Last week, 15 men left prisons across the U.S. and headed back to Mansfield, Oh., says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They were convicted in a massive drug conspiracy case that collapsed Jan. 25, when a federal judge ordered them released from prison. Each spent 2½ years behind bars because of an informant’s pyramid of lies. They call the time in prison “wasted years.” As they struggle to mend their lives, their elation at being released is slowly giving way to the fear that they are marked men, easy targets for police who want to send them back.
Federal prosecutors who worked to convict them were forced to ask for their release. The prosecutors said the informant, Jerrell Bray, who worked closely with DEA agent Lee Lucas, lied so much that they had no choice but to drop the cases against the men — most of whom pleaded guilty. In all, charges against 23 of 26 people were thrown out. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating how the case could have gone so wrong. A federal grand jury has begun hearing testimony. Back home in Mansfield, some of the men said they had considered him annoying before they were arrested because he pestered them about buying drugs.