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John Legend's Childhood Hell: Mom Arrested For Crack Possession, Prostitution

//john legend childhood mom phyllis stephens drug abuse prostiution jail

Sep. 19 2016, Updated 1:24 p.m. ET

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Singer and philanthropist John Legend's advocacy for prison-reform is clearly near to his heart.

The 10-time Grammy winner, 37, was born John Roger Stephens — and suffered through a tumultuous childhood as his mother Phyllis was in-and-out of jail for charges stemming from her drug addiction.

Stephens was arrested at least four times throughout her son's childhood for charges ranging from theft to drug abuse and soliciting, can exclusively reveal.

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She was first arrested and placed in jail for theft on December 23, 1997. The Springfield County arrest report stated that she stole a pack of cigarettes worth $1.97 from a store.

"Upon arrival, wit #1 stated he heard the theft alarm sound off and saw def running out the front doors," the report obtained by read. "Wit #1 stated def was the only person at the doors. Wit #1 stated he chased def outside and saw her throw the above listed cigarettes in the bushes out front."

"Wit #2 stated he is an off duty Cedarville OH police officer who saw the incident and assisted wit #1," the report continued. "Def told officers upon arrival, 'I stole the cigarettes and I'm sorry.' Def was read her Miranda Rights…def was arrested by officers for theft and placed into Clark County jail."

She was arraigned three days later on December 26 — putting a damper on Christmas for then 19-year-old Legend.

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Just weeks later, Stephens was arrested and charged with soliciting a plain-clothes officer for sex.

The report obtained by stated that Stephens approached an officer on assignment for street prostitution on the corner he was working. She got in his car and the officer asked her "what def had in mind."

"Def put her right hand between her legs and moved it back and forth," the report read. "Off. asked 'what's that?' and def. said 'blowjob.'"

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"Off. asked how much that would cost and def said '20 dollars.' Def. then said, 'if you want both, it's 30 dollars.' Off asked, 'what's both?' and def said 'sex.'"

The cop proceeded to drive Stephens, who "got down on the floor" and said, "if I'm going down on you, just act normal." Then, when she stated she "usually gets paid first" the officer arrested her.

She later spent five days in jail in regards to the case.

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Then, Stephens was charged with tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property, and drug abuse on September 11, 1998. The arrest report indicated that she and a male were caught with crack cocaine in a stolen car.

The report stated she attempted to hide the drugs from the officers by swallowing them, but eventually spit them out for the cops. The case against her was later dismissed.

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Finally, she was arrested for theft again a year later on November 22, 1999 — the year Legend graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

"Defendant took items by deception from the Family Dollar Store," the report read, noting that she told the arresting officers that she stole the three items for a friend who was out of work. When asked if she intended to pay for the goods, she "stated she had money, but it was not hers."

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Since then, her son has gone on to become an acclaimed songwriter and musician — who is now focusing on philanthropy again after welcoming daughter Luna Simone earlier this year.

Legend co-authored a letter to the United Nations urging leaders to end the "War on Drugs" in April, and more recently penned an essay for Time in support of prison-reform.

"Those of us who have seen these diseases up-close understand that what a sick person needs is treatment, not punishment," he wrote. "As a teenager growing up in Ohio, I watched my mother disappear into more than a decade of drugs and despair after my maternal grandmother—a person who filled our whole family with love—passed away."

"My mother's addiction didn't just tear her life apart; it tore me and the rest of our family apart, too," he continued. "Drug addiction, for anyone who doubts it, is a serious problem, and our society is right to want to tackle it. But we've been going about it wrong. My mother didn't need punishment; she needed help. Criminalizing drug abuse only further shatters people and families that are already in pieces."



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