A Mississippi man was taken into police custody on a misdemeanor charge in 2017. More than two years later, he remains behind bars because he was in possession of his cell phone after being booked at a county jail. According to NBC News the prison’s failure to confiscate his device is now costing a man 12 years of his life.
It became obvious that 39-year-old Willie Nash was in possession of a cell phone after he asked a security guard to charge it for him. The married father of three was using the device to communicate with his wife and court documents attest to the fact that Nash handed the device over willingly. Though his actions suggest that he was unaware of the Mississipi law that prohibits cell phone use while detained, a jury found Nash guilty of the nonviolent crime that carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison.
Nash, who was formerly convicted on burglary charges, appealed his sentence, saying that the punishment of more than a decade behind bars does not fit the crime. Mississippi Supreme Court justices weighed in on the case earlier this month. Though they chose to maintain the decision reached in the lower courts, one Justice, at least, agreed with Nash.
“It seems problematic to potentially allow someone into the jail with a cell phone, and then to prosecute that person for such action,” Justice Leslie D. King wrote in his opinion. “His crime was victimless, and the facts of the case lend themselves to an interpretation that his crime was accidental and likely caused by a failure in booking procedures.”
King also said that the sentence demonstrated a failure of the criminal justice system.
Nash is expected to be released from prison in February 2029.