Please read Matthew’s story of Ineffective Counsel, an Overzealous Prosecutor and Judge, and a Crime he has been charged and sentenced for that he did not commit, five erroneous charges on which part of his sentence was based and if at the end of reading this you want to help, PLEASE DO!
Matthew has been performing his post-conviction defense i.e. filing post-conviction motions and briefs citing case law that supports the motions without the benefit of an attorney for financial reasons. He has been convicted of selling drugs plus one charge of armed trafficking of Cocaine to an Undercover Police Officer with the Pinellas Sheriff’s Department. Matthew has always admitted to the drug trafficking charges and always denied the armed trafficking charge as he never had a gun, a gun was never visualized, a gun was never found upon his arrest on his person, in his car or home. The Police were never able to link a gun to Matthew. The actual dollar value of the drugs sold by Matthew is $2500. He received a maximum sentence of 30 years from Judge Luce in Division M. A sentence without the firearm would have been 8-12 years. Court M is a court where cases of Murder, Rape, Child Molestation and other horrendous crimes are heard. Because of the firearm charge, Matthew was assigned to Division M. He has served 8 years and he is located in the Suwanee Annex in Live Oaks, Florida. Matthew has 30 days in which to wrap-up his post-conviction defense and he desperately needs an attorney specializing in Post-Conviction Defense but he needs money in order to get the help he needs.
One might ask how did this happen? Matthew requested a jury trial for the firearm charge but he was told that he could not separate the firearm from the drug charges if going for a jury trial. Based upon Attorney Counsel, Matthew agreed to waive a jury trial as he was assured the gun charge would be removed, he could then be heard in a different Division and a sentence of 8-12 years could be expected. This did not occur. He was told that a jury trial would be too risky as the gun charge could not be removed and he could be looking at a life sentence. Matthew at that time felt forced into a decision to plead to the charges following guidance of a new attorney.
He entered a plea with Judge Luce officiating expecting a 12-15 year sentence but Judge Luce gave him 30 years. Matthew stated nine (9) times during the plea sentencing that he had never had possession of a gun. His attorney failed to argue that Matthew had no alternative but to include the gun charge as part of his plea as the charges had never been separated as they should have been. His attorney failed to argue that at no time was a gun found on his person, in his home or auto, nor could the Undercover Police Officer link the firearm to Matthew. This was stated in the Police Officer’s deposition dated June 5, 2006. The Police Officer said he saw something that might have been a gun. What he saw was a black leather zippered manicure set minus the tools in which Matthew carried his business cards and a small scale in the small of his back. On that final sale to an Undercover Police Officer, the Officer said he was “packing” and Matthew wanting to appear as the “Big Man” said “I am packing too”. This statement is on tape and this was used in his sentencing even though a gun was never visualized.
Over the past two years, Matthew has had a chance to review the complete State’s file. Matthew has filed motions regarding Ineffective Counsel , Illegal Sentence and Newly Discovered Evidence and Erroneous Charges. Matthew’s score sheet on which Judge Luce used to sentence him contained five (5) charges that did not belong to him or charges that had been dismissed from his record.
In addition to the score sheet error Matthew discovered in the State’s file a most damaging piece of evidence, a handwritten note from a lower Court to the Prosecutor’s Office in Division M asking that a change in the Police Officer’s statement be obtained that would more strongly support the gun charge.
For your information, Matthew’s family has incurred about $100,000 for his defense. They do not have the money to support his post-conviction defense. It is believed that his post-conviction defense will cost up to $10,000. If Matthew had not prepared his own petitions and briefs, his post-conviction defense would cost upwards of $40,000. Any support that you can give in the way of Pro Bono Counsel or donations for his defense will be greatly appreciated.
1) Matthew believes the Court was without jurisdiction to enter the sentence given as the charge of a firearm was never proven and Matthew has stood firm that a firearm did not exist.
2) Matthew wanted to go to trial but he was advised by Counsel to seek a plea bargain. He was expecting no more than 15 years but was given the maximum of 30 years because of the firearm.
3) Newly discovered evidence (the note handwritten to the Prosecutor’s Office requesting that the statement written by the Undercover Police Office be changed to strengthen the gun charge as well as the erroneous charges which were a part of the score sheet used to determine his sentence by the Judge) which could change the outcome of the case and supports Matthew’s innocence regarding firearm charge and five erroneous charges.
4) Ineffective Counsel at both the Plea Sentencing Hearing as well as the Appellate Hearing as the Counsel did not argue the firearm charge or the erroneous charges.
5) The drug charges dollar value amounted to $2500. Matthew is not saying that selling drugs for any amount of money is acceptable; he is just saying that the dollar amount does not seem to support the 30 year sentence.
If you want to help Matthew and his family with Matthew’s post-conviction defense, please send your donations via a check or money order to the Matthew Rybolt Defense Fund, P. O. Box 5105, Gulfport, Fl 33737 or use your debit or credit card through Paypal. I am still working on getting a paypal botton posted on Matt's page in the meantime copy the URL into your browser and donate directly to an invoice page.
Matthew’s Defense Fund is being maintained by Bank United in St. Petersburg, Florida and an accounting of monies received and dispersed will be provided through this media on an on-going basis. An update on Matthew’s status will be on-going as well.
If funds remain following Matthew’s defense, the funds will be given to the Innocents Project to help those wrongly accused defend their rights. Here is another account we set up for matts defense fund. All are secure.