Suns head coach Monty Williams recognizes wrongfully incarcerated men at post-game press conference
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - After a win against the Lakers Monday night in Phoenix, Suns head coach Monty Williams finished his postgame press conference by addressing four special guests in the back of the room. It was unexpected and entirely unrelated to basketball.
“For you all to come support us but have your spirit, and I can see it in your eyes, you have a lot of life in you, and I pray to God you have a lot of good life ahead of you,” he said. “And so I just want to tell you how grateful we are that you guys could come be with us tonight.”
Williams was speaking to three longtime clients of the Arizona Justice Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping inmates overturn wrongful and excessive convictions, and the organization’s executive director Lindsay Herf. He asked each of the men to stand up, introduce themselves, and how long they were wrongfully incarcerated.
Louis Harper: 23 years, 7 months. Brandon Jordan: 9 years. Khalil Rushdan: 16 years. Shaking his head, Williams continued. “None of us can even imagine, man. I mean for you guys to be here in your right minds, great spirit, it’s amazing.” Harper, Jordan and Rushdan were celebrating their freedom anniversaries this December by attending a Suns game as a guest of Williams.
“First Suns game of my whole life,” Harper said. “Never been to a Suns game. And I was happy, first time, so excited. I had a good time. Real good time.” The 58-year-old was arrested in the late 80′s for selling $20 worth of drugs to an undercover police officer. He was sentenced for 50 years. “It was hard. It was hard,” he said. “Hard thing to do. But I stayed strong through it. I never gave up.” He served nearly half that time before the Arizona Justice Project stepped in. Harper was released on New Year’s Eve in 2011.
Harper said, “I could breathe again. In there [prison], it’s kind of hard to breathe, but when I got outside and felt the fresh air, I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m home.’” 11 years later, the father, and grandfather to three, recognized by one of the most respected voices in Phoenix. Coach Williams said to the men, “All of us, we’re in awe and we applaud who you are and the fortitude and backbone that it took to just stick it out. Cause I’m sure there were some tough days where it didn’t work out the way you wanted it to.”
Harper, who wasn’t expecting the Suns coach to speak publicly about him, says, “Here’s somebody speaking highly of us, because of the situation we’ve been in. I just thank, I’m just happy that he, you know, spoke for us.” Williams also acknowledged Herf, and the work the Arizona Justice Project’s done to exonerate the innocent and correct cases of manifest justice - pro bono - for almost 25 years. “The hours and the litigation and all the stuff that I’ve seen in movies that I can’t even relate to - that kind of sacrifice is incredible. And this is the fruit and the byproduct of that. This is an amazing day. So, thank you all for coming.”
Copyright 2022 KTVK/KPHO. All rights reserved.