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Convicted Felon Turned Lawyer Inspires Others Through Her Battle With Drug Addiction.

Sarah Gad smiles softly as she looks down at her diploma for her law degree.

In 2012, a car accident changed Sarah Gad’s life. She was prescribed opioids for her pain, but her desire to keep taking those pills continued on even when she no longer needed them for their intended purpose. From the outside, though, it may have seemed like her life was perfect. At the time, she was also in medical school. But once addiction took control of her life, everything began to fall apart.

Once Sarah was charged for her first felony, her life spiraled even more. Between 2012 and 2015, she found herself going in and out of jail. To make matters worse, she was placed in Cook Count Jail where she was abused in horrifying ways. Her family began to do whatever they could to find someone who could help.

Sarah Gad sits as she talks with FOX 9.

“I couldn’t even process it,” Sarah said. “I was in medical school at a top 15 institution and, suddenly, I’m a convicted felon with a drug problem.”

That is when Kathleen Zellner stepped into her life. Known for taking on cases involving wrongful convictions, she noticed the potential Sarah had to do great things with her life. She was so sure, in fact, that she offered her a position at her law firm.

Sarah Gad, Kathleen Zellner, and two other women pose for a photo while standing just in front of a parked car.

While working for Kathleen, she had the chance to see just how capable she is of making a difference in people’s lives, including the life of Mario Casciaro. He was wrongfully convicted of murder, but getting him freed from jail was no simple task. By succeeding, she realized that this was what she wanted to do with her life.

“I had the privilege of being able to be present when a person that I had helped prove they were wrongfully convicted of murder,” Sarah said. “I was able to be at the prison and be with him as he took his first steps up to freedom, hugging his family.”

Sarah Gad smiles softly as she looks down at her diploma for her law degree.

Sarah’s pursuit of a better life was off to a great start. She even got accepted into the University of Chicago’s law school, something she could afford thanks to a settlement for Cook County. Then, one more hurdle lay before her.

Because she was a repeat drug offender, she had to appear before a judge. There was a chance Sarah would be seen as unable to be rehabilitated and would face a mandatory minimum sentencing. Instead, like Kathleen, the judge saw her potential.

View of Sarah Gad's law degree framed and hung on a wall above a table with flowers and other décor.

In 2020 she graduated and two years later, she received her license to practice. Now, she runs her own firm in Minneapolis.

Thanks to her first-hand experience with the criminal justice system, she’s all the more prepared and has chosen to specialize in civil rights violations, criminal defense, and immigration law. In fact, she recently won her first murder case where she was able to help free yet another innocent person.

Sarah Gad smiles as she takes a selfie with the wrongfully convicted man she helped free as part of her first murder case.

“I recognized her enormous potential for making a real contribution to society and I tried to influence her in that direction,” Kathleen said. “She has transformed herself from a criminal defendant into a champion for the legally oppressed. All she needed was a second chance.”

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