War On Drugs! Obama To Commute Sentences For 8 In Crack Cocaine Cases (DETAILS)

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    President Obama And First Lady Meet With Mothers To Discuss Health Care

    On Thursday, President Obama made a huge step towards curtailing severe penalties for drug offenses.

    He’s expected to commute the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses. According to the New York Times, each of those inmates has been imprisoned for at least 15 years and six were sentenced to life in prison. Most of the eight would have been released in 120 days.

    The president released this statement regarding the 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.

    It’s the first time retroactive relief was provided to a group of inmates who would have received significantly shorter terms if they had been sentenced under current drug laws.

    In a statement prepared for release when the commutations are announced, Mr. Obama said that each of the eight men and women had been sentenced under what is now recognized as an “unfair system,” including under a 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was significantly reduced by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2011.

    “If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Mr. 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.

    The inmates being granted commutations are as followed:

    · 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

    SOURCE: NYT | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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