Alternative-rock/country musician Kasey Anderson, who fronts the band The Honkies, was investigated on five counts of wire fraud and was sentenced to four years in prison on July 23, 2014, by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton after defrauding over 30 West Memphis Three supporters out of over a half a million dollars. Judge Leighton ordered Anderson to pay $594,636 in restitution and said, “The offence is a serious one. You let down a lot of people.”
In 1994, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley (known as the West Memphis Three) were tried and convicted of murdering three Arkansas children. Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley received life in prison, while Damien Echols was given the death sentence.
An abundance of evidence was presented over the years that supported the trio’s innocence and, after 18 years in prison, the three reached a plea deal that secured their release from prison in 2011.
Financial and emotional support was coming from some of the world’s most influential musicians and actors who continued to petition and draw attention to the case for the young men’s freedom. Musicians such as Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, James Hetfield, Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins, Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, Metallica and members of Disturbed were among the supporters.
Actor Johnny Depp was the first to take steps in helping the three men after reaching out to Echols and truly believing in his innocence.
Anderson raised the funds to perform a concert and release a compilation album to assist the young men in their defence; but instead, Anderson embezzled the money.
Anderson was able to raise this substantial sum of money by impersonating music industry tycoons including Bruce Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau and even went as far as impersonating family members of the West Memphis Three. Anderson’s schemes were detailed, involving a fake compilation album and concert series. To help lure investors into his scheme, Anderson alleged to have agreements with artists such as R.E.M, Pearl Jam and Tom Petty. He even went to the extent of creating fake email accounts for notable music industry officials and sent emails from them to potential investors.
He also manufactured falsified paperwork making it appear the project had already earned over $1 million in advanced sales, when in fact it had earned less than $10,000.
Furthermore, he sent investors forged bank statements showing large balances.
All who made donations have yet to be paid back, but in a letter written to the court, Anderson provided an apology:
“I am a deeply flawed and mentally ill person who made some terrible choices, causing so much emotional and financial damage to others. But I believe I have much to offer my community. I am so sorry for what I’ve done and want so badly to make it right … I lied to myself and others, and believing those lies, I told myself consistently that whatever was going on with me … I could fix it on my own. I convinced myself that it was normal.”
The West Memphis Three are now free and at home with their families. Damien Echols released an incredible memoir titled Life After Death.
Metallica gave filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky permission to use their music in the three documentaries titled Paradise Lost 1-3. This was the first time the band allowed their music to be used in a film, which brought more attention to the case and ultimately led to Berlinger and Sinofsky making the Metallica documentary Some Kind Of Monster.