PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A man who was sentenced to 1,823 years behind bars is now free following a conditional pardon from Gov. Ralph Northam.
Lawrence Jacob Stephens was only 18 years old when he was arrested and later convicted in a home invasion robbery in York County back in 2001.
The alleged mastermind behind the robbery, who is white, got a 10-year sentence, a co-defendant got 35 years, but Stephens got a staggering 1,823 years.
Stephens is now 38 years old.
Under sentencing guidelines, he should have received no more than 13 years, but Judge Prentis Smiley threw the book at Stephens over and over with a four-digit sentence.
Gov. Ralph Northam last month issued a conditional pardon after studying a petition prepared by the Hampton NAACP.
Now released from Sussex I prison, Stephens plans to live with his sister Sarah Stephens in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“To have a second chance at life, it’s been a long time,” Stephens told 10 On Your Side Wednesday. “It’s been a long road for myself, my family and my friends but it definitely feels good.”
Lawrence also plans to return to prison to help others who have been locked out of life through mass incarceration.
“There’s a lot of work to be done as far as criminal justice reform. Mass incarceration of young Black men and women in this country is a real issue. I’m on a mission to freedom fight. I’m here, I’m out here, I’m fighting for my brothers and my sisters who need this opportunity like I have. There’s some magic in all the mess that we go through. Patience, perseverance, hard work and strength,” Stephens concluded.
We asked Stephens what his first order of business was now that he’s free. He told us he wanted to buy some Big Red chewing gum. He’s really missed it these last two decades.