Eight Mile store worker beaten in 2013 robbery among few to get prisoner stimulus money returned

By BRENDAN KIRBY

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MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — Melissa Powell suffered a heartbreaking assault during a robbery nearly a decade ago, and although her attacker went to jail, he didn’t pay a penny of the $4,685 compensation.

Then the defendant, Joseph Scott Caples, walked in on an unexpected sum of money – $1,800 in stimulus funds authorized by Congress. A judge granted a request from the Mobile County District Attorney’s office to seize the money. But the Mobile County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office only got $1,300, which was split between Powell and the victim in another case. Powell received just over $700, but that’s a fraction of what the defendant owes him.

“I think something is better than nothing,” she said.

Powell is among the lucky few victims who have seen anything of the stimulus windfall enjoyed by prisoners in Alabama. Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich told FOX10 News earlier this week that his office obtained court orders against 340 convicted inmates in Mobile, but managed to collect less than 9% of the 333. $760.

During the 2013 robbery at Eight Miles, Caples and another man restrained Powell, who was then working as a store clerk. Surveillance video shows Caples going behind the counter and beating her with the gun. He even tried to shoot it, but it didn’t explode.

Caples eventually pleaded guilty and a judge sentenced him to jail and ordered restitution to compensate Powell for the purse, money and jewelry the defendant stole from him. She said she couldn’t understand why the prisoners got stimulus money in the first place.

“This boy can’t even apply for parole until 2038,” she said. “Then why does he need the money?” He has a roof over his head. He is fed every day. So why does a guy in jail need money? »

Baldwin’s prosecutors also encountered obstacles. Baldwin County prosecutors also attempted to seize stimulus funds for unpaid court costs and victim compensation. District Attorney Bob Wilters said his office ran into other hurdles. Two of the county circuit judges, he said, refused to grant requests to seize the stimulus money. He said they had expressed concerns about whether it was appropriate to do so as part of the criminal case as opposed to a separate civil proceeding.

Wilters said the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and Civil Court of Appeals have issued conflicting rulings on this issue in cases from other parts of the state. He said the two Baldwin judges also ruled that it was not property to seize inmates’ money in cases where sentencing orders ordered them to begin paying restitution and court costs of 30 at 90 said after their release from prison.

Two other Baldwin judges granted prosecutors’ request to seize the stimulus funds, but Wilters said he ran into the same problem as Rich a Mobile, with the Alabama Department of Corrections not holding the funds. He said his office received orders in at least 15 cases, but only received money in one of them.

“Which, to me, doesn’t make sense,” he told FOX10 News. “How on earth can someone who is serving a life sentence – life without the possibility of parole – get a stimulus check. And what are they supposed to stimulate with this stimulus test? »

The Department of Corrections told FOX10 News it froze stimulus funds in response to court orders, but at some point lifted those suspensions if judges did not issue restraining orders. followed by granting the money.

Many other Mobile County victims also did not receive any of the stimulus funds that were paid to convicted felons in their cases. Karen Cassidy, who lives in New Orleans and owns property in Mobile, said she was lucky the restitution in her case was minor — $309 to fix a door that Craig O’Neil Pettaway smashed during a burglary.

“If it was a substantial sum of money, it would be, you know, disappointing to hear that there was an opportunity, a potential opportunity that didn’t exist otherwise,” she said. declared.

Cassidy recalled the burglary, which happened on Easter Sunday in 2016. She said she had been camping and moved back to the house she had bought four years earlier in downtown town of Church Street. For a time, she used this property – known as The Mardi Gras House – as her bed and breakfast.

Cassidy said she entered the house through the back door and noticed a bicycle. Then she heard a noise upstairs and saw the burglar running down the stains with a flat screen TV. She said she told the man to turn off the television and leave; instead, he pulled out a knife and demanded money. She said she threw her purse at him, then ran out the front door.

A couple nearby called 911 and Cassidy filed a burglary charge.

“As I’m filing the report, I see him come out the back door with a TV under his arm, and he gets on the bike and walks away,” she said.

Police quickly arrested Pettaway, so restitution in the case was limited to damage to the door.

The loss was far too great for Mobile resident Alice Grayson, another victim who did not receive compensation from the stimulus funds that were paid to the man convicted in his case. A member of a band called The Redfield, she said she woke up one morning in 2017 to find a trailer full of musical instruments and gear had been stolen.

Grayson said it was a blow, especially items of sentimental value, such as symbols that once belonged to his father and the guitar his grandparents bought him just before he passed away. She said her husband saw a stolen microphone for sale at the Guitar Center, which ultimately led to the arrest and conviction of Jamarcus Lee Brown.

But Grayson said she still hasn’t replaced all the thousands of dollars worth of instruments and equipment that police haven’t recovered.

And Grayson received nothing of Brown’s $1,400 stimulus payment that a judge ordered forfeited.

“All of this made me crazy — I mean, absolutely furious — because we’re musicians,” she said. “It’s not like we’re, you know, rolling around in it.”

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