Flint man gets COVID-19 in prison while advocates seek early release

Michigan’s Attorney General has now expressed her support for Michael Thompson’s early release from prison. He has served 24 of his minimum 40-year sentence.
Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (8/4/2020) - Calls to release a Flint man from prison are growing louder, especially now that he's been diagnosed with COVID-19.

We've been following the growing anger surrounding Michael Thompson's lengthy sentence. He's served just 24 of his minimum 40-year sentence for drugs and weapons charges.

It's a sentence the Genesee County Prosecutor said is equivalent to a second-degree murder conviction today.

The 69-year-old remains in custody, but he's been moved to a Michigan Department of Corrections medical center to receive treatment for COVID-19.

It's believed he caught the virus inside the Muskegon Correctional Facility from a cellmate. The MDOC reports more than 100 prisoners at that prison have tested positive.

“This was our fear. I think at this point our entire team is in a position of outrage,” Thompson’s defense attorney, Kimberly Corral said.

She explained Thompson has severe diabetes. He was considered at risk for contracting coronavirus, which is one of many reasons why tens of thousands of people have joined the call for his early release.

“We check in with the parole board regularly,” Corral said. “We keep getting the same response we’ve always gotten, which is that we hope to get Michael’s case on the agenda soon.”

Corral said by law the parole board has 60 days to review her petition. It's been 8 months since she filed it.

Thompson is accused of selling 3 to 4 pounds of marijuana to an informant. Corral said the Flint native was actually given a plea deal; but the judge struck it down, sending him to trial.

He was sentenced in 1996 for 5 felonies -- weapons and drug charges. One of those requires a minimum of 40 years in prison, another requires 2 years served consecutively.

Thompson's earliest release date is April 2038.

“Michael is the longest serving nonviolent offender in the state of Michigan. And, it’s all for a gun charge for a gun that was never in his actual possession,” Corral added. “The gun was at his house, when he sold drugs at another location.”

The positive diagnosis is only increasing attention on Thompson's case from celebrities and activists across the country.

Montel Williams tweeted at both Michigan's Governor and Attorney General, calling for action.

The AG retweeted Williams with the comment "Agree." Her Office said she isn't making any further comments.

By email, the Governor's Office said they're waiting for an application from the parole board.

“Every day that we talk about getting support, gaining support, putting pressure, those are all days that Michael remains at risk and the risk of COVID introduces the risk of death,” Corral said.

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