Jay-Z’s legal team fights to release fan serving 20 years for marijuana offense
The case caught the rapper's attention when the inmate penned an emotional letter to the superstar
Jay-Z is advocating for the release of one of his fans who is serving 20 years in prison on marijuana charges.
Valon Vailes, 55, has been imprisoned since 2007 after being found guilty of conspiring to possess and distribute more than one ton of marijuana, Page Six reports. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison and is currently housed at New York’s Otisville Correctional Facility. The case caught the rapper’s attention earlier this year when the inmate penned an emotional letter to him.
“This correspondence is a plea to ask for your help with the intent to campaign for my clemency,” the letter read, as reported by Page Six. “13 and a half years is a long time to be still incarcerated over a substance that has become the ultimate green rush.”
“My family needs me home,” Vailes wrote.
“While incarcerated, I have lost loved ones,” he explained. “My mother passed in 2020; my grandmother in 2009; my nephew in 2020. Also, my best friend died from COVID in 2021. I have four children and 3 grand-daughters.”
Vailes went on to acknowledge that “a lot has changed in my life, but most importantly, I have a newfound view of society,” he claimed. “Therefore, I pledge to my family, my children, and myself that my incarceration would not be in vain.”
The inmate also noted how he remains incarcerated amid ongoing reform of marijuana legalization in the US.
“It is a bittersweet reality that I am a casualty and a commodity of this system filled with injustice,” he wrote.
The letter prompted Jay-Z, who owns the cannabis company Monogram, and his legal team to file a petition for release on the prisoner’s behalf.
Jay-Z’s attorney Alex Spiro filed the first motion in August. It noted that Vailes had been “a model inmate,” and that his family “desperately needs his support and assistance, and he does not present a recidivism risk.”
The first motion was denied over the inmate’s COVID-19 vaccination record. A second motion to free Vailes was filed on September 29, in which another “compassionate release” was requested. Spiro argued, “Mr. Vailes’ motion for compassionate release does not mention COVID-19 and does not rely on any COVID-19-related argument as a basis for arguing in favor of a reduced sentence.”
In Wednesday’s filing, Spiro asked the judge to grant release to Vailes with time served.
“Mr. Vailes has exhausted his administrative remedies with the [Federal Bureau of Prisons]; extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant compassionate release in his case; the relevant factors support release; and Mr. Vailes is not a danger to the community,” Spiro argued.
He added, “Mr. Vailes is the sole available caretaker for his mentally ill brother whom is in desperate need of Mr. Vailes’ support.”
Spiro concluded, “It is unjust to allow Mr. Vailes to remain in prison when, if sentenced under the current law, and with his good behavior credits, he would have already been released.”
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