By Cheri Sicard
Like most people serving life sentences for nonviolent, victimless “crimes,” Charles “Fred” Cundiff is yet example of a prisoner behind bars because of America’s horrendous conspiracy laws. In July of 1991, Fred did what many of us have probably done at one time or another in our lives; he was in the company of a friend who was involved in selling marijuana.
Fred agreed to go on an overnight road trip to Tallahassee with this friend. Fred went shopping for a birthday present for a loved one while his friend attended to an “errand.” While he was waiting in the car for his friend to arrive for the trip home, Cundiff found himself looking down the barrels of two shotguns, while another 9mm pistol pointed squarely at him. Fred was arrested and taken to jail.
During the next 21 days he was arraigned on various charges before being transferred from the Wacoola private prison near Tallahassee to the Pensacola jail. When Fred asked the private investigator he had hired his opinion on the reason for the move, the investigator thought it was because the feds didn’t think they could get a jury to convict in Tallahassee.
The first part of the trial lasted about a month, then there was a break of several months while the judge sat on another important trial that has been previously scheduled. Two of his co-defendants plead out for a deal. The trial consisted of 10 co-defendants, as everyone else involved in the case all took plea bargains and/or were tried separately.
The defense lawyers caught federal witness Burnell Deltona lying in court, but Fred’s judge called it “an honest mistake.” With the exception of a 30-minute window, Fred’s name was not brought up during the entire trial, which lasted more than two months.
Near the end of the trial, the judge asked witness Frank B., who had “cooperated” with prosecutors in order to avoid a long prison term, to identify Charles Cundiff. The witness could not, searching among the defendants without success, until the group of lawyers all stared at Fred and tipped the witness off who he was supposed to identify.
Fred Cundiff maintains he had never seen the witness who identified him in his entire life. No one else identified Cundiff as a conspirator in the entire trial. When the jury received their instructions, they were told that if one person in the group is guilty, they ALL are guilty. If one person walked, they ALL walked.
At sentencing, Fred’s attorney told him he would get a reduced sentence if took responsibility. He did, but received no sentence reduction, despite the attorney arguing that the government had no proof whatsoever of Fred buying or selling any marijuana at all. The judge’s reply to Fred: “I think you knew what was going on.”
Like other prisoners serving life for marijuana who knew they had done nothing wrong and took it to trial (Craig Cesal and John Knock among others), Charles “Fred” Cundiff is paying the ultimate price for exercising his Constitutionally guaranteed right to a trial by jury. The conspiracy statute that holds one person responsible for the crimes of others set him up for failure before he began.
Cundiff has already served far more time than many murderers and other violent criminals. At nearly 70 years of age, he is in extremely poor health. He deserves a compassionate release pardon or Presidential clemency so he can spend his few remaining years in freedom with his family.
How You Can Help
Fred loves getting cards and letters from supporters. Write to him here:
Charles “Fred” Cundiff # 09400-017
FCI Coleman, Medium
PO Box 1032
Coleman, FL 33521
Want to help more?
Here’s how to put money directly onto a prisoner’s books — no middle man, ALL of the money goes DIRECTLY to the prisoner – to be used for phone calls, email, legal expenses, food, personal hygiene items, etc.:
- Send a postal money order (yes it must be a POSTAL money order or the Bureau of Prisons will not accept it) to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Inmate Name, Inmate Register Number
(in this case Charles “Fred” Cundiff # 09400-017)
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
Or go to Western Union and find the link on the bottom of the page “send money to an inmate.” (www.westernunion.com)
MAKE YOUR OWN FREE CHARLES “FRED” CUNDIFF SIGN
The CAN-DO Foundation has made it easy for you to make your own Pot Lifer Protest Signs (like the one in this article). Make some signs, take them to your next event and preach the gospel of NO LIFE FOR POT!. Get details and free graphics downloads here.
Editor’s note: Cheri Sicard is a dedicated cannabis activist, the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women (2015 Seal Press) and The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook (2012 Z-Dog Media). She is vice president of the CAN-DO Foundation (www.candoclemency.com). Her blog is www.CannabisCheri.com.