POLITICS

Obama Commutes 22 Drug Sentences, Instantly Doubling The Number Of Commutations He's Issued

03/31/2015 02:59 pm ET | Updated Apr 01, 2015

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 22 individuals on Tuesday, more than doubling the number of commutations he has issued in the six-plus years he's been in office.

The men and women granted the reprieves had been imprisoned under an "outdated sentencing regime," the administration concluded. Eight of the 22 inmates had been sentenced to life imprisonment and would have died behind bars.

Leading up to Tuesday's announcement, the president has tried to revamp his administration's approach to clemency, telling The Huffington Post in a recent interview that he felt recipients should more broadly reflect the entire applicant pool and not lean toward well-connected white-collar criminals. Those granted clemency on Tuesday were all sentenced to jail for intent to distribute an illegal drug, with 14 of those cases involving possession or distribution of cocaine.

"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," White House counsel Neil Eggleston said in a statement shared in advance with The Huffington Post. "Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years -- in some cases more than a decade -- longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

The president sent a letter to each of the commutation recipients encouraging them to take advantage of their post-prison opportunity. An administration official said that this was the first time Obama has sent such letters during his presidency.

"I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around. Now it is up to you to make the most of this opportunity. It will not be easy, and you will confront many who doubt people with criminal records can change. Perhaps even you are unsure of how you will adjust to your new circumstances," the letter reads. "But remember that you have the capacity to make good choices. By doing so, you will affect not only your own life, but those close to you. You will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future."

Tuesday's announcement marks the beginning of a more aggressive approach on clemency from the White House, which has faced persistent criticism for being slow to grant pardons and commutations. Until Tuesday, Obama had only commuted the sentences of 21 people and pardoned 64, out of thousands of applications received.

The Justice Department expanded its criteria for clemency applicants last year, prioritizing defendants who would have likely been given a shorter prison term had they been sentenced today and who have served at least 10 years behind bars, have had good conduct in prison, have no significant ties to criminal enterprises and have no history of violence or significant criminal history.

Advocates for greater clemency have argued that Obama should follow through on the underlying principles of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act that he himself signed, which reduced the disparity in federal treatment of crimes involving crack cocaine and cocaine powder. Tuesday's commutations suggest those advocates are being heard.

One of the prisoners whose sentence was commuted, Francis Darrell Hayden, had been sentenced to life in prison for growing marijuana back in 2002. Another, Donel Clark, was sentenced in 1994 and told The Huffington Post he had taken a job as a crack “cook” in his friend’s kitchen to support his family.

Four of the prisoners granted clemency were represented by the Clemency Project 2014, a group of lawyers that works to provide pro-bono legal assistance to prisoners applying to have their sentences reduced. Cynthia Roseberry, the group's manager, declined to disclose their identities. The organization "continues to submit petitions at an increasing pace and looks forward to more regular grants by the President," Roseberry said.

The names of those who received commutations on Tuesday -- and the crimes for which they were sentenced -- are below.

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.

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