Free Willie Simmons Jr.

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A $9 theft has imprisoned a man since 1982, now a journalist is calling out the injustice. On Saturday, journalist Beth Shelburne shared the story of Willie Simmons Jr. on Twitter in a series of tweets after speaking with the Alabama man about his story. To date, her tweets have been retweeted more than 100,000 times. Shelburne’s viral thread reveals that in 1982, Simmons was convicted of first degree robbery after wrestling a man to the ground to steal his wallet, which only contained $9, and sentenced to life without parole. “I was just trying to get me a quick fix,” Simmons said admitting that he was high on drugs at the time of the incident. He was arrested just a few blocks away. He remembers his trial lasting 25 minutes and his appointed attorney calling no witnesses,” she wrote. “Prosecutors did not offer him a plea deal, even though all of his prior offenses were nonviolent. ‘They kept saying we’ll do our best to keep you off the streets for good,’ he said.” Simmons was prosecuted under Alabama’s controversial habitual offender law because he had three prior convictions, all of which were nonviolent offenses. Simmons is incarcerated at Holman, one of the most violent prisons in the country,” Shelburne wrote. “He is studying for his GED and “tries to stay away from the wild bunch.” He got sober in prison 18 years ago, despite being surrounded by drugs. “I just talked to God about it,” he said. According to her tweets, Shelburne was Simmons’ first visitor since his sister died in 2005 and after filing appeal after appeal, he had been consistently denied. In 2014, lawmakers made it impossible for inmates sentenced to life without parole under the habitual offenders law to appeal their case, but Simmons has hope. Yes, I’ve been hoping and praying on it,” he said. “I ain’t giving up.”