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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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. 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 |
  2. OJ

    Also. Are they still felons?

    December 19, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  3. IpseCogita

    Repaying favors. It's what Presidents do.

    December 19, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  4. RWB1956

    And I might venture to guess that a lot of these people on here are swilling good old ,safe hard liquor as they type. Can't get in any trouble with that stuff. Oh,wait....

    December 19, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  5. reply

    No political favors here–if you don't like your sentence you don't have to keep it.

    December 19, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  6. gb0423

    this obviously is a threat to the American way of life!..let's hear it Teabaggers

    December 19, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  7. BritHawk

    As soon as I see the phrase "no recollection" I know they are lying.

    December 19, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  8. james

    8 individuals across the entire country and 1 is related to a fellow party member. Yeah, ok, sounds up and up. Lol

    December 19, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  9. Chris

    This once again shows how low rent he is. Lets just let all the drug dealers out.

    Obama i pathetic, lacks class ans has no dignity. He comes across as a guy still looking for respect because of his upbringing.

    December 19, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  10. ED 1

    Good to know people in high places they are crooks not saints.

    December 19, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. Javanne

    All of these drugs should be legalized and treated like cigarettes. In other words,launch massive ad campaigns showing kids and everyone else what using them does. It worked with cigarettes, why not with this? Legalizing them would cut the crime rate down significantly and hit the drug lords where it hurts the most – their profits. Probably put 'em out of business.

    December 19, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. John the Electrician

    The right wing war on drugs is a total failure. Let those people go.

    December 19, 2013 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. LJ

    Saying coke is the same as crack is the like saying meth is the same as speed. It has been altered and is no longer the same drug, although coke is the base. Either way, where does our president get his interest in setting free 8 convicted of drug charges? Where was he at 5 years ago when the man just released, after being wrongfully imprisoned for 25 for killing his wife, was still rotting in jail? What are his priorities??? Release the criminals and give the illegal aliens immunity! Welcome to the new USA.

    December 19, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  14. Itsallme

    Bush commuted the death sentence of a self confessed serial killer who made his own mom his first victim, and claimed to have killed over 100 people.

    December 19, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  15. Christina Honigberg

    Does this President actually have one foot on the planet? Commuting some one like that on cocaine next he will be having dinner with the drug lords . Well I guess if you are a friend of a friend and know Obama you can get away with any thing. a I remember when the United States was respected around the world. I know there are still good people out there so why not speak out get rid of these corrupt politicians and bring America back to where she was a great country.

    December 19, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. bates

    @Empress Just don't do drugs or commit crimes. There is absolutely no incentive to do so, yet this country is full of fools who still do it.

    December 19, 2013 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  17. Michelle Johnson

    While I am totally against everything Obama stands for, this time I totally support his decision.

    December 19, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  18. bruce knall

    Sure it's a coincidence. And there are ONLY 8 people in the whole US of A who are the innocent victims of blind justice? Of course the governor of Massachusetts doesn't know who his long lost cousin is. Maybe we have to look at what the definition of is, is.

    December 19, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  19. Kay

    Our justice system is like the mafia. Obama's commuting eight sentences is like putting a bandaid on a punctured vein. We need to reduce the number of the incarcerated in this country and do away with the death penalty. We also have to prosecute prosecutors who hide evidence or knowingly argue false evidence to get a conviction. Pfffftttt the system is frustrating.

    December 19, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  20. Anthony in California

    skybill40
    Obama: Making a joke of the office of the President of the United States, one sad day at a time.

    GWB did the exact same thing. Try googling rapper "John Forte"... member/producer of the Fugees. GWB released him the EXACT same way.

    December 19, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. Gene

    Who will excuse Obama when he's been placed under arrest for treason, fraud and lying?.

    December 19, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  22. Punishment should fit the offense

    I applaud the President for being merciful. We all make mistakes in life and as such face our own demons. However. The punishment should fit the crime. I do not doubt the defendants deserved to be punished. Now we will get to see if the learned anything...

    December 19, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    drug sentencing guidelines and mandatory sentences are way too harsh. save the space for violent offenders. the only sad thing is that there are thousands of others rotting away in jail cells.

    December 19, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  24. FortRandall

    Why stop at just 8 coke dealers. Why not commute all of them. How much crack did he have to get the intent to distribute charge. Crack cocaine is a much more powerful and addicting drug than cocaine even though it's basically the same drug. The high associated with smoking crack is much more intense than snorting a couple of lines. This causes many users to "chase the dragon', they tend to smoke more of it trying to recapture the high of the first hit. There is also much more profit in slinging crack vs slinging cocaine. Legalizing a drug like this will not make it any less addicting just more affordable.
    I believe the heavy sentences for crack were implemented because of all murders associated with it back in the 80's.

    December 19, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  25. Obama is weak

    I guess now Massachusetts knows why Patrick didn't get that appointment he was rumored to be in line for....He got this instead...Nice gotta love it....And if you believe the story that Patrick knew nothing about this than I suggest you keep drinking the kool aid your government thanks you for it

    December 19, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
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