David's Legal Defense Fund
Organized by: David Garrison
For almost 15 years I was a publisher of a newspaper for the casino industry called, Mid-South Gaming Guide. After my son’s birth in 2002, my son’s mom (Krystal) and her sister got a job in the Outlet Mall here in Tunica working for a store that sold designer shirts like Ralph Lauren, LaCoste and Abercrombie and Fitch and only operated during the holiday months each year.
She loved the business and was an avid Ebayer, so when the store packed up and moved on after Christmas I decided to help her open a store (Gamble’s Clothing & Gifts) so she would have something to support her and my son should something happen to me. I had a small heart attack some months prior and I knew if something happened to me the newspaper would go dead, immediately leaving her and my son with nothing.
We put the store in her name and she picked the products (gambling supplies, sunglasses, and designer shirts). All I did was provide the startup capital and kept the books and paid the bills on time. My best friend was the GM and the two of them ran the store. It did so well that she opened a second store in Batesville, MS at the Outlet Mall there.
About a year into it I got a call from a policeman who was in the Batesville store who told me I needed to come down there right away. I asked if we’d been robbed or something and he said, “no, but I needed to come immediately.”
I went down there to find two detectives in the store and the cops told me they thought our shirts were counterfeit and they had confiscated them, They cited me with two misdemeanor counts of selling counterfeit goods. Captain Shriver of the Batesville PD said it was hardly worse than a traffic citation and it would be about a $500 fine and forfeiture of the shirts (3,000 of them!). Then he told me I should go to my Tunica store because the private investigators hired to shut me down (Keith Haney & Assoc) were on their way there to that store to shut it down, too.
When I got to the Tunica store the cops were standing to the side and Keith Haney and a partner were stuffing shirts into boxes as fast as they could and then loaded them into a horse trailer behind their truck and drove away with them! UNESCORTED! The cops never touched the shirts or inspected the trailer or escorted them to Batesville into custody. This is a blatant violation of chain of custody. I have discovered that the private investigator, Keith Haney, was forced to retire early from the Memphis PD as a Vice Cop under some sort of cloud. Was it evidence tampering? Planting evidence? Was it running prostitutes? Perjury? Stealing evidence? At trial he admitted stealing some of the shirts for a personal agenda (Trial transcript available).
I refused to accept that 3,000 shirts, all from different countries, could be counterfeit. They were bought literally from all over the world, direct from the manufacturers as overstocks, store returns, and irregulars. They had come from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South America and China. What are the odds that ALL of them were CF? Impossible; they were advertised and documented as authentic (look on Ebay and Alibaba.com!). Shortly after this you may recall the scandal wherein Ralph Lauren provided the uniforms for the US Olympic Team and when they were delivered they were found to have been made in China and were labeled accordingly. This was the same place the majority of the shirts in the store were purchased from.
I chose to fight it and hired a retired judge to represent me (George Ready). The day before trial my attorney called me and said the feds had stepped in and made the misdemeanor trial disappear and were taking it Federal since I was fighting it. Apparently the private detective who spearheaded the seizure (Keith Haney) and who had originally called in the cops got scared when he was notified we were going to trial and called his friends at ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and told them they had to put some heat on me so I didn’t win the case and sue everyone (him, especially) for damages.
The feds told me if I would pick a charge I liked (WHAT? Duh!) I could report to the prison of my choice for one year and they wouldn’t even file charges! I asked them if they did drug testing! They said, ok, if you don’t like that we’ll add another charge for smuggling since all your shirts came through US Customs. (George Ready failed to invoke Rule 11 so the smuggling charge came from my own admission that shirts had all come through US Customs) Now do you want to make a deal? I told them in so many words to stick it. I was not guilty when it was a misdemeanor and I am not guilty at the federal level, no matter how much heat they put on me. I was going to trial.
After this meeting, Mr Ready admitted he was not qualified to represent me in a Federal trial and refunded my money. I then retained the services of Tom Levidiotis in Oxford, MS. We then met again with AUSA Maxwell and AUSA Mims, along with two ICE agents. We presented to them a 3” binder with documentation of every transaction for every shirt ever purchased, along with US Customs documentation verifying their authenticity. The Assistant US Attorneys and the ICE agents thumbed through them and handed them back saying, “We have no interest in these!”
Three of the charges for counterfeit goods were imaginary! They found three empty shipping boxes from entirely different countries in the store and said, “Oh, those must have contained counterfeit shirts, too! We are going to add three more charges of sale of CF goods for the fantasy shirts that aren’t here! Now do you want to make a deal for a year?” I told them to add as many bogus charges as they like, I AM NOT GUILTY!
When US Customs was informed that they had let CF shirts slip through the system they sent agents to the Batesville PD and confiscated all the shirts and took them back to Memphis. They then examined them a second time, determined they were not counterfeit, and then sent me a registered letter telling me I could buy them back from them for $15/shirt, and if I didn’t like that price I could make an offer in lieu of. If I didn’t exercise either option they were going to advertise them in the paper and sell them to the highest bidder!
The store wasn’t even mine! I started it for Krystal to give her something to do and give her an income in case something should happen to me and the newspaper went dead (I had a small heart attack the previous year). The business license was in her name, all the US Customs documents were in her name, she was the administrator of the payroll with ADP, she was on the bank accounts, and she’s the one who found the shirts online and browbeat us into buying them! I doubt I spent more than 40 hours in both stores in almost three years! I was not on the payroll and took no compensation from the stores whatsoever with the exception of my original startup capital of $10,000. All I did was provide the initial investment to get it started, did the accounting and paid the bills on time. But one of the clerks in the Batesville store mistakenly told the cops I was the owner, even though it was a corporation, so I took the heat to keep anyone else on the board of directors from being indicted. My attorney told me not to mention my son’s mom because if they were not going to let me go and if they got us both, Nik (my son) could end up in a foster home. So I took the bullet to keep it simple.
