How does society allow a success story – a victory – to end in tragedy?
George Andre Axam was addicted to drugs for more than20 years, before he made up his mind to turn his life around and become again the man his family and his friends knew him to be. Every day in that time, he hustled a life on the streets to support his drug habit.
Twenty years earlier, he had been a loving son, a caring brother, and a devoted father. And then, to everyone’s surprise, he fell prey to drug addiction. He abandoned his children to his mother and father, and became someone his parents, his siblings and his own children hardly recognized as son or brother or father.
It was inevitable that he would become involved with the criminal justice system. Over his 20 year detour he has been convicted of several crimes – all petty, and none worthy of a 15 year sentence:
• He stole several cartons of cigarettes from a store.
• He was arrested for a possession of a very small
amount of cocaine.
• He committed fraud at Home Depot in the amount
• He fired a hand gun in the air because he feared
for his physical safety.
Admittedly, all of these actions are wrong, but he has never endangered the life of another human being. After serving 2 years and 3 months for the probation violation, federal Judge Marvin Shoob reviewed Andre’s case and circumstances and declared, “the court finds that defendant is a small-time burglar suffering from a decade-long drug addiction, that he’s never been violent, and that he is in need of drug rehabilitation.” (page 5 of 18, Hearing Transcript February 2003). In February 2003, Andre was released by Judge Shoob and placed on probation. He was released and placed on probation and in that window of freedom he demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that he had been rehabilitated.
Drug free, he reconnected with his family and friends. He bought a new home for his family of six sons, one daughter and 4 grandchildren. He became a productive entrepreneur supporting his re-united family with profits from a cleaning business he started while successfully reporting monthly to the probation office following his release.
In that window of freedom he was clearly re-building a lost life. He had a successful and growing business. He counseled his children to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them. He testified to all who would listen, that he was ecstatic to be himself again - the person his father and his siblings and his children knew so well, -- complete with dreams for his business and successful careers for his children. He demonstrated his successful rehabilitation by giving back; working with others who had a drug addiction, leading a Christian life and working very hard at being a good father.
We, the citizens, family and friends of Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America request to immediately commute the re-sentencing of George Andre Axam for 15 years by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
But after more than 3 years of freedom and a productive life, all that Andre had worked for was painfully ripped away. Andre was re-sentenced on June 19, 2007 by Judge Jack Camp. Judge Camp re-sentenced Andre to 15 years due to an appeal filed by overzealous prosecutor Sheila Arnum. Prosecutor Arnum’s appeal and Judge Camp’s decision defied Judge Shoob’s February 2003 sentencing. Judge Shoob’s sentence supports our reason to fight for Andre’s freedom.
“The Court-Pursuant to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, it’s the judgment of the Court that the Defendant, George Andre Axam, is hereby committed to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons to be imprisoned for a term of 18 months. The Defendant is to be given credit for time served. It’s further ordered the Defendent shall pay to the United States a special assessment of a hundred dollars, which shall be due immediately.” “The Court has imposed a sentence in the middle of the guideline range since there are no aggravating or mitigating circumstances not already taken into account by the court, and the court feels the sentence imposed meets the objections of punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.” (pages3 & 14 of 18, Hearing Transcript, February 2003)
Despite his having stepped up to the plate and holding himself accountable for his actions, Andre was knocked off the game board: “Do not pass go! Go straight to jail!” As if there are not enough dangerous, career criminals on our streets, a federal prosecutor insisted on prosecuting Andre.
Under a mandatory minimum sentence law, Andre was re-sentenced to 15 years in Federal Prison as the prosecuting attorney argued, “get him off the street, he’s an armed career criminal,” “no judicial discretion allowed.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone who knows Andre knows that he is not a career criminal – his family, his clients his probation officer, his pastor, his community – yes, even federal Marvin Shoob who was brave enough to reduce the mandatory minimum sentence but was eventually overturned on appeal.
Most people who face challenges that Andre has faced, do not make such a stellar recovery. Where is the evidence that Andre is a career criminal who threatens the safety of our homes and streets? Where is the justice in a sentence of 15 years for a man who has demonstrated such discipline and determination in recalibrating his life path? Where is the mercy for a young black male who has turned his life around and become a productive citizen, serving his community and caring for his family after 20 years of leading a misdirected life?
Because of his re-incarceration, the stability of his family has been challenged. In all, Andre has served over 6 years in Federal Prison. The last 4 years of imprisonment, after having been released by Federal Jude Shoob, having been completely rehabilitated and clean for several years, and having become a productive, contributing, taxpaying member of his community. To further penalize Andre is unjust and inhumane.
We ask for your help in our cause to get Andre released from prison with time served. Free Andre and allow him to continue his ministry; helping others addicted to drugs headed in the …… The greater injury to society would be to continue to imprison Andre and deprive his family of his income, guidance and wisdom.
The Justice Gone Wrong: Free Andre Axam petition to Axam Family United was written by Axam Sisters and is in the category Justice at GoPetition.