Struggling Homeowners Found Guilty For Demanding Foreclosure Relief—While Wall Street CEOs Who Perpetrated Foreclosure Crisis Walk Free
On Monday, October 7th, two homeowners arrested while demanding Wall Street accountability in the foreclosure crisis were found guilty of unlawful entry in federal court after staging a sit-in at the DC law offices of Covington & Burling, LLC. Sherry Hernandez, Mildred Obi and Annie Quain—each grandmothers who have fought unjust foreclosures on their homes by Wall Street banks—were arrested in the culmination of three days of action in late May as hundreds of homeowners protested at the Department of Justice and Covington & Burling, a firm that epitomizes the revolving door between government and Wall Street interests.
The cases, United States vs. Hernandez, Obi and Quain, have stretched since this summer, when the women were charged with unlawful entry. The three women faced a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail, a fine of $1000, and a payment under the victims fund of up to $250 each—a far cry, supporters say, from the lack of prosecution and punishment for any banker involved in the 2008 crash. Ultimately, Hernandez and Obi were sentenced to time served and the minimum fine of $50 to the victims’ fund; the prosecution dropped charges against Annie Quain.
Supporters have collected over 22,000 signatures on a petition calling for the Department of Justice to drop the charges against the women and to instead prosecute bankers who were liable for the foreclosure crisis and financial collapse. The women have refused plea bargains, instead calling on the Department of Justice to prosecute the real wrongdoers—the Wall Street banks and bankers who caused the financial crisis.
“Does it serve justice to ruin the reputation of older women who have done nothing wrong while those who have perpetrated crimes on Wall Street go free?” asked Sherry Hernandez, in her motion for acquittal as she argued her case pro se.
Mark Goldstone, lawyer for Mildred Obi, argued in his pre-sentencing remarks, “Not one bank executive has gone to jail,” and quoted William Black, who said that bank fraud is the only crime by which monetary settlements buys a way out of a criminal prosecution.
Mildred Obi, the other grandmother found guilty, argued that her dramatic actions were a key reason why she is still in her Georgia home.
The women were among 34 homeowners were arrested in May as part of “Justice to Justice,” a march of homeowners, foreclosure victims and their supporters who journeyed from across the country to march on the Department of Justice to demand banks are held accountable for crashing the economy and causing the housing crisis.
Covington & Burling, a major international law firm, highlights the frequency with which public officials transition between public and private employment—often working for the same firms that they were responsible for investigating while in government service. Covington represents or has represented JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS and other major banks. Attorney General Eric Holder was a partner at the firm before joining the Justice Department and former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who left his post in March, has joined Covington & Burling as Vice Chair.