CHICAGO, IL-(Marketwire - Jul 16, 2012) - Two-time U.S.A. National Boxing Champion and Chicago native Semajay Thomas triumphantly returned to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center last Sunday as a free man dreaming of a world title.
The light welterweight spent 15 months in the facility after being falsely accused of a 2009 murder that occurred in front of his apartment. Thomas was 15 (ranked world's 5th) when the Satan's Disciples gang beat a 50-year-old man to death in the street. Gang members implicated the prodigy, replacing Semajay's Olympic dreams with a 1st Degree Murder nightmare.
"My lawyers, Erickson & Oppenheimer, Ltd., never for one second stopped fighting for me," said Thomas. "They gave me a second chance at life so I wanted to let those kids at Juvi know that if you believe in yourself and keep fighting, your dreams will come true."
Thanks to lead attorney Michael Oppenheimer, the nearly all women jury quickly found Thomas not-guilty. "We knew from the moment we met that kid that he was his own best defense," said Oppenheimer. "We knew those good women would see the same loving spirit that we did." One Chicago criminal defense attorney commented, "Erickson & Oppenheimer out-lawyered prosecutors every step of the way." Thomas won his second National Championship six months later.
"You have to think it into existence," Thomas told the young inmates. "Never let them tell you that you can't live your dreams - this isn't the end of the story. And make sure you get great criminal defense attorneys. I shadow-boxed, ran laps around the yard and used the toilet in my tiny room to secure my feet while I did endless sit-ups - but I never gave up.
" Chicago DUI attorney Jon Erickson, who accompanied Semajay, said the cheers were overwhelming and indicated Semajay's positive impact.
As Thomas and Attorney Erickson left the center, they saw the Deputy who had walked Thomas toward freedom and family in 2010. "Man, this is crazy," said Thomas. "That's the guy that walked me out that night - now I'm walking out for my second time and he's walking in - life is crazy.
" Erickson & Oppenheimer, Ltd. went on to score an unheard-of 3rd straight 1st Degree Murder Not-Guilty verdict against the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.