A Nashville man facing another decade in prison, a year and a half after his release, may be able to continue his life on the outside.
Late Friday, hours after WPLN reported on Matthew Charles' upcoming hearing that would overturn his previously reduced sentence, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger filed an order making a rare request: She asked the U.S. Attorney's office, which prosecuted the case, to review it.
She alluded to Charles’ personal transformation in prison and after, as well as the intricacies of the case. She also postponed his sentencing hearing scheduled for Jan. 4 until further notice.
"Given the unique procedural posture of this case and the Defendant’s [Charles'] undisputed rehabilitation, the court respectfully requests that the newly-appointed United States Attorney, Donald Q. Cochran, personally review this case in the context of the Holloway case," she wrote in the order.
If the prosecution decides to drop the case against Charles, this could lead to his continued freedom. The U.S. Attorney's office did not immediately reply to a request for comment Saturday.
Trauger refers to the 2014 case United States v. Holloway, in which a federal judge in New York asked a prosecutor to dismiss several charges in the case of Francois Holloway, a man serving a 57-year sentence. In that case, the prosecutor agreed — effectively allowing the judge to reduce Holloway's sentence and release him from prison.
Charles' federal public defender Michael Holley filed a motion for relief citing the Holloway case in early December. Last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cecil VanDevender filed a 16-page response. In it, he asserts that Charles is not only ineligible, but also goes on to ask the court to cancel the sentencing hearing completely, adding that there's no reason for Charles to be present for the reinstatement of his original sentence.
Judge Trauger's order gives the prosecution until the end of January to respond.
But while Donald Cochran, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, has to review the case, he doesn't have to change his position. If the prosecution decides to move forward, Trauger would be bound by the higher court's order to reimpose his original sentence.
Spending what could have been his last Saturday of freedom volunteering at a food pantry, Charles says he was speechless when he received the phone call from his attorney.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I stood there for a moment and just had to breathe." Charles says he thanked his lawyer, then stepped inside back to work.