Black Man Featured in BET’s ‘Smoke’ Documentary Is Free After Trump Pardon

Corvain Cooper was imprisoned under the 1994 crime bill’s “three strikes” rule.

A man who was sentenced to life in prison under the heavily-maligned “three strikes” rule in the 1994 crime bill has returned home to his family after being pardoned by former President Donald Trump.

Corvain Cooper, who was featured last year in BET’s documentary Smoke: Marijuana + Black America, was arrested in 2013 in California for selling marijuana. Ironically, it was in an area where dispensaries are actually legal. According to, he was not a large part of the marijuana dealing operation, but the law allowed him to be charged with others for the same conduct.

Cooper spent 7 years in prison, but the day before his term ended, Trump gave pardons and clemency to 143 people who had been incarcerated including former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and rapper Lil’ Wayne. The pardon meant Cooper was immediately freed, allowing him to return to his son and daughter.

Cooper’s release from prison was abrupt. He was simply sitting in his cell and summoned out, informed that his days in prison were over.

"So I am in a cell for about an hour and then they come to the door and say, 'Pack it up, you got five minutes to get out of here. You just got immediately released.' And I just break down," he said.

When he finally saw his children, he became emotional and was sorry for his mistakes.

"I see my daughters and I finally got to tell 'em, you know, I'm sorry. Your dad's sorry. I had chose the wrong trying to provide for you guys...And it took me away from you guys. ... I'm sorry for missing everything that I've missed," Cooper said in an appearance Friday (Jan. 29) on CBS This Morning.

RELATED: Director of BET’s New Doc ‘Smoke’ Explores The Impact Of Marijuana On Black America And The Complex Nuances Of Legalization

Cooper was one of at least 12 that were serving lengthy sentences for non-violent drug crimes. The “three strikes” rule has reportedly been a particularly harsh component of the 1994 crime bill, which was authored during the Clinton administration — and initially supported by then-Sen. Joe Biden. The criminal justice reform plan Biden outlined during his 2020 presidential campaign aims at reversing parts of it, according to the Associated Press. It is unclear, however, if federal marijuana policy will change now that he is in the White House.

Cooper said that Smoke was critical to raising awareness about the discrepancies between sentencing of people of color and whites over marijuana possession.

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