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A Letter to Shirley Jean Craig

 

Let me preface this by saying that I have rarely seen such a good example of how one “little lie” can wreak so much havoc, cost so much money, and “dry up” the pastures of a life so completely.  It makes the court system look bad; it makes the defense lawyer look stupid; but most of all, it shows how “adding a little extra” is a sin.  The people who participated in this lie have a Judgment Day to face.

♦      ♦      ♦
 

In May of 2008, Shirley Craig claimed that the car she was driving was hit repeatedly by the driver of a black jeep. She claims this happened on a two-lane highway, N. Burnt Hickory, where she was making a right-hand turn onto a side road, Sleepy Hollow. (A map is included at the end of this annotated letter.) Ms. Craig wrongly identified the driver of that jeep. This is a case of mistaken identity. The case was eventually plea-bargained to an unsatisfactory resolution for reasons that will become apparent in the letter below.

Paulding County,Georgia, has a commendable policy of considering the input of the victims in the cases they try; however, in this case, Ms. Craig was the victimizer, not the victim. The real case for which she was the victim never saw a courtroom because she did not give a wholly honest report. As part of the plea bargain for this bogus case, Ms. Craig demanded a “letter of apology” from the defendant. This is an annotated copy of that letter. The original letter is in black. The annotated comments are in this firebrick color.

August 9, 2010
Dear Ms. Craig,

When my lawyer first brought me the plea bargain that included writing an apology, I told her that an apology was an impossible term, that I was not going to lie by apologizing for something that I did not do.

My lawyer said that I could make the apology “vague” and “nebulous.” Personally, I do not believe that you will be happy with a vague and/or nebulous apology, however, on my lawyer’s advice, here goes:

If I hit you, then I am sorry.

See, that wasn’t very satisfying, was it? It is absolutely true though. If I had hit you, you would have had my apology within minutes, and I would have checked to make sure that you were not hurt, and I would have exchanged insurance information with you, and stayed until the police dismissed us.

But I did not hit you, and I am not going to lie about that. I would like to tell you the truth though. I think that you deserve to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

On the Purpose of an Apology

The purpose of an apology is to mend the relationship with the offended party by obtaining forgiveness. The wronged person is empowered by being able to extend or deny forgiveness. I could not accept your forgiveness, for it would be an empty vessel.

Coercing a person to make an apology does nothing to mend a relationship. It is a power play.

This description of the purpose an apology is a compendium from several websites written or overseen by specialists with PhD’s. There was a general agreement that the purpose was restoration of a relationship. I have no indication that this was the purpose Ms. Craig had in mind when she made her demand.

There is also an extensive body of literature that describes how apologies can be distorted by either side. One was that apologizing for no reason or simply to get the other person to back off can actually be harmful. Such apologies make the apologizer submissive, while the receiver uses that energy to justify herself about her reason for mistreating that person. Empowered by forcing another person into this bit of servitude, people with a controlling personality type will use this success as fuel to mistreat others in the future.

There are some immutable things in life, and accepting responsibility for something other people did was Jesus’ job on the cross. For Ms. Craig to expect this as part of a plea bargain is simply her demanding a scapegoat.

Why I Took a Plea When I am Innocent

People who have not been falsely accused and falsely arrested often tend to think that if a person were truly innocent, then they have nothing to fear. People who have not been falsely accused and falsely arrested often tend to believe that no innocent person would ever plead guilty to something that they did not do. Both of those beliefs are terribly, horribly, abysmally wrong.

I had many reasons to take a plea even though I was not driving the vehicle that you claim hit you. I will enumerate some of the top reasons in the hope that you can gain some understanding. Even though you might find some of the reasons offensive, if I left them out so that your feelings would not get hurt, it would not be the whole truth. I would never have been arrested if people had told the whole truth, so I am not about to withhold the truth now.

#1 – My attorney was afraid that it would be awfully difficult to win in the face of false evidence. Sara Payne, the witness, told my lawyer that she “never lost sight of the jeep” when she followed it to get the tag number. I know this was a lie or she would have found a different jeep.

Interestingly, Sara Payne has, (or at least had, as accessed July 24, 2010,) a My Space page on which she answered the question, Who I’d like to meet: with the response:

“Someone who knows how to be honest for once!”

That is not irony; that is a sad comment on the deficits in her character. All she would have had to do to meet an honest person was to tell the whole truth.

