“I’m sitting in here doing life plus 25 for a crime that was never committed for something I’ve never done, and I’m in my own house trying to protect myself,” Prentice Ponds II, 48, laments from an Oklahoma state prison.
Ponds is serving a life prison sentence after being convicted of robbery and insurance fraud by a Tulsa County jury in February 2017.
While no stranger to the criminal justice system after having served a ten-year prison sentence from 1999 to 2010 for burglary and weapons charges, Ponds says after he was released from prison on parole he turned his life around for himself, his five kids and seven grandchildren.
In the Spring of 2015, a series of unfortunate events helped land Ponds in the Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy, Oklahoma. In April of 2015, Ponds says a woman driving a U-Haul truck backed into his 2014 Chevy Camaro he bought on eBay and damaged it. The next month he filed an insurance claim for it to be fixed.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department Anti-Fraud Unit was alerted to Ponds’ claim and says the damage did not come from the woman hitting his Camaro but instead his car already had previous damage when he purchased it online. The state says Ponds was trying to defraud the insurance company, which Ponds denies.
“When the woman said she backed into the car, she backed into the car and bent the frame of the car when she backed into it, but they couldn’t see it because they never told me to take the car to get it fixed or do anything, they just assumed it was the same damage, and it wasn’t,” Ponds said.
Ponds says he called an insurance adjuster to his home to review the damaged car, but according to Ponds, the adjuster presented him with his mugshot instead.
Ponds says he asked the insurance adjuster to leave his home, which led to fisticuffs. Knowing he was still on parole, Ponds called police to document what had occurred. The insurance adjuster would claim that in addition to the fight Ponds stole his insurance documents, which Ponds denies and claims he has photos to prove it.
“They asked him specifically,” said Ponds of the insurance adjuster about what happened after the fight. Ponds describes how the adjuster described the scuffle to authorities.
“He said, ‘Well, after the fight Mr. Ponds gave me some water and paper towels to stop the bleeding,’ but what he didn’t know the pictures that I took show him in my kitchen drinking that bottled water with the bloodied paper towels on the ground right beside the stuff he said was taken during the fight and they don’t want to take those pictures because it proves that man was lying, as I was telling them from the beginning,” Ponds said.
Ponds says police were called but no arrests were made until four months later when police arrested him at his job for insurance fraud and stealing documents from the insurance adjuster. Ponds’ bond was set at $500,000.
Ponds claims the judge involved with his case previously worked for Oklahoma’s insurance fraud department, which he feels presents a bias. Ponds wants photos he took after the fight brought into his case because he feels it will help prove the robbery and insurance charges are baseless.
Ponds filed an application for postconviction relief, and among his grievances he noted “trial counsel’s and the trial court’s failure to consider two allegedly exculpatory photographs” which shows the insurance adjuster drinking water Ponds says he offered to him and the belongings of the adjuster that Ponds allegedly stole.
Ponds’ application for postconviction relief was dismissed by the state district court. He then appealed, and that too was dismissed, with the judge ruling Ponds failed to establish the district court “erred or abused its discretion in dismissing his second application or that he’s entitled to any postconviction relief.”
Francette Mays is the criminal justice chair for the Tulsa, Oklahoma, NAACP, and she has made it her mission to prove Ponds is innocent. She hopes by shining a light on Ponds’ situation more resources can be directed to his case. “This is a lie from the pits of hell,” Mays said of Ponds’ case. “You’re sitting there as an innocent man, and I don’t know who has the skeleton key to unlock this door but that’s what started the fire in me,” she said.
Atlanta Black Star sought comment from Prentice Ponds’ attorney but did not hear back at the time of this report.
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