After teaching himself the law, Flint prisoner may go free
Omar Pouncy of Flint seemed to have luck on his side when, after teaching himself the law while serving what amounted to a life sentence, he was released after spending a decade in prison.
As recounted in a Free Press report, his release in March seemed almost miraculous: A federal judge overturned Pouncy’s conviction, deciding, based on Pouncy’s tireless filings of legal papers, that there were problems with the way his case had been handled by Genesee County.
Since his release, Pouncy has been working as a legal assistant in a tony law office in Franklin, hoping someday to attend law school, his employer said.
But the promising future for the 29-year-old is in serious jeopardy. Since late September, Pouncy has been held in the Oakland County Jail on a weapons charge. And on Monday, the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office announced it would soon try to reinstate Pouncy’s original conviction — and his original prison sentence of 75 years.
Pouncy’s lawyer — who has employed him since his release — said he can’t believe the fresh charge against his protégé. Pouncy has been an exemplary legal assistant, attorney David Moffitt said.
“He works side by side with me, 12 hours a day, and some Saturdays. I’ve had several attorneys and a judge praise the quality of his work,” said Moffitt, who aided Pouncy in obtaining his release six months ago. While Moffitt did not use the term “set up,” his description of the way police searched Pouncy’s house and found a handgun “in a crawl space” implied highly improper police techniques.
Chief Charles Nebus of the Farmington Hills police said Pouncy’s latest round of trouble with the law began at 9:41 p.m. on Sept. 20, when an officer on patrol heard gunshots “and other officers a mile away heard this also.” Nebus gave this account: The patrolling officer zeroed in on one house, quickly strode to the rear of the property, found 16 shell casings on the porch floor, and began asking the occupant of the home to come outside. That occupant was Pouncy. Other officers arrived and, ultimately, Pouncy came outside and was detained. Police, using a search warrant, searched the house, turning up a handgun, rifle and ammunition.
“We got some fingerprints that tied him to the firearms. But we have no reports of anyone hurt, any damage to any property, so there was no additional charge of reckless discharge of a firearm,” Nebus said. Instead, once identified as a felon, Pouncy was booked Sept. 23 on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to Oakland County Jail records.
That’s where Pouncy has been held since his arraignment, on a $150,000 cash or surety bond.
Moffitt said he put little credence in the contents of a Farmington Hills police report about Pouncy’s arrest at the house he was renting. Moffitt said that soon after Pouncy is to be arraigned on Oct. 18 in Oakland County Circuit Court, “we believe this can be satisfactorily resolved and Mr. Pouncy will be able to continue to work with us and all that we envision for his future will still be realized.”
Pouncy was sentenced in 2006 to more than 75 years in prison “with Habitual Offender 4th status,” said John Potbury, an attorney and spokesman with the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office. The charges were armed robbery, carjacking, felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, Potbury said Monday in an e-mail to the Free Press.
According to a court document, a judge found Pouncy’s waiver of counsel at the time he was tried was involuntary because before his trial, he was forced to choose between an unprepared defense attorney and representing himself. He represented himself. While in prison he learned enough about the law to protest the action.
With the help of Moffitt, Pouncy’s conviction was thus overturned early this year, although when he was released there remained the possibility that Genesee County authorities might retry his case.
Pouncy’s rise from teen felon to legal whiz was stunning, but just as astonishing is the chasm between his lawyer’s version of what happened and the Farmington Hills police report.
As Pouncy’s lawyer put it, “No one has testified that Mr. Pouncy possessed anything, nor will they, to my belief. This is a legal theory on the part of the police.”
Yet, the case is “pretty simple,” said Farmington Hills’ police chief Nebus, who added: “Unless there’s something Mr. Pouncy isn’t telling us — and even then, he’d have some explaining to do.”