Yesterday evening, Nathan Quintero walked out of the Orange County Jail after being improperly sentenced to life under the Three Strikes law for purse snatching. He served over 22 years.
Thanks to outstanding work by Three Strikes Project student Daniel Huddleston (‘21) and our amazing litigation team, an Orange County Judge ruled that Nathan’s Three Strikes sentence was illegally imposed in 1999 after his attorney failed to show up for his hearing. (Nathan’s attorney eventually did show up—pursuant to a warrant issued by the trial judge—but the lawyer presented no evidence or argument on Nathan’s behalf.)
After years of investigation, litigation, and a new hearing, including expert testimony about Nathan’s mental health and prison rehabilitation, he was ordered immediately released!
Nathan does not dispute that he stole two purses in 1999. No one was physically injured and there was almost no money lost. One of Nathan’s victims told the Court that Nathan probably needed mental health treatment. Instead, he was sentenced to 55-years-to-life.
During our investigation, Daniel uncovered evidence that Nathan endured a traumatic childhood, including a schizophrenic, heroin-addicted biological father, a physically abusive stepfather, and extended periods of homelessness. The U.S. Supreme Court has called this “classic mitigating evidence” that should reduce a person’s sentencing exposure, and California courts have recently ruled that Three Strikes sentences are improper under these circumstances.
While in prison, Nathan received mental health care that he desperately needed. But he also contracted a spinal infection, which left him wheelchair dependent.
Before he was released, Nathan told us he was escorted back to his cell and that he took a nap, so he could wake up and know it wasn’t all just a dream! Nathan was met outside the jail by the always-reliable Moses Gallegos from ARC’s Ride Home team and his loving mother, Mary. We are also grateful to the reentry team at Amity Foundation who worked tirelessly to find a safe home that will meet Nathan’s needs.
Thank you all for helping make Nathan’s freedom a reality!