Isaac Wright Jr. moved closer to New York City to pursue his music career. But when the aspiring musician accidentally got wrapped up in a corruption scheme, things quickly took a tragic turn. This is his story.
Meet Isaac Wright Jr.
Meet Isaac Wright Jr., the attorney also known as the Giant Slayer. But the journey that led Isaac to a career in law was far from simple, so let's rewind to where it all began, on August 17, 1961, in the Sunshine State.
Isaac was born in Orlando, Florida to dad Isaac Wright Sr. and mom Sandra B. Wright. The young boy had quite a few siblings, which was probably comforting as the family moved around from city to city. Wright Sr. was a career military man and so the whole fam moved often.
A Star on the Rise
Isaac and his parents and siblings lived in many cities in the U.S., and even some international locations. But the fam came back to the U.S. for Wright Jr.'s high school years, and he went to Berkeley High School in South Carolina. Not too long after, he met one of the loves of his life.
Isaac and his beau tied the knot and welcomed a baby girl. And as the couple focused on raising their daughter, they also pursued their music dreams. Both Wright and his wifey wanted a career in the music industry, and it seemed that they were on the path to success. Until tragedy struck.
Making Money Moves
"Everything was going really, really, really good," Wright later recalled. "And sometime after it started going well for us, we decided to move to New Jersey." Both his and his wife's careers were doing well: she was part of a band called the Cover Girls and he landed a gig on the reality television show Star Search.
With the couple's careers taking off, they decided to up and move closer to New York City, where there were more opportunities. So the family of three settled in New Jersey and continued working hard, with Isaac ultimately opening his own record label called X-Press Records. But the good times didn't last long.
Reuniting With Old Friends
Like many people with hope of making it in the music world, Isaac thought that moving closer to the Big Apple would make his dreams a reality. And for some time, it seemed to prove true. But Wright was about to get wrapped up in some seriously sketchy business. It began when he reunited with some old NYC friends.
"A lot of them were not on the up and up," he said. Little did Isaac know that the police were investigating a crime and zooming in on his pals. "A group of police officers took down certain license plate numbers, and they started investigating those individuals," Wright recalled.
He Became a Target
Unfortunately, one of those license plate numbers belonged to Isaac. "So that's actually how I came to be on [the police's] radar and initially got targeted," he explained. According to him, the prosecutor's office in NYC at the time was focused on wealthier people and Wright's rising success in music caught their attention.
"Tie that in with this scheme, and then eventually, I was arrested,"' he detailed. In 1989, Isaac was charged for being part of a trafficking ring. Not only that but he was named the kingpin of the operation. And under New Jersey's Drug Kingpin Law at the time, that meant he could potentially spend his entire life in prison.
Searching for a Lawyer
Isaac suddenly found himself off of the streets of New York, out of the studio, and in a jail cell. He couldn't believe the turn his life suddenly took. Yet no matter how much Wright insisted he was innocent, the police didn't budge. It became clear that Isaac would not be getting out of this easily.
So the young dad searched for a lawyer to prove his innocence. "I interviewed some attorneys and they said the best I could do was twenty years," he recalled. "'You plead guilty and you get 20 years, you plead guilty and you get 15 years.' That's the lowest time I heard.'"
He Represented Himself
Isaac couldn't believe what he was hearing. The musician knew he was innocent, yet attorney after attorney told him the same thing: over a decade of prison time was coming his way, regardless of what happened in court. But Wright wasn't ready to give in to the system so easily.
"I decided at that moment that if I was going to prison, I wasn't going to pay someone to send me to prison," he said. "I decided to put the gloves on, string up the boots, and get into the fight myself." What exactly did Isaac mean by that? Despite having no experience in the field, he would be representing himself in the court of law.
Two Long Years
It was a wild decision, but Wright felt it was his only choice. "I knew early on that I was going to prison for the rest of my life and there was nothing that no one was going to be able to do to help me," he explained. So why put his fate in someone else's hand if no one believed his innocence?
So Isaac hit the books. And Wright had plenty of time on his hands as he spent two years detained before getting his date in court. But the truth was, he could use every minute of those two years because he spent it learning law in order to represent himself in the upcoming trial.
The Big Day Finally Arrived
Finally, two years after Isaac's world was completely turned upside down, his court date arrived. After endless hours spent teaching himself the law, it was time to put his new skills and knowledge to the test. But this was no practice run - Wright's destiny was at stake. Would he spend the rest of his life in prison?
It seemed the odds were not in his favor. "Everyone on the witness stand at trial, there were people up there and I had no clue who they were. I had never seen them a day in my life, and they were pointing the finger at me saying that I was their boss," Wright recalled.
A Guilty Verdict
The musician-turned-detainee was desperate to prove his innocence. But as one stranger after another took to the stand and claimed he was the mastermind behind the crime, his shot at freedom seemed further and further out of reach. Isaac wouldn't believe what was happening.
