Man Who Spent 20 Years In Prison For Stealing Two Shirts Finally Freed
A 67-year-old man has been released from prison after serving 20 years of a 23-year sentence for stealing two shirts.
Guy Frank reportedly stole the clothing items from the men’s department of a Saks Fifth Avenue store in September 2000, during a time when he was said to be stealing regularly to fund a heroin habit.
He was arrested and booked on a count of theft of goods valued at less than $500, but due to a Louisiana law he found himself vulnerable to harsher sentencing.
The multiple offender law is similar to a ‘three strikes law’, but apparently does not require offenders to have been convicted of a violent crime. A 2002 state court decision cited by The Washington Post said Frank had been arrested a total of 36 times, starting in 1975, and was convicted several times for theft and for possession of cocaine.
Frank pleaded guilty to his charge of theft, but due to his prior convictions he was sentenced to more than two decades behind bars.
The Innocence Project became aware of Frank’s case when it was flagged by its Unjust Punishment Project, and it went on to launch a successful appeal to the Orleans Parish District Attorney.
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In a statement cited by WDSU News, per Complex, the organisation said:
Even though he accepted responsibility for his crime, lawyers at District Attorney Harry Connick’s office asked that the judge find him to be a multiple offender, because he had been convicted of theft multiple times before, and to enhance his sentence.
Judge Sharon Hunter imposed on him a sentence of 23 years in the Department of Corrections without the possibility of parole.
The organisation noted that Frank’s crime was a felony at the time, but it was changed to a misdemeanor in 2010.
Detailing his release on Instagram, the Innocence Project said Frank’s case ‘gets to the heart of what is wrong with Louisiana’s multiple offender law’.
It added, ‘He received this egregious sentence despite the fact that he was never a threat to anyone, and had never done more than steal in small amounts. His case shows how poor Black people are disproportionately affected by these extreme sentences. It is hard to imagine a White person with resources receiving this sentence for this crime.’
A GoFundMe page that has been set up to help Frank rebuild his life states that the 67-year-old ‘lost his mother, two of his brothers, his wife, and his son’ while he was in prison. Now that he is free, he hopes to become an assistant deacon and help and advise others who are struggling.
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CreditsComplex and 2 others
The Washington Post
The Innocence Project/Instagram