The Justice Files: Former felon wants her rights back

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a $498  dollar bogus check that still haunts Mindy Vincent.

In 2007, she tried to cash the fraudulent check at a grocery store in Salt Lake.  It turned into a federal offense and she was indicted for bank fraud.

“It’s the only charge that I have that leaves me a convicted felon,” Vincent said.

She eventually pleaded guilty and avoided prison. Federal Judge Dee Benson placed her on probation.

“He could see that I was turning my life around and felt like if he sent me to prison, I would do things that I’ve been plagued with all of my life,” Vincent said.

Her troubles began when she was twelve years old when she started using drugs.  She eventually was kicked out of her house and began living on the streets.

She got pregnant during those turbulent years and her drug usage caused her to lose custody of her son.  Vincent did get treatment but relapsed and returned to her old habits.

Finally, after a state arrest, she landed in drug court and got treatment again.

“That is where I learned there was a different life possible for me,” she recalled.

She graduated from Utah Valley University and enrolled at the University of Utah where she earned two masters degrees in social work.

Vincent wanted to give back.  She helped start the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition which champions recovering addicts. Drug addiction had affected her personally when her sister died from opiates.

“As I would say in drug court, I’ve been 1,548 days clean,” Vincent said during a drug court national convention.

She spoke at the National Association for Drug Court in 2011. Vincent talked about how drug court saved her life and her family.  By then she was in college and spoke of her road to recovery. She received numerous rounds of applause for her story, but her son captured the hearts of many

“My mom and me are very special,” her son said sobbing as he spoke. “I had to live without her for a very long time. (Now) she doesn’t forget to pick me up and miss out in my life.”

In the crowd were actors Martin Sheen and Matthew Perry, a recovering addict who often refers to her son.  Perry and the Vincent’s met afterwards.

“When he saw him speak he knew he had … to fight for people who are recovering in drug court,” she said.

But these days, it’s the felony for the bogus check which still inhibits her life.

That’s why she’s suing the Department of Justice to expunge it from her record and enact change.  She said the federal government, unlike the state of Utah, has no pathway to clean one’s mistakes.

“This isn’t about me,” Vincent said.  “This is about so many people just like me who are inhibited in their daily lives or have barriers that prevent them from living the lives they’ve been trying to build.”

She said her federal criminal record prevents her from applying for jobs without having to explain what happened.  She can’t buy a firearm and it creates difficult obstacles for federal housing.

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