DALLAS — Snow fell from the sky. It was a gray, miserably cold morning. Brandon Joiner smiled, stepped off the bus and danced on the soggy gravel parking lot.
“Man, it feels good just to be out here,” he said.
After serving nearly eight months of a three-year prison sentence, Joiner was released Tuesday from the Hutchins State Jail.
“I spent all that time in there just thinking, away from family, just the little time you get. Right now, being outside, it’s amazing. It’s not even cold to me really,” the former Shoemaker standout defensive lineman said.
Despite receiving word that his parole had been granted the week before Thanksgiving, it wasn’t until late last week that Joiner learned his release date. The days since have been a whirlwind of seemingly endless days and travel.
“The days just seemed like they slowed down. I swear they were 27-hour days,” Joiner said. “Getting up at 1 o’clock in the morning, staying in the cage until 5, 6 o’clock in the morning, being on the bus at seven. Then getting there (to a new unit), eating four peanut butter sandwiches a day, only one hot meal, no rec, no TV in some dorms.
“It’s been hectic, but just knowing I was coming home made it all worthwhile.”
His mother, Cynthia Joiner-Moore, who made sure he had a visitor every weekend and vowed not to celebrate at her house until her son was home, watched from the car smiling as he emerged first from the bus that transported him from the Hutchins unit to the waiting area where he and a handful of others were set free.
“He’s finally out,” Joiner-Moore said. “It’s wonderful and it just seems like it was much longer than it was.”
Joiner was sentenced last May to serve two three-year terms, to run concurrently, for a 2007 robbery and felony drug charges he committed as an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M. Now, the 23-year-old prepares for the life that’s been on hold since his sentencing, which came just weeks after he signed an undrafted rookie free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
According to police documents, Joiner and a former Aggies teammate broke into a College Station apartment complex on Nov. 29, 2007, and robbed a known drug dealer at gunpoint, binding him and another man with duct tape and stealing cash, car keys, a cellphone and drugs. A police search at Joiner’s home found marijuana, hydrocodone and Ecstasy.
Texas A&M suspended both men indefinitely from football team following his indictment. Joiner went on and played two seasons at Navarro Junior College in 2008 and 2009, earning NJCAA All-American honors as a sophomore, and signed with Arkansas State in 2010.
He then led the Sun Belt Conference with 12 sacks as a senior and was voted the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2011 after leading the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record and an undefeated conference championship campaign.
In 2010, he received 10 years probation, 60 days in the Brazos County jail and a $1,000 fine for an aggravated robbery charge associated with the 2007 incident. The deal afforded him time to graduate from Arkansas State with a degree in interdisciplinary studies before being sentenced in a second aggravated charge that was dropped to robbery in the plea deal.
Joiner returned home to Killeen on Tuesday and said he plans to finally celebrate Christmas and spend extra time with his mom.
“I haven’t spent Christmas with my mom in a long time. I’m so glad to see her today. She’s smiling, happy, she’s doing good. I wish I could’ve spent it with my sister, but God has a timing for everything,” Joiner said. “This is perfect timing for me.”