Today is one of my best friend’s 40th birthday. I won’t name her name here. She certainly didn’t sign up to be in my justice reform blog. But many of you who read this know who she is – please tell her Happy 40th today.

In the spring of 2007, my family was preparing to go to war. After 18 months of the government hunting and haunting us and creating a story that could later be dismantled (but only after finding evidence they had suppressed in trial and my mom was already sitting in prison) and then an eventual indictment – we were preparing for trial in May.

Why trial? Glad you asked. You see, my family naively assumed we had a level playing field if we went there. We didn’t know that 97%+ of all federal cases are won by the government in federal court. That is no coincidence. Like with many other cases, we were offered plea deals. My mom didn’t consider them for one second. Why would you if you are innocent and our system is fair? (*More on this topic in past and future editions of this blog).

My best friend’s wedding was in April of that same year. A little less than one month before our trial started. I was to be the maid of honor in what would be an amazing week in the Dominican Republic. Early in the spring I had to reluctantly back out. It broke my heart and I know it broke hers. I just knew I couldn’t spend a week in a beautiful place while my mom was preparing the fight of her life. My head and my heart would have been at home and I would have been doing her a disservice to be her wingman on her special day. I was also scared to spend the money at a time when our family was bleeding financially to pay for her defense.

I have been friends with this woman for more of my life than I have not been at this point. We are raising kids the same age in the same community in St. Louis. She is genuinely one of my favorite people in this world. And we have FUN.

I wanted her to know today, on her birthday, how thankful I am that she forgave me and that we are still so close. Our justice system has many collateral damages. Our friendship could have been one of them. I am lucky it was not.

With Gratitude and Hope for the Future,

stephaniesig

Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior

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