Anne L. Clyburn, former CEO of a credit union, has won her appeal, overturning her conviction of theft related charges. Her husband, Stephan, a professor at West Chester University has maintained high evaluations prior to her arrest and continued through her appeal.
Written in the Opinion, the three judge panel found the District Attorney’s office failed to fully explain the elements of the charges against Anne. The trial judge “failed to conduct a thorough, on-the-record colloquy before allowing a defendant to proceed to trial pro se constitutes a reversible error” as listed in the Opinion. “We vacate the judgment of sentence and remand the matter for a new trial,” the Opinion stated in its conclusion.
Anne received a phone call from her latest lawyer, Sam Stretton, with the news of her appeal. Originally accused of stealing over $32,000 while she worked for six and a half years as a Chief Executive Officer at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 Federal Credit Union, Anne is legally free with a clean record. Convicted in July 2010, she served nine months of her one to seven year sentence. Now she no longer has to report to her parole officer.
Stretton represented Anne at her appeal hearing on Sept. 13, 2011, in which he argued that Anne was not advised of her right to counsel, nor did the trial judge advise her of her right to testify. Stretton argued she did not voluntary waive her rights to have a lawyer present at her trial. He said Judge William R. Carpenter did state on the record that Anne gave up her right to council, however the judge never said, on the record, that it was a competent understanding.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Appellee disputed this with an explanation that the trial judge advised Anne against representing herself, however it was not transcribed at the time. Noted in the Opinion, when a defendant waives the right to counsel, the judge must assert this “on the record, whether this is a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of counsel.” The Appellee agreed Anne may have not understood the whole process of the trial, but they argued she understood waiving of her rights. The Appellee deemed her as a sophisticated business woman.
“I’ve seen students submit papers longer than this and with better arguments,” Stephan later said in regards to the report the D. A. office presented in the appeal process. During the appeal last September, one of the Superior Court judges asked Stretton about Judge Carpenter’s hostility towards Anne, who threatened her with contempt of court several times during her three day trial by jury in a Montgomery County courtroom. Stretton could not give a reason for this, while the Appellee did not address the matter.
The panel of judges reviewed the record of the trial and indicated the Assistant District Attorney failed to explain the elements of the charges against the defendant as necessary when a defendant waives their right to counsel. The Opinion continued to list how the trial court failed to follow procedures involving the waiver of counsel, and therefore ruled to “agree with the Appellant that her waiver of trial counsel was not knowing, voluntarily, and intelligent.”
The couple described themselves as emotionally exhausted after all the time that passed from Anne’s arrest in 2008 to her winning the appeal. To bring Anne to a new trial, the District Attorney’s office has 30 days from the appeal date to decide if they will attempt to prosecute her. The D.A. told reporters it is likely they will take Anne to court again. If they do attempt to prosecute her, they will have 365 days from then to bring her back to the courts.
The claim for reistition has exceeded the deadline for the creditors to submit, the couple said. Recently the couple claimed bankruptcy after the trial and costs “financially ruined” their credit. While they filed, they discovered they were not held legally responsible to pay back the $32,469 that lead to her spending time in both a maximum and minimum-security prison.
At her January 2011 parole hearing, Anne said no creditor or administrator from the credit union spoke against her. No representatives from the D. A. office spoke against her either.
“They can’t gain anything from this,” Anne explained by saying she’s already served time and the creditors cannot claim the restitution. ” . . . I have a confident lawyer this time.”
With the news to remand for a new trial, Stephan said he is grateful, to which Anne added that she feels blessed. The Superior Court Treatment of Cases from Courts of Common Pleases in 2011, according to www.superior.court.state.pa.us, the Opinion had reversed the ruling of 13% of cases they viewed.
Several students and faculty gave him the benefit of the doubt, Stephan said, when they wanted to hear more about his wife’s case. Some staff members of WCU, eager to help, attempted to raise money for their defense and other costs. Others from Higher Education, he said, read the newspapers and assumed Anne’s guilt. The Clyburns were familiar with not always having support as Anne’s family stopped talking to her 25 years ago, about two years before she married Stephan.
His evaluations remained high while his acknowledgment of the past few years as he found it “hard to concentrate on teaching” with his wife’s daily incarceration mixed with violent offenders. As a political science professor, he said it’s hard to teach about a legal system that he knows has flaws.
“I spent nine months in (prison), what more do they want?” Anne asked rhetorically.
Saying she remembers her days behind bars, Anne said she wrote daily entries in a journal about an “eye opening experience.” Since she returned home with her property, she hid the journal in the garage and hasn’t looked at it since.
Separated during her prison sentence, the couple resorted to phone calls every 48 hours by reservation, one-way e-mails and letters. Anne felt concerned for how her husband managed to hold up during the time he described the separation to feel like losing a body part. This “steadfast commitment” started five years ago when Anne lost her job. Love kept the couple going, Stephan said. Despite the outcome of events, she knows he’ll never abandon her, he said, which has been evident as he stayed and defended her from day one.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fifth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.