A former crack cocaine dealer — whose sentence was commuted by former President Barack Obama — is back behind bars for allegedly shooting a car passenger on an Illinois highway, police said.
Alton Mills, 54, who was granted clemency eight years ago, was booked on three attempted murder charges over the shooting that left the victim critically injured, the Illinois State Police announced.
Mills, while inside a car, is accused of firing “multiple shots” at another vehicle on an Interstate 57 ramp Sunday in Posen, a village roughly 30 miles south of Chicago.
“The back-seat passenger in the victim vehicle was struck by gun fire and was transported to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries,” police said.
Mills was being held without bond following his arrest. In 2016, he had his life sentence commuted by Obama after serving 22 years in prison for drug charges.
He was convicted in 1994 on federal charges as part of a crack cocaine conspiracy.
The then-25-year-old Mills had two previous convictions of possession of fewer than five grams of crack cocaine, prompting prosecutors to file a sentence enhancement to lock him in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a previous news release from the Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University.
At the time, the judge in the case expressed disagreement over the harsh sentence.
Obama chose Mills as one of 95 non-violent federal inmates “who were sentenced at the height of the war on drugs and would likely receive substantially lower sentences today” to have their sentences commuted as part of a clemency initiative.
Mills’s case as a nonviolent offender was highlighted by multiple politicians in the years leading up to his release.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin repeatedly shared Mills’ story — including on the Senate floor — as he advocated for a prison reform bill that would tackle “reforming sentencing laws and providing opportunities for those who are incarcerated to prepare to reenter society successfully.”
“An overlooked casualty in our ‘war on drugs’ are the men and women who have been convicted under disproportionately harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws. One such man is Alton Mills, who served more than two decades of a mandatory life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, a punishment even the sentencing judge disagreed with,” Durbin said in 2016 after Mills’ release.
That same year, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Mills a victim of a justice system skewed in favor of the wealthy elite.
“It’s not justice when someone who needs help can go away for life for selling crack on the street, but a bank executive who launders hundreds of millions of dollars for drug cartels can pay a fine and sleep in his own bed at night. There is one set of laws on the books, but two legal systems,” Warren said.
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