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By Scott Miles
A Gideon Moment columns.
Robert Sims (not his real name) had been sleeping in the cab of a broken
down truck in the yard of a co-worker’s home for several months when he
was arrested on the felony warrant. Charged with failure to register as
a convicted sex offender, Sims was facing a maximum penalty of 5 years
in prison if convicted. In addition to being homeless and indigent, Sims
had been convicted of a violent sex-crime felony, and so he was housed
in the Richmond City Jail while awaiting trial.
The judge appointed the Richmond Public Defender’s Office to represent
Sims, and I was the Assistant Public Defender assigned to his case. When
I met Sims at the city jail, he protested that he had been doing
everything he could do to stay out of trouble. Even though he had not
had stable housing for some time, he had been getting his mail at the
local Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) office, he had been working
steadily for a local contractor, and his recent scrape with the law had
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