Despite being found not guilty of armed robbery, a Georgia man is set to spend the next five years of his life behind bars after a judge revoked his probation sentence for an earlier crime.
In July 2012, Ramad Chatman was sentenced to five years’ probation after he and three others broke into an apartment and stole a $120 TV.
It was Chatman’s first run-in with the law.
The then-19-year-old worked to make things right and toed the line when it came to the terms of his probation, according to his grandmother, Janice Chatman. Court documents supported this, showing that Ramad Chatman paid his restitution on time, completed his community service and was holding a steady job, as required of him.
“His restitution, he worked hard to make sure that was paid,” Janice Chatman told Atlanta’s 11Alive News. “Even the fine each month, his community service. He made sure he did right on his probation. He never violated it.”
Unbeknownst to Ramad Chatman, however, he was identified as a suspect in a convenience store robbery nearly two years later. The store clerk had pointed out Chatman to police after seeing his photo on Facebook, saying he was the one who robbed her, according to the news station.
“It triggered something in me, and it just made me freak out,” the clerk testified in court.
Chatman’s grandmother said Ramad turned himself into police in November 2015 after learning he’d been identified as a suspect. Why? Because he had nothing to hide, she said.
“He didn’t want the police looking for him,” Janice Chatman told 11Alive investigator Rebecca Lindstrom. “He turned himself in because he knew he was not guilty.”
Chatman said she expected her grandson return home in a few hours, but that didn’t happen.
At the time of his arrest, Ramad Chatman was still serving his probation for the 2012 break-in. He attempted to enter an “Alford plea” before trial, offering to plead guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for having the 2014 armed robbery charges dropped. Such a plea would allow Chatman to plead guilty but maintain his innocence.
Judge Jack Niedrach rejected the deal, however. Chatman’s case was then heard by a jury of his peers, which found him not guilty after numerous story changes by the convenience store clerk and insufficient evidence by the police. Authorities also were unable to recover any cash or weapons from the alleged robbery.
But Judge Niedrach still felt the need to put Chatman in jail — so he did. The judge moved to revoke the 24-year-old’s probation sentence, ruling that he’d violated his probation with the alleged robbery. Chatman was re-sentenced to an additional five years in prison, bringing his sentence for the original crime to a total of 10 years behind bars.
Chatman will now sit in prison until 2022 for stealing a $120 television. Had his probation not been revoked, the Georgia man would’ve finished his five-year probation term July 16, 2017.
“What Judge Niedrach has done to my grandson is an injustice,” Janice Chatman told the Rome News Tribune.
“When my grandson was proven not guilty, he should’ve been let out.”