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01.20.2022 Firm News

O’Toole Wins First Ever Conditional Pardon Through Virginia Redemption Project

Brendan D. O’Toole, a litigation partner with Williams Mullen and pro bono attorney volunteering with the Virginia Redemption Project, secured the project’s first-ever Conditional Pardon. On January 12, 2022, Gov. Ralph S. Northam granted a Conditional Pardon to Sincere Allah, a 41-year-old African American man who, at the time he received clemency, had served 23 years of a 45-year prison sentence.

“Mr. Allah received an excessive and unfair sentence despite serious questions concerning his guilt,” stated O’Toole. “He was an exemplary and accomplished inmate, earning his GED and numerous certificates of achievement and appreciation for his efforts to teach and mentor his fellow inmates. He used his passion for education and commitment to serving others to better himself and those around him. In fact, the inmate mentoring and personal growth program founded and developed by Mr. Allah is still used by the Virginia Department of Corrections today.”

In granting the pardon, Gov. Northam noted that Mr. Allah “was 18 years old at the time of his crimes and has spent more of his life incarcerated than he has as a free man.” He also praised Mr. Allah’s demonstrated “commitment to reformation and redemption.”

The Virginia Redemption Project was launched in August of 2020 to help train and support volunteer lawyers as they assist individuals incarcerated in Virginia’s prisons to petition for post-sentencing relief and executive clemency (which in Virginia is called a Conditional Pardon and is an act by the governor to modify a sentence). The Virginia Redemption Project focuses on ensuring that those who are most at risk of illness from COVID-19 and who cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review of their cases.

O’Toole further commented, “It is an absolute honor to have helped Mr. Allah begin this new chapter. He touched many lives in prison, while never losing hope that his freedom could help him be even more productive on the outside. I know he will continue these same efforts now that his long fight for freedom has been realized. It has been a privilege to work alongside members of the Virginia Redemption Project to achieve this wonderful result. I want to extend my thanks to everyone who helped give Mr. Allah a second chance at life, including my assistant, Karoline Barbie, former colleague, attorney Evan Tucker, the tireless advocacy of Virginia Sen. Jennifer Boysko, former Virginia Delegates Lashrecse Aird and Jay Jones, and Mr. Allah’s lifelong friends, among others. Finally, I am grateful to former Gov. Northam for having the compassion and sense of justice to grant Mr. Allah a Conditional Pardon.” 

“Throughout his career, Brendan has been singularly focused on helping his clients get their desired results, so I am not surprised that he would find similar success in this remarkable pro bono effort with the Virginia Redemption Project,” said Woody Fowler, President & CEO of Williams Mullen. “We are very proud of Brendan’s exemplary work on behalf of his client.”

“NACDL congratulates Brendan O’Toole on his work in securing this much-deserved grant,” said Virginia Redemption Project Resource Counsel Katherine Jensen. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is important to remember that many deserving individuals are still being held in our nation’s prisons and jails and need acts like this to receive relief. The Project will continue on, hoping for more grants in the future, and of course celebrate this life-saving grant.”