SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A co-host of “Ear Hustle,” the Pulitzer Prize-nominated podcast produced behind bars, was released from San Quentin State Prison on Wednesday, a year after California Gov. Gavin Newsom commuted his sentence.
Rahsaan “New York” Thomas, 52, left the lockup near San Francisco and was greeted by his fellow podcast co-hosts Walter “Earlonne” Woods, who was freed in 2019, and Nigel Poor.
“We’re thrilled to welcome him home,” the podcast posted on its Twitter feed, along with photos of Thomas.
Thomas’ sentence was commuted by Newsom in Jan. 2022 and the state parole board granted his release on parole in August.
“While in prison, Mr. Thomas has dedicated himself to his rehabilitation,” Newsom wrote in the commutation.
Thomas was serving a 55 1/2 years-to-life sentence for a second-degree murder conviction in 2000 and related charges after he fatally shot one victim and injured another during a drug deal. A Los Angeles County jury rejected his self-defense claim that he fatally shot a man who was trying to rob him.
Since 2019, Thomas has been a co-producer and co-host of “Ear Hustle”— named after prison slang for eavesdropping. He was also a regular contributor to the San Quentin News, along with publications outside prison walls. He served as chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ San Quentin satellite chapter and worked with several criminal justice reform groups.
Former governor Jerry Brown in 2018 commuted the sentence of Woods, the podcast’s co-creator, leading to his release. Woods continues to work on the outside as a full-time producer and co-host for the podcast.
“Ear Hustle,” which began in 2017, bills itself as “the first podcast created and produced in prison, featuring stories of the daily realities of life inside California’s San Quentin State Prison, shared by those living it.”