After a difficult trial, Wright received heart-wrenching news: the court declared him guilty. The worst-case scenario happened as he was sentenced to life in prison, with eligibility for parole after a whopping thirty years. The man who moved to the city that never sleeps to pursue his music dreams wouldn't see beyond a prison yard.
Time on His Hands
Despite his innocence and not recognizing a single witness who took the stand, Isaac suddenly found himself in a maximum-security prison. But he wasn't about to give up: Wright continued studying the law with plans to eventually appeal his case and hopefully regain freedom.
And he didn't keep the knowledge to himself - Isaac became a prison paralegal and helped other wrongfully convicted peers. "The act of representing other prisoners who were also wronged was a part of me fighting them back and getting them back for what they had done to me," Wright said.
Wright's Prosecutor Faced Charges
Wright was devastated over the loss of his life as he knew it, but the wrongful conviction also fueled a fire inside of him. The man wanted justice, for himself and for others. As Isaac studied the law and helped other inmates, chaos was brewing outside the prison...
The New Jersey prosecutor involved in Isaac's case, Nicholas Bissell, suddenly faced legal charges, too. The attorney was accused of abuse of power, mail fraud, and tax evasion. By September 1995, Bissell was facing a whopping thirty federal charges. And then things got even more complicated.
A Man on the Run
The state of New Jersey was looking at one of its biggest corruption cases ever. After many years in power, the truth was revealed about prosecutor Nicholas Bissell and the news took the Garden State by storm. Roughly a year after the story broke, the court came to a decision.
Nicholas was found guilty of all thirty charges and would have to serve six to ten years in prison. But, unlike Isaac, the former prosecutor awaited the court's verdict at home, under the supervision of a tracking electronic bracelet. And this proved to be a fatal mistake...
Nicholas removed the electronic bracelet on November 18, 1996. Of course, the authorities were immediately notified, but it was too late - he was officially on the run. It wasn't long before the authorities and anyone following the news was on the lookout for the corrupt attorney.
Police ultimately found Bissell in a hotel far from New Jersey, in Nevada. The events that followed proved deadly: as the police negotiated with Nicholas and asked him to safely and peacefully come outside, Bissell took his own life. And things only got more twisted from there.
They Offered Him a Deal
As New Jersey faced its biggest corruption scandal yet, Isaac focused on his own situation and how to get out of it. And an earlier case he fought for one of his fellow inmates proved useful to his conviction. In the 1993 case of State v. Alexander, Wright created a new legal theory that attacked the New Jersey Kingpin Law.
The argument was successful in the 1993 trial and ultimately became law. The result? Isaac's own kingpin conviction was overturned and his life sentence was removed. But he still faced various other convictions and up to seventy years in prison. And then they offered him a life-changing deal...
He Said No
Wright got his kingpin conviction overturned over technicalities, but he still faced other charges that pretty much guaranteed spending almost his whole life in prison. And then prosecutors came to him with an offer: Isaac could go home in two years if he admitted to certain things.
But he said no - Isaac was not admitting to crimes he didn't commit. "I was not about to give them a single second of my life," Wright said. "I'd rather spend the rest of my life in prison trying to get out even though I could be home in two years than to give them another second of my life. So I rolled the dice."
Representing Himself, Again
Isaac rejected the prosecutor's deal and went right back to his routine of studying the law and preparing to appeal his case. With the kingpin conviction out of the picture, he focused his energies on getting rid of all the other charges that stacked up to seventy years in prison.
The self-taught lawyer motioned the court for Post Conviction Relief, stating that there was police and prosecutorial misconduct in his original case. It was during the trial for these claims that things finally started to look up. But it took a shocking turn of events to get there.
A Shocking Confession
Never in a million years could Isaac have predicted what happened when veteran police detective James Dugan took the stand at his Post Conviction Relief hearing. As Wright cross-examined the Dugan, the latter suddenly began to cry. What he then said changed everything.
James confessed to what seemed like endless police corruption. The late prosecutor Nicholas Bissell had made secret pacts with defense attorneys who encouraged their clients to testify against Isaac - despite never having met him before - in exchange for shorter sentences. And that wasn't all.
A Second Chance... Kind Of
James also admitted that the evidence allegedly found in Wright's possession, which led to his convictions, was planted by the police, along with secret listening devices. It was all a part of the late Bissell's plan to become a prosecutor with a tough and fearful reputation.
It seemed that finally, after almost a decade in prison, the truth was coming to light. Isaac knew the entire time that he was innocent but the truth about the corruption involved was still shocking. People had knowingly and intentionally put an innocent man in prison. Wright was granted a new trial - or so he thought.
The court granted him a new trial but, thanks to the bureaucracy and complications of the legal system, that it was postponed indefinitely. But after the shocking confessions of deep corruption, the judge in charge didn't believe Isaac deserved to see more time in a prison cell and let him out on bail.
The bail cost $250,000 but Wright's loved ones, who followed his entire journey and believed in his innocence, soon raised enough moolah. More than seven years after first stepping foot into prison, the innocent man was let out on bail. It seemed that the end was finally near. But this end would prove to be another beginning.
