A man described as America’s longest serving inmate for nonviolent marijuana crimes will be sprung “early” from a Florida prison next month after serving 32 years behind bars, a nonprofit said.
Richard DeLisi, 71, who was hit with a 90-year sentence in 1989 by a Polk County judge for marijuana trafficking, will be released in December from the Sunshine State’s South Bay Correctional Facility, the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit working for criminal justice reform related to cannabis crimes, announced this week.
DeLisi’s release date comes after the Last Prisoner Project along with pro-bono attorneys supplemented DeLisi’s previously filed clemency application earlier this year and have continued to advocate on his behalf to local Florida officials and key stakeholders in the state, the organization said.
“It feels amazingly wonderful to know that I will be home with my family and loved ones very soon. I am grateful to everyone who has been there and helped me along in these long years,” DeLisi said in a statement to his legal team upon receiving the news.
“If I could go back to 1988 I would tell my former self to put more value in the time I spend with my family. I have learned that money is something that comes and goes but family is forever,” he said.
DeLisi continued, “I will take that lesson home with me and I will make the most of every moment I have left on this earth with my wonderful family. I am so excited to hug my children and grandchildren. I have missed so many important moments with them and I can’t wait to get out there and create precious memories with everyone. I am so thrilled that this dark chapter of my life is finally over.”
During his more than three decade prison stint, DeLisi’s son, wife and both parents passed away, the Last Project said, noting that his remaining friends and family, including his two children and five grandchildren, are “eager” to celebrate his early release.
“I just want to hug my dad outside of prison,” said DeLisi’s daughter Ashley, who hasn’t spent a birthday with her father since she was three-years-old.
In 1988, DeLisi, along with his older brother Ted, were arrested and charged with trafficking in cannabis, conspiracy to traffic cannabis and racketeering after smuggling marijuana from Colombia to South Florida.
They were both convicted in 1989 and sentenced each to three consecutive 30-year sentences.
Ted DeLisi appealed his conviction and was released from prison in 2013, but Richard DeLisi’s appeal was rejected, according to USA Today.
The DeLisi brothers, sons of a Brooklyn mechanic, had grossed $50 million from their marijuana operation, The Palm Beach Post reported.
“There were so many times when they tried to get us to bring the other stuff, the coke and the heroin,” Richard DeLisi told The Palm Beach Post in 2018. “We would never do it because we knew it could kill people. I feel good about that still today.”
Richard’s official release date will be issued to him and his legal team by the Florida Department of Corrections on Nov. 16, the Last Prisoner Project said.
His current release date on the Florida Department of Corrections website was May 13, 2021 on Thursday.
The state DOC could not immediately confirm to The Post that Richard would be released next month.
Musumeci, Natalie. "America’s Longest Serving Nonviolent Cannabis Prisoner to Be Released." New York Post, 12 Nov. 2020, nypost.com/2020/11/12/americas-longest-serving-nonviolent-cannabis-prisoner-to-be-released/. Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.
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