A Black Michigan man serving up to 60 years in prison for charges arising from marijuana sale in 1994 asked for mercy in a hearing last week, saying he’s a changed man.
Michael Thompson of Flint, 69, spoke to the board during his virtual commutation hearing on Nov. 17.
“What I’ve done before I come to prison, you know, I’m far from that. I’m far from that. So I just want the parole board to show me some kind of … mercy,” he said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Thompson has been incarcerated for 24 years after being arrested for selling three pounds of marijuana to a confidential informant in 1994, and in 1996 was sentenced to 42 to 60 years as a four-time felon for the drug deal and for gun charges that arose as a result of the police investigation that followed.
He said that during his time in prison he has mentored younger prisoners, stayed out of trouble, and is now a changed man. Thompson received the key to the city of Flint for working to break up gang violence prior to his incarceration, and his prison record is almost spotless.
The parole board will make a recommendation to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer about whether Thompson should be released. If he is not granted relief by the governor, he won’t be eligible for parole until he is 87 years old.
At the time of the marijuana sale, Thompson did not have any guns on him, but police found 13 firearms upon searching his home. Because of his prior felony possessions, Thompson was not allowed to legally own guns.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has advocated for Thompson’s release, said in a letter she wrote to Whitmer in August that many of Thompson’s guns were antiques and were locked away in a gun safe.
During the commutation hearing, Thompson said he had forgotten about the weapons, which he accumulated over several years.
“But, the thing is, I should’ve never had them,” Thompson said. “I hurt a lot of people, especially my family.”
Thompson has already served his time for the marijuana sale but remains incarcerated because of the conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm. At the time of his last arrest, he was a truck driver for General Motors and was married with four children. He said he initially began selling cocaine in the 1970s in order to take care of his family.
Thompson, a diabetic, contracted COVID-19 over the summer and is still recovering at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center.
“Mr. Thompson’s offense, if committed today, would be punishable by a maximum of four years’ imprisonment or at most a maximum of eight years’ imprisonment If charged as a second drug offense,” Nessel wrote to Whitmer in August.
“In this case, the trial court, in this case, sentenced Mr. Thompson to 10 to 15 years’ incarceration for each of the marijuana convictions in this case, sentences that Mr. Thompson had fully served by March 2011.”
If released, Thompson would live with his daughter until he can get back on his feet.
“I just want to bring him home with me. We can build a relationship and get our life back on track like we used to,” his daughter, Rashawnda Littles said.