Arrested: No conviction but still paying the price

Cruelty to children.  It sounds awful.  It is awful.  And for years, Lisa Goshay's criminal history showed she was arrested for it.

"I had to change my profession because I was a child caregiver. Nobody wanted to hire me," says Goshay.

Most people would understand why until you realize Goshay was just as much the victim.  She still wears the scar on her cheek and one above her eye to prove it.

Goshay was in an abusive relationship and sometimes those fights happened in front of the children.  The day she was arrested, her son was trying to defend her.  She was trying to protect him.  The fight with her boyfriend spilled outside in full view of a crowded school bus.

It's not what most people think of when they hear the phrase, cruelty to children.  But Brenda Smeeton with the Georgia Justice Project says it's a common charge for those in an abusive relationship.

"There are several charges that can be a real barrier.  Cruelty to children is one of them."

Shoplifting and any arrest for a violent crime can also prevent someone from getting a job, professional license, or a place to live -- even when the arrest never results in a conviction.

According to Smeeton, 4.2 million residents of Georgia have a criminal history.  That's nearly 40% of the state's population.

That's why attorneys like Smeeton at the GJP are trying to help people get that arrest history expunged, especially if the charges were dropped, a jury found them not guilty or the person successfully completed a pre-trial or diversion program.

It's a process allowed under the law, but it isn't automatic.  It usually involves a lot of paperwork, court appearances and time.  Some cases can take five to six months.  But on Saturday, January 27, the GJP is partnering with the Fulton County Solicitor General to hold a Freedom Summit, allowing people who qualify to expunge their record in one day.

While Solicitor General Keith Gammage encouraged people to pre-register, walk-ins are welcome.  The event will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the IBEW Building, 501 Pulliam St. SW, Atlanta.

The event is focused on helping people expunge misdemeanor offenses that occurred in Fulton County, but did not result in a conviction.

Smeeton says the effort can be life-changing.

"The statistics show us that the majority of employers will not hire somebody that has a criminal record, even if it did not result in a conviction."

Smeeton also says 66% of landlords won't rent to someone with an arrest history either.

"I think most Georgians have no idea how many people out there are dealing with this issue."

Goshay admits, she was starting to lose hope until she found the Georgia Justice Project.

"I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired of disappointing everybody, including myself," said Goshay.

Goshay also had a felony drug conviction from her younger years.  She served her time, turned her life around and went back to school.  Despite certificates or licenses in cosmetology, travel agency operations, hotel management, front office management and forklift operation, no one wanted to hire her.

"When I did get jobs, they were jobs I didn't want.  Housekeeping, they were fast food restaurants.  And some of those people didn't even want you to work for them," she explained.

But her persistence paid off when the Georgia Justice Project was able to help her get her conviction pardoned.   

"We all deserve a second chance.  We are all imperfect humans."

Goshay now has a full-time job as a medical support assistant.  Even though she says her story is hard to share, and sometimes embarrassing, she tells it to help others.

"My heart just wants to help the next person become unstuck and let them know you can do this.  There's a way out."

Those who cannot attend on Saturday but want to learn more can contact the Solicitor's Expungement Division at 404-612-4803 for offenses that occurred in Fulton County.  For offenses in other counties, reach out to the Solicitor's office in that location.

© 2018 WXIA-TV


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