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Woman who was jailed while pregnant for waving legal, unloaded gun to be tried again after winning appeal


'For God's sake, let this woman get on with her life'

Siwatu-Salama Ra and her attorney, Wade Fink. (Image source: Detroit Free Press video screenshot)

A woman who was sent to prison, while pregnant, after being convicted of assault for waving an unloaded gun at a neighbor during a conflict, won her appeal and had the conviction thrown out — but now faces another trial, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Siwatu-Salama Ra, a 28-year-old environmental activist from Detroit, was forced to give birth in prison because she was seven months pregnant at the time of her conviction, and the judge wouldn't let her delay the start of the sentence. She served nine months in prison before she won her appeal in August.

The appeals court ruled that the actions that led to her conviction were "reasonable" and that the jury was not properly informed. But prosecutors aren't letting the case go, instead opting to retry the case.

About the incident

In July 2017, a neighbor arrived at Ra's mother's house to pick up her daughter. The daughter had been asked to leave the house due to a previous fight with Ra's niece.

Ra said the neighbor was angry when she arrived at the house and was yelling from the car. Ra, who was on the front lawn at the time, said the neighbor backed the vehicle into Ra's parked car, while her young daughter was playing inside.

Ra got her daughter out of the car, then pulled an unloaded, legally owned gun from the glove compartment and pointed it at the woman, who she said would not leave the property.

The neighbor tells a different story, saying she didn't hit Ra's vehicle on purpose, but instead accidentally hit it in fear while trying to leave after Ra pulled out the gun in anger.

Both Ra and the neighbor filed police reports — but the neighbor filed first. About a month later, Ra was arrested and charged with assault and a gun charge that carried a two-year minimum sentence. Ra refused to plead guilty to two felonies, was convicted, and sent to prison.

Ra is a lawful gun owner who had no criminal record. The neighbor was a three-time felon who was on probation and had a previous conviction for assault with a shotgun.

Prosecutors won't drop the charges

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office issued only a brief, general statement about the decision to pursue another trial.

"The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office will re-try this case," the statement said. "The Michigan Court of Appeals remanded the case for a new trial. The court's ruling was largely based upon the absence of a requested jury instruction."

Ra's attorney, Wade Fink, doesn't understand why prosecutors won't move on from this, especially considering Ra has already served nine months in prison for an alleged assault in which no one was even harmed and in which she claims she was operating in self-defense.

"That's justice," Fink said. "Just dismiss it. For God's sake, let this woman get on with her life."

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