Press Release January 11, 2021

Goodwin and Last Prisoner Project Secure Compassionate Release for Andy Cox Following 13 Years of Life Prison Sentence for Non-Violent Cannabis-Related Offense

On January 5, 2021, Goodwin’s Cannabis practice secured the compassionate release of Andy Cox, a former firefighter, small business owner, and father of three serving a life sentence in federal prison for a non-violent cannabis offense. Goodwin took the case pro bono in 2020 as part of the firm’s partnership with the Last Prisoner Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing restorative justice to those who have suffered under cannabis criminalization as more U.S. states move to full legalization. 

In December 2020, following extensive factual and legal investigation, Goodwin filed a motion for compassionate release in the Northern District of Georgia on behalf of Cox, 57, an inmate at Atwater Prison in California who had served nearly 13 years of his life sentence. Cox was indicted in 2005 for conspiracy to manufacture marijuana for growing cannabis plants in the forest on his father's property. Goodwin brought Cox’s motion pursuant to the 2018 First Step Act on two primary bases: first, that the COVID-19 pandemic presented an “extraordinary and compelling” reason to release Cox, whose age and health conditions made him particularly susceptible to the illness; and second, that Mr. Cox’s life sentence was issued under an outdated sentencing regime that imposed mandatory minimums no longer in place and for behavior (growing cannabis) that is now legal in many states. 

Following the appointment of a Northern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney to respond to our motion, the Goodwin team had several calls with the AUSA to try to negotiate a non-opposition response from the government. In a filing on January 5, 2021, the government filed a brief affirmatively consenting to Cox’s release from prison.  Later that same day, the assigned judge in the Northern District of Georgia granted Goodwin’s motion and ordered that Cox be released immediately from Atwater and sent home to his family in Florida. On January 6, 2021, Cox walked out of prison a free man and is now reunited with his 81-year old mother, two children and family in Florida. 

“Me and my family are forever indebted to Goodwin, they saved my life,” said Cox. “I am so blessed to have such an amazing team work so hard for my freedom.”

The Goodwin team was led by Cannabis practice Co-Chair Brett Schuman and included Brendan Radke, Joni Noggle, Jade White, Yoona Lee, Sophie Stramm, and Hilarie Bellis, with further assistance from Andrea Boivin, Ashley Neree, Bethannie Tamargo, and Katya Foka.

Goodwin is currently engaging 20 lawyers in its partnership with LPP to help nine individuals in seeking justice for their incarceration under outdated cannabis-related laws. Cox’s release marks Goodwin’s second win with LPP. In September 2020, Goodwin secured the compassionate release of Philong Chong following five years served in prison for a non-violent cannabis-related infractions.

“Last Prisoner Project is so grateful to the Goodwin team for their tireless efforts on this case,” said Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel of LPP. “Their pro bono work on compassionate release is giving our constituents a second chance at life.  We are thrilled that these efforts have allowed Andy to reconnect with his family after serving 13 years of an unjust sentence.”

Each year, through Goodwin’s Pro Bono initiative, its lawyers dedicate more than 65,000 hours to help individuals and nonprofit organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford legal assistance.

For more details on Cox’s case, read the press release.