Thursday, November 5, 2015

Model Prisoner, 47, Denied Parole Seven Times

Mr. Zellers (front left) with some of his friends
Charles Edward Zellers, Sr., was born April 10, 1968, in Mecklenburg County, and was incarcerated at age 25. At the recommendation of his court appointed attorney he entered an Alford Plea, being led to believe he might get the death penalty if he had a jury trial. He was also told by his attorney that he would likely be released on parole after seven years if he maintained a good prison record. 

I do not post details about any inmate's case unless at their request or with their explicit permission, but Charles clearly takes responsibility for his past and is eager to do whatever he can to make a positive contribution to society and to his family. He especially wants to be able to help his widowed mother in her declining years and his two younger sisters, one a single mother with four children who also very much need his help and support.

In his own words:

"I agreed to the Alford Plea only because of the coercion of my court-appointed public defender. He was actually my second attorney in this case. The first one came to the jail in the middle of the night and verbally offered me a plea for, I think, 50 years. If I had known then what I know now, I would have accepted it. I would be mandatorying my sentence in two more years. I knew I had not committed what I was accused of so I had faith that the truth would come out. I was so trusting, stupid and gullible. I even petitioned the court to allow me to withdraw the Alford Plea but the judge refused. I appealed to the Court of Appeals based on ineffective assistance of counsel but it was so corrupt the court appointed the same Public Defender that I was filing against."

The following record of his achievements demonstrates his commitment to being model citizen:

*PIEDMONT REGIONAL JAIL (January 25, 1993 to March 22,1994)
Charles served 421 days there and completed numerous Bible classes while there and corresponded with a pastor who visited him, the Rev. Zada Lovelace.

Here Charles  earned his GED November 29, 1994 and completed numerous other biblical courses,. He was a model citizen there and also attended AA and church services plus completing the A+ program. 

Upon arrival at ACC Charles was provided a job in yard maintenance and was given an inmate job performance review that stated that he was "an excellent worker and his achievements consistently far exceed the position's objectives." Later while at ACC Charles went to work on a special inmate work crew created by then Assistant Warden Mr. Jack Lee to complete special projects such as building retaining walls, segregation recreation cages, VCE loading dock, kitchen loading dock, concrete drains, and hanging fences with razor wire, painting housing units using the firetruck boom, replacing tiles in the showers, and many other projects. He completed more biblical courses while there and was a model citizen.
Charles did receive two disciplinary actions: 1). 2/7/1995 - 213 - Failure To Follow Count Rules - Reprimand (he said he did not hear the officer announce count because he was asleep). 2). 3/14/1995 - 224 - Possession of Contraband - Reprimand. Since it was his first time in prison, he innocently bought a calculator from another inmate which violated policy. 

Charles completed many more biblical courses while there and received his first job as a temporary concrete worker installing a sidewalk around the recreation yard. He signed up and completed the masonry vocational program on March 30, 1998 and his supervisor Mr. Shrader liked his work ethics so much he hired him as a masonry tutor and was assigned special institutional projects to complete like the sign "Welcome to Keen Mountain Correctional Center" and the circular brick structures in front of the KMCC support building. Mr. Shrader noted in his performance review that he was an excellent worker and his achievements exceeded objectives and that he continued to improve his skills. His major job responsibilities were to assist in the daily operation of the Masonry Class. On February 8, 1999, Charles completed CustodialMaintenance Vocational trade. 

