[We received a heartbreaking message from John on his daughter’s 10th birthday, a letter he asked we share with the world to demonstrate the vast disservice this decorated combat veteran and father has been paid by his country simply because he stood up for what is right.]

John with his two daughters before being wrongly imprisoned in a Kentucky jail

Today is my oldest daughter Laila’s 10th birthday. I can’t believe that she’s already ten. I haven’t been able to see or speak to her in many years. Her mother saw my decision to stand strong against the system as selfish and believed that if I loved my daughters, I would have just pled guilty to a crime that I did not commit in return for a plea bargain. In her eyes (and probably most of yours), it was my pride and my pride alone that would not allow me to bend the knee to the tyrannical justice system. I thought, since my girls’ birthdays have essentially become annual days of mourning for me, that on this day, I would address that issue.

Had it been anything else, robbery, murder, assault, forgery, anything – I think that perhaps I could have taken a deal. The conviction rate in Fayette County (Lexington, KY) is the highest in America. A whopping 97% conviction rate. People don’t always take deals to avoid consequences for crimes that they have committed. Often times, they take deals because they see what happens to people who stand and fight, like me…. They fear the unfairness of the legal process. Still… in a case like mine, I had no choice. I love my daughters more than anything on this planet. How could I have ever looked at them with a full heart, knowing that I was a coward who had said he did something so horrible, even though he was innocent. Consequently I have missed everything in my little girls lives. I’m missing today, when the child who first changed my world goes from single to double digits. I ALWAYS struggle with the weight (and inevitably crushing guilt) of my decision to stand and fight the injustice rather than tuck tail and bend the knee. I wish people understood how insanely unfair the justice system could be. For most of you reading this, a conviction, or even an accusation, means guilt. To me, cowardice, despite the consequences, bending to fear and saying I did something I did not do, would have meant guilt. People that break are guilty. That doesn’t change the pain that I feel…