About the Smart Justice Idaho Stories Project
Too many Idahoans have been negatively affected by our criminal justice system--a system that still relies on out-of-date, "tough on crime" policies and punitive approaches to justice that don't work and aren't right for Idaho.
We believe in the power of Idahoans stories to shape the conversation around criminal justice reform in our state. Together, we can transform Idaho's criminal justice system to be more fair, equitable and rooted in community based solutions.
Greg has been a resident of Idaho since 1972. He is one of the very few people in the state with a NABCEP certification, a certification for solar installers, only a handful of people in Idaho have attained this type of certification. He also worked in aviation electronics in the Navy. In 2018, he was convicted for aggravated assault. During his trial, Greg claimed he was innocent, but eventually decided to take an Alford plea, which is when the defendant doesn’t admit to the act but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge. Although Greg is self-employed, being incarcerated has taken a toll on his business, causing him to lose thousands of dollars in profit due to his location restrictions from parole.
What were you convicted of and what was your sentence?
[My sentence was] aggravated assault, and the different levels of conviction are complex because they initially charged very severely. There were three felony charges and a bunch of property charges that they wanted to charge me with originally, and we had so much evidence showing that I didn’t do anything here except try to get away and save my life. [The trial] finally was a choice between going to trial with a bad lawyer, he was a business lawyer inexperienced in criminal matters, and maybe seeing 15-25 years, versus taking a plea deal. I took an Alford plea. An Alford plea is when the risk of going to trial is great, but you still insist that you are not guilty of the crime. They massively overcharge to scare you into taking a plea deal and they are dead serious about it. It’s not some kind of a joke, they’ll stick you in jail for as long as you feel like living.
What was the hardest obstacle you needed to overcome or are still struggling with, post incarceration?
The parole officers are massively overwhelmed and pretty much unavailable, and I don’t know that I want to assign blame to the officers themselves, the ones I have met seem like they are trying. Now I have seen the system get very vindictive and I know people who went through jail that were spending 180 days in jail because they couldn’t set up a meeting with their parole officer, and then got blamed for that because the parole officer was not available. I’ve literally had to ambush my parole officer by sitting in the office till he got done with a meeting with somebody else, and then get him. My parole officer has always been professional and nice to me; however, the system doesn’t have any checks and balances when they don’t want to be professional. I have seen that happen.
Are you currently employed?
I have had a number of jobs through my life. I was a Navy veteran who was honorably discharged with a Meritorious Unit’s award for rescuing refugees out of the ocean in Malaysia. I have also done a lot of volunteer work in the Red Cross during hurricane Katrina, and have helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I worked at Hewlett Packard, where I was in the president’s office for Pavilion computers for a long time. I also taught snowboarding for a year up at Bogus Basin. Now I own my own business in solar renewable energy, and even have a patent. We make solar awnings where the surface of the awning is the solar panel.
Although you are self-employed, do you feel that being incarcerated has affected your employment situation?
It absolutely has affected me. Just in the last three months, I’ve probably had to turn down $70,000-85,000 worth of jobs. I’ve missed out on three of those jobs because they are outside of my travel area and I can’t get ahold of my parole officer to get a travel permit, and there is no other way to do it. Had we not had these problems, we probably would have been able to hire two or three people this year.