CRIME STORY has received permission to re-print Michael Romano‘s newsletters from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project whose mission is to reverse the most unjust criminal sentences. Romano and his colleague Susan Champion were interviewed by Amanda Knox for CRIME STORY and you can find the podcast and the transcript of that interview here. You can find a story about Romano’s participation in a U.S. Congressional field hearing on criminal justice reform here.

Todd was recommended for early release from prison officials due to his exceptional conduct while incarcerated—including helping save a prison guard’s life. Todd grew up in a tumultuous and abusive household with severe learning disabilities. While incarcerated, he was also a victim of the worst sort of abuse and violence. Despite this, and little chance to complete his sentence within his natural lifespan, Todd kept a positive attitude, dedicated himself to his rehabilitation, took every class and program available to him, and worked as a porter cleaning the prison. He was well liked among staff and inmates even regarded by prison guards as a lighthearted comedian. Eventually, he was recommended for a sentence recall by the Secretary of the Department of Corrections under a ‘second look’ sentencing provision in California law. It still took two years of litigation and a trip to the Board of Parole Hearings to win his freedom.  

Todd was met at the prison gates by Moses Gallegos, a life coach from the Anti-Recidivism Coalition’s Ride Home Program. After a quick stop to say hello to his mother and sisters, Todd and Moses headed off to his residential reentry program in Los Angeles. 

Todd calls the office almost every day to offer his repeated thanks and gratitude to Project Staff Attorney Milena Blake, who argued his case at every step in the process, and Project student Sarah Beller (‘21), who researched Todd’s case files, drafted our pleadings on Todd’s behalf, and worked tirelessly to prepare Todd for his hearing.

Congratulations to all—and especially to Todd!

MORE GOOD NEWS:

We are also very proud to share news that John Gargano, who was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison as a first-time nonviolent drug offender—and who was granted clemency by President Obama and released in 2016—is graduating from New York University this afternoon with a degree in leadership and management studies!

We are proud to have played a small role in John’s release and successful reentry, but the credit for hard work really belongs to him. John was selected to be a speaker at today’s commencement at NYU and in his speech he tells the story of being in prison and mysteriously called to the warden’s office only to be told the President granted his release; he thanks all of those who helped him, along the way; and he adds:

“Overcoming extreme experiences provided me with the strength to not allow my past the ability to define what I can do, or who I can become…In this world filled with the forces seeking division by applying the labels ‘us’ and ‘them’ we must give each other the benefit of doubt…From the first day I set foot on this campus, fearful of being in a place I felt I did not belong, the entire community welcomed me with open arms. As we all depart upon our individual career paths, we can make life bigger than ourselves and honor our moral obligation to build one another up.”

You can read more about John’s story here.

Thank you all!

Mike