Who Is Matthew Charles? The Nashville Man Was Released From Prison Only To Be Forced To Return

ByCaroline Burke
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If you've seen influencers like Kim Kardashian and Chelsea Clinton tweeting about who Matthew Charles is, then you might already know his heartbreaking story. Charles, who served over 20 years in prison before being pardoned by President Obama, will reportedly have to return to prison for another 10 years to complete his sentence. And now, people around the country are standing up to defend him.

According to Heavy, Charles, a 51-year-old man, served 21 years of his original 35 year sentence for dealing crack cocaine before being released from federal prison in 2016. The reason for his early release was due to a change in the penalties for dealing crack cocaine; prior to that, convictions related to one gram of cocaine were the same as those related to 100 grams of cocaine. And after these penalties were changed to reflect the severity of the crimes more accurately, a federal judge decided to apply the changes to Charles' sentence by shortening it.

According to Nashville Public Radio, the U.S. Attorney's office decided to appeal Charles' release earlier this year, though, based on the grounds that Charles was a "repeat offender" (meaning he's been arrested more than once). Therefore, the office claims, this retroactive change in law could not have applied to him. A court of appeals agreed with the U.S. Attorney's office, and so Charles is returning to jail, unless President Trump decides to overturn the sentencing.

The decision to force Charles to return to prison to carry out the rest of his sentence has been met largely with anger and frustration, primarily because of how Charles conducted himself upon leaving prison.

Kardashian tweeted, "...[Charles] serves over 21 yrs, is released, finds a job, new relationship, starts a new life, & now is being sent back for another 10 yrs because the original release was an error. This man has completely rehabilitated himself."

According to The Hill, Charles returned to Nashville after leaving prison, then found a job, got an apartment, rented a car, and began to re-establish a relationship with his children and grandchildren. He also fell in love with a woman, and began volunteering at a local soup kitchen on a weekly basis.

Prior to leaving prison, Charles was reportedly a model inmate while serving his time. According to court documents provided by Charles' attorney, as reported by Heavy, Charles didn't incur a single disciplinary write-up during his time in prison.

The documents continue, "On supervised release, Charles' record is immaculate. He works full time, does volunteer work to serve the poor, and is a shining example of what a person can, despite felony convictions, make of his life.”

CJ Ciaramella, a criminal justice reporter for Reason, summarized the outrage that many are feeling in a single tweet: "Imagine getting out of prison after 21 years, rebuilding your life, and then getting sent back after two years free because of an "error"," Ciaramella explained, adding, "It really happened."

Charles' re-sentencing is so surprising that it has even become something of a bipartisan issue: The Federalist, a traditionally conservative news publication, published a think piece arguing why President Trump should commute Charles' sentence (to "commute" a sentence is to reduce it, which is what Obama originally did for Charles).

On behalf of The Federalist, David Marcus wrote,

Since his release Charles has been a fully employed, church-going member of his community who volunteers and is in a serious romantic relationship. Now he’s losing not only his reprieve, but also the new life he has built. Legally, it may very well be that the courts made the right decision in revoking his freedom, but might this be a case where the law is not producing the just goals it was intended to, and might president Trump’s unique power be appropriate in making this situation right?

Though President Trump has yet to make a statement on his opinion of Charles' re-sentencing to prison, he met with Kardashian West on Wednesday to discuss the potential pardoning of another criminal case, which involves the life sentencing of Alice Marie Johnson, a woman who was convicted for a first-time drug offense in 1996.

As for Charles, he has posted several times on Facebook about the re-sentencing, thanking people for their love and their prayers and resigning himself to whatever happens.