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Michael Thompson back in Flint, following Governor’s commutation

The Flint man, sentenced to up to 60-years behind bars for drugs and weapons charges, is now free.
Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 5:29 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (1/28/2021) - “I just want to let you know I’m happy,” an emotional Michael Thompson said outside a prison in Jackson, Michigan Thursday.

The Flint man, sentenced to up to 60-years behind bars for drug and weapons charges, is now free.

Thompson served nearly 25 years. He had at least 15 years left, but Governor Gretchen Whitmer commuted his sentence in December.

Last year, calls for Thompson’s early release gained national attention with celebrities and the Last Prisoner Project, even Michigan’s Attorney General and the Genesee County Prosecutor joining the push.

Thompson said it’s been an overwhelming day. One he knew would come only because so many people cared about him.

“It feels good. It feels real good,” the 69-year-old said Thursday morning to the cheers of his family, supporters and strangers.

Thompson’s oldest child, his daughter Rashawnda Littles, stood by his side.

She was a teenager when her father was convicted in 1996.

“The Lord put this on me to see, and he put it onto me to see and just seeing him walk out those doors was a memory I will never forget,” she shared.

A jury convicted the Flint native 25 years ago on five felony charges. His attorney, Kimberly Corral, explained Thompson sold 3 to 4 pounds of marijuana to an informant, which led to the felony drug charges.

But with the weapons charges, Corral said the gun wasn’t in Thompson’s possession during the crime, it was at his home while he sold the drugs at another location.

Those charges are what landed him the lengthy sentence of 40 to 60 years in prison. It’s harsher than the sentence a person convicted of second degree murder would receive today, according to the Genesee County Prosecutor.

“It’s egregious by any measure, and yet he spent 25 years incarcerated. And so now is a moment to celebrate, but it’s also a moment to take a critical look at how this happened, why this happened and what we can do for the other, frankly, millions of Americans who are egregiously incarcerated,” Attorney Corral said.

She picked up Thompson’s case in 2019 and filed an application for clemency in January 2020.

Thursday, Corral expressed her frustration on how long it took to eventually get the parole board to take a look at his case and recommend to the Governor he should be released early.

Corral said Thompson is considered the longest incarcerated non-violent offender in Michigan’s history.

“You know, you got guys making millions off marijuana, but you got guys locked up like me, 25 years. That ain’t fair,” Thompson said outside an event center in Flint.

Those celebrating his release planned a big lunch Thursday afternoon. Thompson’s one request -- a home-cooked meal.

Countless supporters showed up, many strangers, who called for his release and hope to see a change in the justice system.

That’s what Thompson said he now plans to tackle.

“Whatever I can do to help; because, I left a strong void back in prison,” he shared. “You know, I left a strong void. And the only thing I need is some help from you all out here. Help me help them.”

Eager to see what he can do, his daughter said she’ll be right by his side through it all.

“I’m just grateful he’s here and my life can regain strength,” Littles shared. “You know, it’s nothing like holding your father’s hand, or just giving him a hug.”

Littles added her Dad has countless family members she’s excited for him to meet. For now, he’ll live with her in Flint.

The Last Prisoner Project, a national group of cannabis industry leaders, criminal and social justice advocates and policy experts, led what they called the “Free Michael Thompson” movement.

They were at the prison to watch Thompson walk out at 4 a.m. Thursday. And in the afternoon, they presented him with a $15,000 check for housing.

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