Ceasar Cantu, a convicted drug dealer from Katy, Texas, would have been forced to spend an extra 42 months in federal prison because of a clerical error.
In 2006, Cantu pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges. According to sentencing guidelines, Cantu’s offense should have been a level 34, which comes with a mandatory 11-and-a-half year sentence, but administrators accidentally entered his level as 36 in the paperwork, landing him a 15 year sentence.
Both Cantu and his lawyer failed to notice the mistake right away, and when they did, the judge told them it was too late to have the sentence changed through judicial means. Because they failed to file within the one-year statute of limitations and Cantu’s lawyer didn't object at the initial sentencing, U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser dismissed Cantu's request to correct the error and reduce his sentence, leaving executive clemency as Cantu’s last hope.
Tuesday President Barack Obama commuted Cantu’s sentence to what it would have been under the sentencing guidelines had the typo not been made.
"A judge ruled that Mr. Cantu did not discover this error in time to correct it through any judicial means; as a result, it can now only be rectified through clemency," a White House official said, according to Business Insider.
President Obama only granted one commutation during his first term, but this marks his tenth commutation during his second term, along with 52 presidential pardons while in office. In December, the president commuted the sentences of eight people convicted for crack cocaine, part of an effort to remove racial biasing from sentencing.
According to Time, experts predict Obama may issue mass commutations for low-level drug offenders before he leaves office.