get her some help. They conducted an investigation into her story and, as a result, the news leaked out to the public. I was extradited back to Alabama where I faced charges of interference in custody and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In an agreement between the district attorney, my girlfriend's attorney, and my attorney, all charges would be dropped if she would dismiss her allegations of abuse. Another part of the deal was that we were to get married. Even though my girlfriend's cousin walked away, the story ruined his political future.

For several months after the story of my girlfriend's abuse broke, I was continually harassed by the local police. I was pulled over so many times that I lost my driver's license due to outstanding tickets. I was incarcerated for three weeks for driving on a suspended license. Upon my return home from jail, I found a note saying that my wife had found someone else.

I met the lady who is the mother of my child in October 1995. When she told me of the pregnancy, I went back to Granite City, Illinois, to find a job and a place to live. I wanted to leave Alabama because of the continuing police harassment I was enduring. I didn't want that type of thing going on around my son. Around the time I left Alabama, my younger brother broke into a school and video store. I was unaware of this at the time, but one day on a routine traffic stop, I was arrested for two felony warrants from Alabama. I was once again brought back to Alabama to face charges. I stayed there until my brother turned the stolen goods over and admitted to the crime. Although he confessed, I was advised to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted burglary. I took the deal so I could get back to my girlfriend who was now 8 months pregnant. On August 24, 1996, I received two years of probation and went home.

On Labor Day weekend, a party was thrown at my house to celebrate my brothers' and my return from Alabama. The party lasted into the early morning hours of September 2. That same night my car was broken into, two schools were burned down, and several places of business were broken into.

As I woke up the next morning, I heard a lot of commotion from outside. I got up to see what was going on and saw a crowd of people standing at the nearby gas station where I parked my car. I woke my brother up and we went to see what was going on. I discovered that my car had been vandalized, so my brother, Mark, and I went to report it. We drove up to a school where we spotted a sheriff's deputy and reported the crime. Upon hearing my name, the deputy told me to get into his car because I was a suspect in the crimes that had occurred the night before. Agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) also wanted to speak with me.

What followed was a three-day prisoner-of-war-style interrogation. Every crude tactic you can think of was used to try to get me to confess to the crimes. My brother and I were held for up to eighteen hours at a time being questioned. We were denied food, water, and a telephone call. I refused to confess, but my brother buckled under the pressure and told the officers that we did it. My girlfriend went into stress-induced labor. I was placed in jail where I was denied proper hygiene, exercise, and contact with family. I was also charged with promoting prison contraband after giving a jailer a lost handcuff key. After about eight months of this treatment, I attempted to escape.

I was taken to trial in the summer of 1997. The prosecution built its case against me saying that I had done the crimes out of revenge. Revenge for them locking me up and harassing me! During my six-day trial, the only evidence presented was the testimony of two people: Robert Summerford and Jason Cates. The problem with Robert Summerford's testimony was that he had told my attorney, Wilson Blalock, several months prior to the trial, that he knew who had committed the crimes. When questioned at trial, he said that I had offered him $20,000 to implicate someone else. He also said that he merely "forgot" to mention the deal to investigators. He also said that he had heard about the fires on the news and called a friend at 5:30 a.m. to tell him about it. The problem with this is that the first person to arrive at the scene didn't get there until 6:08 a.m. The same friend also testified that Summerford had come to his house the day of the fires, wearing the same clothes he had worn the previous night. They smelled of gas. Jason Cates testified that I told him I was "going to do it [the attempted burglary]" while locked up on a non-related charge.

A hammer had been recovered from the scene of one of the burglaries. The hammer initially had been identified as one that had been stolen out of my car. My stepfather, Jimmy Beard, had identified the hammer. At trial, he was called to the stand to identify the hammer again. This time he said that it was not the same hammer that investigators had shown him before. Upon examination of the hammer, Evidence Technician Stan Bagget said that he had personally collected that piece of evidence, put his initials on it, and placed an evidence sticker number over his initials. He had then placed it in the police evidence locker. Upon removing the sticker, his initials were not present.

About the third day of trial a note was passed to the judge. Someone had seen the lead investigator, Phillip Lambert, and a female juror walking out of the courthouse the previous day, arm-in-arm. When questioned about it, the lead investigator said they were just friends and that he was walking her to her car. When the juror was asked about it, she said she wanted a bailiff job and she had asked Lambert how she could get the job. Lambert told her to try to get the foreman position on the jury and get a conviction and he would see about getting her a job. A mistrial was filed, but denied.

An agent from the ATF testified that an accelerant-detecting dog had alerted them to several spots where gasoline had been used to start the fires in the crimes. The lab tests that came back were negative for any type of accelerants except for mineral spirits that had been used to re-varnish the hardwood floors.

Though there were witnesses that could establish an alibi for me, none were called by my defense lawyer. Three people could have testified as to my whereabouts.

The statement of Summerford was provided to my lawyer only three days before my trial. With the testimony of Jason Cates and Robert Summerford, the two state witnesses, I was convicted. No fingerprints, no eyewitnesses, no recovered evidence, just two people saying, "That's him."

My trial lasted six days. I was found guilty of two counts of arson in the second degree, four counts of burglary in the third degree, and one count of breaking and entering a motor vehicle, all non-violent crimes. I was later sentenced to ninety years and ordered to pay over five million dollars in restitution and fines.

I am still fighting my conviction from prison. Since that time, Jason Cates has come forward and recanted his testimony saying that the district attorney and his investigators had promised him probation if he would say what they wanted him to say. (Cates told a high-ranking Department of Corrections official this story while he was in prison for a violation of probation.)

Reports issued under the freedom of information act state that there were never any accelerants detected, hence the negative lab results. The attorney who represented me at trial, Joe Morgan III, has signed an affidavit saying that I should not get post-conviction relief because I had a "fair trial." He also refuses to send me the necessary documents that it takes to file an effective appeal.

I am now in a constant battle with Joe Morgan III, the Alabama Department of Corrections, the ATF, and the courts, in an effort to prove my innocence. I am in my sixth year of incarceration. In the five years that I have served, I have seen that if one stands in the way of money or politics, you will be dealt with. Such is my case, I caused a man to lose his political power and I am now paying for that. I will not give up! I remain in struggle.

Andy "John Two-Names" Riendeau
#193786 Dorm B-1-61
Elmore Correctional Facility
PO Box 8
Elmore, AL 36025

My outside contacts:

Glenn Dyer
manonegra504@yahoo.com

The Social Consciousness Development Group/J2N Freedom Collective
Attn: Anita C. Riendeau, co-organizer
PO Box 310953
Birmingham, AL 35231
(205) 791-9740

Dave/Houston A.B.C.
PO Box 667614
Houston, TX 77266-7614

Brothers in Tears Warrior Society of Turtle Island
c/o Eva Strong-Raven
(256) 747-3836
or Melody Little Deer
(256) 747-3250
PO Box 163
Logan, AL 35098

Nicole Raburn
17159 Creekside Dr.
Lindale, TX 75771
(903) 882-8273 or
(903) 882-1389

Justice Denied

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