Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jul 2015
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2015 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Steve Visser


Charlie Horace Scandrett Jr. was a free man Tuesday after serving 18 
years of a 30-year sentence on a drug conviction, a punishment a 
Clayton County judge said was "just not right."

"I'm going to do today what probably should have been done a long 
time ago," said Superior Court Judge Matthew O. Simmons as the 
Scandrett's father and sister wept during a hearing."Today he can go 
home to his family."

Scandrett could have been out within five years but the state-court 
judge who was filling in for Simmons the day he was convicted in 1997 
gave him the maximum sentence possible under the recidivist laws at 
the time, said Patrick Mulvaney, a lawyer for the Southern Center for 
Human Rights.

The Southern Center and Clayton County's top prosecutor, normally 
staunch adversaries, became allies in the case and saw the sentence 
as excessive, even for the 1990s, when stiff drug sentences were 
handed down routinely.

District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson credited Scandrett's 
79-year-old father, Charlie Horace Scandrett Sr., for fighting to 
free his son and the Southern Center, which litigates anti-death 
penalty cases and prison-reform lawsuits, for taking the case to 
modify Scandrett's sentence to time served.

"I am proud of his daddy and grateful to his daddy for loving his son 
so much to see that this happened today," Lawson told the judge 
Tuesday. "We're here today to just do the right thing."

The younger Scandrett had previous brushes with the law but all for 
non-violent drug cases, Lawson said. Forest Park Police arrested him 
during what appeared to be a drug transaction and he was charged with 
drug possession and convicted.

Linda Scandrett, 59, said her father had spent about $20,000 on 
lawyers who later told them their cause was hopeless since laws at 
the time allowed her brother to be sentenced to 30 years with no 
parole for possessing less than a gram of cocaine.

An air-condition repairman told the family about the Southern Center. 
"And then within three weeks we are here," she said Tuesday at the 
Clayton County courthouse.

Scandrett had three prior drug convictions, two for possession and 
one for sale. "He was an addict," said Lawson, the prosecutor. "Today 
this court would have sentenced him to the drug-court program and he 
wouldn't have ever gone to prison."

In court Tuesday, Simmons said, "It appears that Mr. Scandrett has 
gotten a much longer sentence than other people similarly situated, 
It is just not right."

Scandrett did not have a single disciplinary infraction during his 
nearly two decades in prison and had been trained as a veterinarian 
technician, Mulvaney said. He noted the state Board of Pardons and 
Paroles had been unable to assist Scandrett after prison-reform legislation.

While the General Assembly gave relief to dealers convicted under 
no-parole recidivist laws, lawmakers did not include those convicted 
of simple possession, Mulvaney said.

He said the Southern Center was evaluating other cases where people 
are still serving lengthy sentences for old drug-possession convictions.

"This type of case makes me cry," Lawson said. "I was so upset when 
they told me about the sentence. I said, 'That is just upside down. 
That is wrong."
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