#2 – My attorney thought the 9-1-1 tape would be hard to dispute in court. On it, you hysterically repeat over and over “I got the tag number! I got the tag number!” yet after the 9-1-1 operator calms you down, you do not give the tag number until after Sara and Bobby Payne bring it back to you. I know that you did not get that tag number off my jeep at the scene because that jeep was parked in my front yard, hence it was not at the scene. My attorney felt that you were so convincing on the tape that it would be hard to assure a jury otherwise, especially since we do not have any proof of how you really got the tag number.

#3 – I had reports come back to me from people who had interviewed you saying that you are unhinged, vengeful, and unpredictable. If the case had gone to trial, it is highly likely that you would have testified. These reports about your character were very troubling. This kicked it up a notch beyond a simple “he said/she said” dispute. Ms. Payne seemed to be willing to lie, and if you did too, then it would be two against the truth. From the information that I was receiving, I felt it was highly likely that either you or Ms. Payne would be willing to perjure yourself on the stand by withholding the true facts about how you obtained the tag number.

I have never personally met Ms. Craig. Apparently she was in the court room on at least one occasion, but neither I nor my friends who were with me knew who she was. The words “unhinged, vengeful, and unpredictable” are accurate accounts of the way the information was presented tome.

#4 – I am a delivery driver for a living. If I had been convicted by a jury for a hit and run, I would automatically lose my job. In point of fact, you ought to know that this is even more evidence that your accusations are a case of mistaken identity. IF I am in an accident, I would have to follow the law and stay on the scene until dismissed by the police or it is an automatic firing. I have a perfect driving record and I take my driving very seriously.

This was true at the time of the original draft of this letter; I have recently received a promotion based on my good, honest, dependable customer service. It is one thing to have a mom that believes me, and it is great to have friends that support me, but when even my employer knows me well enough to know that I did not do this, that is saying something.

#5 – It is very hard to prove what did not happen. My alibi was that I was home alone at the time and was on a cell phone.

#6 – If Ms. Craig was able to hoodwink (definition: conceal one’s true motives from, especially by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end) the DA, would not she try to do the same in her testimony before a jury?

Even though I did not drive the vehicle that you claimed hit you, I found the risk of a trial too great. I was under intense pressure and felt that it would be in my best interest to abandon all hope of clearing my name and instead try to reduce the risk that your disingenuous claims could cause more damage.

Notice that for an innocent person, the overwhelming push to plea bargain can be de facto deprivation of the 6th amendment right to face the accuser.

The Alford Plea

I entered an Alford plea. You need to know what that is. Henry Alford was indicted for murder in 1963. He first pled ‘no contest’ but then he appealed. During his appeal in federal court, Alford wrote, “I just pleaded guilty because they said if I didn’t, they would gas me for it.” The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that “Alford’s guilty plea was involuntary because its principal motivation was fear of the death penalty.”1 In November of 1970, on further appeal, The US Supreme Court had a split ruling that basically allowed innocent people to plead guilty if they understand the consequences.

Here are some definitions2 of the Alford Plea:

Dictionary of Politics: Selected American and Foreign Political and Legal Terms:

A plea under which a defendant may choose to plead guilty, not because of an admission to the crime, but because the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to place a charge and to obtain conviction in court.

University ofRichmond Law Review:

When offering an Alford plea, a defendant asserts his innocence but admits that sufficient evidence exists to convict him of the offense.

A Guide to Military Criminal Law:

…the defendant concedes that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, but the defendant still refuses to admit guilt.

Webster’s New World Law Dictionary:

A guilty plea entered as part of a plea bargain by a criminal defendant who denies committing the crime or who does not actually admit his guilt.

The only reason that the prosecutor had evidence is because either you, Sara Payne, or both, lied about how the tag number was obtained. Since my attorney did not have the confidence to prove that at least one of you lied, and since I believed that it was likely that you would continue to perjure yourself on the witness stand, I took an Alford plea. I am innocent.

I took the Alford plea because I was facing jail time and loss of my driver’s license and job if the jury didn’t believe me. I was already losing sleep. Taking a plea would secure all those things. It is a horrible, reprehensible thing that was done to me by Ms. Craig and by the system. The multiple losses I suffered from false and incomplete reporting were far, far worse than Ms. Craig’s loss of having her car rear-ended. (There was no indication in the police report that Ms. Craig had used her turn signal. See endnotes.) Presumption of innocence is a myth floated before juries. It does not exist during investigations or during prosecution.

1.Wikimedia,North Carolinav. Alford. Page 1, Web. 26 July 2010. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/North_Carolina_v._Alford.pdf&gt;

2. “Alford plea – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., 27 June 2010. Web. 26 July 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alford_plea#cite_note-barksdale-19.

