Once again behind bars he calls “depressive” for yet another crime he says he did not commit, activist Anthony Gay is now in a North Carolina federal prison awaiting a mental health evaluation before his September 20 sentencing.
The Rock Island native contacted the Chicago Crusader from the federal prison seeking help with a fundraiser he needs to hire a specific federal attorney.
Gay was convicted by an all-white federal jury. He was charged with allegedly possessing a gun and ammunition as a felon. He will be sentenced on September 20.
Currently in isolation, Gay’s incarceration began in 1994 when he got into a fight with a teenager who accused him of stealing his hat and $1, an allegation he denies. Gay said the teenager lost his hat and $1 bill. On the advice of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty to robbery, not knowing it was a higher offense, not lesser as he was told.
But, he got out of jail four days later. However, he was again arrested for driving without a license, a violation of his probation, resulting in him being sentenced to seven years in prison.
That seven years turned into 23, of which Gay spent 22 in solitary confinement in several Illinois prisons. He was released from prison in 2019 and had been engaged in social justice issues, such as promoting his Illinois SB 3564 Anthony Gay Isolated Confinement Restriction Act which passed the House but is stuck in the Senate.
In May, 2020, Gay said he was assaulted by Rock Island police, and when he reported the incident, he said they retaliated and filed “trumped up” charges against him. “They said I had a firearm and that they found ammunition in my hotel room,” Gay said.
“The detectives secured state charges against me and went to the federal prosecutor to get me federally indicted with the intention of getting me sentenced as an armed career criminal before they even had me indicted,” he said.
Gay represented himself during his April 18-22, 2022, trial and got a hung jury.
“They were upset with that,” he said.
On May 9, 2022, Gay was hauled into court once again for a hearing, and on May 16 he began his second trial date. He was found guilty on May 19, 2022, by an all-white jury and was sent to the Peoria County Jail before Judge James Shadid who denied the motion to move Gay into electronic monitoring.
“The prosecution had no physical evidence and no eyewitnesses to testify to seeing Anthony with a gun,” according to a statement posted on the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression website.
While the prosecution called several expert witnesses to testify why he did not have this evidence, they presented a video to the jury that “showed none of what they claimed it showed” and convinced the jury to declare he was guilty.
Gay was sent to the Peoria County Jail where he says he was placed in a restraint chair for 30 hours. “I didn’t do too well in the county jail,” he stated.
“I was so distraught that I stabbed a pencil through my arm, and they put me on suicide watch,” Gay said from his federal prison cell.
“I was bouncing off the walls. They wouldn’t give me therapy or nothing…just had me on suicide watch in the strip cell. I cut on myself several times,” Gay said. He went to six hospitals in seven days.
“A forensic psychologist already said that isolation would be a trigger for me because of my PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder–feelings and behavior related to mental health conditions) of being tortured in solitary,” he stated.
His lawyer, Jennifer Soble from the Illinois Prison Project, found him in a constraint chair with a bloody bandage on his arm and blood on his hands. She filed an emergency motion, got a hearing the next day and on July 1, he was transferred to Livingston Jail for four days then to the North Carolina federal prison for evaluation for the next 30 days.
Bishop Tavis Grant, national field director for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said, “It is unfortunate and disheartening to see Anthony once again fighting for his freedom. He’s done so much not just for himself, but countless of others who have to regain their freedom and clear their names.
“I still believe in Anthony’s quest for redemption,” Grant said. “Simply put, he’s worth saving.”
Gay, who is a father of a two-year-old, said he needs a fundraiser to hire federal attorney Page Pate from Georgia to represent him on an appeal. He said it would cost about $20,000.
A Free Anthony Gay Dismantle Solitary Confinement account has been established with a goal of raising $25,000 organized by Dod McColgan.
Frank Chapman, who heads the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, said he is supporting Gay 100 percent.