Obama commutes 8 crack cocaine cases

The move is part of an effort to reduce the disparity the sentences between crack and powder cocaine offenses.
Posted By Gabrielle Levy   |   Dec. 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM   |   0 comments

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Dec. 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentences of eight people who have served for years under old drug laws now considered unfair.

The eight inmates, six of whom had been given life sentences, have all served at least 15 years. Most are expected to be released in 120 days.

“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama said. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”

Sentencing laws were changed in 2011 with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2011, which changed the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine crimes. Those inmates receiving commutations were young when they were convicted and were not accused of committing violence.

Along with the eight, Obama is expected to pardon 12 others who have already completed serving their sentences.

Below, the statement from the president on clemency:

Three years ago, I signed the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act, which dramatically narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late. If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.

Today, I am commuting the prison terms of eight men and women who were sentenced under an unfair system. Each of them has served more than 15 years in prison. In several cases, the sentencing judges expressed frustration that the law at the time did not allow them to issue punishments that more appropriately fit the crime.

Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness. But it must not be the last. In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress. Together, we must ensure that our taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, and that our justice system keeps its basic promise of equal treatment for all.

And the details of the eight inmates:

Clarence Aaron - Mobile, Ala.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute (Southern District of Alabama)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Dec. 10, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Stephanie Yvette George - Pensacola, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess cocaine base with intent to distribute (Northern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, ten years' supervised release (May 5, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Ezell Gilbert - Tampa, Fla.
Offense: Possession with intent to deliver cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Middle District of Florida)
Sentence: 292 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 25, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to time already served

Helen Alexander Gray - Ty Ty, Ga.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Middle District of Georgia)
Sentence: 240 months' imprisonment (Apr. 19, 1996)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Jason Hernandez - McKinney, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances; possession with intent to distribute and distribute crack cocaine and methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride; distribution of a controlled substance between 1,000 feet of a protected property; establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances (Eastern District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; eight years' supervised release; $5,000 fine (Oct. 2, 1998)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to 240 months (20 years)

Ricky Eugene Patterson - Fort Pierce, Fla.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment (Aug. 3, 1995)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Billy Ray Wheelock - Belton, Tex.
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine (Western District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years' supervised release, $3,000 fine (Jun. 9, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, Jr. - Rockford, Ill.
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute crack (Northern District of Illinois)
Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release, $1,000 fine (Nov. 23, 1994)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

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Topics: Barack Obama
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