Justice for Sandra Freeman Legal Defense
Organized by: Sandra Freeman
CORRUPT SARASOTA JUDGE’S TRICK LANDS INNOCENT WOMAN IN PRISON (Contributed by a Friend who was a Judge for over 30 Years, Public Defender,and Prosecutor) A recent sentence imposed by Judge Donna Berlin will have a …chilling effect on all indigent persons charged with criminal offenses in Sarasota County, Florida. Judge Berlin recently sentenced Sandra Freeman, a single mother of four children, for having fraudulently used prescriptions to obtain Adderall, to the maximum sentence of five years in prison. Sandra’s journey through the criminal justice system was nothing more than a total injustice. Sandra’s legal nightmare began when she was initially charged with fraudulent Use of a Credit Card. She bonded out of jail on that charge and then was immediately arrested for Aggravated Child Abuse, a 30 year felony. The complaint for Aggravated Child Abuse, however, was unsupported by an appropriate affidavit because it only established the crime of Child Abuse, a five year felony. Nevertheless, the arraigning judge set a $150,000.00 bond after having been misled about the seriousness of the offense. Following her arrest and incarceration, Sandra was then charged with several counts of drug trafficking, each carrying up to fifteen years in prison with a mandatory three year minimum. Sandra’s real crime, however, was that she relied upon a legal system of justice that is not capable of protecting a person’s rights against a depraved Judge.THE CASE AGAINST SANDRA FREEMAN Sandra’s problems arose out a child custody dispute she had with the father of her son, Wesley Westrom, who was fathered by Ron Westrom of Venice, Florida. During Sandra’s pregnancy Ron’s mother and father induced Sandra to stay in Florida, claiming they would help her raise her son. Shortly after giving birth in December 2008 she contemplated moving back to her home in Michigan. When she attempted to go to the airport in Tampa on Christmas Eve 2008 (a Saturday) in order to fly back to Michigan for the holidays, she was detained by deputies at her home in Venice because the Westrom’s filed a fraudulent petition to commit her under the State of Florida “Baker Act”. She was then taken to a mental hospital for an evaluation scheduled for the following Monday. That Monday a doctor examined her and certified that she should not be committed. That same day the Westrom’s filed for custody of the baby in Sarasota Circuit Court. At the first hearing on the issue of temporary custody the judge ordered the baby be returned to Sandra. After that, Sandra, made a complaint with the Sarasota County Prosecutor’s Office claiming that the Westrom’s had committed perjury when they filed to commit her under the Baker Act by stating under oath that she needed hospitalization. By filing the perjured affidavit they were able to keep Sandra and the baby in Florida giving them time to file for custody on behalf of their son. Despite Sandra’s demand that the State Attorney take legal action against the Westroms for their perjury, the State Attorney declined to prosecute. Thereafter, the Westroms repeatedly called Protective Services to report child abuse by Sandra. Twenty-seven times she was investigated during the period of time she litigated the child custody dispute. The Westrom’s spared no expense fighting for custody. They even hired a psychologist, for $10,000.00 to conduct an examination of their son and Sandra in order to make a recommendation to the court about who should have custody and that psychologist authored a 30 page opinion recommending that Sandra retain custody. Sandra, on the other hand, worked as a waitress, supporting her children and trying to find a lawyer to represent her with what little money she had. Undeterred, the Westroms continued to call in false reports of abuse which were thoroughly investigated and determined to be without merit. Finally, it came to a point where Sandra refused to cooperate with the investigators because it had become pure harassment. Of course, she had already formed an opinion of justice in Sarasota County after the state attorney refused to charge the Westroms. As indicated, Sandra was initially charged with the fraudulent use of a credit card. While she knew her adult son, Fred Freeman, had committed the offense she went to trial on the charge and a jury ultimately found her not guilty. Sandra also pled not guilty to the charge of Child Abuse and requested a jury trial. Judge Donna Berlin found this offensive. In her mind, persons charged with criminal offenses are guilty when charged and the Constitutional rights afforded defendants are mere impediments to convicting and sentencing them. The right to a trial by jury or to meaningful legal representation simply is not needed. But, Sandra didn’t want to plead guilty because the chief witnesses against her were the Westroms, who had already committed perjury by filing the fraudulent petition for commitment, and her adult son, Frederick, who perpetrated the credit card fraud and was now living with the Westroms. Sandra Freeman sat in jail without being able to post bond for about 28 months. She steadfastly professed her innocence. During this time several attorneys were appointed by the court to represent her. Some withdrew because they had legal conflicts. Others withdrew because Sandra Freeman refused to plead guilty. Several lawyers, without conducting any investigation of the facts, without taking the time to marshal exculpatory evidence, and without expending any real effort to prepare a defense, simply wanted to walk Sandra through the plea process. At one time she was offered a plea deal where the state would reduce the charges and arrange for her release if she agreed to terminate her rights in her son, Wesley. She elected to stay in jail and refused to give up on getting her son back. THE JUDGE’S TRICK Eventually, friends of Sandra were able to raise enough money to post her bond and she was released pending trial on the child abuse and trafficking in August 2013. Now, the State Attorney and Judge Berlin approached the case with renewed urgency. While Sandra Freeman remained in jail they were inclined to let the case linger, but now that she was out they vigorously pursued a trial date. Again, Sandra struggled to convince her attorney that she was innocent. Again, that lawyer spent