Washington, D.C. — Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz associates Betsy Henthorne and Hayter Whitman, with assistance from partner Rakesh Kilaru, helped secure the early release of their pro bono client, Momolu Stewart, who had been sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16. Following WW+E’s successful efforts, Stewart, who is now 39 years old, was released from prison this week.
Under a recent Washington, D.C., law, the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act (known as “IRAA”), Stewart was eligible to ask the court to reduce his sentence because he was under 18 at the time of the crime and had served more than 15 years in prison. WW+E successfully argued that Stewart should be resentenced based on, among other factors, the circumstances of his childhood, his accomplishments during his time in prison, and his demonstrated rehabilitation and fitness to society.
“The WW+E team is honored to stand beside Mr. Stewart as he re-enters society and receives a much deserved second chance at life,” said Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz associate, Betsy Henthorne. “We are proud to have successfully demonstrated to the court that he completely turned his life around over the past decade. Not only has he stayed out of trouble, but he earned his GED, completed 1400 hours of educational programming including earning college credits through Georgetown University, and has been serving as a mentor to younger inmates.”
WW+E took on Stewart’s case in July 2018. Over the last year, the team worked with experts to put together a comprehensive picture of his life for the court. Along with their motion, they submitted over 40 letters of support from friends, family, and community leaders. The WW+E team also formulated a comprehensive reentry plan for Mr. Stewart with concrete plans for housing, three job offers, and various other supports to assist him in transitioning to life in the free world. After a hearing during which Betsy and Hayter put on three witnesses and presented oral argument, the court granted Stewart’s motion to reduce his sentence. After 23 years behind bars, he was finally freed this week.
“Our firm is strongly committed to pro bono representation, and we are thrilled to have been part of Momolu Stewart’s case,” said Wilkinson Walsh + Eskovitz founding partner Sean Eskovitz. “We are especially proud that our associates provided such stellar representation, both in and out of court.”
Since the firm’s founding in 2016, WW+E attorneys and staff have consistently dedicated themselves to a broad spectrum of pro bono matters. The firm’s attorneys have spent approximately 5% of their time to pro bono matters, and nearly all of them – over 90% – have taken on such work. In recognition of the firm’s work, Vault consistently ranks WW+E as one of the top five midsize law firms for pro bono, noting that “in terms of pro bono, the firm is all in, offering tremendous support for attorneys taking on such matters.” WW+E was also recently shortlisted by Chambers & Partners for its “Pro Bono Program of the Year” award.