In 2010, a federal choose sentenced Tony DeJohn to life plus 10 years on a nonviolent marijuana cost. As a result of it was DeJohn’s third marijuana-related conviction, the choose was required by regulation to impose the utmost penalty out there. He was simply 31 years previous.
Eleven years later, DeJohn, who’s from Upstate New York however had been locked up in high-security amenities in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Colorado, was granted clemency by then-President Donald Trump. He was launched from jail on January 20, 2021.
However at the moment, DeJohn is again in federal custody. The now 47-year-old will probably be spending the subsequent six months in a Pennsylvania midway home, according to court filings reviewed by The Every day Beast—however not as a result of he broke any new legal guidelines.
In the US at the moment, there are prisoners serving draconian sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenses, a lot of them in states where cannabis is now legal. The difficulty is a surreal one for Craig Cesal, a marijuana lifer whom Trump also granted clemency, who described watching—from the confines of a jail cell whereas doing life for pot—a 60 Minutes phase on the booming authorized marijuana business. Cesal, a talented “jailhouse lawyer” who now works for the nonprofit Last Prisoner Project, has advocated for DeJohn and different pot lifers and helped DeJohn out with some money when he first acquired dwelling.
“I’m right here in Illinois, the place we have now leisure marijuana shops everywhere,” Cesal instructed The Every day Beast. “However since it’s nonetheless a federal crime, and I’m on supervised launch, may I stroll into a type of shops and purchase some marijuana, which might be authorized below Illinois regulation? It’s really a federal crime, and would topic me to 5 years in federal jail as a violation of my supervised launch.”
Different violations that may ship an individual again to jail embrace issues like breaking curfew, lacking a probation appointment, or failing a drug take a look at.
Earlier than he was lastly let go in January, DeJohn had been denied launch twice earlier than. And whereas his file in jail wasn’t spotless, DeJohn—who was given glowing reviews by his prison work-detail supervisors—was solely written up for 4 infractions, of which only one might be thought of “severe,” his federal defender wrote in a June 2020 movement to get DeJohn sprung on compassionate grounds. (It was denied.) “Furthermore, DeJohn has not dedicated a disciplinary violation since 2016, greater than 4 years in the past. All of this means that DeJohn is getting old out of recidivism.” (Older offenders are far much less more likely to reoffend than youthful ones, according to the U.S. government’s own data.)
Eight months later, DeJohn was let out. Nevertheless, he will probably be below the supervision of a federal probation officer for the subsequent 10 years.
Since his launch, DeJohn had been in full compliance with the situations of his probation, his lawyer wrote in a June 2021 movement requesting DeJohn be allowed to maneuver to North Carolina. However since he had been away for thus lengthy, DeJohn was discovering it tough to rebuild his life in Central New York, the submitting acknowledged. His solely associates within the space had been both individuals with prior convictions or ones who weren’t essentially “dedicated to [living] law-abiding lives,” it mentioned, including that DeJohn, who had labored in building earlier than he was despatched away, had had a tough time discovering a gentle job now that he had a felony file.
“Fortuitously, he was provided building work within the space of Raleigh, North Carolina,” the movement acknowledged. “His potential employer…has provided to place up Mr. DeJohn till he can afford his personal place.”
In accordance with his lawyer, DeJohn made quite a few “casual makes an attempt” for approval from the probation workplace to relocate, however had “been met with indifference.”
“Mr. DeJohn is dedicated to constructing a law-abiding life,” the movement concluded. “Permitting him to relocate away from his prior connections in Central New York and to a location that gives regular employment and optimistic influences will assist guarantee his profitable transition into the neighborhood.”
In early Could, DeJohn’s probation officer confirmed up at his dwelling in Upstate New York for an unannounced go to. The officer noticed a GMC Yukon parked in DeJohn’s driveway, and requested whose it was. DeJohn mentioned it belonged to a pal of his spouse’s.
When the parole workplace later ran a DMV verify on the truck’s license plate, they discovered it was registered to not a pal of DeJohn’s spouse, however a pal of DeJohn’s named Michael Hirsh.
Hirsh had loaned the car to DeJohn shortly after his launch, so he may get round, Cesal defined. When somebody goes away for a decade, “free world” relationships typically go by the wayside, in keeping with Cesal.
“Once you get out of jail, consider who’s been your pals for the final 10 years,” Cesal mentioned. “Who’s he going to lean on and say, ‘Hey, assist me with a automotive,’ however his associates that he had from earlier than his arrest? You understand, lots of people in jail come from fairly destitute households.”
Hirsh had been certainly one of DeJohn’s 14 co-defendants again in 2005, though in contrast to DeJohn, a jury acquitted Hirsh of all expenses. Fifteen years later, Hirsh was convicted on a state cost of felony possession of marijuana within the third diploma, that means he was caught with eight ounces or extra, and sentenced to probation. In June 2021, greater than a month after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo legalized pot, the Oswego County Probation workplace searched Hirsh’s residence and seized some 50 marijuana vegetation from the property.
On June 17, DeJohn’s probation officer seized his mobile phone “primarily based upon cheap suspicion that he was associating with convicted felon, Michael S. Hirsh,” in keeping with the federal government. “A evaluation of DeJohn’s mobile phone recognized that DeJohn and Hirsh had been in every day communication since his launch from imprisonment and had been associating in-person at one another’s residences or throughout the neighborhood,” it continues. “Moreover, the evaluation of the offender’s mobile phone recognized that DeJohn is in common communication by way of textual content messages with a number of federal inmates and is sending cash to their commissary accounts within the Bureau of Prisons.”
After all he did, mentioned Cesal, explaining, “You understand, these are the those that had his again to ensure he wouldn’t get beat up in jail.”
A month later, DeJohn admitted to having been in contact with Hirsh in addition to “BOP inmates whom he was housed with throughout his interval of incarceration.” Nevertheless, DeJohn had acknowledged on his written month-to-month supervision report kind that he “had not been associating with a identified felon.” DeJohn additionally hadn’t knowledgeable his probation officer that he moved from the home he shared together with his spouse to his mother and father’ dwelling about 20 minutes away.
“The Probation Workplace is recommending the offender be positioned in a federal residential reentry middle for a interval of six months because of his latest actions,” the submitting states.
DeJohn will not be presently allowed to have a mobile phone, and has not been granted cellphone privileges but within the facility the place he’s now residing, mentioned Cesal. James Egan, DeJohn’s lawyer, didn’t reply to a request for remark.
“So far as Tony, is he actually a menace to society?” mentioned Cesal. “Did something that they cited in that supervised launch violation present that he was a menace to anyone? No. It’s like this [marijuana] cost. You understand, have you ever ever heard of any individual being forcibly giving marijuana to any individual? No, individuals come and ask for it.”