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Anthony Gay: 97-year prison sentence for the theft of $1

By Joe Iosbaker |
May 13, 2022
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Gay is in the red shirt with Frank Chapman.
Gay is in the red shirt with Frank Chapman. (Alec Ozawa)

Chicago, IL - Since 2018, Anthony Gay has become a symbol of the struggle against wrongful convictions in Illinois.

As a teen in 1994 in Rock Island, he was sentenced to seven years on a parole violation. He was driving his car without a license and was on parole for a robbery in which he stole a dollar and a hat. The system made him plead guilty for that charge which got him probation.

His mental health deteriorated in prison, and minor infractions got him repeated additional sentences totaling 90 years. He spent 22 of those 24 years in solitary confinement, including some time in Tamms supermax prison. Solitary confinement in turn caused him to do self-harm – cutting himself.

He also began to read law books, and in 2018 he argued that he was incorrectly sentenced to serve those sentences consecutively. He convinced a local state’s attorney the sentences should have been served concurrently.

Racist system retaliates

This year, Rock Island police brought Gay to federal court on a bogus weapon charge. Gay explained, “The police robbed me and jumped on me, and I reported what the police did to me. In retaliation, the police targeted me, arrested me twice in one day, lied and said I had a firearm on me. After they secured state charges against me, they went to the federal government with the intentions of getting me sentenced as an armed career criminal. So, I was federally indicted.”

In federal court in April, he represented himself against the prosecution and got a hung jury.

Gay continued, “They had three expert witnesses testify. They had two U.S. attorneys, and I still got a hung jury.”

Now the federal prosecutors are preparing to put him on trial again starting on Monday, May 16.

Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, who attended a pre-trial hearing for Gay on May 9 in Peoria, said, “I’ve never heard of somebody representing themselves and getting a hung jury in a federal trial. He’s outlawyering the prosecutors!”

Chapman addressed one other development in the Anthony Gay story that helps to explain why the feds are coming down on him. “Anthony also politicized himself in prison. He read George Jackson, Angela Davis and Malcolm X. He joined the movement!”

CAARPR took a busload of supporters to the pre-trial hearing in Peoria and will continue to show up in court in his defense.

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