Jay-Z’s Team Roc pushes for release of Valon Vailes after 14 years in prison

Valon Vailes has been imprisoned since 2007 for conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute more than a ton of marijuana

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Jay-Z‘s Team Roc is calling out the federal government for refusing to release a 56-year old man who’s serving 20 years for marijuana. Prosecutors won’t approve him for a compassionate release because the man once snuck leftover chicken from the prison mess hall to his cell, according to TMZ.

TheGrio previously reported that Valon Vailes has been imprisoned since 2007 after being found guilty of conspiring to possess and distribute more than one ton of marijuana, according to Page Six. 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 in 2021 when Vailes penned an emotional letter to the hip-hop star seeking his help for an early release. 

Jay-Z (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

In new court docs, Team Roc attorney Alex Spiro says federal prosecutors won’t allow Vailes’ release because of “ticky-tac prison offenses” over a leftover prison meal of cold chicken, TMZ reports. Spiro says Vailes was also reprimanded for using a piece of his prison uniform as “workout equipment.”

Speaking to TMZ about the case, Spiro says Vailes’ initial sentencing of 20 years may not have been as severe if he was white.

“They’re not looking at him like a human being and they never were,” Spiro said. “That same case handled by different lawyers, a different jurisdiction, if there was more empathy for the person being charged, if he was white or if he was different in a number of ways, maybe he gets five, maybe he gets eight, who knows.”

The first motion for Vailes’ release was filed last August. It noted that Vailes had been “a model inmate,” even earning his GED behind bars. The attorney also noted that Vailes’ family “desperately needs his support and assistance, and he does not present a recidivism risk.”

Spiro is asking the judge to reduce Vailes’ sentence to time served, and release him to care for his mentally ill brother. When Vailes wrote to Jay-Z last February, he shared, “My family needs me home.”

“While incarcerated, I have lost loved ones,” Vailes 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 three granddaughters.”

“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. “Thirteen and a half years is a long time to be still incarcerated over a substance that has become the ultimate green rush.”

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.”

Vailes finds it ironic that 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 August motion was denied over the inmate’s COVID-19 vaccination record. A second motion to free Vailes was filed on Sept. 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.”

A federal judge has yet to make a decision on the case.

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