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It's your friendly neighborhood "Digital Drummer" again (smile)
On April 8th 2008, Judge Robert Takasugi saw fit in his judicial wisdom to overturn my conviction for Social Security Fraud and clear my name. (see Message From The Publisher http://www.citylightssoftware.com/reporter040901.html)
Below is the story ran today by the Compton Bulletin in it's effort to correct the injustice that it's first story caused, when they announced that the City of Compton had awarded a major contract to a convicted felon (see http://www.thecomptonbulletin.com/news01_030905/index.html)
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Local Man Wrongly Convicted Finds Justice at Last
By Cheryl Scott
Bulletin Staff Writer
Jim Neusom lived life as a wrongly convicted felon for five years
Los Angeles resident and former Compton vendor Jim Neusom has been fighting to clear his name since 2003, when he was falsely convicted of Social Security fraud.
Before his troubles began he was a successful businessman in the field of high-tech communications and security systems. He had a client list that included the city of Compton, and helped build the city’s emergency communications center.
Today he is poised to begin his life again.
“I have to thank the Lord for this,” he told The Bulletin. “What finally cleared my name came out of the blue just when I thought everything was lost.”
Neusom had been taking care of his mother’s business when it was discovered she had terminal cancer. “At that time she set up an account for my grandmother and my aunt, and I continued to take care of their needs after my mother died.”
In compliance with government regulations, he notified the Social Security office that his mother had died. “In fact, I received two checks from them after she died, and I returned them,” he said. “I also notified the bank that they were not to accept anymore checks in my mother’s name from Social Security.”
But deposits were made directly into the account shared by his grandmother and aunt. He did not realize that money continued to be issued to his mother until Social Security representatives came to his home.
“I explained to them that I had notified them of my mother’s death,” Neusom said. “They had me sign a statement stating that I was aware of the deposits and thought the money was for my grandmother and my aunt. I had spent all of the money on their needs. They said they would take care of the clerical mistake. Next thing I knew I was indicted for Social Security fraud, which is a federal offense with a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.”
A trial ensued. Neusom attempted to obtain bank records that would back up his story, but they were not available because the bank only keeps records for two years and the crime was allegedly committed several years before that.
However, Social Security was unable to present proof that the crime had been committed.
Although the jury found him guilty, Judge Robert Takasugi refused to impose even the minimum five-year sentence. He imposed five years of probation, instead. “This kept me out of prison, thank God,” Neusom said. “But according to the terms of the probation, I had to stay in Los Angeles. But I had just gotten married and my wife and I had moved to Las Vegas. I had sold my house in L.A. But I was not able to live in Las Vegas in the home I shared with my wife.”
A divorce ensued, as did the destruction of his professional life. Neusom was founder and president of City Lights Software, a company that supplied security systems to many cities and other major clients.
“I could not practice my profession because in my work I dealt with financial information and the terms of my probation prohibited me from doing that,” he said. “I was one of the first creators of Afro-Centric software and I had been a respected writer for black Websites. Everything was brought to a stop. I was 50 years old, homeless with no way to make a living in my profession because I could not be bonded.”
Neusom had been offered a plea deal from the District Attorney’s office from the start, but he refused it. “I was not guilty of this offense,” he said. “I had done nothing wrong. I did not want to take a plea admitting guild for something I did not do.”
Working to re-start his career within the limitations imposed by his probation, he continued a series of appeals. His case was brought before the 9thCircuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, which kicked it back to Judge Takasugi. It seemed that a never-ending circle was being acted out, with his case going from one court to another with no apparent end in sight.
He had come to Compton city officials with a plan for installation of a city-wide video surveillance system that would be controlled by citizens. “This city loved the idea,” he said. “It was on the agenda and ready to be approved.” Ironically, that deal was quashed when news reports revealed the city was in talks with a convicted felon.
It was back to square one at that point.
“Then the miracle happened,” said Neusom. “The bank called me to tell me that they had found on my signature card a note stating I had informed them of my mother’s death. Two days later they called again to tell me that not only had they found proof that I had notified them – they also found proof that Social Security had notified them as well.”
He had been convicted for “intentionally” failing to notify Social Security of his mother’s death.
“This new information pretty much made hash of the government’s case against me,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to reverse a conviction because it is difficult to get new evidence admitted. But the judge finally overturned my conviction.”
Does a lawsuit lie ahead?
“I’m not focused on anything like that,” Neusom said. “I bear no ill will to anyone. I just want to get my life started again and repair my business. I have skills and services that would benefit the residents of Compton and would help me put my life together again. That’s all I want.”
Neusom thinks, despite everything that has happened to him, that he is a very lucky man.
“Who would have thought that the bank would randomly find a bit of evidence that was crucial to me long after the trial was over,” he says. “That’s something I never expected and didn’t even hope for. That’s why I think God had something to do with it.”
Although he never spent a day in prison, Neusom knows what it’s like to experience life as a convicted felon. And he knows what it’s like to be free – at last.
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