Image: Jail

A sentence of 40 to 60 years in prison. The crime? Selling 3 pounds of marijuana in 1996. Now Michael Thompson is fighting for his freedom.

A sentence of 40-60 years in prison. The crime? Selling 3 pounds of marijuana in 1996.

"Doing time in prison, is not the prettiest thing," Michael Thompson said to TV5 via a phone interview from Muskegon Correctional Facility.

68-year-old Michael Thompson is locked up alongside murderers, pedophiles and rapists. He's served for nearly 25 years of his sentence so far. Thompson won't have even a chance for parole until his late 80's.

"I can't die in here," Thompson said. "For what? Some marijuana and some guns in a locked closet?"

"Forty to 60 years is a harsh sentence even in a second degree murder case," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.

"Michael's sentence is maybe the worst injustice I've seen," Thompson's attorney Kimberl Corral said.

And Thompson only wishes he could have seen his family, one last time.

"I've lost a lot. I've lost my only son. He was my best friend. And i loved him. My favorite nephew. I lost my mother and my father. All these losses for what? I'm in here and i didn't kill anyone."

Thompson was sentenced in 1996. Investigators say Michael sold 3 pounds of marijuana to an undercover informant. The Flint Police searched his house on Franklin in Flint.

"Michael's house had no drugs, no drug money, but it had a number of guns," Corral said. "A lot of them were antique guns in a locked closet."

But Thompson wasn't supposed to own any weapons: he had prior non-violent drug crimes.

"They stacked the gun charges on top of the marijuana charge as if they were used in the sale of weed and in fact it wasn't," Corral said.

The Michigan's Habitual Offender Law kicked in. Thompson's former drug convictions pushed his maximum sentence to 60 years. Judge Judith Fullerton ruled the minimum of 40.

"That's a harsh sentence," Prosecutor Leyton said. "And that's something that should and could be looked at."

Prosecutor Leyton wasn't in office in '96, it was prosecutor Art Busch.

"There was a plea bargain offered by then Prosecutor Busch," Prosecutor Leyton said. "In that he can plead guilty to the drug crimes and the weapons crimes would be dismissed. that plea bargain was rejected by the judge. That forced the case to go to trial."

The jury ruled Thompson guilty.

"Michael is the longest serving non-violent offender in Michigan," Corral said.

And times have changed: Marijuana is legal and the business is booming.

"But even if marijuana were still illegal in Michigan, i don't think that changes the absurdity of his sentence," Corral said.

"We're talking about somebody who sold large amounts of marijuana to an undercover officer," Prosecutor Leyton said. "Even today, that's a crime."

We asked Prosecutor Leyton if the charge would result in such a high amount of prison time nowadays. He said it was highly unlikely.

"I suspect it would be more in the single digits," Prosecutor Leyton said. "I don't think it would even be a 10-year-felony."

Nevertheless, Thompson's appeals are exhausted, despite his good behavior during his time in prison.

The Michigan Department of Corrections tells TV5, during Thompson's two decades behind bars, he's only had two misconducts. MDOC further stated some prisoners have two misconducts in a week. These are very minor infractions.

"I've only seen one, which is he didn't leave the music room when asked," Corral said. "And there's not one allegation in his whole history that he's ever harmed anybody."

He was denied clemency from Governor Snyder two years ago, according to Corral. But now, a movement: 'Free Michael Thompson' has gained traction. A site dedicated to sending emails, letters and calls to Governor Whitmer. The site says more than 21,000 actions have been taken so far.

"Wow. 21 thousand," Thompson said. "Feels like a blessing man."

A blessing, and a hope, that Governor Whitmer will hear Thompson's plea.

"I'd thank God," Thompson said. "Raise both my hands up and thank God."

Prosecutor Leyton tells TV5 he is willing to work with Thompson’s out-of-state attorneys to see what can be done for Thompson’s case.

Copyright 2020 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

CLICK HERE to download the TV5 app.


Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.