In 2015, then-president Barack Obama ended the life sentence of a Chicago drug dealer. Now that same drug dealer has been charged with attempted murder and is likely to be charged with murder soon.
The dealer, Alton Mills, 52, was “arrested in 1993 on federal conspiracy charges as part of a crack cocaine conspiracy,” local station WMAQ reported.
“Due to two previous convictions of possession of less than five grams of crack cocaine, prosecutors filed a sentence enhancement, which led him to be sentenced to life in prison without parole,” the station recently reported.
Years after Mills’ arrest, the Obama administration launched a clemency initiative for low-level federal inmates “who were sentenced at the height of the war on drugs and would likely receive substantially lower sentences today,” according to the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Kimberly-Claire Seymour was assigned to Mills’ case. At the time, Seymour “was doing multiple practicums and externships with the Federal Defense Program.”
“The team here reviewed hundreds of cases that came from our district, and pulled out a select few folks who were serving the longest terms of incarceration and whose circumstances were particularly shocking. Alton Mills was one of those individuals,” Seymour told the Pritzker School of Law in 2017.
With Seymour’s help, Mills’ sentence was commuted in December 2015, leading to his release in 2016 after serving only 22 years. Although it took a while upon release, Mills tried to make the best of his life.
“Last year, Mills secured a job detailing buses overnight with the Chicago Transportation Authority (CTA)’s Second Chance Program, an initiative aimed at offering full-time employment and training for future careers for individuals facing barriers to employment. Mills hopes to become a certified diesel mechanic for the CTA,” the Pritzker School of Law reported in 2017.
In 2018, Democrats like Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) used Mills’ story to push for federal prison reform.
The life story of Chicagoan Alton Mills shows why we need to pass the #FirstStepAct. Alton, who received a pardon from President Obama in 2015, was destined to spend his life in prison. He’s now a contributing member of society. #cjreform pic.twitter.com/QZxvYkmK6t
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) December 18, 2018
“An overlooked casualty in our ‘war on drugs’ are the men and women who have been convicted under disproportionately harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws,” Durbin said in 2018.
“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. I commend Alton for the bravery he has shown in choosing to tell his story, and I am honored to welcome him to Washington this week,” he added.
Despite his “second chance” at life, Mills has now decided to return to his past self. On May 14th, 2023, three friends returned from a nightclub in Harvey, Chicago. One of the friends drove the others home in a Ford Explorer, as reported by CWBChicago.
At one point, their Ford Explorer was behind Mills’ vehicle at a red light. When the light turned green, Mills idly sat in his car, so the friends drove around him and continued. Then, “Mills sped to catch up to the Explorer, pulled up next to them, and fired shots from his driver’s window,” according to CWBChicago.
The bullet hit a woman sleeping in the Explorer’s back seat, leaving her brain dead and unlikely to survive.
“The Explorer’s front passenger told police that the shooter was an older Black man with a salt and pepper beard. She also took a blurry picture of the gunman’s license plate and recorded a video in which she read the license plate number out loud,” CWBChicago notes.
With this information, local authorities tracked the shooting to Mills and later arrested and charged him with three counts of attempted murder.