In April 2002, 19-year-old Webster Alexander was arrested in his home in Moulton, Alabama, and charged with six drug counts. It was his first arrest.
Alexander had sold marijuana on several occasions to a police officer posing as a student at Alexander's high school. The total of all four marijuana sales was $350.
Alexander was charged with four counts of distribution of marijuana and one count each of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. However, Alabama law increases penalties for drug sales within three miles of a school, and Alexander's home was just within the proscribed distance. As a result, he received a 26-year prison sentence after arranging a plea bargain with local prosecutors.
At sentencing, Alexander received 13 years for each of the four distribution charges, with two of the sentences to run concurrently. He also received five years for the marijuana possession charge and six months for the paraphernalia charge, both of which were also to run concurrently with the distribution charges.
Alexander's draconian sentence made headlines worldwide, including the cover of Rolling Stone. Incredibly, though, the teenager could have received 130 years in jail if he had not agreed to the plea bargain.
In the months between Alexander's arrest and his final hearing before entering prison, Alexander was free after his uncle posted $90,000 bail. Expelled from his public high school, Alexander enrolled in a private school, where he earned his high school diploma.
He found work as a bricklayer, completed drug rehabilitation, and finished a years worth of classes at a community college. He also began counseling troubled youth and warning kids of the dangers of drugs.
In light of Alexander's accomplishments after his arrest, Circuit Judge Philip Reich reduced Alexander's sentence to one year in a county jail, one year of probation, and 300 hours of community service. At the June 11, 2003, hearing, Reich told Alexander that "there may be those that think you're not worth fooling with, and you should be sent to prison, but I'm not of that opinion, presently."