Pardon sought for Missouri protester who got 8-year sentence

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Joshua Williams (center) and Nicholas Austin Jackson shout at St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson as he attempts to speak at a meeting of the Ferguson Commission, a special advisory board appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to recommend governing solutions. Some in the crowd stood and turned their back on Dotson as he spoke, others heckled him. (David Carson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch – December 8, 2014)

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ST. LOUIS – A Missouri legislator is asking the governor to pardon a man who was sentenced to eight years in prison for starting a fire at a store during a protest over a fatal officer-involved shooting.

Democratic Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. says the prison sentence given to Joshua Williams was “harsh.” A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Mike Parson says he was traveling Tuesday and wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Williams and Franks are both black and were frequent protesters in Ferguson after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014.

In December 2014, an officer in nearby Berkeley fatally shot 18-year-old Antonio Martin. During a protest of that shooting, Williams set fire at a convenience store. Damage was minimal.

Franks says protesters convicted of similar crimes have received far more lenient sentences.

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