December 19th, 2013
01:54 PM ET
9 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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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. John

    What do you know..."Republican Congressman" from Florida, Trey Radel just walked out of the cocaine rehab. center in Naples Fl., without jail time. Off the rehab. rack just in time for a "white" powder cocaine "Christmas". The cocaine and cocaine rehab. paid for by US tax payer dollars. This message approved by Trey Radel and his cocaine dealer, still using the same pager # from before rehab. Trey, for your convenience, and dealer profits.

    December 19, 2013 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Imminent

    Can this inept president now use his executive powers to fix manslaughter, homicide, and murder punishment for youth? He doesn't seem to care about anything unless it gets him money.

    December 19, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  3. LI_Bri

    The "Land of the Free" jails more of their own citizens, per capita, than any other nation on the planet, including China and Iran combined. You can thank the for-profit prison system and all their lobbyists for that.

    December 19, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  4. Shaun B

    Now free Weldon Angelos, Obama.

    First time offender who sold 350 bucks of weed to an informant, accused of having a gun when little proof was provided, sentenced to 55 years in 2004.

    December 19, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  5. srcactus

    Nothin' like a voter with a happy high in the voting booth at election time! Barack the politician continues.

    December 19, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  6. PENELOPE MIRANDA

    Obama did the right thing now that's justice. We need fair sentencing.

    December 19, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. Graeme from Ottawa

    An enlightened president, what a refreshing change.

    December 19, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  8. bob

    Why not pardon pot charges? Doing pardons with crack is kinda the wrong direction to be going. Pot does't destroy whole communities. Crack does. Prohibition on alcohol did not work, one reason is it gave bad guys something to fight over and line the pockets of gangs. More or less the same with pot. Go with Washington and Colorado and tax it instead of spending money and filling cells with some one caught with an once and put pedifiles in and those who murder

    December 19, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Pardoning crack dealers is the job of the President now? Will he welcome them into his neighborhood?

    December 19, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  10. Alex

    Still fixing republican mistakes, like the Reagan war on drugs and mandatory sentencing. Now if we could only go back to Clinton levels of taxation and military spending, we could cut the deficit more.

    December 19, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  11. charlieb1488

    I just reviewed the list of pardons by George Bush (Junior that is). Nobody can say anything about Obama if they consider all Bush's pardons

    December 19, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  12. johnc

    The most unifying president of all times... I'm flummoxed by his propensity to rectify our problems.

    December 19, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  13. Diocletian

    race based pardons being used to help out political allies, disgusting.

    December 19, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  14. Chiefdan

    Good there out now they can get right back into again.....

    December 19, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  15. shinyhalo

    I normally bash most actions of the government, but drug use should be legal. So good. Let all the drug users out. However, I also think it shouldn't be the responsibility of the country to take care of them health-wise afterwards. Let them die on the street.

    December 19, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. Jim

    The president pardon's coke dealers? As soon as these thugs are out on the street and they start dealing again, somebody's gonna die from the drugs that they are selling. They are criminals who were put away for DEALING DRUGS and the president thinks they've had enough punishment. This wasn't about his compassion, it was buying favor with the State of Massachusetts. Funny how living in Massachusetts makes you forget your criminal relatives. First Obama forgot he even met his illegal alien uncle who he stayed with in law school and now Gov. Patrick doesn't remember ever meeting his own crack dealing first cousin. That's just crazy.

    December 19, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  17. KG

    In case people forget, crack cocaine, unlike the powdered form, gives such an intense high that it actually damages the synapses in the brain which provide pleasure, making it extremely addictive. You can never achieve the same sense of euphoria, but gotta keep trying. That is why the sentences for Crack were more severe. Thank goodness Obama has his priorities straight in setting these men free when so much inconsequential stuff is happening in the world.

    December 19, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  18. Mike

    look folks- I'm not being rude or anything like that at all, but life locked up for crack is crazy when a rapists gets less time. yes the person should get jail time for these hard drugs but that long? Up to life? come on- we need fair laws, some may not be what we want but thats the way it is..

    December 19, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  19. ThatGuy

    This is a welcoming change. There's no legitimate pharmacological difference between crack and powdered cocaine, yet there existed a huge sentencing disparity, which severely disrupted the inner cities. It's about time.

    December 19, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. Truth Today

    Pardons for people who have a voice while others deserving of a pardon are ignored. A good step but wholly lacking in many ways.

    December 19, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  21. Scott

    Of course Obama pardoned his friends relatives...but we'll look the other way...

    December 19, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  22. Scott

    Obama doesn't know his uncle either...

    December 19, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  23. ems870

    what a load. Let out to only smoke more crack one of them will probably be a violent crime offender in the future.....im so sure deval had no idea what so ever how convenient, just like how obama didnt meet his illegal drunk driving uncle that got amnesty , two corrupt politicians that abuse their power, 2016 cant come soon enough.

    December 19, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  24. RDH

    I heard some where that 63% of all current prisoners in the USA are in for non violent drug offenses. I think it high time to end the war on drugs, decriminalize and focas on rehabilatation rather than incarceration.

    December 19, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  25. brown

    I think Obama made the right call but I don't believe for a second Deval Patrick had no
    knowledge of the decision about his cousin.

    December 19, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
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