Press Release

Cooley and Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project Secure Kenneth Bond-El’s Early Release

Bond-El maintained his innocence for more than 25 years despite a first-degree murder conviction and has now been released from prison
February 14, 2023

Washington, DC – February 14, 2023 – Cooley and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) secured an early release for pro bono client Kenneth Bond-El, who was convicted of first-degree murder at the age of 16 and sentenced to life imprisonment plus 60 years in 1997. Lawyers Dee Bansal, Beth Shrieves, Natalie Pike and retired partner Erich Veitenheimer led the Cooley team, with support from paralegal Courtney Fisher. Bond-El also was represented by professor Marc Howard from Georgetown University and Brian Saccenti from the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.

Cooley and MAIP became involved with Bond-El’s case because of a lack of evidence supporting his conviction, which was largely based on the testimony of a single eyewitness. The team worked with a private investigator, re-interviewed witnesses, resurfaced old evidence, examined Bond-El’s alibi and spoke with ballistic experts, becoming more convinced of Bond-El’s innocence throughout the process.

During the team’s investigation, Maryland passed the Juvenile Restoration Act (JRA), under which individuals convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles can seek to have their sentences reduced, if they can establish certain mitigating factors. The team focused the motion for relief on how he spent his time in prison bettering himself.

Over the past 27 years, Bond-El worked hard to become an accomplished student, dedicated employee and well-respected mentor. He was admitted to the Second Chance Pell Grant program at the University of Baltimore, where his outstanding academic performance landed him on the dean’s list. He will soon receive his bachelor’s degree through the honors program. He also has a spotless disciplinary record, earned multiple certifications as an employee with Maryland Correctional Enterprises and is a trusted mediator and mentor to incarcerated youth.

The court held a hearing for the JRA motion on February 2, 2023. After hearing all the evidence, including information about Bond-El’s exemplary record while in prison, the judge agreed it would be hard to find a more deserving candidate for relief and reduced Bond-El’s sentence to 40 years. Bond-El had enough credits for good behavior that he became eligible for immediate release. He was released from prison – for a crime he has maintained for almost three decades he did not commit – on February 9, at the age of 43.

Bond-El is elated to finally be home with his family. He will continue to work on his studies, career and proving his innocence, as a free man.

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