Sean Gaines, recently exonerated, was wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit. While many wrongful convictions are a result of being found falsely guilty after a trial, Sean Gaines, fearing a wrongful conviction after a trial, falsely pleaded guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence. Despite his innocence he was compelled by the fear of a lengthier jail sentence to plead guilty. At the time of his plea he was already incarcerated on prior unrelated charges.
While in custody he was falsely accused of criminal offences occurring on December 8, 2015, when a prison guard the New York facility he was held accused Sean Gaines, who was an inmate of illegally possessing a weapon that had been made from a razor blade. The guard alleged that Sean had been found in possession of the weapon during a search.
In December 2016 the prosecutors offered Sean a deal. In exchange for pleading guilty to the criminal offence of promoting prison contraband, the prosecutor and the defence would agree to a suggested sentence of 1.5 to 3 years in prison. The sentence for the criminal offence of promoting prison contraband of would be served consecutively to the sentence of 9 to 11 years he was currently serving for unrelated criminal offence convictions. This means that after spending 9-11 years in custody, he would have to spend another 1.5-3 years in custody for a crime he did not commit.
In pre-trail motions criminal defence lawyer representing Sean Joseph Sapio, maintain Sean's innocence. He argued that the prison guard had framed Sean and that it was impossible for Sean to have possessed the razor blade weapon. Despite his innocence, Sean pleaded guilty on December 12, 2016. Sean was compelled to plead because he believed that as a convicted felon no one would believe his word over that of a prison guard. He believed he undoubtably would be found guilty at trial.
Sean's luck would change several weeks later when suddenly, the prison guard who had alleged that he had found the razor blade weapon on Sean, confessed that he had planted a weapon on another inmate. This wad an unrelated incident. The prison guard's motivation was revealed to be his desire to have the inmate in question transferred to another prison. The guard explained that the inmate was a member of prison gang and that this involvement in the gang was his motivation for framing him.
Following this guard's confession, the allegations that had been against Sean were now questionable. Reasonably, the prosecutor involved in Sean's case was compelled by this new evidence to ask a Supreme Court judge to vacate the convictions of Sean as well as four other inmates. This guard was suspected of doing this to the other four inmates as well, all 5 inmates, including Sean, had pleaded guilty to promoting prison contraband after this guard had allegedly found them with contraband. They all had claimed the weapons had been planted but, like Sean, were compelled by fear of a wrongful conviction and a lengthier sentence to plead guilty to a crime they did not commit. Finally, on January 29, 2017, Sean's conviction was vacated and the charge against him was dismissed.