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Whitmer commutes prison sentence for Flint native Michael Thompson, 3 others

Michael Thompson appears in a Michigan Department of Corrections mugshot.
Michael Thompson appears in a Michigan Department of Corrections mugshot.(MDOC)
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 2:20 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A Flint native sentenced to 40 years in prison on marijuana charges will be set free early.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday that she is commuting the sentences of 69-year-old Michael Thompson and three other men serving decades-long prison sentences for drug charges. All will be freed from prison years before their earliest release dates.

Thompson was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison back in 1996 after he sold three to four pounds of marijuana to a drug enforcement agent. His earliest release date was still 18 years away in 2038 before Whitmer commuted it.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton and thousands of others have argued that Thompson should be set free early. Leyton pointed out that the sentence handed down to Thompson exceeds what most second-degree murder suspects receive nowadays.

Thompson reached an agreement with the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office in 1996 to plead guilty to two crimes and have three dismissed. In exchange, Thompson was supposed to get a sentence of probation.

However, the judge at the time rejected the deal and sent Thompson to trial in Genesee County Circuit Court, where he was convicted.

State Sen. Jim Ananich said Thompson’s prison sentence is excessive now that Michigan voters approved a measure to legalize recreational marijuana.

“He is now an elderly man and has grandchildren he’d like to spend time with. I, along with thousands of people who were shocked by Mr. Thompson’s absurdly long sentence, have petitioned the governor’s office on his behalf and we applaud her for doing the right thing by granting him clemency,” Ananich said.

The other inmates whose sentences were commuted are:

  • Lawrence Cadroy, who was sentenced to life in prison on March 30, 1999, for drug possession. His earliest release date was 2030.
  • Lorenzo Garrett, who was sentenced to spend 29 to 170 years in prison on May 5, 1999, for selling drugs. His earliest release date was 2027.
  • Larry McGhee, who was sentenced to spend 20 to 30 years in prison on July 1, 2004, for selling drugs. His earliest release date was 2024.

Commuting a sentence does not overturn the conviction that led to each inmate being sent to prison. It only means the prison sentence will be cut short, but the conviction will remain in each man’s criminal record.

“These commutations offer a second chance to four individuals who have accepted responsibility and paid their debts to society and whose sentences span decades for non-violent offenses,” Whitmer said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but today is a step in the right direction, and I’m confident that Michigan can continue to be a national leader in smart justice.”

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