MACON, GA - In the case of Onslow Ross, senior pastor of Reaching Souls Cathedral of Praise, he seeks to expose a miscarriage of justice where he believes race played a leading role in his wrongful March 2008 conviction and now embarks upon appealing for his release.
Serving his third year on a ten-year sentence, Ross was convicted in his hometown of Macon, GA on several counts of bank fraud and money laundering based from alleged misuse of money releases from the church's insurance company. The money was released to the church when their building collapsed in 2005, and was immediately sought after by CB&T Bank of Macon (BOM) upon notification of its existence. Ross and his congregation contend that CB&T BOM was the lien holder on another church property, and had no rights to the monies disseminated to the church for the collapse, since they owned the building free and clear. Unfortunately, due to mortgage and insurance experts not called to testify on behalf of the defense, a past that Ross thought he had left behind for greater work and what he feels was civil injustice against him as an African-American man, he was convicted of a crime that he not only affirms he is not guilty of, but his congregation unanimously supports his innocence as well.
"The stress of this wrongful conviction has dismantled my family, disgraced my ministry, demolished my reputation, credibility and business relationships, and I am missing the most important times in my children's lives," asserts Ross.
Ross filed an appeal in 2008, which was denied without a published opinion. As a matter of public record, his first defense attorney admits to not providing a proper defense on his behalf, and he is now represented by Attorney Marcia Shein of Decatur, GA. Rev. Al Sharpton was present in Macon during the trial process and his organization, the National Action Network (NAN), has committed their continued support for the release of Ross.
Assisting as spokesperson during Ross' incarceration is Attorney Bradford Cohen, most recognized from season three of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice." Cohen has written a series of short papers on the racial disparities in white collar crimes as it relates to the convictions of Caucasians versus African-Americans. Among Cohen's findings, he cites the case of Mark Drier and Pastor Rodney McGill. Both were sentenced to 20-year sentences when most Caucasians were given 3-6 years for equivalent crimes.
Claiming a lack of evidence and prosecutor misconduct among the many factors that worked against his defense and led to his wrongful conviction, Ross hopes to garner the support of the public in bringing awareness to this injustice and exploring his claims of innocence in a crime he did not commit.
"I would like for the judicial system to simply honor the law. It is impossible for a man to receive a fair trial when all of the evidence is not presented in the case," appeals Ross. "Upon my release, I am seeking to restore my family and return to servitude in my community. This has not been a journey; it has been a race from the time I was convicted until now, fighting for my freedom."
The congregation of Reaching Souls has started a movement asking people to support the release of Pastor Ross by sending letters to the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, visiting the web site, and joining the movement on social media sites. A documentary on the case is forthcoming.