The attorney for Memphis activist Pamela Moses, who recently was sentenced to six years and a day in prison for attempting to vote while on probation, said he’s just getting warmed up to fight on her behalf.
“I don’t care who I have to step on to defend my client,” said Dr. Bede Anyanwu of Jackson, Tennessee. “All along the process, Ms. Moses has had adversarial representation. Some attorneys are fighters, some are not. Me? I’m a fighter.”
Moses’ family lives in Jackson. They hired Anyanwu.
“Her brother asked me to help her,” said Anyanwu. “When I began talking with him, I realized that his mother taught my son when he was in elementary school. I came on to the case just before sentencing. I was shocked by the lengthy punishment. This is not over by a long shot.”
The legal quagmire for Moses, aka P. Moses, 44, stretches back several years. On April 29, 2015, she pled guilty to several charges, including forgery and tampering with evidence, both of which are felonies. Additional misdemeanor counts in that case were stalking, perjury, theft under $500 and escape. Her sentence was seven-year probation.
Under Tennessee law, Moses lost her rights to citizenship, including the right to vote, because of her felony convictions. She was deemed ineligible to ever register and vote in Tennessee because of the tampering with evidence conviction.
Fast forward to Sept. 3, 2019. Moses filed a certificate of restoration and application for voter registration with the Shelby County Election Commission while still serving her 2015 sentence. Moses was reportedly asked if her sentence had been completed, to which she answered in the affirmative.
On Dec. 10, 2021, more than two years after Moses’ filings with the election commission, Shelby County Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward revoked Moses’ bond, and she was taken into custody. At her Jan. 21, 2022 sentencing hearing, Ward gave Moses a six-year-and-one-day prison term.
According to Ward, he would consider placing Moses on probation after nine months, if she completes programs in prison and maintains good behavior.
Multiple counts of illegal registration and voting range from Oct. 5, 2015 to Nov. 6, 2018. Moses was facing a maximum sentence of eight years.
Friends and supporters said Moses is “a political prisoner.”
“The local DA needs to go, along with that good ole boy network,” said fellow activist Brandy Price. “P. Moses was being isolated in jail. Visitors were always told to come back. She called me and said her cell was 20 degrees and that she had COVID. They would only give her aspirin. She could hardly breathe with her asthma. She is in every sense a political prisoner.”
Price contends that Moses mistakenly filed those documents because she thought her sentence was over.
“She has political enemies, otherwise, this case would have been dismissed,” said Price. “Jail East and 201(Poplar) are obsolete and should be torn down. They have isolated her and won’t let us in when we come to see her.”
When supporters first went public with charges of “mistreatment” by Shelby County Corrections, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office refuted that claim.
“As part of the jail’s Covid-19 standard protocols, new jail detainees undergo a 14-day isolation period to ensure they are not sick before they are released into the jail’s general population,” said Lt. Dallas Wolfe of the Sheriff’s public information office.
“Ms. Moses went through this same COVID protocol… and was released from COVID isolation after her 14-days. Our jail staff works to investigate and resolve detainees’ complaints, and we have done so with her. Her rights have not been violated.”
Anyanwu declined to specify what his course of action will be. He mentioned several possibilities to “remedy the unfair sentence” and get Moses released.
“We can try to get a new trial, apply for appellate review,” said Anyanwu. “That would take the case to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. A motion could also be filed with the judge to see if we can get a bond appeal. This would give us the opportunity to have Ms. Moses be released while an appeal is being decided.”