Momolu Stewart’s case is featured in the reality TV star’s Oxygen documentary, ‘Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project.’ His story is a bright spot in the two-hour special.
In 2019, a year after lobbying President Donald Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson (a grandmother sentenced to life for a first time non-violent drug offence), Kim Kardashian wrote a letter championing another cause. It was that of Momolu Stewart, a then 39-year-old Washington, D.C. inmate. His story is one of the bright spots in Oxygen’s two-hour documentary special, Kim Kardashian West: The Justice Project, which premieres on April 5, 2020 at 7pm. That’s because Momolu, who spent nearly 23 years in jail after being convicted of murder when he was 16, was granted his release on Oct. 4, 2019 after his life sentence was reduced. Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. The incident happened on New Year’s Day 1997. Momolu and another teenager confronted 22-year-old drug dealer Mark Rosebure at an apartment building in Southeast Washington, according to the Washington Post. Both teens were armed. When Mark made a gesture to his waistband, they shot him multiple times. They said Mark had robbed them earlier and they were confronting him over that. Prosecutors disputed the claim, saying they were trying to rob Rosebure when he was killed.
2. Kim Kardashian petitioned for his sentence to be reduced. “I write today in support of Momolu Stewart, who is seeking relief under the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act of 2016,” Kim wrote in her Aug. 5, 2019 letter to DC Superior Court Judge Robert Salerno. “[He] is a model citizen who has demonstrated clear rehabilitation. However, his petition is being opposed…In 2012, the US Supreme court ruled that juveniles could no longer be sentenced to life without parole… Without relief, Momolu will remain in prison until at least 2041 (his parole eligibility date, when he will be 61-years-old….He longs to rejoin his community and be a contributing member of society, and I believe he is truly deserving of this opportunity.” In September 2019, the judge said he would grant Momolu’s request to have his sentences shortened.
3. His mother reportedly killed his father.“Momolu’s mother killed his father, a college professor, when he was only 6-years-old, leaving him effectively orphaned, and starting a heartbreaking and traumatizing journey,” Kim wrote in her letter. “Without his father, Momolu turned to the streets for guidance.”
4. Momolu appeared in 1998’sSlam.In 1998, a 17-year-old Momolu appeared in the movie Slam, engaging in a freestyle rap with Saul Williams’s character.
5. He was released due to the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act. At the time more than 20 inmates, including Stewart, had petitions decided under a 2017 law called the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, perWashington Post. The District law allows inmates who committed their crimes when they were younger than 18 and spent at least 15 years in prison, a chance to have their sentences cut.
The idea is that the brains of teenagers and young adults are not fully mature and that those who offend at younger ages should not receive adult punishments of decades in prison. Many thought Momolu deserved the second chance, as more than 40 letters (including the one from Kim) were submitted on his behalf. Kareem McCraney, Momolu’s co-defendant in the case, was released previously in 2018 under the same law.