Federal Inmate Released Under First Step Act Arrested For Murder
Providence, RI – A convicted felon who was released from his life sentence in February under President Donald Trump’s First Step Act has since been arrested for allegedly stabbing a man to death.
Convicted crack-cocaine dealer Joel Francisco, 41, was sentenced to life in federal prison in 2005 for his third felony drug conviction, the Providence Journal reported.
In his application for release under new criminal justice reform legislation, the former Latin Kings gang leader boasted about his "significant efforts toward post-conviction rehabilitation,” and said he had “commit[ed] himself to a law-abiding life,” CNN reported.
Federal prosecutors and a district court judge bought into Francisco’s claims, and released him from federal prison in February under the First Step Act.
Within two weeks, the repeat felon violated his release conditions by using cocaine and marijuana, the Providence Journal reported.
In July, he sliced through his ex-girlfriend’s bedroom window screen with a knife, resulting in a new arrest.
In September, he tested positive for cocaine again.
Despite the slew of violations, federal probation officials failed to make any effort to revoke his probation, the Providence Journal reported.
On Oct. 2, Francisco allegedly stabbed 46-year-old Troy Pine to death at a hookah lounge in Rhode Island, according to CNN.
Federal probation officials didn’t request an arrest warrant for Francisco until Oct. 7, the Providence Journal reported.
The wanted felon fled the state after the murder, and was apprehended by federal marshals at a motel in Texas on Oct. 19.
According to police, Francisco was trying to escape to Mexico, the Inquisitr reported.
Francisco has been charged with Pine’s murder, and still faces an additional domestic breaking-and-entering charge stemming from the incident in July.
The eight years of supervised release he was granted when he was released from his life sentence is also subject to revocation, the Providence Journal reported.
Francisco was convicted of assault with intent to murder at the age of 19, according to CNN.
In 2004, he and several other crack-cocaine dealers were arrested as part of a massive, multi-agency drug trafficking investigation known as Operation Royal Flush.
Providence Police Commander Thomas Verdi said he was stunned to learn that the career criminal was going to walk out of prison, despite having received a life sentence.
"I hope that he's been rehabilitated,” Commander Thomas said at the time, according to CNN. “However, I have serious doubts, having known him the way I did all those years…He had a propensity for violence.”
As of October, over 1,500 inmates have been released under new drug resentencing laws, CNN reported.
Thousands of additional offenders – including Francisco – have been granted early prison releases.
“All you hear about are second chances,” Manhattan Institute public policy analyst Rafael Mangual told the Providence Journal. “But we have to understand a large chunk of the pool we’re talking about here have already had their second chances, and have already blown them.”
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton said that Francisco’s utter failure on community supervision was “not a surprise,” CNN reported.
Cotton was among the most outspoken critics of the criminal justice reform legislation.
“Letting violent felons out of prison early as the First Step Act did leads to more crime and more victims,” he said.
Interestingly, Pine’s nephew, Jay Chattelle, said he believes the First Step Act is a good thing.
"It's a flawed system. It's a beautiful program to get people to come home that don't need to be dying in jail, don't need to be living their life in jail, but there have got to be more steps,” Chattelle told CNN. “Some people have to be held accountable.”
"I don't want to wish that man any ill will,” Chattelle said of Francisco. “I don't want any harm to come to him. I just want answers.”
U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries also read a letter from Chattelle before the House Judiciary Committee in October, CNN reported.
"Anyone who speaks my uncle's name, please speak it in a way that will draw people together and bring help to people in these communities, including human beings who have been locked up for too long,” the letter read. “Speak it in a way that brings healing to people who need it."