U.S.: President Obama Commutes Drug Sentences For 22 People

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.

According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, “Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

"While today’s announcement represents important progress, there’s more work ahead," Eggleston said. "The Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency."

Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimum and harsh sentencing guidelines. The Obama Administration also promised improvements in the commutation process.

Yet, despite his Administration's declared support of substantive criminal justice reform, until now Obama has used his power to grant clemency less frequently than nearly all other U.S. Presidents.

President Obama has been under signigicant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"I am elated that President Obama continues to use his executive powers to grant freedom to those drug offenders who have served draconian sentences," said Anthony Papa, media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws. "I hope this sends a message to governors of states that have the power to grant clemenices to those who deserve a chance to be reunited with their famililes."

There is much legislation that Congress must enact with if the country is to address its mass incarceration problem, according to the DPA. Chief among the bills is the Smarter Sentencing Act. This bipartisan legislation would cut mandatory minimum sentences, expand the "safety valve" to give judges more discretion in sentencing, and would make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive.

"The President's actions today are welcome, but we need more action," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "Congress must act quickly on substantive sentencing reform, and move forward with the Smarter Sentencing Act. It's time to rectify the US's embarrassing record on mass incarceration."

“We’re pleased to see the President recognize the absurdity of our prior drug sentencing schemes," said Art Way, drug policy expert and Colorado director for the DPA. "It’s also important to acknowledge the continuing need to reform the mandatory minimum sentencing structure on the federal level.”

List of Prisoners Whose Sentences Were Commuted

Terry Andre Barnes – East Moline, Illinois
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; supervised release violation (distribution of cocaine base) (Southern District of Iowa)
Sentence: 246 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (July 25, 2005)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Theresa Brown – Pompano Beach, Florida
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine (Southern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Mar. 29, 1995)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Donel Marcus Clark – Dallas, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy; use of a communication facility (five counts); distribution and/or possession of cocaine or manufacturing in or near a school facility, aiding and abetting (Northern District of Texas)
Sentence: 420 months’ imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (Nov. 12, 1993); amended to 360 months’ imprisonment (August 20, 2008)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Ricky Bernard Coggins – Tallahassee, Florida
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (Northern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (May 3, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Samuel Pasqual Edmondson – Junction City, Kansas
Offense: Conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute; possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine (Eastern District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Sep. 24, 1997)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Amado Garcia – Fresno, California
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine; aiding and abetting the possession of methamphetamine; aiding and abetting the possession of heroin (District of Wyoming)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release; $2,000 fine (Nov. 29, 2001)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Dwight Anthony Goddard – Decatur, Georgia
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Middle District of Georgia)
Sentence: 235 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (Feb. 7, 2002)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Lionel Ray Hairston – Ridgeway, Virginia
Offense: Distribution of cocaine base (three counts) (Western District of Virginia)
Sentence: 262 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release (May 27, 1999)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Francis Darrell Hayden – Loretto, Kentucky
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1,000 or more marijuana plants or 1,000 or more kilograms of marijuana; manufacture of 1,000 or more marijuana plants (Eastern District of Michigan)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Apr. 2, 2002)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Harold Kenneth Herring – Havana, Florida
Offense: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Northern District of Florida)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Jan. 22, 1998)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Tommie Lee Hollingshed – Memphis, Tennessee
Offense: Distribution of a controlled substance (two counts) (Western District of Tennessee)
Sentence: 324 months’ imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (May 1, 1996)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Derrick DeWayne Johnson – Birmingham, Alabama
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute cocaine (Northern District of Alabama)
Sentence: 360 months’ imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (Nov. 18, 1998)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 262 months.

Robert Martinez-Gil – San Antonio, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin (Western District of Texas)
Sentence: Life imprisonment (July 9, 1992)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

David Navejar – Brooksville, Florida
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine (Middle District of Florida)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Jan. 27, 2003)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Rudolph Norris – Washington, D.C.
Offense: Unlawful distribution of cocaine base; unlawful possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base (District of Columbia)
Sentence: 360 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release (Apr. 5, 1993)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Tracy Lynn Petty – Shelby, North Carolina
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (Western District of North Carolina)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Mar. 30, 2006); amended to 204 months’ imprisonment (February 25, 2008)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Luis Razo – Davenport, Iowa
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine (Southern District of Iowa)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Jan. 3, 2003)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Antwon Rogers – Cleveland, Ohio
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 139.8 grams of cocaine base (Northern District of Ohio)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Jan. 30, 1995)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Herman Rosenboro – Kingsport, Tennessee
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute over five kilograms of cocaine and over 50 grams of cocaine base; distribution of a quantity of cocaine base (two counts); distribution of a quantity of cocaine (two counts) (Eastern District of Tennessee)
Sentence: Life imprisonment; six years’ supervised release (Dec. 3, 2001)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Lawrence Elmo Scott – Lynchburg, Virginia
Offense: Distribution of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school (Western District of Virginia)
Sentence: 283 months’ imprisonment; six years’ supervised release; $4,000 fine (Apr. 8, 2003)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Levar V. Wade – Chicago, Illinois
Offense: Possession of 50 or more grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute (Central District of Illinois)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (May 28, 2004)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.

Eugene Winters – Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Iowa)
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Feb. 23, 2005)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2015.