Statement from the Cleveland 4 Support Committee on the Sentencing of Joshua (“Skelly”) Stafford
Editor’s note: Skelly was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison after being found guilty of three felony counts. He and his co-defendants were charged with attempting to destroy a bridge with C4 explosives in a plot orchestrated by the FBI. Since the judge applied the terrorism enhancement to his sentence, he also has life-time supervised release after his prison term.
You do not offer a dangerous terrorist a plea deal for three years.
That was the deal the government offered Joshua Stafford, the deal that he left on the table when he chose a trial where he hoped to present evidence of his innocence against charges that carried a minimum of thirty years. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up against a prosecution that badly wishes you and your case would just go away quietly. Most people would be bullied by the threat of the long decades ahead, and go on to take the deal. Whatever his sentence today, Josh will have already served nearly a year and a half of it.
Whatever his sentence today, Josh will have had an insufficient chance to present his side of the case. Those who witnessed his trial are already aware that it played out as a farce, in which he was derailed from every attempt to explain the circumstances and the events that led up to his arrest on April 30, 2012. Those in the courtroom may not have been aware that they were witnessing the height of hypocrisy. A prosecution that would have been happy to settle for a three-year sentence just the day before trial presented the scant evidence they had of his involvement while painting him as a person far too dangerous to let back out on the streets.
Thus, the jury convicted him without a chance to understand why a young man whose fast metabolism gave him his nickname “Skelly” got in a car with his friends and their boss: an empty stomach and the offer of dinner at Applebee’s. They only saw Josh stumbling as best he could through the legal system as his prosecution laid every well-crafted brick stacked against him neatly. They never heard that they were deciding the fate of a young man who has never had much in his life but has always been willing to share what he had; a young man who never hesitated to help a friend.
For the Cleveland 4 Support Committee and for all those who support political prisoners, an important question remains: What are WE going to do? It is time to shine a very bright light on the methods used by FBI agents and prosecutors in an attempt to justify continued funding and personal advancement by entrapping the most vulnerable members of our society. We will continue to expose the use of paid informants with extensive criminal rap sheets as they are routinely misrepresented as accidental witnesses rather than as amoral leaders highly motivated to create simulated crimes.
We will continue to support those incarcerated simply for others’ political and personal gain.