Quante Wright spent more than four years behind bars after pleading guilty to a host of charges related to his position in Syracuse’s Brighton Brigade gang.
But since being released, Wright had turned his life around. He graduated from Bryant and Stratton College this week and got his “dream job” selling cars at Lowery Brothers Chrysler Jeep. He even caught the attention of a local Congressman, the same one who helped put him in prison years before.
That’s where the story takes a bizarre turn.
This week, the Syracuse Post-Standard wrote a feature on Wright and his relationship to Congressman John Katko. The congressman was a federal prosecutor who helped convict Wright, and he also happened to be the speaker at Wright’s graduation this week, where he praised the former gang member.
“Quante. Where are you?” Katko said during his remarks. “I want to tell you I’m very proud of you. Keep it up.”
Wright’s story made nationwide headlines, but it also had a much darker side effect. When management at Lowerky Brothers Chrysler Jeep read the story they fired Quante Wright.
The Post-Standard noted the following.
“Steve Spector is the manager at the car dealership who hired and fired Wright. He said he hired Wright based on an interview with him and his resume. He did not ask Wright if he had any criminal convictions during that interview and Wright didn’t offer up the information Spector said.”
“Spector said he became aware that Wright had a criminal past and that he was living in halfway house after Wright filled out the form. But Spector said he didn’t know much about the nature of Wright’s crimes until he read the Syracuse.com story.”
Wright’s case hasn’t exactly been private. A Google search of his name turns up a 2013 story, also from the Post-Standard, from a program to convince young men to get out of gangs. Wright, who was freshly out of prison, was one of the people who spoke to gang members in an effort to help them turn around their lives.
“That’s not the solution,” Wright said in the story, in reference to whether prison can solve the gang problem. “The solution is God.”
But many are now lining up behind Quante Wright. When the story was shared on Reddit, many people spoke out in favor and some even offered jobs.
Others, like Marsha Weissman, executive director of the Center for Community Alternatives, think his story makes a strong case for sentencing reform.
“There is so much stigma that attaches to a criminal record, so much stereotyping of people who have records that it’s so hard for them to really get a second chance,” Weissman said. “I really do hope that as a community we step up and really give him the second chance that he seems to be working so hard to get.”
But despite all the support he has found, Quante Wright is still without a job. The car dealership is standing behind its decision to fire the former gang member.
[Image via Syracuse.com/Wright family]