Hogan Lovells helps secure freedom for Oscar Lee Brown under the First Step Act after 25 years of incarceration

New York, 5 February 2021 – Global law firm Hogan Lovells has helped secure the release of a Georgia man who had been sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in a conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine.

Oscar Lee Brown had served more than 25 years of his sentence before winning his freedom following a decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that he was eligible for resentencing under First Step Act, which provides avenues of review for lengthy prison sentences for prior drug-related convictions.  After the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia granted Brown’s motion and reduced his sentence of life imprisonment.  

Partner T. Clark Weymouth, head of Hogan Lovells’ Pro Bono practice in the Americas, commented: “We are gratified that the court recognized the merits of Mr. Brown’s case. He was identified by public defenders as a strong candidate for consideration under the First Step Act, and we are extremely pleased to have been able to help him win the right to rejoin society after his lengthy incarceration.”

Brown was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995 at the age of 22. Prosecutors relied on testimony by co-conspirators, and he was convicted of a conspiracy to sell crack cocaine even though no drugs were seized in conjunction with the conspiracy. Brown was sentenced in 1995, when the penalties for crack cocaine offenses were much stricter, a problem the First Step Act sought to address. 

While incarcerated, Brown became a model prisoner, who mentored other inmates, obtained his GED, maintained close connections with family and friends, and educated himself on the law. Following the 2018 passage of the First Step Act, he pursued a sentence reduction on his own. His first motion  was denied, and Brown filed an appeal on his own behalf. Federal public defenders in Georgia identified Brown’s case as one with merit and approached Hogan Lovells for assistance. 

Hogan Lovells represented Brown in a motion for reconsideration before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which in June 2020 overruled its own previous decision and held that Brown’s case should be reviewed under the First Step Act. The firm also represented Brown in his subsequent motion before the Southern District of Georgia, in Savannah, to have his sentence reduced. The court ruled on behalf of Brown in September and he was released in November. 

In its decision, the District Court commended Brown for his “impressive history of educational and vocational coursework completion,” noting that Brown’s “achievements are indicative of someone who has matured and is preparing to make a positive and valuable contribution to society.”

Charles Barrera Moore, an associate in the firm’s Litigation, Arbitration and Employment practice in the New York office, represented Brown, and said: “I am so pleased for Mr. Brown, and happy to have been able to help him win his freedom after a quarter of a century behind bars. I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of the outcome he achieved. He has expressed a desire to use his experience to advocate for continued criminal justice reform, and he will make a powerful and committed advocate.” 

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