He Continued His Studies
Once Wright was out on bail, an investigation proved the corruption claims were true and, in turn, Isaac's innocence. He was truly free after almost a decade of battling the false verdicts. But his time in the courtroom was far from over - Wright had developed a deep passion for justice.
But while he had plenty of knowledge on the law, Isaac was not recognized as a lawyer by the state. The high school graduate needed to go back to school and take the traditional path into the legal field. And that's exactly what Wright did: he got a Bachelor's from Thomas Edison State University and then went to law school at St. Thomas University.
A Nine-Year Ordeal
"It was an incredible feeling and a sickening feeling," Isaac said of his time in law school. "I went through that system, but I'm a better part of that system." Despite his conflicting feelings, Wright completed law school and later took the New Jersey Bar Exam in order to practice law in the state.
Isaac passed the tough exam in 2008 and officially had everything he needed to be a lawyer. Or so he thought. The American Bar Association saw his stellar grades and passing Bar score, but they also saw something else: a criminal history. Year after year, Wright waited for an answer.
It Was Official
Even after an investigation proved Isaac was the innocent victim of a deep corruption scheme, the American Bar Association hesitated to let him practice the law. Finally, after a grueling nine years and endless attempts to convince them, Wright got approved as a lawyer.
The musician turned lawyer was sworn in in 2017, nearly thirty years after his arrest on false charges. Isaac soon had a position at Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley, a New Jersey law office. "I became the system in a way that was triumphant," he said. But a chance encounter would soon take him beyond the courtroom and into Hollywood.
A Case Like No Other
For the most part, Isaac focused his energies on helping people with similar cases to his, as in others who were charged with false accusations. But when an old friend came by seeking legal guidance for totally different reasons, Wright became intrigued.
Isaac's old pal had a fight club in New York that was currently run illegally. He was looking to legalize the business for many reasons, one of them being that 50 Cent said he would perform at the venue only if it became legal. And so Wright did what previous lawyers had been unable to do and he got the proper licenses. And met 50 Cent.
A Celeb Friendship
Much to the fight club owner's relief, Curtis Jackson kept his promise and blessed the venue with a legendary performance. And, naturally, the man who made it all possible got to meet the famous rapper. Isaac came to see the show and got to chatting with 50 Cent.
And things got deep pretty quickly as Wright told 50 all about his journey in the legal system and the unbelievable corruption that landed him a life sentence. "It's like a unicorn," the artist said of Isaac's experience. "It's not like one in a million - it's like there is only one." And Jackson didn't wanna keep this unicorn to himself...
Hitting the Small Screen
Wright's story touched 50 Cent and got a permanent place in his mind. The rapper couldn't stop thinking about Isaac's perseverance and the injustices that forced him to be so strong - and all of the other people who faced and continued facing the same exact thing.
So Curtis had a brilliant idea: take Wright's story to the small screen. A television series that would entertain and educate viewers on the system's injustices. And with a stellar reputation as an artist, it didn't take long for a television network to grab onto 50 Cent's project.
An Executive Producer
ABC Network agreed to portray Wright's story in a series. And the man himself would take an active role in telling his truth; Isaac joined 50 Cent and others as Executive Producers of the show, titled For Life. But taking such an active role in the creation process proved difficult for him.
"Through this process, I've never really had the chance to reflect on my own pain," Wright explained. "I spent so much time fighting that I didn't take the time to reflect on what I was actually going through. [The show] brought back experiences that were very emotional for me." Despite the pain, or maybe because of it, Isaac felt more motivated than ever.
The man who moved to New Jersey to fulfill his musical dreams was far from where he started. The tragic events that landed him in jail led him away from music and into law, where Wright felt he could really make a difference. And Isaac took his talents and knowledge way beyond the courtroom and the film studio.
In addition to his positions with For Life and Hunt, Hamlin and Ridley, Wright did work beyond the borders of the United States. He raised millions of dollars in investment money for infrastructure and energy projects internationally, from Mexico to Nigeria. And he wasn't done there.
Running for Mayor
By the end of 2020, Isaac was ready to take his experiences, knowledge, and passion one step further and get involved in politics. He announced in December his run for mayor of New York City and focused his campaign on things like school desegregation and homelessness.
"This campaign is motivated by the voices of the citizens of New York City," he said at the time. "We aim to give voters a greater choice, a stronger voice, increase representation, and more opportunities for a sustainable way of life." Unfortunately, Wright didn't win. But we have a feeling he's just getting started.
"All Answers Are Within You"
Wright has lived a life like no other: he went from being an aspiring musician to a falsely charged convict, to a lawyer, executive producer, and mayoral candidate. And while For Life was canceled after two seasons, the series spread much awareness and Isaac continues to do the same.
Wright wants people to know his story and learn from it. According to him, his life journey is about "hope and inspiration." At the same time, it's also about "the understanding that all the answers to all your questions and your challenges are within you. All you have to do is dig deep."