December 19th, 2013
01:54 PM ET
4 months ago

Kin of Massachusetts' governor gets Obama commutation

Updated 7:13 p.m., 12/19/2013

(CNN) - A cousin of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick was one of eight people whose long prison sentences for cocaine offenses were commuted on Thursday by President Barack Obama.

Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, said to be a first cousin of Patrick, was convicted in 1994 for possession and intent to distribute cocaine, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Patrick, a friend and close political ally of the President, has "no recollection" of meeting Wintersmith, noting a difference in their ages, according to a source in the Governor's office.

Patrick's office said the Massachusetts Democrat was not involved in any application for a commutation of Wintersmith's sentence and learned of it through media reports.

The White House said Patrick didn't request anything of the administration and that the family ties didn't impact the decision.

Obama, who has sparingly used his pardon and commutation powers, provided relief to people convicted of crack cocaine offenses under laws calling for strict mandatory sentences.

The eight offenders have each served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."

If convicted under current sentencing laws, those people would be given lighter sentences, the White House added.

Obama has decried the disparity between mandatory punishments for crack cocaine use versus the powdered form of the drug. In 2010, he signed the Fair Sentencing Act in a bid to bring the penalties closer together.

"Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness," Obama said in a statement.

Wintersmith appealed his case to the Supreme Court, which upheld the sentence in 1998.

He and four other defendants questioned the formula used by the judge to determine prison time after concluding the illegal conduct involved distributing both crack and powdered cocaine.

The defendants said the judge wrongly assumed crack was involved when that was not clear in the original charges.

But the court sided with the government.

The Supreme Court has struggled for years in these kinds of cases, in trying to determine whether the sentencing guidelines imposed by Congress for crack cocaine - producing longer prison terms than for powder cocaine offenses - were unfair.

CNN's Kevin Liptak, Paul Steinhauser, Brianna Keilar, Bill Mears, and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (331 Responses)
  1. Winning

    I'm trying to make this fit into conservative ideology. We're against this because Obama did it. But we're for it because we believe in personal liberty. But we're against it because we believe the state should tell someone what they can and cannot put in their body. But that makes us against personal liberty. But that makes us for personal liberty. But Obama did it, so we therefore hate it.

    See why it's stupid to look at everything through an ideological lens instead of looked at each issue on a case by case basis? Ideology is absolutism. Same goes for those on the left, but they seem far less rigid to me.

    December 19, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Obama.LIED.gov

    Way to support the crack heads Prez! I guess you figure to be shooting for the 20's in approval rating soon. Do you get the sense that Obama has just thrown in the towel? Maybe he'll just open up all the jails and let everybody out? What is there to stop him? NOTHING, except impeachment.

    December 19, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Thomas

    Freshman GOP Rep. Trey Radel of Florida pleads guilty on a charge of cocaine possession and is sentenced to a year of probation.

    December 19, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  4. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Good for him. These drug laws are not effective and should be changed.

    December 19, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    You know drug laws are screwed up when you get more time for selling crack than murder.

    December 19, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Liberal Iowan

    Good for you President Obama. Keep up the good work.

    December 19, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  7. Bob R

    ya know, i really have been outspoken against almost everything obama has done the last 5 years. this is a notable exception. good job, prez.

    December 19, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  8. ironmike

    How much did they pay the president to get off.
    That is what is wrong with this system, too many pay offs

    December 19, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  9. sameeker

    Imagine the savings to tax payers if they just legalized drugs already.

    December 19, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. bergerfry

    That probably opened the door for a lot of "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime" prisoners, be it drugs or some other type of crime.

    December 19, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. dinkydow

    How dies this fundamentally change anything. Sure, they get out but, the next guy convicted gets the same sentence. Pot convictions I see cutting some slack to. But, face it, crack isn't pot. Addicted almost the first time you use it. Tears your body apart as fast as anything known to man. Nah! Hopefully not but, these guys have about as much chance of staying clean of the law as Gitmo release's have of not getting back in the war.

