A campaign seeking the release of a Nashville man from prison is flourishing on social media in the week following WPLN's report on Matthew Charles's case. Charles was released early in 2016, but a higher court later ruled his sentence reduction was a mistake and ordered him back behind bars.
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition seeking his release. That campaign has largely been supported by conservative figures and news outlets, like The Washington Review, which published an op-ed supporting clemency for Charles, and Fox News.
“I’ve never seen one [case] take off as quickly as quickly as this one did and be embraced by people on the right and left,” says Kevin Ring, president of the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
“People who have had no interest in criminal justice issues, who see themselves as tough on crime, have still embraced Matthew Charles as a cause worth fighting for.”
Ring been publicly speaking out in support of Charles for months and was the first in a string of guests to appear on Fox News’ Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, who has dedicated multiple segments to Charles’ story. Other Fox commentators, including Tomi Lahren, have also publicly supported Charles.
Ring says Trump’s most recent —and potential — pardon announcements, which include public figures and celebrities, have actually strengthened public support for Charles.
“[Everyday people] can’t identify with Martha Stewart, but they can with Matthew Charles. I’ve never seen such outpouring,” says Ring. “This has transcended politics.”
While conservative figures circulated the story early, the support across the aisle is also getting louder. Last week, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff called out the president’s penchant for celebrity pardons on Twitter, adding that that power should be reserved “to right injustices,” like that of Matthew Charles.
On Friday, The New York Times highlighted Charles’ case.
Other notable names who have expressed outrage at Charles’ sentence include MSNBC correspondent Joy Read, Chelsea Clinton and reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who called his case "so sad" a day before her meeting at the White House to discuss criminal justice reform.
Shon Hopwood — a former jailhouse lawyer, current Georgetown law professor and prominent criminal justice attorney — also learned about Charles through social media.
Last week, Hopwood announced he would represent Charles in a clemency petition pro bono. The request will be sent to the White House soon, he says.