December 19th, 2013
01:54 PM ET
10 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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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 (330 Responses)
  1. Carrie

    This gives me hope (not the comments on here) – but of the changing tone and a more intelligent discussion/punishment for drug offenders. To have crack (which is cocaine mixed with stuff) make someone have more jail time than cocaine in powder form is crazy! As we find these silly laws we have to change them and if someone was punished under biased/incorrect regulations then the issue should be corrected.

    December 19, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. NeoPrudentist

    Good, now there are eight more prison beds available for murderers and rapists that should not be paroled.

    December 19, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  3. Empress

    There is a great chance many of these people may go back to prison again for dealing. Do you know why?? Because most of them have probably spent half of their lives in prison for dealing the same amount of drugs that somebody else may have only gotten a couple of years for. So now they're felons.. Who is going to want to give them a job?? Would you give someone a second chance that made a mistake and needs a job?? All of you are so perfect. You have never done anything wrong, never made any mistakes in your life. I feel really sorry for some of you. I hope you land on your feet and don't need anyone's help when you fall.

    December 19, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  4. stating the obvious

    Is that movie maker still in jail? You know, the one Obama lied about and blamed for the Benghazi attack. I'd think he would be at the top of the list to pardon since he was jailed for political reasons.

    December 19, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. skybill40

    Obama: Making a joke of the office of the President of the United States, one sad day at a time.

    December 19, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  6. Bryan

    My god, its pathetic how many people are just looking for any reason to criticize Obama. There is absolutely no logical reason to oppose this move. It does appear, however, that there are many people incapable of getting past their own obsessive hate of this president....its both pathetic and scary.

    December 19, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  7. Harry Ballsachss

    Clearing out space so he can serve his time for his crimes against this country

    December 19, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. ora pike

    now have food stamps, welfare, and drug dealers voting for him. what a president.

    December 19, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  9. Big_D

    I guess this is only fair since the white guys that did the powder form of the same drug never did any time.

    December 19, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  10. Big_D

    There are two ways of making this law fair. Either they can go rearrest all the powder cocaine users and sentence them to more time or they can release these folks who have already served more time than they deserved in the first place.

    December 19, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. Regularguy22

    Ahh, Obama's work is done for the year. Now it is time to jet off to Hawaii for 2 or 3 weeks

    December 19, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. smith

    @alaskan1st-Since you see these eight criminals as victims, why don`t you invite these fine people to stay with you and celebrate holidays.

    December 19, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. Big_D

    They should just put GOP's Trey Radel in jail for the same sentence if they have a problem with these cocaine users getting out after over a decade for the same charge.

    December 19, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  14. Big_D

    Trey Radel should go to jail for life instead of getting probation if you want to be fair about this.

    December 19, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  15. Fish

    The President merely stirs his critics with this, the law should have been retro or waited till he is in the cab leaving the White House forever. Drug offenses regardless of the drug may be unfair sentencing yet are and were preventable. As Baretta said "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time!!!"

    December 19, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. John Rosen

    Six relatives and two friends?

    December 19, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. smith

    @Big D-Coke has been around a long time and the cties weren`t warzones. That started with crack. The inequality here is not racial, but economical. If you got the bucks you got real power, doesn`t matter what color you are.

    December 19, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  18. Common Sense is painful

    The drug war is ridiculous. First of all, if you choose to put crack in your body that is your own darn problem. If it seriously injures or kills you, its because you are a dumb person. If the war on drugs ended, so would drug crimes, drug smuggling, and high incarceration rates. Most people would make the right choice and not destroy their body. It should be a personal choice just like the choice to drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. Most people don't do it because its terrible for you. The same would go for drugs if they were legal. The drug cartels in Mexico would be out of business. Overall, it would fundamentally change a lot of things that cause problems in this country.

    December 19, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  19. Joe Brunner

    they should commute all the drug sentences of every NON violent offender who has served more than 5 years... of course, the prison guard unions and prison industrial complex will never hear of it!!!

    December 19, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. A Kickin' Donkey

    Sir, you should pardon that woman in Florida that was convicted in the "Stand Your Ground" shooting when she fired into the ceiling to scare off an abusive husband.

    December 19, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  21. MarcTheDuck

    More friends and family perqs?

    December 19, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  22. Brandon

    No big deal. I guarantee you they'll all be back in prison within a year. And who knows how much blood will be on Obama's hands?

    December 19, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  23. Macmaven

    ALL drugs should be made legal, just like alcohol. There are plenty of countries that allow it and there are no massive addiction issues, anymore than there are more alcoholics just because it is available. This would end the cartels and the government could tax and control consumption. The US drug war is a complete waste of tax dollars and hasn't made a dent in the addiction problem or murders associated with it. Obama should be doing more in this regard.

    December 19, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  24. Brandon

    @Bryan, it has nothing to do with the president. Crack dealers and users have proven much more dangerous and deadly than cocaine dealers. No one wants to hate Obama, he just makes us hate him.

    December 19, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  25. gstlab3

    If Obama wanted to create a fire storm he would legalize drugs to a certain extent and by taking the crime out of it all takes the proffits away from gangs and corrupt officials and then he should pardon all non violent drug offenders.,

    it would free up the police and these probation and parole enforcement agents to keep down the spread of the gang and drug related violence and to keep track of the other weirdos and other perverted and truely dangerous amongst us like our politicians.
    Obama would become a hero and a force for good turning a crime into a health care crisis many suffer with under the current rules and laws concerning drugs and addiction and the control over the drugs themselves.

    December 19, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
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