Meet the Ex-Felon Who Graduated From Yale and is Now a Lawyer

At the age of 16-years old, Reginald Dwayne Betts was convicted of carjacking. He served over eight years in prison and during that time he worked hard to improve himself. Betts found a job, went to college and graduated from Yale Law School and became a lawyer.

“The last time my mom saw me in court, I was sentenced to nine years in prison,” Betts said during his oathtaking ceremony as a lawyer. This journey was no easy task.

Betts was arrested for a gun charge, attempted robbery, and carjacking along with four other people at a mall in Virginia. This all took place when when he was just 16 years old. Afterwards, he went from prison to prison serving his time until released eight years later.

Until recently, Betts could not give an explanation on why he got involved in the crime. He said he knew he cannot change the past and can only regret it, he aspires to help the youth to do better in life.

He started off working at a paint store. He further his studies and attended Prince George’s Community College, earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, and received a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. Shortly after, he became one of the few ex-felons to get admitted and graduated from Yale Law School.

He was told that his application to practice law has been flagged pending investigation due to his previous felony convictions, six months after passing the bar exam. Had to prove his “good moral character and/or fitness to practice law” through evidence.

After the state panel reviewed his moral character, Betts finally received a letter of his acceptance to the bar and he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m happy that they made that decision,” Betts said. “I’m just grateful for the huge amount of support people gave me.”

Betts, hopes his story serves as an inspiration to many that it’s never too late to turn your life around.

“I think that his story is a remarkable story,” said former Connecticut Judge Anne Dranginis, chairwoman of the Bar Examining Committee. “Mr. Betts demonstrated his commitment to others who may have lost their way. He has a great deal to offer, in addition to what he has already done.”

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