At trial they never proved the shirts were counterfeit and Captain Shriver of the Batesville police department testified under oath that the raid on the stores was a favor done by the police chief for an Alderman on the city council who owned a competing store! We were cutting into the Alderman’s business and he got a case of the ass at us and used his buddy on the police force to put us out of business. It was a strong arm operation, plain and simple, hence the lack of any proper investigation. There was nothing to investigate! It was a setup from the get-go! The courtroom came unglued when he testified to that!
To top it all off, my attorney never entered one single piece of evidence on my behalf and he never called one witness on my behalf! He never even interviewed any of them to see if they would be helpful. Halfway through the trial my attorney then told me he couldn't represent me any longer because he was going to go be a prosecutor and he was turning me over to a friend of his and would pay his fee out of his own pocket! Also, come to find out, he and the prosecutor on my case were good friends who partied together all the time. Their wives were Sorority Sisters together, for Christ sake! WHAT? Can you say, “conflict of interest?” Hello? Additionally, AUSA Maxwell told my attorney if I did not make a deal for the year he was going to burn me for making him go to trial on his anniversary!
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that the Prosecuting Attorneys had evidence that I was innocent and suppressed it. They had flown, first class, three expert witnesses from Ralph Lauren, LaCoste, and Abercrombie & Fitch all the way from NY City to Jackson, MS and then put them in a van and drove them all the way across the state to Greenville, MS, put them up in a hotel room for three days and then didn’t put them on the stand! Why? Could it be because when they got there and actually saw the shirts they would not testify under oath they were counterfeit? The prosecution suppressed the fact that these experts REFUSED to testify and it only came to light at the sentencing hearing when the judge ordered them to testify. They three times refused a direct court order from the judge to give testimony or evidence as to value or authenticity, which put the court into another tizzy. The judge even sealed the record so the public couldn’t find out what they testified to and they still refused! Hmmm. Strange, huh?
When the jury was out deliberating they sent multiple messages to the judge saying they could not come to a decision. The judge instructed them to keep deliberating. They returned with a guilty verdict but when the jurors were polled, one said in a loud voice, “No, huh uh, that’s not what we said. He’s not guilty!” So I also had a hung jury but the judge denied the motion for mistrial and told the jury he wasn't going to accept that and they had to go back and get a verdict. So they went back for another 4 hours and beat up on the holdouts until they changed their verdict to guilty. While the jury was out deliberating, the prosecutor told me if I would cop a plea for one year they would dismiss the jury when they came back and not even read the verdict! (Do WHAT? That’s not supposed to be possible!) I told him again he must be high on drugs and to stick it.
After all that I still got 39 months in a federal penitentiary. Judge Pepper ordered that I be sent to the Federal Prison Camp at Millington, TN. Because I made the prosecutor go to trial on his anniversary, he made good on his threat to burn me and had the court clerk change my destination to the Forrest City (Low) facility where all the child molesters and gang bangers were interred. Upon my arrival at Forrest City (Low) when I was in processing, they asked me what I was doing there as I was supposed to be at the camp in Millington! I served a little over 2 ½ years and got 6 months good time and 6 months halfway house. I have completed serving my sentence and am now on 3 years supervised release since Jan 25, 2012 that will terminate on that same date in 2015. In spite of having done my time, I am still fighting it and have a 2255 motion filed with the court trying to get a new trial to exonerate myself. Since the death of my original Judge, the case has been reassigned to Judge Biggers and my motion for a new trial has been sitting on his desk unanswered for over two years. I have no doubt if I can get a new trial with a REAL attorney I can clear my name and get compensated for false imprisonment and sue everyone who had anything to do with putting me in the joint.
Upon my conviction, the prosecutor sent emails, faxes and press releases out to all my direct competitors and advertisers in my newspaper business that I had for 13 years and told them I had been convicted of a felony. Since I was a casino-based publication, all the casinos pulled their ads and my newspaper went dead in 30 days. They confiscated all my cash ($20,000), put liens on all my real estate (over $1mil) and destroyed all my businesses (3 of them) so I could not defend myself or take care of my financial obligations. I had to file bankruptcy to discharge all the debt, all of my properties were foreclosed on, and I am still obligated to pay another $30,000 in restitution. Winning a new trial would cancel the restitution and get back my $20,000 and make me whole again for wrongful imprisonment. I can also sue my attorney (Tom Levidiotis) for ineffective counsel plus the Alderman in Batesville who owns Stubbs (the competing store) for false charges, slander, and defamation of character, jaywalking and anything else I can think of!
To further add insult to injury, as I mentioned previously, shortly after my trial, Judge Allan Pepper died from old age and infirmity. This doubtless explained why he either passed out or fell asleep on the bench numerous times throughout the trial. The court clerk would stop the trial and revive the judge and then either recess or continue the trial. Furthermore, Judge Pepper made many errors at trial from not having knowledge of the law pertinent to this case and was corrected by the court clerk numerous times. He then would rephrase his error and stubbornly continue regardless. There is no doubt that this judge had one foot in the grave and was not in complete command of his mental faculties.
That is it in a nutshell, although there are many more errors and details of this case that make it almost ludicrous that it even came to trial, much less got me a conviction. I will use the funds generously donated to pay my outstanding restitution of $30,000 and hire legal counsel to represent me in my 2255 motion for a new trial. Anything you can do to help would be most appreciated.
Most sincerely yours,