Reflections from Rusty: The Man Who Won His Freedom from 3 Life Sentences “Never Give Up, and You are the Best Advocate For Your Loved One!”

Rusty and his mom hugging as he leaves jail, a free man after having served four years of what would have been 3 life sentence.

Rusty and his mom hugging as he leaves jail, a free man after having served four years of what would have been 3 life sentence.

To everyone at De-Bug, and all families who are fighting within our court systems: I saw this posting of my plight, as well as the plight of all those who fought along side me, and I was very touched. It was a very difficult battle, one that I almost gave up on many times over, but that is NEVER THE ANSWER! No matter how overwhelming the challenge may seem. This goes for ALL involved. Some will fall by the wayside, but this is inevitable, and cannot be a deterrent. I asked my mother for permission to leave this life, for I felt defeated, but she, as well as others, such as my daughter, step son, attorney, brothers, and Raj, from De Bug, reignighted my will to fight for my life, and for me to lead by example.

My attorney Jessica Burt-Smith and I buckled down and collaborated on EVERYTHING making sure that we fought with everything we could, despite the Court’s many efforts to shut us down. We still lost in trial, and it was devastating! I stood up and yelled at the jury and District Attorney: “YOU JUST STOLE MY LIFE; YOU GOT IT WRONG!”

Again, I felt defeated and wanted to give up. I was sentenced to 3 Life sentences, plus 34 years, for a total term of 109 years to life. I also received divorce papers at the same time. I lost everything, and another fight to overcome all of this seemed impossible. My attorney looked me in the eyes with tears in hers, and told me not to give up, that the fight was not over, that there was still my appeal. I did not believe in the system, for I had just been falsely convicted, so I certainly did not have faith in any appeal.

Instead of giving up, I took charge of my fight, and my trial attorney, Jessica, and I made sure my Appellate attorney, Jonathan Grossman, with the Sixth District Appellate Program, had every piece of information we could possibly think of to help strengthen my appeal. This took communication and involvement by all, including my family. Nobody can be a louder voice than those who are affected by injustice.YOU MUST SPEAK UP; YOU MUST SPEAK OUT; and you must be honest in your claims, or you will not be heard!!!

Prepared with every piece of information, my appellate attorney, Jonathan, put up a fight so impressive that he literally saved my life and changed the course of the lives of all involved; the Court of Appeals HEARD us, and overturned my convictions.

Facing a new trial, we spoke even louder, and despite my initial anger with the D.A.’s office, and Prosecutor Charlie Huang, who was the same prosecutor who had convicted me, I can only appreciate that they ALSO heard our voices, and those of the Appellate Court Justices, and they humbly corrected the injustice which had been instilled on my family and I, and the D.A. dismissed all charges with an apology, and a statement to me to do something good with my life.

In conclusion, I want to thank Raj, and the staff at De-Bug/ACJP; my attorney, Jessica Burt-Smith; My Appellate attorney, Jonathan Grossman; and most of all, the family and friends who stood by me and gave me strength to keep up the fight and get back to this beautiful life of mine; especially my cousin, Nicol, who was there at my court dates, and to visit me when my family couldn’t because they were out-of-state. She was and is my lil’ pit bull who kept me focused and in line, and words cannot express what that meant to me!!!
I also want to extend hope to families who may be going through similar circumstances; IT IS NEVER TOO LATE. Make yourself heard. Stand strong together and individually, and do not be afraid to reach out for help. I am not suggesting you go on an 18 day hunger-strike, such as I did in order to bring attention to my plight, but you must do whatever you must in order to be heard, otherwise you are just another tragic story lost amongst the machine that is our legal system!!! You must be your greatest advocate, for no one cares more, knows more, or stands to lose more than those who have a horse in the race. Keep the faith. And to the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office — thank you for all you do! Jessica Burt-Smith is AWESOME, as well as our investigator, Sergio Jiminez. Both were tireless, and great communicators with my family and all involved, all while trying to juggle their family lives as well. Jessica, you are my Angel!!!

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