The Predators of Marengo County
|Diane Avera (rear, left), with grandchildren Gavin and Caleb (foreground)|
“What brings you to Demopolis?”
The question seemed harmless, as did the questioner, Sgt. Tim Soronen of the Demopolis, Alabama police department. Diane Avera, the 45-year-old grandmother from Meridian, Mississippi to whom that question was posed, couldn’t see any harm in answering it candidly.
“I came over to buy some Sudafed for our scuba diving trip this weekend, since we can’t buy it in Meridian anymore,” Mrs. Avera explained.
Soronen asked Avera if she knew it was against the law to cross the state line to buy Sudafed.
“No, sir, I did not know,” the startled woman replied.
“I need you to step out of the car,” Soronen demanded.
“For what? I swear I didn’t know. What did I do?” Avera asked in alarm.
“You came to Demopolis to buy some Sudafed,” came the curt response. “Step to the back of the truck.”
Before the sun set on July 29, 2010, Diane Avera was in the Marengo County Jail, where she would remain for forty days. At one point she was shackled to a restraint chair for 17 hours. During that time she was denied water or access to a bathroom. She also developed edema in her feet. Edema-related blood clots have been identified as the cause of death for several of the inmates who have perished while chained to the “Devil’s Chair.”
|(For illustration only: This is not Diane Avera.)|
Marengo County DA Greg Griggers offered Mrs. Avera his standard plea bargain: Five years of probation if she agreed not to defend herself in court. If she turned down that deal, however, Griggers promised, “I will send you to prison.”
If Avera had been a meth dealer, she almost certainly would have accepted Griggers’ offer. As an innocent woman whose unwitting violation of an obscure technical statute had injured nobody, Avera contested the charge.
During Avera’s three-day trial, Judge Eddie Hardaway gave Griggers generous latitude to make entirely unsubstantiated claims, among them that Diane had confessed that she and her daughter had been using meth for at least two years. He also insisted that Avera had somehow “diluted” drug tests she had undergone after being bailed out of jail – a charge that was refuted by the clinicians who had examined the samples.
Avera was found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture crystal meth and sentenced to a year in prison with an additional seven years of probation. She was released two months later after filing an appeal, and remains free today on a $20,000 appeal bond – if the word “free” applies to someone living in the shadow of a prison sentence.
“This has cleaned out my retirement savings, and [her husband] Keith’s as well,” Diane Avera told Pro Libertate. “We can’t get any answers as to when the appeal hearing will be held, because nobody in Marengo County seems interested in filing the paperwork. So right now, all we can do is wait with our lives on hold, and with this thing hanging over my head.”
Prior to her arrest in July 2010, Diane had no criminal record, and no history of drug abuse or addiction of any kind.
“I have known Ms. Avera for approximately 10 years,” wrote Dr. Dennis Sims in an October 8, 2010 letter to Judge Hardaway. “Ms. Avera worked as a nursing assistant at Rush Medical Group for many years. She worked part time for me as a nurse…. I have never heard the first hint concerning any drug use, drug dependence, or any hint of scandal whatsoever.”
Dr. Simms related that he has treated Diane for “recurrent sinusitis and recurrent allergy symptoms” on roughly a dozen occasions over the past decade, and that she has undergone surgery to deal with this persistent problem. Diane routinely purchased pseudoephedrine as an over-the-counter medication to treat the problems described by Dr. Sims. In July 2010 – just weeks before Diane was arrested – a new state ordinance went into effect in Mississippi that made pseudoephedrine a prescription drug. Dr. Simms astringently refers to that measure as “a rather asinine law.”
Full story HERE