Ali exclusively talks to SHEEN Magazine about a 3X conviction of a crime she did not commit.

Being convicted of a crime that one didn’t commit, without question, would turn someone’s entire world upside down. Surely, this is an experience that could make one question everything and everyone, including themselves. That would, in fact, be a real-life nightmare. To be convicted twice for the same crime that you didn’t commit would be like lightning striking in the worst way possible two times; in one person’s lifetime. But, what if this happens three times? Well, that’s when you write a book and share the unspeakable and absolute insanity that once was your reality. No, this is not an intro to an interesting movie plot….This was, at one time, reality for Dr. Rita Ali, and she tells us all about it in her new book, Triple Jeopardy: Three Strikes But Not Out, “I was incarcerated three times, but I didn’t do it.”

Picture a well-connected woman with friends in very high places. A woman that was instrumental in bringing some of the biggest boxing events to Philadelphia. A woman has political connections and relationships with leaders in the business world. A close personal friend to one of the greatest boxers of all time, Muhammad Ali, who was a very important part of her life. This woman is respected. Her husband is successful, and also, a well-connected man. This woman. Dr. Rita Ali is the woman whose life was ransacked by a triple conviction of charges that, according to Ali, had absolutely no merit. So, just what were the charges against Ali that brought such a hurricane into her life?

“Authorities claimed that I  was guilty of twenty-seven counts of fraud back in 2004. They brought charges of fraud and all these other offenses that they claimed they had all this evidence for, claiming that I benefited from public funds and paid teachers,” says Ali.

As if it were not enough already, the same charges were levied against Ali’s adult son and daughter. “They alleged that we were being paid for classes that did not exist when I served as Assistant Director of Education for Sister Clara Muhammad School,” Ali reveals, a school in Philadelphia where she felt she served her purpose faithfully. “Imagine being 57 years old and being found guilty of these unfounded charges,” Ali said so emotionally as she talked about the feelings that experienced during this traumatizing time in her life. “Never in a million years did I ever dream of anything like that happening to me, and not one time, not two times, but three convictions!”

Ali tells us of the manipulations of the system that she feels took place in order for her to be able to be charged for the exact same charges three times, which did ultimately result in her doing time in prison. She explains that she had very limited involvement with theCommunity College of Philadelphia, which was working in conjunction with Sister Clara Muhammed to provide the classes that were at the center of everything. She says that while she did accept a nominal amount of funding to cover things like classroom space, this was not out of the ordinary. She says that classes would sometimes start out with a high number of students, but that number would dwindle as the courses continued. Which, again, was to be expected, she revealed. This led to the presumption that these classes were not real and from there, the problems began.

Ali says she felt that she was the subject of something called “selective prosecution,” and that her program was targeted for surveillance whereas other, similar programs were not. Ali has been very vocal about her feelings about the agendas surrounding her case, stating that they were “more racially and politically charged than they were about seeking justice for a crime.”

“I feel that very often my words and actions were often taken way out of context in order to paint me in a light that was more favorable for a conviction,” says Ali.  She says she often felt as though the decision about her outcome was decided at the outset.

When talking about her time locked away, Ali describes, with very much passion, what felt like alienation. “I saw so many things, and the way some of the women were treated was sometimes inhumane,” she tells us. She described feeling buried beneath a weight that was created specifically to destroy her. Even still, she did not break.

In her book, Ali shows us how a woman who once brought the biggest fights to Philly, became one of the strongest fighters even she knew. She stayed strong, even in her weakness. She came outside those prison walls on a mission. Today, she is fighting in a different way. She is a voice for a different ear. Never in a million years, would she have envisioned that this would be her life, way back then, before everything changed, but this picture is a different type of beautiful now.

Keep Up with Dr. Rita Ali on Instagram.




All images by Vernon Ray