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Guy Asks Jail Guard to Charge His Phone, Gets 12 Years

Willie Nash calls the sentence 'grossly disproportionate to the crime'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2020 4:00 PM CST
Willie Nash.   (Mississippi Department of Corrections via AP)

(Newser) – A man arrested on a misdemeanor charge in Mississippi has been sentenced to 12 years for carrying a cellphone in jail, NBC News reports. Willie Nash was found guilty of carrying the contraband in August 2018, and didn't appeal the verdict, but called the sentence "grossly disproportionate to the crime." Yet state high court Justice James Maxwell said last week that Nash should feel lucky—after all, he could have gotten the maximum 15 years considering his past burglary convictions. Needless to say, not everyone agrees. "It seems to demonstrate a failure of our criminal justice system on multiple levels," wrote Justice Leslie King, who described the sentence as legally correct but fraught with problems.

"First, it is highly probable that the Newton County Jail’s booking procedure was not followed in Nash’s case," added King, per the Clarion-Ledger. "An officer at the jail testified that all inmates were strip-searched when booked, although that officer did not book Nash. Yet Nash went into the jail with a large smartphone that would have likely been impossible to hide during a strip search." Only when Nash asked a guard to charge his cellphone was the phone taken away. Now petitions have cropped up seeking leniency, and a syndicated columnist is excoriating the justice system: "Twelve years? For a cell phone? Seriously?" writes Leonard Pitts Jr at the Miami Herald, noting that Nash is African American: "...It's past time for slavery, in all its permutations, to end. Let my people go." (Read more prison sentence stories.)

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