Case Studies

Rodney Roberts: Coerced into pleading guilty


In 1996 Rodney Roberts got into an argument with a friend, the argument escalated and Rodney called the police.  Rodney himself was arrested and expected to be charged with assault – however to his shock and outrage he found himself facing charges of the rape and kidnapping of a 17 year old from his neighbourhood of Newark, New Jersey. Roberts vehemently denied the charges, he’d never even met the woman in question.

Despite knowing his own innocence, he was told by his court-appointed attorney that there was a ‘witness’ who could identify him, and that his best chance was to plead guilty to the lesser charge of kidnapping, with the authorities willing to drop the sexual assault charge. He was told that by pleading guilty he could receive two years. It was an impossible choice, but faced with those options, Rodney very reluctantly agreed to plead guilty. He had a son and girlfriend and wanted to be back with his family as soon as possible. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Rodney ended up serving six and a half years of the sentence as his parole applications were repeatedly denied on the basis that he was a sexual offender- a label that Roberts denied, as he did not plead guilty to the sexual assault charge. Robert’s personally filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea but it was denied before an attorney had even been assigned to it. To his shock, after the prison sentence was complete Roberts was sent to a treatment facility for people viewed as too sexually dangerous to be released. He was to be held there indefinitely, until he was cured of his perversions.

It took until 2014 for Rodney to be exonerated. He had spent seventeen years incarcerated for a crime that he hadn’t committed, because of a plea deal taken on the advice of his lawyer.

Find out more about our plea bargaining work.