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Maya Moore helped free a man from prison. Now she’s ready for a rest

WNBA star Maya Moore
Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore put her WNBA career on hold last season to help free Jonathan Irons from prison. He was released Wednesday.
(Cliff Owen / Associated Press)

A Missouri man was freed from prison Wednesday after a county prosecutor declined to retry his case, punctuating years of work by WNBA star Maya Moore and other supporters who argued he was falsely convicted of burglary and assault charges.

Moore was on hand when Jonathan Irons, 40, walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center. She clapped as Irons approached a group of people waiting for his release. She then dropped to her knees at one point before joining a group hug around Irons.

“In that moment I just — I really felt like I could rest,” Moore told Robin Roberts on Thursday’s “Good Morning America” broadcast. “I mean I’ve been standing and we’ve been standing for so long — it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief ... it was kind of a worshipful moment just dropping to my knees and being so thankful that we made it.”

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Irons had been serving a 50-year prison sentence stemming from the nonfatal shooting of a homeowner in the St. Louis area when Irons was 16. But a judge threw out his convictions in March, citing a series of problems with the case, including a fingerprint report that had not been turned over to Irons’ defense team, according to the New York Times.

The Missouri attorney general’s office unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision, and the lead prosecutor in St. Charles County decided against a retrial.

“I’m absolutely elated and thankful just to be here in this moment right now,” Irons told Roberts.

Moore and Irons became friends after meeting through prison ministry, according to the New York Times. The 31-year-old Moore, a Jefferson City, Mo., native who starred at UConn before helping lead Minnesota to four WNBA titles, put her career on hold last season to help Irons.

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Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore, a four-time WNBA champion, left basketball to champion the innocence of Jonathan Irons and become an advocate for criminal justice reform.

Moore said in January that she planned to sit out a second season. She told Roberts those plans have not changed.

“When I stepped away two springs ago, I just really wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete,” Moore said.

She added: “For the first time in my adult life, I’m trying to live in the moment,” Moore said. " I haven’t really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted ... now is the time to take a break, then seeing what the future holds.”


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