DENVER, Dec. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Debtors' prisons took center stage at the White House on December 3, 2015 as President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch addressed issues of imprisoning citizens for a failure to pay debts. Debtors' prisons in the United States "are unconstitutional," Lynch said in her remarks. "While the crux of Ms. Lynch's remarks addressed the injustice of the poor being criminalized for their failure to pay city fines such as traffic and court fees, the criminalization of corporate debt that resulted in the incarceration of six information technology executives running a small business is equally unjust," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause.
The IRP6 case concerns six information technology executives (five black, one white) of IRP Solutions Corporation. The six men (David A. Banks, Kendrick Barnes, David A. Zirpolo, Gary L. Walker, Demetrius K. Harper and Clinton A. Stewart) suffered a wrongful-conviction in 2011 and have spent the past 40 months at a federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado. The government alleged the IRP6 conspired together to commit mail and wire fraud by duping staffing companies into signing legal agreements to payroll information technology contractors for work on IRP's Case Investigative Life Cycle (CILC, pronounced "silk") software. The government claims that the men made false statements about "current or impending" contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and New York City Police Department which induced staffing companies to do business with them. "Court records from the grand jury and trial show that the IRP6 case was a civil matter," says Banks, "and independent experts, including a former federal judge, say the IRP6 were criminalized for corporate debt."
According to federal grand jury records, a grand jury took the government to task about criminalizing the debt of the IRP6: "...but that is not a federal crime is it? To that point, is there a federal crime? If I don't pay somebody for the work they've done, that's not a federal crime," a grand juror stated.
Richard Powers, head of the Denver Division of the FBI agreed that the IRP6 case was a civil matter. In a letter to a creditor of IRP Solutions, Powers states: "We (FBI) are unable to assist you in this matter and therefore no investigation will be conducted...We feel this case would best be handled civilly, and have noted that you have initiated [civil] legal action against the company.
After reviewing trial transcripts, the Honorable H. Lee Sarokin, former federal judge of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the IRP6 were convicted for the "crime of failing to pay corporate debts. The government proved that the [IRP6] defendants incurred debts and did not pay them," said Sarokin. The government's actions "made it impossible for them to fulfill their obligations," Sarokin explained. "I feel a grave injustice has been done."
"Why did the U.S. Attorney's Office waste taxpayers' dollars criminalizing a debt collection case?" asked Dr. Alan Bean, Executive Director of Friends of Justice in a report issued after a six-month investigation. "The IRP6 case departs from the typical failed-scam scenario. The government's case can't stand up to scrutiny. The fraud alleged in the federal indictment is a mirage."
During court hearings on November 19, 2010 and October 13, 2011, FBI agent John Smith testified that if IRP had paid their debts there would not have been a trial.
"...As a former federal prosecutor I am hurt," said Ron LeGrand, former Senior Legal Counsel of the U.S. House and Senate Judiciary Committees. "IF! Big IF! If there was a case at all, it was a civil case and should have been handled as such. Which again goes back to over criminalization," added LeGrand. "It's the over criminalization effort of both the House and Senate --- one of the things it is intended to do is force our government --- force our Justice Department to look at cases and ask the question: "Is this a civil or criminal cause of action?"
The Heritage Foundation defines over criminalization as "...the trend to use criminal law rather than civil law to solve every problem, to punish every mistake and to compel compliance with regulatory objectives."
Having debtors' prisons is "not the criminal justice system in which those of us who are working for fairness, and for equality are going to be pursuing," said Lynch. "A fundamental sense of disbelief that government is there to serve people, when people see government in many, many ways and forms, as simply a means of extracting money and pressing down on their necks."
"The evidence that the IRP6 were wrongly-convicted on the basis of failing to pay corporate debt is overwhelming," says Banks. "Independent experts who have nothing to gain are speaking out and advocating on behalf of the IRP6 because they recognize that a grave injustice has been done. A Just Cause once again calls on President Obama, Attorney General Lynch and members of Congress to right this wrong and end the continuing pain and suffering of the IRP6 and their families by freeing these men from prison. Make us believe that our government will right such an obvious wrong. These men have lost over three years of their lives and deserve justice," concludes Banks.
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SOURCE A Just Cause