State pays Abraham's housing, college tabs
PONTIAC -- Yesterday, Nathaniel Abraham was a convicted murderer. Today he greets the morning a free man celebrating his 21st birthday -- with a furnished Bay City apartment paid for by Michigan taxpayers.
Abraham, who was 11 when he shot and killed 18-year-old Ronnie Greene in Pontiac, plans to re-enroll in classes at Delta College, where the state also will foot the tuition bill for the next four years.
Oakland County prosecutors are furious that Abraham -- a felon released Thursday -- is being given free services through a Foster Care Demonstration Project. The pilot program is designed to help Wayne County foster care children who are phased out of the system at age 18 but still need the support of the state.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Deborah Carley said the state Department of Human Services ordered Abraham be given a spot in the state-funded pilot program that normally would go to a teen who has been neglected, abused or abandoned by his or her parents, despite the fact that Abraham is no longer a ward of the state and not eligible for such services.
The state ordered the Wayne County program support for Abraham, even though he was from Pontiac and was convicted in Oakland County.
"My point to (the state) was if Wayne County doesn't need that spot, transfer it to Oakland," Carley said. "We have plenty of kids aging out of the system who have nowhere to live and they sure didn't kill somebody.
Under the program, Abraham will be eligible for two years of free rent, full college tuition paid by Michigan Rehabilitation Services through age 25 and food stamps, which he has applied for. He must live in Michigan and attend college in the state to remain eligible in the program.
Maureen Sorbet, spokeswoman for Human Services, said the state so far has only provided Abraham with a security deposit and first month's rent as part of an emergency services program.
Carley said based on meetings she had last week with Abraham's attorneys and state workers on his case, there is no question that Abraham has been given a two-year commitment by the state for services, plus the four years of free tuition.
Abraham, who arrived at Oakland Circuit Court on Thursday wearing a black fur coat, ivory fedora hat and ivory and hot-pink pinstriped suit with matching pink tie and shoes, left through a back door of the courthouse. Daniel Bagdade, Abraham's attorney, said his client paid for the clothes through money he had saved from jobs while in rehabilitation.
Hardest part lies ahead
Bagdade said he is happy that Abraham will receive further assistance. Abraham, whose mother still lives in Pontiac, will begin a full-time job today as a maintenance worker at a manufacturing facility in Bay City.
"The hardest part for Nate is ahead of him," Bagdade said. "It's going to be extremely difficult for Nate to be released and live independently. People think the easy part is him being released. But really the hard part is just beginning -- what he has to do now."
On Thursday, an Oakland County judge released Abraham from juvenile detention. Abraham's case captured national attention in 1997 when, at age 11, he shot and killed Greene with a stolen 22-caliber rifle. Abraham was charged with first-degree murder under a get-tough Michigan law that allows prosecutors to charge juveniles of any age with serious felonies.
The law gave judges the option to sentence juveniles to adult prison time or keep them in juvenile detention until age 21.
After a jury convicted Abraham of second-degree murder, Judge Eugene Arthur Moore rejected any adult punishment and sentenced the young killer to eight years of juvenile detention with a mandated release at age 21.
During those years, Abraham earned his GED and began college classes but continued to struggle with anger management and bucking authority figures.
He got into a few fights at Maxey Boys Training Center and he stole cleaning supplies for his girlfriend at a halfway house, according to Moore, but none of the incidents resulted in further charges.
On Thursday, Moore encouraged Abraham to give thanks to those who have invested years in his rehabilitation and to the Greene family by succeeding in life.
"Nathaniel, you can succeed. You have the guts, the training, the ability, and you can make it," Moore told him Thursday. " But only you can decide what direction you will go."
'Make the best of it'
Abraham, an aspiring rapper, thanked the judge for having faith in him despite nay-sayers who said he would never succeed in life.
"I owe a debt to everybody involved in this case," Abraham told Moore in court. "I'd like to thank you for taking that chance and believing in me. You saw something in me before a lot of people did.
"I'm going to make the best of it."
Nichole Edwards, Ronnie Greene's sister, said whatever progress Abraham has made won't bring her brother back.
"All we have is a cemetery plot to go to," she said.
She does not feel Abraham is remorseful or has truly been rehabilitated.
"One of my biggest fears is that he will get out and cause someone else grief," she said.
Michelle Peoples-Dudley, Abraham's older sister, talked to her brother last week and asked him what he planned to do on his birthday.
"He told me 'I'm not going to do anything. I'm free. I'm just going to relax. I don't have to worry about anyone saying 'It's time to wake up' on my birthday. I get to do what I want and I'm just going to relax.' "