LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas has released early 18 violent criminals, following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
It struck down the Armed Career Criminal Act in 2015, which required a minimum 15-year sentence for felons caught with a firearm who already have three violent crime convictions.
During his visit to Little Rock Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted one case in particular: Cornelius Spencer.
“Never had many good fortune with weed eaters,” said William Guiden, frustrated as he tries to get the piece of lawn equipment to start.
This one sound cut through Guiden’s quiet Little Rock neighborhood Thursday morning.
“It’s mostly like this all the time,” he said.
When Guiden moved to South Izard Street in 1978, he was the youngest on the block.
“I know about 47 people who have died since I’ve been here,” he said. “I counted them. I miss them.”
Now one of the oldest neighbors at 72 years old, Guiden makes it a point to know who is new.
“Little bitty kids in that house right there,” he said. “Nobody’s in that house. One single gal lives in that house.”
The name Cornelius Spencer does not ring a bell.
“He may be in that house up on the corner,” Guiden said, pointing to a halfway house. “They sent us all letters and told us we couldn’t be mean to them.”
Spencer is now behind bars again.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Johnson v. United States case allowed his early release. Sessions added what Spencer did next to his list of why the law needs a legislative fix.
“The consequences have been devastating in a number of areas,” Sessions told a group of law enforcement officials during a press conference at U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland’s office.
Eight months after his release, Spencer was rearrested for aggravated assault and domestic battery. A year later, we reported how he was arrested for kidnapping and raping two homeless people in Little Rock.
“A 62-year-old woman and an autistic homeless man,” Sessions said.
That comes as a relief to Guiden, who plans to keep his neighborhood quiet.
“How many chances should you be able to get?,” reporter Jessi Turnure asked him.
“Maybe one,” Guiden said. “Because you did it and if you get out, you ought to do better.”
Sessions said 1,400 total violent criminals have been released under the ruling in the past three years. Almost half of them have been rearrested an average of three times.
The attorney general announced U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, is currently working on legislation along these lines but would not elaborate. We have reached out to Cotton’s office for comment but have yet to hear back.
Sessions also challenged the Arkansas legislature to work on a loophole fix during the 2019 session.