91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Criminal Justice & Legal System

Detroit activist pleads to misdemeanor to avoid second trial over brandishing a weapon

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

A defiant Siwatu-Salama Ra vowed to continue fighting against "unjust prosecutions" on Friday outside the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit, where she had just pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of brandishing a weapon.

Ra spent nine months in prison for brandishing an unloaded gun at another woman during a dispute.  She claimed it was self-defense. She had no criminal record; the other woman involved in the dispute had three criminal convictions and was on parole at the time.

Ra was convicted of felony assault with a dangerous weapon, but the conviction was later overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Ra was pregnant when she was taken to prison, and she says she was shackled during most of her labor.  She was not allowed to have a loved one present.  

Ra says she pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge to avoid another trial and the risk of spending more time behind bars away from her children.  

She says the Wayne County Prosecutor's office refused to drop the charges, despite receiving 800 letters from supporters.

"They could have done the right thing today which was to dismiss," Ra said. "I have served enough, I have been punished enough, all for nothing. But today is the end of it."

Ra, who is Muslim, says she will keep working to force the state to improve conditions in Michigan jails and prisons for pregnant inmates and Muslim inmates, as well as continue her work as a community activist.

Related Content