(WSVN) - When she was young, she made a mistake. For 21 years it has come back to haunt her, but now that she wants to come home, it’s devastating her — because she cannot find one piece of paper to satisfy the state. Who can solve her problem? In South Florida we all know, it’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
Everyone has a personality. Jennifer Buell has enough personality for two people.
Jennifer Buell, needs proof: “Thank you.”
Patrick Fraser: “That’s just natural?”
Jennifer Buell: “Yeah, actually.”
Bubbly and happy, even though she is still suffering from a mistake she made 21 years ago.
Jennifer Buell: “I was part of the rave era, which I am absolutely mortified to be saying this out loud. Yeah, I would go to raves, do drugs. I got arrested with a dealer in my car.”
Jennifer got probation, and that didn’t wake her up.
Jennifer Buell: “And was still hanging with the same crowd, tested positive and actually got sentenced to 60 days at Broward County Jail.”
That was the eye-opener. Jennifer turned her life around, moved to North Carolina, got married, raised a child and earned her bachelor’s degree.
Jennifer Buell: “I’ve worked my way up. I’m actually the plastic surgery lead nurse in Charlotte.”
But that felony on her record way back in 1997 still haunts her.
Jennifer Buell: “I had to fight to go to school because of my felony. I had to fight to be able to do clinicals in hospitals. And I refuse to back down every time.”
Now with her son in college, Jennifer has decided it’s time to come home.
Jennifer Buell: “This is where my family is, my friends.”
The State of Florida issued her a license for nursing, but to work, the Board of Nursing wrote, “We need proof that all sanctions have been completed — probation and fines/costs.”
Jennifer Buell: “And I can’t seem to get that.”
The Broward Clerk’s Office said they didn’t have that paperwork, so Jennifer contacted the Department of Corrections, which keeps the records.
Jennifer Buell: “They sent me an email [saying] that all my records were destroyed.”
Since the proof she completed her sentence could not be found, Jennifer thought that showing the State of Florida’s clemency board had restored her civil rights would work.
Jennifer Buell: “And you can’t even get that unless you have finished all the requirements, and that paperwork wasn’t enough.”
Meaning 21 years after turning her life around, Jennifer can’t practice as a nurse in Florida, and can’t come home to be with her family and friends, because of a piece of paper that can’t be found.
Jennifer Buell: “There’s so much I will never be able to do, and it does break my heart.”
Well, Howard, you’re a criminal defense attorney. Where can that paperwork be found?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In 40 years of criminal practice, I’ve never heard of an agency giving someone who completed their sentence a piece of paper saying they did complete their sentence. And it cannot be done today for Jennifer because government agencies destroy their old paper records. However, at some point, someone should look up from their government rule book and see it’s clear Jennifer completed her sentence because her civil rights were restored and the clemency board would never do that unless her sentence was finished.”
We talked to BSO. They were able to send the paperwork that showed Jennifer served her 60 days.
The Department of Corrections told me, even though Jennifer’s records were destroyed, they would give her a notarized letter with her supervision history.
During that time, Jennifer’s father notified the nursing board that Help Me Howard was doing a story on the situation.
The nursing board then requested proof that the Department of Corrections destroyed Jennifer’s records, and then the nursing board sent a letter that left Jennifer in tears.
Jennifer Buell: “I’ve been crying all day.”
Patrick Fraser: “Wait, this is good news!”
Jennifer Buell: “It’s fricking fantastic news.”
The nursing board gave Jennifer an exemption to allow her to work as a nurse in Florida — a simple piece of paper that will change the rest of her life.
Jennifer Buell: “I haven’t been this happy in so long. I called my mom. This is great. This is — I can come home.”
Jennifer is coming home. That’s nice. And of course, now a great person has to find a great nursing job. Good luck, Jennifer.
And how did this get resolved? Jennifer never gave up. And while not every problem can be solved, as we have learned, it can’t hurt to call us and let us try.
Nursing a problem you can’t cure? Has it hit home you need help? Contact us. After 20 years, we have an old record of solving things.
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