Two years ago, a Nashville father and grandfather was released early from prison due to President Obama’s commutations for drug offenders.
After working to rebuild his life, Matthew Charles succeeded – but now he’s heading back to jail due to a system error to finish out his original sentence.
People all over the country are defending Charles and calling for President Donald Trump to intervene. The support comes from both sides of the aisle, from the conservative publication The Federalist to Kim Kardashian.
The 51-one-year old was sentenced to federal prison for dealing crack cocaine, where he served 21 out of the 35 years he was sentenced. In 2016, he was released, where he returned to his old life in Nashville, but this time working to make amends.
In recent weeks, the government realized they made a mistake on his sentencing and realized that Obama’s commutations did not apply to the charges Charles received. So two years after being a free man, Charles is returning to a jail cell.
Where was the glitch?
The government states that due to his criminal history prior to the drug charge, he was ineligible for the early release in the first place. One of his charges included a shooting, which is something they overlooked when they reduced his sentencing in 2016.
Charles attorneys are arguing that despite the glitch, he should remain out of jail due to his “shining example” of rehabilitation. Both his attorneys and supporters argue that putting Charles behind bars is not serving society, as he is a functioning member now.
“Charles never had a single disciplinary write-up in over twenty years in prison,” court documents filed by Charles’ attorneys say. Taking classes and working, he was a model inmate. On supervised release, his record is immaculate. He works full time, does volunteer work to serve the poor, and is a shining example of what a person can, despite felony convictions, make of his life.”
In late April, Charles girlfriend Naomi threw a going away party for Charles before he was to return to prison. He had friends come from all over, some even taking flights to make it.
“Wolf” one of Charles friends he met at a halfway house stood up for his friend, saying that he rebuilt his life.
“He’s rebuilt his life and now they’re coming to snatch it,” said “Wolf.”
The two have volunteered together almost every week since meeting at the halfway house. They have long fulfilled their community service requirements but still, return almost every Saturday together.
John Hairston, another older friend of Charles, hadn’t seen each other in over two decades but kept in contact via letter.
“The whole thing pisses me off to be honest,” he says, partly to Wolf and partly to the group of guests seated at another table across the lawn, who’re listening intently and shaking their heads. “But it underscores how big a need there is for some reform in the justice system. I don’t care what they say.”
What does Charles think of the situation?
He said it feels surreal.
“I’m so tired. I am beyond tired. I always say to myself and others, ‘when is enough going to be enough?’”
Back in March, Charles sat in a courtroom, when he received his re-sentencing.
The Judge presiding over the case, Aleta Trauger called the case “sad” and applauded his “exemplary rehabilitation.”
Sadly, though, her hands were tied. The judge had to reimpose his sentence, giving him a mere 45 days to get his affairs in order before returning to prison.
“It was like a 180 from what I had thought would happen. I’m just disappointed, again,” Charles said about the ruling.
Despite the heartbreaking news, Charles said his faith is still steadfast.
“But I believe that God is still in charge of the situation. He hasn’t revealed to me what he’s doing yet,” he says with a chuckle, “but my faith remains the same.”
Before he headed back to prison, Charles asked his Facebook followers for prayer and support.
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