Leon Walker: The Consequences of Speaking Out

My name is Leon Jermane Walker and I am a whistle-blower. For reporting the discovery of a gross waste of government funds and for reporting the endangerment of my child by her politically well-connected mother, I have faced years of ongoing persecution at the hands of Oakland County Government, my former employer. As a result, my career has been ruined, I’ve been financially destroyed, and in only a matter of days, my family and I will be evicted from our home.

On February 1, 2010, only weeks after I had submitted to Oakland County Government the findings of an investigation I had conducted after discovering what appeared to be a financial boondoggle, I was arrested and charged with a five-year felony by the Oakland County Prosecuting Attorney. I’d learned details of this scheme when, out of fear for the well-being and treatment of our daughter, I reviewed emails written by my wife. In reviewing the emails, I discovered that some correspondence outlined the existence of an ongoing wasteful purchasing scheme that was possibly being used to siphon hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from Oakland County taxpayers. In this same email, I also learned of the prolonged and ongoing endangerment of my daughter and stepson.

The arrest effectively silenced me, which I believe was my persecutors’ goal. Parties mentioned in the emails as being involved with the financial scheme included my then-wife, who was a long-time government employee; her second husband (I was her third), who is a long-time government contractor; and his attorney, whose brother was a high-ranking elected official in Oakland County. I believe, and admitted evidence has since suggested, that political influence was used to initiate my malicious prosecution. I was charged with a felony under the claim that reading my spouse’s email was a crime. The emails were in an account that I had created before the marriage. I had accessed it with the password I had used when creating the account, and this was during our marriage, in my home, on my computers, and on my network. I read those emails out of concern for the safety of my child, a concern that was validated by my findings—and in reality, the situation was much worse than I’d ever imagined.

My story was published in the local media on Christmas Eve 2010, and within days it became international news. In response to this coverage though, I received additional attacks from Oakland County, this time from multiple agencies within the government, including my employer, the Executive Branch. Their attacks eventually included a second even more baseless computer crimes charge against me, as they claimed that a request I’d submitted eight months prior under the Freedom of Information Act was somehow a computer crime. Lies were spread about me in the media, and authorities began to covertly attack me in family court, providing defamatory claims in written reports released directly to my ex-wife to aid her in custody disputes. They harassed and intimidated my co-workers and friends, making it fundamentally impossible for them to appear in court as witnesses on my behalf out of fear of being persecuted themselves. Some co-workers were even coerced into making dishonest claims about me in criminal proceedings.

It took two and a half years for me to overcome my persecutors. After surviving years of delays, threats, and attacks, I was finally exonerated when the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office dropped the charges against me the day before trial was to begin. After they had persuaded employees to reverse their earlier claims against me, Oakland County dropped the charges outright. A public trial where the facts of the case could have been presented in court was never allowed to occur.

During this process, actually soon after the Prosecutor’s media attacks against me began, I approached a prominent local civil rights attorney to represent me and my interests. At the time, she claimed to be emphatically in support of me but eventually refused to take any action or even speak publicly on my behalf until I’d won the case. When I’d finally succeeded, however, she reaffirmed her support but refused to pursue the case for months. Her claim was that filing charges at that time would harm the Democratic-incumbent Prosecutor in the upcoming election and give her Republican opponent an edge. Totally shocked by this position and statement, I began to seek other counsel. In response to my efforts, my attorney rushed a woefully inadequate complaint and filed it in Federal Court. This complaint omitted almost any reference to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office as well as its staff and the civilian parties that had aided them in their attacks. She then modified her argument to me as well, now claiming that she wouldn’t make claims against prosecutorial conduct because of immunity. This claim was thoroughly contradicted, though, by her actions in her own successful argument against prosecutorial immunity in Wendrow v. Michigan Dep’t of Human Services, a case in which she aggressively pursued the prior Oakland County Prosecutor, who happened to be from the Republican Party, which she opposes. After I allowed her to drop from my case due to this very obvious conflict making her unfit to represent my interests, I believe that her actions in communicating with other firms have effectively left me blackballed from representation on my civil action. Without counsel for an extended time, my civil case was eventually dismissed with prejudice, fundamentally stripping me of my right to hold Oakland County accountable for a large number of their actions.

With the criminal charges dismissed before trial and the civil case dismissed as a result of the actions of my attorney, I was never given an opportunity to have my name publicly cleared. No opportunity to clarify the facts to the masses, with frivolous criminal charges and slanderous “hacker” claims from the prosecutor leaving my name soiled with the toxicity of doubt, suspicion, and uncertainty. My professional reputation has been destroyed.

This ordeal has had an absolutely devastating impact on my life and the lives of my family.  My career path as a successful IT professional has been fundamentally ended. I have been financially ruined, forced into bankruptcy, and unable to find any work for more than a year after being harassed away from my job with Oakland County. I was for a time dependent on welfare, experiencing the social judgment and stigma which that entails. With utilities shut off more than once and trouble paying for my car, I was forced to sell property, work odd jobs, and appeal to charity when possible to take care of myself and my daughter. After more than a year of searching, I was finally successful at finding employment, although with a long commute and significantly less pay than what I’d known before.

Compounding these terrible experiences, my daughter has made a horrifying claim of being abused by family while in her mother’s care. The claim was reported to authorities, but all criminal investigations were halted without action, as the Oakland County Prosecutor first sat on the complaint for months before transferring it to Genesee County, who have held the complaint since without any action or notification of status. It was almost a year before I could even obtain the police report. In the meantime, my daughter is scarred and has faced tremendous scrutiny and pressure by the family of her alleged abuser for speaking out herself. She has been severely traumatized by this. With the political influence that my ex-wife has and the apparent willingness of Oakland County officials to so abuse their authority and influence to attack me, I don’t feel safe for me or my family anymore.

The financial impact on me for speaking out has been tremendous. As mentioned, my career has been ruined. Most potential employers dismiss me even before an interview, even when they acknowledge the quality of my skill set. I have been repeatedly told of the “alarm” and “concern” they have with me because of my experience with Oakland County. As mentioned, after more than a year of desperately searching, I finally found a job late last year. Unfortunately, the damage has largely been done. The expenses and losses I took in defending myself in this process were well over $100,000, far more than I could ever afford. As a result, my mortgage wasn’t paid and I was forced into bankruptcy.

This week though, things have reached depths that even I couldn’t image. I faced the very difficult task of explaining to my wonderful, amazing daughter that soon we’ll very likely be forcibly evicted from the home that we’ve managed to hold on to through all of this fight.  What she’s known as home for her entire life is being ripped away by Freddie Mac. With my mortgage company likely exhausted from my long-term financial difficulties, they lied and cheated their way through the foreclosure redemption to prevent me from saving my home, and Freddie Mac’s legal counsel has been equally callous and disingenuous. Our backs are now against the wall. We have been forced to face this traumatizing reality; we may soon lose our home.

The pain this is causing me is difficult to explain. I spoke out in the public interest for something that I thought I’d be rewarded for. I thought we as taxpayers would benefit, as my findings would be used by responsible people in government to save us all millions in waste. Instead, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted to destroy me for this. I thought that my actions would protect my daughter from abuse. Instead, she’s faced the worst type of abuse while local law enforcement is so politicized and hostile toward me that my daughter and I don’t even receive protection.

These are apparently the consequences of speaking out. My life and the lives of my family are in ruin. My career prospects have been decimated, and clearing my name seems a near impossibility. I’m even facing eviction from my home by a government agency. I haven’t just been failed by the system as a whistle-blower, I’ve been victimized by abuses of government in the worst ways possible.

What is the state of our nation when this has been allowed to happen?

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