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Man serving life sentence for non-violent crime reunites with family after receiving commutation: "A piece of me is back"

Man returns home after last-minute clemency
LA man facing life in prison for marijuana crimes granted clemency by former President Trump 05:44

In 2020, Corvain Cooper was featured in the BET documentary titled "Smoke: Marijuana + Black America." In a telephone interview from a maximum-security prison in Louisiana, the 41-year-old Cooper detailed his sentence.

"I'm serving a life sentence for marijuana, money laundering and tax evasion for a non-violent crime," Cooper said in the documentary.

A year later, Cooper is free and at home, finally able to hug daughters, Scotlyn,15, and Cleer, 11, after spending nearly eight years in prison.

"I see my daughters and I finally got to tell 'em, you know, I'm sorry. Your dad's sorry. I had chose the wrong trying to provide for you guys...And it took me away from you guys. ... I'm sorry for missing everything that I've missed," Cooper told "CBS This Morning" national correspondent Jericka Duncan exclusively.

It's been a long couple of years for Cooper and his family. He reflected on how his time behind bars impacted his daughter and his family.

"The pain that I have caused on my kids and on my dad and on my mom and on my family and on my loved ones and the pain that I caused on myself," he said. When he was arrested in 2013, Cooper said he hadn't sold marijuana in at least four years.

"I had a clothing store, it was like a was called SC clothing named after my kids Scotlyn and Cleer. I had their faces on the side of the wall," he said in the BET documentary.

Cooper was convicted for his involvement in trafficking marijuana from California to North Carolina. He was sentenced under the now widely-criticized 1994 federal crime bill's three-strikes rule.

He had two previous non-violent convictions; which were both later vacated. But because of those two convictions, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his third conviction. 

"I'm watching rapists get out and my brother is in prison facing life without the possibility of parole," Cooper's sister, Shqunda, said. "Things have changed. You know what I mean? And he's not there all because of marijuana? And then it's legal here. So it makes it even worse." 

California legalized cannabis in 2017. Cooper said in the BET documentary that growing up in California, his children often saw marijuana dispensaries. 

"My kids have to roll by every day by living in California and they have to see more dispensaries than they can even see liquor stores. The clothing store that I built from the ground up, that I put my kids' faces on, had all events in the neighborhood, finally to make my dream come true turned into a change the clothing store to a weed store," he said.

While the nation has been decriminalizing marijuana possession and its use over the last decade, relief for Cooper didn't come until the very last day of Donald Trump's presidency when he granted Cooper and at least 11 others clemency.

His life sentence was just one of 143 cases that received commutation during Mr. Trump's last weeks in the White House. Of the people who had their sentences commuted, at least 12 were serving lengthy time for non-violent drug-related crimes. Cooper detailed to Duncan what his final day of prison was like.n 

"So I am in a cell for about an hour and then they come to the door and say, 'Pack it up, you got five minutes to get out of here. You just got immediately released.' And I just break down," he said.

"Wow. Just like that," Duncan said,

"Just like that...I made my first call and I called my mom. And she said—I'm crying uncontrollably. But she says, 'What are you crying for? Ivanka Trump called me at 12:30 and said that you that you're coming home," Cooper recalled. 

He spent his homecoming spending time with his daughters—who were happy to have their dad home. 

"It's like to have my dad home; it's like a relief. Like it's like, I was when he was in jail, it was like I was missing a part of him. It's like a piece of me is back," his daughter, Cleer, said. 

"It was like memories lost. Like, I would see my friends have their dad there and they would pick them up and I didn't have that memory with my dad," his daughter, Scotlyn, said. 

Cooper is now a dad determined to set an example by growing a message of hope.

"How do you save someone like yourself at that time?" Duncan asked.

"The first thing I wanna tell them is they get to see the results. They get to see what actually happened to me. I got a life sentence," Cooper said. "And I wanna show them the stuff that they're chasing is all fools' gold."

Cooper started a website selling clothing and also advocating for companies that legally sell marijuana. He called the BET documentary pivotal to raising awareness about his story and so many others. BET is a division of Viacom CBS. 

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