Charles received five DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS while there. 1) 1/2/1997 Commit Fraud By Mail/Phone - 2 Days in Isolation. The mail room staff opened his outgoing mail which had numerous letters sealed in envelopes all in one manilla envelope so his sister could mail the letters for him because lacked money for stamps. 2) 9/20/1997 Failure To Follow Count Rules - 30 Day Commissary Loss. (Charles did not hear officer announce count time). 3) 2/1/1999 Possession of Contraband - 30 Days Commissary Loss, suspended for 120 days of good behavior. Involved wire my cell mate used on Christmas tree lights. He did not want to lose his good time because of the charge so he told Officer it was Charles's even though it was found on his cell mates bed. 4) 3/7/1999 Possession of Contraband - 15 Days Lost Good Time. Officer charged him for rubber bands, paper clips and a highlighter. 5). 3/1/2000 - 201 - Disobeying Direct Order - 30 Day Telephone Loss. An inmate had been requesting an Emergency Grievance and he told the rookie officer but he never took it upstairs to the inmate so Charles got it and gave it to the inmate. The rookie officer was angry and wrote the charge.

Charles was hired April 22, 2002 in his unit for Housekeeping. He cleaned the showers which is a job not every inmate wants. While he was there Charles received the following certificates:
1). 2/6/2001 - Associate of Biblical Studies
2). 3/6/2001 - Graduate of Biblical Studies
3). 3/28/2001 - Bachelor of Biblical Studies
4). 5/1/2001 - Master of Biblical Studied
5). 5/2/2001 - Dr. Robert L. Johnston wrote the following letter.
"Charles has been a student with the PMI Center for Biblical Studies only since September 2000 and has already completed five academic years of study. His work habits are well disciplined, with a positive attitude and a steadfast commitment... I can say unequivocally that Charles E. Zellers, Sr. is one of our top students." 
He had no infractions.

Charles worked as pod laundry man and completed many biblical courses, a money management course, a fathers course, the Productive Citizenship Program, a history course, a seventeen-week substance abuse psycho-educational program, and an exercise and relaxation course in 2004. No infractions.

Charles was hired to work in the kitchen. In less than a month he was promoted to lead man in the tray room where he supervised other inmates. On 9/29/2004 he completed the Breaking Barriers Program. He continued going to church and completed more biblical courses. No infractions.

Charles started working a pod Houseman and then in the Virginia Correctional Enterprise Sheet Metal Shop. He started in janitorial then relocated to the Drawer Section where he was promoted to supervisor.
On March 2005 he completed the Captivities Course, on July 29, 2005 he completed the Sex Offender Program Action Committee (SOPAC), on 10/2/2007 he received the Preventing Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Training Class Documentation and on August 17, 2011 he completed the Preventing Recidivism by Educating for Parole Success (P.R.E.P.S.).
Charles also completed biblical courses here and continued to be a model inmate with the lowest Class Level Assignment one can get.

From 1995 to 2002 Charles also worked continuously on his family history tree. He has since learned a lot about Microsoft Applications and has proposed a program for inmate education using Microsoft tablets.

04/22/2005 - Decision Not to Grant Parole - Helen F. Fahey
Serious nature and circumstances of crime
05/05/2006 - Decision Not to Grant Parole - Helen F. Fahey
Serious nature and circumstances of crime
07/06/2007 - Decision Not to Grant Parole - Helen F. Fahey
Serious nature and circumstances of crime
06/18/2008 - Decision Not to Grant Parole - Helen F. Fahey
Serious nature and circumstances of crime
Defer case for 3 years
04/26/2011 - Decision Not to Grant Parole - William W. Muse
Serious nature and circumstances of offense
Crimes committed
Release at this time would diminish seriousness of crime
Risk to the community
Defer for 3 years
07/08/2014 - Decision to Not Grant parole - Karen D. Brown
Release at this time would diminish seriousness of crime
The Board considers you to be a risk to the community.
Serious nature and circumstances of your offense(s).
The Board concludes that you should serve more of your sentence prior to release on parole.
05/14/2015 - Decision to Not Grant parole - Karen D. Brown
Release at this time would diminish seriousness of crime
Crimes committed
Serious nature and circumstances of your offense(s).
The Board concludes that you should serve more of your sentence prior to release on parole.

Here is a link to some more posts associated with this inmate:,+sr

Address concerns about parole reform to who will forward them to members of the Governor's Parole Review Commission. They will not be review anyone's individual case, however. 
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