    December 19, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. just asking

    ok, so these were drug dealers. you don't get these long sentences for simple drug use. how many people did these sellers of poison kill and injure? i guess obama didn't care about that. way to show the entire country and its kids that this type of crime is not really that bad and doesn't deserve the harshest of penalties. and just when you thought obama couldn't possibly fail even worse, he continues to prove their is no bar too low for him to slither under.

    December 19, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    Anyone else hear about that kid, deep in the heart of Texas, who had come down with a case of "affluenza"? Killed four folks and nearly two others in a DUI accident, with three times the legal blood alcohol limit in his blood. Got probation.

    December 19, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. Destry

    Whats next a slap on the wrist for the deadly disease known as POT? Why not just legalize meth and heroin while were at it...

    December 19, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  15. ingok9

    I'm glad that I retired from Police work because it just goes to show that they want a war on drugs but don't want to enforce the laws that they made. "Poor criminals" . They are so mistreated and should not have to be punished for drug violations. THEY KNEW IT WAS ILLEGAL. But they still broke the law so we feel sorry for their harsh punishment. Wait until you or your Loved one gets hurt by one of these poor people and then we'll see how you feel. Our President is pardoning them because the sentences are too harsh , what about the DEA then. Just disband them and we can have all the drugs that criminals want. Oh wait , that's what is going on now and giving pardons for illegal drugs.

    December 19, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  16. sgt hulka

    no pardon for obama

    December 19, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. t

    way to go "Big O" Mandatory minimums were a joke & giving a inner city person 15 years for crack while Lindsey Lohan & Parish Hilton have gotten off scott free with probation for powder form of the same drug is racist & classist & hopefuly it will stop in the next 100 years but not likely since

    December 19, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. m123

    Winning-it is obvious you have no clue
    The left is more flexible?
    Wow, what a goofy post
    Do you even know how many other crimes these people committed?
    Or if they would qualify for the three strikes rule now?
    Too bad so sad they got caught, next time don't do the crime if you cry about the time

    December 19, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. Larry

    Obama – best president in the last 50 years. Finally, a caring person in the top job:)

    December 19, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  20. rs

    Winning

    I'm trying to make this fit into conservative ideology. We're against this because Obama did it. But we're for it because we believe in personal liberty. But we're against it because we believe the state should tell someone what they can and cannot put in their body. But that makes us against personal liberty. But that makes us for personal liberty. But Obama did it, so we therefore hate it.

    See why it's stupid to look at everything through an ideological lens instead of looked at each issue on a case by case basis? Ideology is absolutism. Same goes for those on the left, but they seem far less rigid to me.
    _______________________________
    Brilliant! :-)

    December 19, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. Paul Bearer

    Those people knew what the penalty was when the committed their crimes and should serve their compete sentence. Obozo the worse than either Bush.

    December 19, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. Rembrant

    All we have to do now is let go of the tens of thousands incarcerated for smoking a joint. At an average cost of 80K/yr per prisoner, Obama can save us a coupla bucks!!

    December 19, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  23. Donna

    It is sure nice to see that Obama cares so much about these crack dealers. Nothing says Merry Christmas more than commuting the sentence of drug dealers, So when they go back to their wicked ways and start drug dealing again, can their victims or surviving families sue Obama for this totally irresponsible act that resulted in their loss?

    Obama continues to lie to the American people. He doesn't care about them one iota.

    December 19, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Jeremy

    Now he needs to allow first offense dwi's that are below .10 and where no accidents or damage to property done to be sealed/ forgiven/ expunged for people who have not re offended in 10 years.

    December 19, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  25. Thomas Henley

    Unfortunately I haven't been able to support many of the President's actions but this is one I commend him for. Adding baking soda to Cocaine should not increase the severity of the crime. Anyone purchasing powdered cocaine can do it themselves making the distinction between the two meaningless. These laws were overly punitive and he was right to commute the sentences.

    December 19, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
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