By now, it seems, everyone has heard of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother who sent her two daughters to a better school and was convicted on felony charges because of it. Activist groups and many people across the country are now calling on the Governor of the state of Ohio to pardon her.
Williams-Bolar is a college student with dreams of teaching. She raises her two daughters alone in Akron. After her home was burglarized a few years ago, she became concerned for her daughters’ safety and their quality of education in the nearby district school. It was then that she decided to enroll the girls in another district, the Copley-Fairlawn District.
It wasn’t as if the girls didn’t know anyone or have any associated with the Copley-Fairlawn District. On the contrary, their grandfather lived there and they would stay with him occasionally throughout the week. At one point the school system realized what Williams was doing and suggested she get a “grandparent power of attorney” to solve the matter of residency. She did just that.
But Williams was indicted in November of 2009 on charges that she falsified records about the girls’ residency. Just last month she was found guilty of two felony charges and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The judge suspended the sentence and Williams ultimately served 10 days in jail.
Parents and others with a rational mind understand why Williams did what she did—hoping to get her girls a better education in a safer neighborhood. But now, with a felony conviction on her record, she will never be able to achieve her goal of teaching. And this is part of the reason people are calling for her pardon.
The prosecutor in the case held discretion. Even if she felt Williams deserved to be penalized for the crime, she could’ve elected to charge her with a misdemeanor. But for whatever reason, she chose to seek a lengthy prison sentence against a woman only guilty of being a concerned parent.
Prosecutorial discretion is the power a prosecutor has when choosing if someone gets charged with a crime and then which crime they are charged with. With mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines, and similar controls, prosecutorial discretion now plays a far bigger role in the outcome of a case that judicial discretion. A judge is often at the mercy of the prosecutor just as the defendant is.
In order for Williams to be pardoned, her or her attorney has to request the case be taken up by the Ohio Parole Board. As of yet this request hasn’t been made. But, hundreds of thousands of others have requested the pardon on her behalf.
Sometimes people are charged with crimes that just don’t make sense. Someone with the best intentions can face criminal prosecution and serious penalties for something they are convinced was the right thing to do. It’s in the midst of these cases that having an experienced advocate in your corner is so valuable.