Discrepancies in the Evidence

There are many minor points in your statements that do not add up. There was additional failure by the investigating officer to take measurements that would have helped clear me. I would like to list those for you and see if they cause “reasonable doubt.”

#1 – You said the driver that hit you was wearing sunglasses. I do not, and did not then, even own a pair of sunglasses.

#2 – You said that the driver who hit you had a goatee. I have never had a goatee. My booking photo that was taken that same day shows me with a full beard. Please explain how I grew that in three hours!

#3 – You said the driver was wearing a cap/hat. I almost never wear a hat when I am driving unless it is required for work.

Do you see the problem here? Ms. Craig claims to have made a positive ID on a person she glimpsed only briefly and who was wearing a hat, sunglasses, and had a goatee? Ms. Craig claimed that she was able to identify this capped, bespectacled, and bearded driver through a clouded plastic jeep window, read and memorize the jeep’s tag number, and successfully execute a sharp right-hand turn down over a hill in her panicked state, all within a few seconds of time.

The person who was really guilty probably went straight home and shaved!

#4 – From the accident report that I read, the damage to your car was at bumper height, which way too low to have been caused by the jeep that was parked in my yard at the time of your accident. That jeep had a four inch lift kit with over sized off-road tires for a total lift of six and a half inches and would have caused damage at a much greater height. Unfortunately, the investigating officer never took measurements or pictures of either vehicle, nor did he closely inspect my bumper and secure evidence of the paint that was not there.

#5 – The intersection where you claimed your car was damaged has a curve in the road ahead andSleepy Hollow Roadtakes a steep turn off to the right. If the accident happened as you claimed and the jeep sped around you and away quickly, it would have been impossible for you to see the tag number and to see where your car was going both, at the same time.

Shirley Craig said that she was panicked when the jeep hit her. But even though she self-reported that she was in a state of panic, she still gave the story that she was able to see and remember the tag number from a jeep that was speeding away on her left while simultaneously making right-hand turn that included a sharply descending turn onto Sleepy Hollow Road.

#6 — On the 911 tape your voice is heard screaming, “I have the tag number, I have the tag number!” Yet you did not give the tag number right away, why not? This is a mystery.

It is my speculation that you knew that Sara Payne was going to bring the tag number back to you. Sara’s husband, Bobby, admitted to my lawyer that they had pulled into my yard, had trespassed on my property, and then wrote down the tag number for the jeep that was parked in my yard. Furthermore, he admitted that he did not see me either in, or getting out of the jeep. Bobby Payne said that he could not identify me if he were to see me.

Bobby and Sara Payne were the witnesses that were reportedly traveling 6 – 10 car lengths behind the jeep. The hill on Burnt Hickory crests shortly before the Sleepy Hollow intersection. Persons traveling in a car traveling southbound as theirs was may have been able to see the roofline of a car at that distance, but they could not have seen ‘wheels on the ground’ because of the hill. It is highly questionable as to if the license plate would have been visible and legible as it reportedly sped away.

But how did you know that Sara would be bringing you the tag number? Ms. Payne claims that she never lost sight of the jeep. There are two curves in the road between that intersection and my house. She would have had to closely tail the jeep in order to never lose sight of it because there are several places that a vehicle could have discretely turned off the main road. How would you know Ms. Payne was coming back with the tag number if she had sped off to follow the jeep without losing sight of it? All that you could have known then was that a car behind the jeep drove on without stopping. And why didn’t she do the more responsible thing and stop to see if you were injured first? Something is fishy here and at least one lie was told.

Here is another apology:

I am very sorry that you lied about how the tag number was procured.

What Your Accusation Has Cost Me

Fines 420.00
Supervision 210.00
GCVEF 54.00
Defensive Driving Class 75.00
Lawyer 5000.00
Bail 1270.00
Five Trips to Courthouse @ 0.50 per mile 100.00*
Six Trips to Probation Office@ 0.50 per mile 120.00*
Community Service expenses 250.00
Loss of work/overtime 410.00
TOTAL -7909.00

* Mileage rate determined by the IRS

Your dishonesty cost me over one-fourth of an entire year’s wages, and I did not hit your car. Even before your false accusation dragged me into this whole mess, I had already sent a request for my college transcripts as a first step in planning to return to school. In addition to the monetary loss you caused me, I have also lost two years of my life. I’d planned to go to college and graduate by now. Your false accusation made me feel like my entire life was on hold because I had to deal with this whole mess. The financial losses that I incurred as a direct result of your mistakes, poor judgment, false accusation, and your deliberate withholding of the full truth caused loss in my education as well as an additional year of saving money and planning.

