Nick O’Connell’s sense of disillusionment with the justice system is something he shares with the organization’s other recent hire, Alan Maimon, an investigative journalist who came on board in January, 2012, as the group’s full-time case investigator.
Maimon came to Centurion after a long career in newspapers. He worked for the New York Times, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and the Louisville Courier-Journal. He has also written biographies of ballplayers Shane Victorino and Andre Dawson, but his passion has always been uncovering injustice.
Maimon grew up outside of Philadelphia, where his parents were teachers. “Social justice was very important to them, and that’s how I was raised,” he says. “Compassion and empathy were drilled into me.”
Maimon majored in German at Brown, and traveled to the former East Germany shortly after graduation to work for the New York Times bureau there. His first stories were about women who had been on the East German Olympic swim team and had been forced to take steroids. He discovered that their children suffered terrible birth defects as a result of the communist athletics program.
He continued this line of work when he returned home and took newspaper jobs on the West Coast.
“I did a lot of work on the criminal justice system, looking mostly at the systemic problems,” he says. Maimon wrote a series of articles for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that detailed vast problems with its public defender office. The lawyers were overburdened with cases and not doing a quality job on the ones they found time to work on.
“I really began to understand how flawed the system is,” he says. “If you’re innocent, you believe the truth will prevail, and you believe that your lawyer at a trial will make your case, and convince the jury that you weren’t in the same state as where the crime took place, if that happens to be the situation,” he says. “You trust that the truth will prevail, but once you get caught up in that system, and the wheels start turning and grinding, it’s amazing how the next thing you know, you’ve spent 10 to 12 years in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. And once you’re convicted, the bar becomes higher in terms of overturning the conviction.”
Currently Maimon is working on two cases, one in Philadelphia and another in New Orleans. He is putting his journalism skills to good use, and recently completed an 8,000-word brief making one of the cases. In many ways, his current job is similar to what he did as a reporter.
“In my journalism career, I worked a lot of different places and saw a lot of different problems, and saw a lot of systems that just didn’t work. And behind every problem are people who are victims of those problems. Centurion Ministries is a belated opportunity for those who have been wronged by the system to get their lives back.”