Presidential Clemency: Antoinette M. Frink

on right, serving 15 years, 8 months

Released January 20, 2001. Presidential Clemency (Clinton)

charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, hiring and inducing others to travel interstate highways to distribute cocaine, aiding and abetting.

Antoinette "Toni" Frink is a former special education teacher with a master's degree in school psychology. Had she decided to stay in that profession, rather than becoming a car dealership owner, she would be a free woman today.

As president and CEO of McFrink Chevrolet-Cadillac in Delaware, Ohio, Toni made the mistake of selling several cars to a businessman who presented himself as needing vehicles for his video and electronic companies and carpet businesses. This involved some re-titling of vehicles that he purchased in Florida, but would be based in Ohio where his companies were supposedly moving. Over a period of a year, she sold and/or retitled about 10 vehicles for them, paid in cash increments under $10,000 each (which she claims was not illegal at the time).

In 1987, a pick-up truck that was bought by this businessman, but re-titled by Toni, was stopped in Georgia and found to contain 61 kilos of cocaine. A few months later, she was arrested and charged with the conspiracy to distribute cocaine. "It seems pretty bizarre." she says. "A truck gets stopped and they ask, 'What dealership did you buy it from?'"

As Toni denied any involvement in the conspiracy and was never near any drugs, she decided to take her case to trial. She lost. Of her five codefendants, all known to the government as drug dealers, only one received a sentence as great as hers. Toni maintains her innocence, and she is taking her case to the Supreme Court where she hopes to be exonerated. She questions why she was singled out for prosecution when other dealership owners (all white owned) who sold cars to these drug dealers were not prosecuted. She wonders if the color of her skin had anything to do with it.

Though doing time for a crime she did not commit is hard, nothing compares to the loss of her only child, Trina, a senior in college. Trina was killed in a car accident on March 15, 1993, on the way home from visiting her mom in prison.