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A Detroit man sentenced to 124 years behind bars for a string of armed robberies could have his punishment scrapped after a ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, which cited new judicial reform laws.

The ruling could result in a new sentence of up to 35 years for Frank Richardson Jr., according to his attorney, Michael Dezsi. Richardson was re-sentenced in 2017 but the sentence was appealed.

"We put someone away for 120 years and it costs taxpayers $30,000 a year. That's absurd," said Dezsi on Monday.

Richardson, 45, of Detroit was sentenced in 2013 in U.S. District Court to more than 120 years after a federal jury found him guilty on 10 counts of robbery involving cellphone and electronics stores.

Federal authorities say Richardson was part of a crew that robbed Verizon and Radio Shack stores in Detroit and Eastpointe at gunpoint from Feb. 22, 2010, through May 8, 2010. The group allegedly put the stores under surveillance to decide which stores to be robbed and then organized a "crew" to rob the businesses.

Employees and customers were forced into storage rooms at gunpoint while Richardson's co-defendants allegedly collected cellphones into large laundry bags. Members of the group were apprehended following counter-surveillance by the Detroit FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force May 8, 2010.

Last December, President Donald Trump signed the First Step Act into law. Legal experts say it is the first set of major reforms to the nation's criminal justice system in more than a decade. The law provides prisoners with a second chance through rehabilitation initiatives, sentencing reduction and incarceration guidelines. The law also provides federal funding for programs to help prisoners transition successfully back into society.

Richardson, said Dezsi, was convicted of each of the counts in a federal indictment. He was sentenced to a mandatory seven years for the first count of brandishing a weapon, and 25 years each for four other counts, with each penalty to run consecutively. 

Dezsi said it was the "stacking" of the sentences that pushed Richardson's sentence over 100 years. Richardson's release date from prison is Nov. 18, 2118. The federal website for the Bureau of Prisons has a disclaimer that "Due to the First Step Act, sentences are being reviewed and recalculated to address pending Good Conduct Time changes."

Under the new law, defendants are entitled to be re-sentenced under the First Step Act. A provision of the law changes some of the penalties for which Richardson was sentenced for the gun-related charges. Dezsi said because his client's conviction and sentence is not yet final, he is entitled to be re-sentenced even though the offense he is charged with occurred before the new law went into effect.

Dezsi said Monday that Richardson's conviction has not yet been filed in permanent record because of the appeals. He said the Supreme Court has granted very few of the judgments to vacate sentences for defendants seeking relief under the First Step Act.

Richardson's case will go back to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati for review and determination about his punishment. 

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit declined to comment Monday on the new developments in the case.

Richardson is housed at a federal prison in Kentucky.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2027

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