Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentence of eight cocaine convicts and pardoned 13 others for being unfairly punished.
Obama said the eight men and women granted clemency were sentenced based on outdated laws and should have already served their time and paid their debt to society under the Fair Sentencing Act enacted three years ago. The law narrowed the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses.
“Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” Obama said in a statement.
The eight inmates have each been incarcerated for at least 15 years and six were serving life sentences when current drug laws, sentencing rules and charging policies should have meted them shorter prison terms.
Granted commutation of sentences were Clarence Aaron, of Mobile, Ala.; Stephanie Yvette George, of Pensacola, Fla.; Ezell Gilbert, of Tampa, Fla.; Helen Alexander Gray, of Ty Ty, Ga.; Jason Hernandez, of McKinney, Texas; Rickey Eugene Patterson, of Fort Pierce, Fla.; Billy Ray Wheelock, of Belton, Texas; and Reynolds Allen Wintersmith Jr., of Rockford, Ill. The sentences for six of them will expire on April 17, 2014, according to CBS News.
WintersmithJr. is a cousin of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a long-time political supporter of Obama. The governor did not ask for a commutation of his sentence, Patrick’s spokesman Jesse Mermell said. The governor only learned of the commutation from media reports on Thursday, Mermell said.