Judge Delays Release of Innocent Man, Says She Wants More Paperwork

Categories: Crime
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Photo by Eric Barton
Phillips served as his own attorney for years while trying to prove his innocence. 
A federal judge declined today to release a man from prison where he is serving a 24-year term on drug charges, despite the fact that prosecutors have agreed to drop the charges against him. 

Elroy Phillips will remain in federal prison in Miami while prosecutors and his defense attorney file a joint motion outlining again why they think he should be set free. U.S. District Court Judge Joan A. Lenard demanded the paperwork at a hearing this afternoon instead of accepting a joint motion to release Phillips.

The new paperwork is yet another legal hurdle for Phillips, who thought he was going to be released two weeks ago when prosecutors finally agreed to drop the charges. 

Lenard sentenced Phillips to prison in 2003 after a trial that hinged on the testimony of 
one West Palm Beach cop. That cop, Michael Ghent, has since given up his license to practice as an officer due to allegations that he shook down a massage parlor and was selling drugs on the side. The FBI, Phillips' attorney, and prosecutors interviewed Ghent earlier this year, and multiple lies he told helped prosecutors decide that Phillips should be released. 

Phillips spent years while behind bars trying to prove his innocence. He requested documents, hired a private investigator, and got a paralegal's license so he could file his own court paperwork. When he learned two weeks ago that prosecutors planned to drop the charges, his daughter, Shatroyia Phillips, brought him clothes to wear when he's released. At his hearing today, he wore a jail-issued white shirt and brown pants, his hands handcuffed behind his back. 

Lenard said she couldn't release Phillips because she needed to see it on paper. "It has a very broad sweep and differing legal theories," Lenard said. "There are a lot of moving parts here."

After the hearing, Shatroyia Phillips, who owns a tax office in Pembroke Pines, said she was surprised with the judge's decision considering the hundreds of documents that have already been filed to support her father's innocence. "I'm disappointed. My dad, he really wants to come home, and he really thought today was his day."

Update: Phillips' attorney and prosecutors have filed a 60-page joint memorandum addressing the judge's concerns. Phillips now awaits word from the judge on whether he can be released. 

Previous articles on Elroy Phillips:
• West Palm's "Most Notorious": Big Fish or a Small Scapegoat in the War on Drugs?, September 18, 2003
• After a Decade in Prison, Man Proves His Innocence -- Only to See Inaction From Courts, June 16, 2011
• Don't Believe Elroy Phillips Is Innocent? Read the Evidence He Collected Yourself, August 3, 2011
• Elroy Phillips Dug Up Evidence From Prison, but He Still Might Not Get a Chance to Prove His Innocence, August 4, 2011
• Elroy Phillips, in Jail on a Charge He Says He Can Prove Is Bogus, Will Get Day in Court, September 21, 2011
• "In This Place, Everybody Is Hopeless," Says Prisoner With Evidence to Prove He's Not Guilty, August 3, 2011


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Eric Barton is editor of New Times Broward-Palm BeachEmail him here, or click here to follow him on Facebook.

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8 comments
Tanyagrimes64
Tanyagrimes64

I think the judge is an Idiot and wants to drag this case an my childs' father through more legal loopholes to appease her own ego.But with faith he will be home very soon despite all the nonsense I Love you Ike

Mike Linder
Mike Linder

Maybe  she's just trying to give him more fuel for the lawsuit he's going to have against the county, the state, and the federal courts?

SoFla Lawyer
SoFla Lawyer

This is outrageous. If prosecutors file a motion asking the judge to let Mr. Phillips out, how can the judge refuse? She doesn't get to decide how defendants are charged--that's the government's job. She doesn't get to represent the government in Mr. Phillips' pending appeals. The justice system is entirely broken if prosecutors agree to let a man out, but a judge can keep putting up road blocks like this.   

Lenard has obviously forgotten that she's a judge--someone who IMPARTIALLY presides over the court proceedings. Maybe she wants her old job as assistant state attorney back. 

BCConfidential
BCConfidential

One story you guys should follow-up on is Ryan LeVin.  The families of the two widows in England were offered $2 million, immediately, upon Judge Barbara McCarthy letting LeVin go after mowing down two people, leaving the scene, drunk at the time, setting up his friend, fleeing the state, lying to authorities - all they had to do was write the letters asking McCarthy not to give LeVin jail time.  What was the timeframe of all that dealing going back and forth between Bogenschutz (who was Judge McCarthy's campaign finance director) and the widows?.  The deal had to be made prior to McCarthy letting LeVin go, so somehow Bogenschutz would allegedly have  had to know McCarthy would accept it before he started negotiating with the families, who were allegedly threatened that if they didn't write the letters, their civil case would be held up for years and years, and they would be broke (and they apparently needed money with their family financial supporters being killed).  Ryan LeVin has stated, while under house arrest at his luxury beach condo, that he probably wouldn't have had to give his victim's families even the $2 million because his lawyer would have gotten him out of that, too.  He said that while waiting for his chauffeur, after working out in the gym with his personal trainer.  I still don't understand how Dave Bogenschutz, who some people say is such a nice person, can live with knowing he was instrumental in that injustice taking place.  Barbara McCarthy is pure trash, and I think we'll be hearing all about that on June 4th...we can only hope.

Pete Pepper
Pete Pepper

So they wont let an innocent poor man out of prison, but wont put the filthy rich and guilty man in?   Nice to know just how the justice system works here.

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

This judge Can't Understand Normal Thinking ( acronym alert )

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