How it all Began

If you can't eliminate injustice, at least tell everyone about it.
— Shirin Ibadi, Iranian human rights defender and Nobel laureate

Because Jeffrey Nickel is currently in an upstate New York prison he is unable to personally manage his own Web site documenting the immense injustice done to him.This blog is presently being managed by me, Ben Lavry with snail mail input from Jeffrey. The injustice Jeffrey carefully documents with absolute accuracy should come as a warning and point to the grave societal harm that comes from prejudiced thinking among the judiciary. It is hoped that the very detailed accounts herein will help lawyers and defendants in similar circumstances navigate the minefield of heresies that unethical prosecutors lay for the unwary. All that follows are Jeffrey's own words and research. 

Is deliberately finding someone guilty of things he did not do ever justified? If we convict people for acts of child sexual abuse that never happened, does that somehow 'make up' for all the past abuse that went completely unpunished? Is it okay to pervert justice in order to punish people wrongly perceived as perverts?

  How it All Began

You're arrested and charged with several crimes. Due to the nature of the allegations, you're afraid you won't get a fair trial by a jury of your peers. So you opt for  a 'bench' trial, where a single judge will decide your fate. On the stand, the main alleged victim (a  boy) changes his stories about where the two most serious crimes supposedly took place, and is flat wrong about each and every detail he provides regarding where they allegedly happened. Central to the case is a sexual photograph that the boy claims depicts you and him in your bedroom. And yet, photos taken by the police themselves, which the prosecution tried to hide – as was also true of other buried evidence – show that the sexual photo could not have been taken where the boy claimed. You hire a forensic photography expert, who establishes that the adult in the picture is not you. Nevertheless, after taking a grand total of two minutes to 'deliberate' his verdicts, the judge actually convicts you of (among other things) these two most serious crimes. Did you get a fair trial?
But of course, this wasn't your trial; it was Jeffrey Nickel's.

His own pastor characterized it as 'a total farce.' Another person was heard to remark: "All that was missing were the kangaroos."

The prosecution's theory was a simple one: Once Nickel was shown to be a 'pedophile,' it was okay to charge him with whatever they felt like, despite a scarcity of actual evidence, particularly regarding the most serious crimes he was ultimately convicted of. Whether he actually did these things was rendered irrelevant, for, he was one of those people. Plausibility and proof didn't matter; nothing could be allowed to dull the scent of the hunt.

There are many ways that a just society might conceivably respond, upon discovering that one of its members is
 – in fact – a minor-attracted person. Deliberately convicting him of – and doling out draconian sentences for – things that (obviously) never happened, are not among them.

Didn't Bother Me

According to the police's own notes of the initial interview of the main alleged victim, these were the above were the very first words that came out of his mouth. Some nine months later, at trial, the claim would be made that this boy had been severely traumatized. If so, then, by whom?

The way the prosecution used this boy as a pawn – in order to 'get' Nickel – was despicable. Either not knowing or simply not caring how suggestible children can be when interviewed improperly, especially by an authority figure (like a policeman), they managed to convince this boy of two falsehoods: that Nickel performed oral sex on him, and that Nickel digitally penetrated him. Psychologists have called the implantation of such false memories "training to be psychotic."

The police and prosecution convincing him that these things happened may well be worse than if they had actually happened, because, now, they've really messed with his sense of reality (an issue he'd already been struggling with). Now a young man, it's quite likely that he has continued to believe all of this to this day.

Not that Nickel himself doesn't bear any responsibility for this: Perhaps he and 'the system' would be best characterized as unwitting co-conspirators in and of the psychological sabotage of this boy. Though certainly a troubled child long before he met Nickel, from the prosecution's own accounts, it was not until Nickel was arrested – and perhaps more to the point, the boy was 'interviewed' – that his mood and behaviors actually took a dramatic downturn.

None of those involved did well by this boy.


Rationalizations why it was okay to convict Nickel of things he didn't do:

"Well, he probably would have done them eventually."

(Problems with that: 1) Now we're in 'Minority Report' "pre-crime" territory; 2) We don't – or at least, are not supposed to – do that in America.)

"Well, even if he didn't do these things to this kid, he probably did them to someone else."

(Problem with that: The prosecution knew full well this was not the case. How? While out on bail, Nickel wrote several life letters to a friend of 'like mind' in another state. When the police came to this friend's home [due to an altercation involving his brother], they discovered these letters and handed them over to the local prosecutor, who then passed them on to the prosecutor in Nickel's case. The latter then made a failed attempt to get Nickel's bail revoked, based on the content of these letters [some of which were admittedly embarrassing]. But these letters also made absolutely clear that Nickel never had any sexual contact with a minor.) 

"Well, even if Nickel was wrongly convicted, that's okay, because he's clearly a 'bad person.'"

(Problems with that: Convicting people of things they didn't do has the potential to severely undermine respect for [and compliance with] the law generally. More specifically, do we really want to send minor-attracted persons the message that it doesn't matter what you actually do – we're going to put you away for as long as we can simply because of who you are?

So Naive

"So Naive to Believe"

So naive to believe that he could correspond with a county jail inmate, 'in there' for being sexually involved with underage males, and that it wouldn't be a problem for him, because surely, the jail would follow its own rules (and he wasn't doing anything illegal anyway).