her time trying to convince Sandra to plead guilty. At the next court hearing Judge Berlin set a trial date within the week. Up until this time Sandra’s lawyer had only briefly met with her. Her attorney was preparing to go to trial on the child abuse case without any preparation. Then, Judge Berlin exhibited her sleight of hand. She ordered the prosecutor and defense attorney to try the trafficking cases first; cases that the defense attorney knew little about. Now, Sandra was looking at going to trial on 15 year felonies requiring a 3 year minimum with an attorney who knew nothing about her case. The state attorney then offered her a plea. Plead guilty to charges of Obtaining a Controlled Substance with a False Prescription and plea to Child Neglect, a one year misdemeanor and she gets probation. The choice was easy, but it was a suckers bet. THE SUCKERS BET Having accepted the plea, Judge Berlin imposed her sentence. One condition of Sandra’s sentence was that she complete an out-patient drug rehab program during the period of time she was on probation. No start date for the program was ordered. Sandra just had to complete it by the end of her probation. This past December Sandra was given permission by her probation officer to go to Michigan for a funeral. She kept in contact with the probation officer by telephone. When she returned in January and reported as required on January 10, 2014 she was arrested by the probation officer for a probation violation. The violation was her failure to go to the rehab program. She was then incarcerated without bond and appeared before Judge Berlin for the hearing on the violation which was completed this past week. THE JUDGE’S SCAM Berlin was never going to let Sandra successfully complete probation. While Sandra was able to retain an attorney to represent her on the violation, the outcome was pre-determined and orchestrated by Berlin. Court transcripts produced by Sandra’s attorney showing that her sentence simply required completion of the program during probation were ignored by Berlin. After the sham hearing, Berlin found Sandra Freeman guilty of the violation and imposed the maximum sentence of five years. And, as a final act of hypocrisy, she criticized Sandra for being manipulative and dishonest. She specifically told Sandra’s attorney words to the effect “you don’t know what has gone on the last 3 years with this case.” The statement was made to imply that Sandra was problematic and uncooperative. You see, again, in Judge Berlin’s eyes the Constitution of the United States and the State of Florida are mere impediments to her goal to convict and punish those charged with crime. You really shouldn’t invoke your right to a jury trial, even if you’re innocent. Your attorney really shouldn’t work on your case, but should only show up and hold your hand . THE SCORE A person convicted of a felony must be sentenced by the court. Prior to sentencing the person must be evaluated and scored according to established criteria. After the sham hearing Sandra’s attorney and the State’s Attorney agreed upon an appropriate score. But, the problem was the score was not high enough in Judge Berlin’s opinion. Berlin wanted to maximize her sentence. At the time of sentencing, Berlin announced her own score which increased the punishment to the maximum sentence. Berlin did this by making a record that all of Sandra’s cases were not yet resolved. This was just totally dishonest and Berlin knows it. THE AFTERMATH The state will now summarily terminate Sandra’s rights to her child, Wesley. And, as was their goal, the Westroms will adopt the child. Sandra Freeman will spend the next three and one-half years in prison. And the manipulative, conniving, dishonest and hypocritical Judge Berlin will continue to ignore the Constitution and destroy lives all in the name of Justice. Sandra’s crime was that she didn’t go away quietly. Berlin, however, made sure she went away for a long time. This judge shouldn’t just be removed from office – she ought to be disbarred. AN ASIDE This story was not meant to be a total statement of the facts and the injustice that has occurred. It is not meant to criticize any defense attorney that assisted Sandra. The fact is well know that the state defenders office is over burdened and the attorneys are so over worked they cannot keep up with their caseload. While the States Attorney has an unlimited budget and the assistance of law enforcement officers, crime labs and forensic experts the defenders offense struggles with being drastically underfunded. The defenders office is just reduced to attorneys who work diligently to just try to get the best deal they can for each client. As a recent update Sandra Freeman Scores out between 24 and 40 which would equate to 20 Month’s incarceration at the worst case, she already served 27 Month’s before the latest four month’s awaiting a Violation of Probation Hearing. Her own attorney, cancelled her Bond Hearing which was scheduled in advance after the day of her Violation of Probation Hearing! Obviously there was a Pre-Conceived outcome of the VOP hearing! Sandra lost her Children, the home that she was purchasing which was Foreclosed and her belongings destroyed, her vehicle was impounded and sold. She literally only has the Clothes on her back. The less than Honorable Judge transported Sandra to the Gadsden Correctional Facility, as it is the Oldest most hated Prison in the State and also over 8 Hours away from her family and Friends. Sandra's appeal was finally heard after one and a half years of delays because Berlin refused to Provide a copy of a Meeting held in her Chambers with the Prosecutor. The Public Defender never responded to the States answer and the Appeal was denied without reason. She has exhausted any opportunity with the Public Defender's have retained Prisoner Connection's for a Case Review which is 50% Completed but we are out of Funds. There is already plenty of reason's that a new Judge will issue an order to Free her as soon as the 3.80 is heard. Prisoner Connection's has spoke with Bret MacIntosh who will most likely be representing Sandra upon receiving a retainer. Judge Berlin has been moved to Family Court probably because of her lack of ability to be Non Prejudicial, Not Following the State Legislated Sentencing Guidelines, and her Demeanor to anyone that enters her Court room.