Perhaps the greatest personal loss of all has been the loss of my motivation. Your lies where thoroughly demoralizing; is has been a continual struggle to remain positive and not give in to depression. With my ambition dwindled down to nil, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to school.

Here is a third apology:

I am very sorry that you suffered so much emotional distress that it drove you to mistakenly accuse the first person that was handy.

What Your Accusation Has Cost You

• You have assured that the real driver who hit you went free.

• You have fraudulently accepted repairs from the wrong insurance company.

• You have spent many hours being angry with and slandering an innocent person.

• You have effectively robbed an innocent person of over $7600. (Your deliberate actions resulted in the loss.)

• You have to give an account of your behavior to your Creator on Judgment Day.

Here is another apology:

I am very sorry that you are so wrong.
I sincerely hope that you will be able to admit it.

You now have four apologies to choose from. If they do not meet your complete satisfaction, please feel free to take it up with the judge that issued the order. I will be happy to cooperate if the judge asks for revision; however, I will not lie and say that I hit you.

I am curious as to whether you will prove yourself a woman of quality and do the right thing now.

Sincerely,

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ENDNOTES

See also: A Truthful Witness Saves Lives.

Keeping quiet does irreparable harm to the falsely accused and allows the liars to grow more aggressive. Yet that is precisely what our society’s rules of etiquette tend to do. There is nothing kind or redemptive about keeping the truth under wraps. Shirley Jean Craig is not currently seeking absolution, desiring mercy, or showing remorse. Keeping quiet only allows her to fall further into sin and farther from repentance.

Primary source for On the Purpose of an Apology:

http://www.hodu.com/apologize.shtml

Web searches that revealed the character of Ms. Craig and her witnesses:

Bobby and Sara Payne

About me: Sara Payne’s MySpace:
What about me? I try my best to enjoy life although I think it sucks! I try to make the best of every situation. Even when I feel like crawling in a hole and crying, I try to smile and laugh and at least pretend theres rainbows flying out my rear! I am a complete andrenaline junkie! I love to laugh, I can make a joke out of anything most of the time! I have some wonderful friends that I love to death. I have a 15 year old daughter and I love to hang out with her and her friends, especially Hailey and Coco..And I have an awesome son who is extremely smart. Oh and I’ve been married for 15 years. Other than that I’m pretty worthless!

 

Shirley Jean Craig

An interesting article popped up in a web search for Shirley Craig,Brownsville,GA.An excerpt follows:

A class action lawsuit is currently underway, filed by disgruntled employees who feel the company stiffed them out of overtime. The poster girl, if you will, is reported to be Shirley Craig of Brownsville, Georgia. Craig filed a lawsuit in December (2008) alleging Rite Aid and Eckerd (a drug store chain acquired by Rite-Aid) improperly classified assistant managers as being exempt from overtime, even though Craig contends that the assistant manager position requires little skill and primary duties are said to exclude managerial responsibilities for a store, or department. […] Craig campaigned to have a class action registered, representing some 250 assistant store managers similarly treated. A class action lawsuit is currently underway.

She is called “the poster girl.” Why would Ms. Craig accept an assistant manager position when she knew it required “little skill and primary duties are said to exclude managerial responsibilities?” Perhaps Ms. Craig is enamored by courtrooms. Perhaps she has some desperate need to screw up the lives of others who are actually willing to work. While her motives may be up for debate, the effects of her behavior are not. It certainly seems like Ms. Craig is a hammer who thinks all the world is her nail.

Source: 

Gibb, Gordon. “Having the ‘Rite’ Name, Doesn’t Make it Right.” LawyersAndSettlements.com. Online Legal Media, 18 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Aug. 2010. <https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/features/rite-aid-overtime.html&gt;.

Shirley Jean Craig is a woman who had some damage to a back bumper, was not physically hurt, and for whom we know little about her own driving skills, or lack thereof, and whether they contributed to the alleged rear-ender. I do not know if she contributed to the crash by failing to use a turn signal or if her tail lights were working. She reported no physical injury. The insurance covered repairs. That was not enough for her. She wanted “justice” and she was willing to commit injustices to get it. She is a hypocrite.  Sara Payne just might be worse.


Sara Payne and Shirley Craig did not tell the whole truth.

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