Ex-con from Chicago featured in Jeff Sessions confirmation hearings

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLS) -- An ex-con crack dealer from Chicago was on centerstage Tuesday during the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions.

From the big house to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. - that has been the road for South Sider Alton Mills, who was sentenced in 1994 to live without parole for dealing crack cocaine. It was a third offense, which at the time, required that mandatory federal sentence.

In 2015, President Barack Obama commuted Mills' sentence and the ex-con has since become a figurehead in the movement to reform federal drug sentencing.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced Mills as his guest during the hearing which had Sessions on the hot seat for hours.

Sessions, the longtime Senator from Alabama, was challenged by Durbin for his views on the sentencing of drug violators, specifically crack cocaine offenders who faced sentences 100 times longer than powder cocaine violators at the time Mills went away in 1994.

"When I asked you to join Sen. Grassley and me in permitting the almost 5,000 still serving under this unfair 100 to 1 standard to petition individually for leniency, you refused," Durbin said during the hearing

"Sen. Durbin, I think that's rather unfair based on our relationship and how we work together," Sessions responded.

Sessions pushed back at Durbin's allegations.

"I stepped out against my own Republican administration and said openly on the floor of the Senate that I believe these crack cocaine laws were too harsh and particularly it was disadvantageous to the African American community where most of the punishments were falling," Sessions said.

Sessions and Durbin eventually reached a compromise on the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenders. It went from 100-1 to 18-1 with Durbin, Sessions and the Senate Judiciary Committee approving it. The same committee is now considering Sessions for attorney general.

For more information about Mills, visit: http://famm.org/alton-mills/
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