Joel Francisco, One Of First Prisoners Released Under Donald Trump’s Criminal Reform Act, Charged With Murder

A mugshot of murder suspect Joel Francisco.
Providence Police Department

Joel Francisco was one of the first prisoners in the United States released under Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform act, but now the Rhode Island man could be headed back to prison after being accused of fatally stabbing a man in a hookah bar.

As the Providence Journal reported, Francisco was released from federal prison in February under the bipartisan reform bill but found himself in a series of troubling incidents that culminated with an alleged stabbing. Federal prosecutors say Francisco committed first-degree murder in the stabbing death of 46-year-old Troy Pine on October 2, and that he also violated the terms of his supervised release by using drugs and trying to break into his ex-girlfriend’s home back in July.

Francisco was arrested in October by federal marshals at a motel in New Braunfels, Texas. Authorities said he was trying to flee to Mexico.

Francisco was originally sentenced to life in prison for trafficking crack cocaine, but ended up spending 14 years behind bars before his release earlier this year. As CNN reported, Francisco was a purported leader of the street gang Latin Kings, but officials said he made significant efforts to rehabilitate himself during his time behind bars.

Family members of Pine said they were upset that Francisco was allowed to commit so many alleged violations and remain free.

“It’s kind of confusing that he was allowed to mess up so many times. I hope they take this as a complete lesson,” Pine’s nephew, Jay Chattelle, told the Providence Journal.

Francisco’s arrest for murder also gave fodder to critics of the reform bill, which was one of the landmark achievements of Trump’s tenure.

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“This case is upsetting but it’s not a surprise,” said Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican who opposed the passage of the reform law. “Letting violent felons out of prison early as the First Step Act did leads to more crime and more victims.”

The bill had passed with bipartisan support and even had some star power behind it, as reality television star Kim Kardashian lobbied Trump to pass it and highlighted cases of individuals imprisoned for long periods for selling drugs.

Francisco’s immediate fate was unclear, the Providence Journal noted. Federal prosecutors could sentence him to five years in prison if there is a preponderance of evidence that he committed the violations, but state prosecutors may first want to prosecute him on the first-degree murder charge before he is sentenced for the violations.