So naive to believe that the police wouldn't outright lie to him in the interrogation room, by saying he'd only be subject to a fine.

So naive to. believe that he wouldn't be charged for things he didn't do (especially when they knew he hadn't done them).

So naive to believe that a judge would surely never convict him of things he never did, after 'deliberating' for a mere two minutes.

So naive to believe that, as a first-time 'offender,' who was not even alleged to have used any force or violence of any kind, there was no way he would be given the maximum possible sentence (which he was – 54 years).

So naive to believe that an appellate court of five judges would actually look at the evidence, and throw out the convictions for things that obviously never happened.

So naive to believe that if he simply put all the facts out there for all to see, the cavalry would soon arrive to rescue him...


"A Blunt History of the Jeffrey Nickel Case"

He felt bad for a guy he read about in the newspaper, who'd been arrested for being sexually involved with boys. In the course of corresponding with him, he became quite indiscreet about what he wrote and (especially) sent him (even though none of it was remotely pornographic).

Violating the jail's own rules regarding inspection of incoming mail (which state that it is inspected only for 'contraband'; they subsequently conceded that Nickel's letters contained no contraband), someone assigned to process this mail, who was upset with the contents of Nickel's letters as well as to whom he was writing them, decided to turn them over to the county sheriff.

Someone (in plain clothes) shows up at his door, purportedly inquiring about a local fender-bender, which is a lie. Later that same day, a second person (also in plain clothes) comes, and asks Nickel to accompany him, in order to discuss a recent 'incident.' Nickel thinks he must be referring to a supposed 'slapping' incident – involving a friend of his and a young boy – that actually never happened. Though that is not the case, the person at the door (who does not identify himself) is more than happy to let Nickel believe that.

Nickel gets in his own car, and follows this person in the latter's (unmarked) car. (There are no handcuffs anywhere in sight.)

Both park cars outside this big, official-looking building, and Nickel is escorted into a small office. (There are no visible signs or other indications of what kind of office this is.)

There he encounters a third man, who also does not introduce himself or say who he is. Initially, the discussion is about this (phony) slapping incident. Soon, though, he pulls out a letter Nickel had sent to this inmate, wanting to discuss its contents (and enclosures). Though initially quite reluctant to discuss his interactions with boys, having been promised that he would be facing (at worst) only a fine, and believing that he had not done anything illegal anyway, he does so. This other person types up a statement, which Nickel signs. Though this 'typist' will subsequently say otherwise (under oath), at no point is Nickel ever read his (Miranda) rights. Only later will he learn that all three of the above persons were investigators with the Albany County Sheriff's Office. (Well into the interview/interrogation, Nickel still thought maybe they were from social services.)

Nickel is, of course, arrested. While in county jail, he is who shocked to learn that he's been indicted not only for charges related to brief touches outside clothing, but also, for oral sex and digital penetration, which he knows damn well never happened.

After about a month in jail, he's bailed out by his family. But he's also fitted with an ankle bracelet, and only allowed to leave his house to see his lawyer, as well as for medical appointments.

About eight months later, he finally goes to trial. Because of the inflammatory nature of the charges (relating to a 9-year-old boy), Nickel elects for a non-jury (judge-only) trial, which lasts just two days.

Though three alleged victims testify, the most serious charges by far (see above) involve one particular boy. Due to his age, the judge is obliged to conduct a 'mini-hearing' to determine his competency to testify under oath. Many of his responses to the judge's pro forma questions make no sense. It is also clear that the boy was changing his answers in an effort to please the judge. Nevertheless, the judge finds him competent to testify under oath.

The boy's answers were no better when it came to the crux of the case. He changed his stories as to where the to most serious acts supposedly occurred, and was wrong about each and every detail that he provided regarding Nickel's home, a place he claimed to have visited numerous times, and where he (then) said the oral sex had taken place. The police's own photographs, which they'd attempted to hide, clearly demonstrated that the boy had not gotten even one thing right about Nickel's house.

Nevertheless, because it was clearly shown that Nickel was attracted to minor males, the judge, after 'deliberating' for a grand total of two minutes, found him guilty of the most serious charges (oral sex and digital penetration), as well as the less serious ones (involving brief touching over clothing). (Because one of the boys couldn't remember any such touching, the charge related to him had been previously dismissed.)

About six weeks later, it was time for sentencing. Despite numerous letters sent to the judge on Nickel's behalf, as well as the facts that no violence was even alleged and he was a first-time offender, Nickel was given the maximum possible aggregate sentence: 54 years.

Four years later, a five-member appellate court – all of whom, like the above county court judge, had to worry about re-election – affirmed all of Nickel's convictions, without addressing any of the glaring inconsistencies. This court did, however, reduce Nickel's aggregate sentence from 54 to 32 years.

Through his lawyer, Nickel then tried to go to the next highest court, the New York Court of appeals. But they refused to hear the case. Then came the federal courts – district and then circuit; but they were no avail. As far as the 'regular' appeals process is concerned, the Supreme Court of the United States would have been Nickel's last hope, except that, his appeals lawyer missed the deadline to file there.

As of early 2020, Nickel has now served nearly 19 years of his 32-year sentence, the latter of which is comparable to the amount of time one typically spends in prison for taking someone's life.