College Student Helps Childhood Friend Get Released From Prison 12 Years Early
The childhood friends took different paths after growing up together in Maryland.
February 17, 2022 at 9:21 pm
Childhood friends Brandon Harris and Sura Sohna grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, during their elementary and middle school years. However, after high school they took different paths that led them on different journeys, according to Good Morning America.
In 2018, Sohna was charged as an adult for first-degree burglary and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Harris, however, had graduated from a private high school and enrolled in Davidson College in North Carolina. He received a full scholarship and is working toward acquiring a bachelor's degree in philosophy.
When Harris saw how his friend was being portrayed on the news, he decided to step in and fight for his friend's freedom.
"It always bothered me that people did not recognize him in an objective way," Harris said, according to Queen City News. "I saw him on the news many times for his burglaries and his mug shots on TV news on the newspaper, everything, everybody talking bad about him."
Harris sought to become Sohna's advocate, and in Jan. 2021, he attempted to get Sohna's sentence reduced.
"I went through all the public records at the court. I reached out to all of his victims that I could find in public records," he said, adding that he even spoke to the officers who arrested Sohna, the prosecutors, Sohna himself and his family.
Harris spent time at the library on his college campus researching and working to have Sohna released from prison. He later compiled his research and posted it on Davidson College's YouTube channel in April 2021, according to the school's website.
Harris allowed Sohna to explain his situation and choices, and viewers also asked him questions. After Harris contacted Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Sohna was able to speak with the governor over Zoom.
"I had known before that Sura is a victim of a system that has been against him for a long time," Harris said, according to GMA. "The situations that he's had to go through are just unjust and unfair, and nobody should ever have to go through what he's had to go through growing up."
Harris' efforts eventually led to securing a court date, and on Feb. 8, 2022, Sohna was released from prison 12 years earlier than his expected date.
"I'm thankful and blessed. And I'm glad to have this opportunity," Sohna told ABC News.
Sohna gives full credit to Harris for conducting an advocacy project that aided in Sohna's early release.
"I said I want to do a project called 'Telling the Stories of the Ignored or Forgotten,'" Harris said, according to ABC News. "And Sura was someone who I consider to be ignored and forgotten by society."
Sohna said his childhood was difficult, and he experienced homelessness and unstable living conditions. He shared that his family moved to a public housing community where he witnessed violence, police brutality and drugs.
"Growing up, I didn't really have anything," Sohna said. "I didn't have much. I would be picked on for not having things and I felt like instead of being a victim of things, I should become a victimizer and start to do negative things," he said. "I feel like I was dealt a bad hand, but I knew right from wrong, and I made bad decisions."
"I realized how selfish I was," he continued. "The person that I used to be was selfish, a liar. I just had to own up to that guilt."
Sohna said he plans to complete his education and study for his GED. He wants to pursue a college degree in film production, photography and acting. Harris switched from being pre-med to law school to continue speaking up for the voiceless.