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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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.
If powder cocaine and crack cocaine were the same thing, no one would cook cocaine into crack. Thats why there should be different sentences. Its like saying that stealing a candy bar is the same as embezzling $100,000. They are 2 completely different things. Like everything it has to be turned into a race issue and it is fitting that Obama pardons crack dealers lol.
Such a sweet gesture, they can make some money before Christmas, guess how!
Imagine that – a criminal pardoning criminals!
I agree selling and transporting these drugs are a serious issue and should be dealt with harshly. I do agree with getting people using these drugs that are not involved in criminal activities treatment over jail unless it calls for it.
Obama and his Crack team of investigators have looked into the issue and realized his voter base is free base!!
Perhaps this will end well when Reynolds Allen Wintersmith goes in to a cocain induced violent rage and shoots both Duval Patrick and obama and truely makes the world a better place
I do agree with harsh sentences for people selling these drugs, but do also agree for users in non criminal situations to get treatment over jail unless it calls for it as in many occasions.
Some Americans will only be happy when there is a prison on every block.
Pardon Bush , he lied and got us into unjust war !
Hey, why eight? Commute everyone in jail and look at the money the feds will save! Obama is starting to compete wilth Harding as the worst President in U. S. history.
This is one area I dislike about presidential power. People are found guilty in court by their peers and sentanced. President whoever roles into office and says forget that, your good. And in this case (well 1 of 8 anyways) it is an obvious favor to a political ally. I am not placing blame on Obama...he is just one of the many many presidents who have done this. I am placing blame on the system...a system where if you know the right person you are good to go no matter what.
These people have rap sheet's as long as thick as a ream of paper. Don't fool yourselves into thinking this is about some crack cocaine possession.
well if bank CEOs and wall street mongols can steal BILLIONS from the american people. And settle in court by buying their freedom for a 15% charge on their stolen money. Then might as well free'em all! until we decide to hold the top 5% of this country to the same moral code we hold the poor and bottom 50% of this country too. Let the Crack dealers go home send those Harvard alumni's to prison. Make our justice system usefully for the 1st time in its 80yrs
"The White House said Patrick didn't request anything of the administration and that the family ties didn't impact the decision."
Ummm....yeah....that's good enough for me
Didn't know he could do that. I knew he could pardon them.
The hundreds (if not thousands) of lives destroyed by these drug dealers do not matter to B. Hussein Obama.
Ora pike- you are aware that this President can't run again, right?
You are so correct! It appears that if the moon is out of phase, it's Obamas fault. Some of these people are so idiotic with their blatant hatred of the man, that they can't see past their noses. Anyone with just a taste of common sense knows why these laws were inacted and who they targetted. In my view, he didn't release enough. He should have released all 8000 that they speak of in the video.
which further proves the saying, "it's not about what you know rather WHO you know."
Finally agree with the President! Never understood the difference in charges, kind of seems like it was set up racially. This is coming from a white Catholic Jew. Yes my parents were crazy! Anyways, I do not agree with the current regime, but I have liked how he has used or not used the veto power. The crimes these folks committed do not fit the sentence. Come on! People are still killing people and getting 25 fricking years. You can not sentence on what ifs!!
Well, well, well.... the cousin of one of Obama campaign managers!!!! Right, it was total surprise.... Obama is government corruption on steroids. Use the government to target your adversaries and to benefit your friends and supporters.
So if one of these drug cons hurts or kills someone, can the family victims family sue Obama?
Life in prison for cocaine possession?
Yea, while a 16 year drunk kid in Texas got probation after killing 4 people in a DUI accident.
Having a small amount of mind-altering substance for personal use should not ruin a person's life.
Now, if they steal to get it or neglect their kids to use it, that's an entirely different conversation.
drug abuse is a disease. are we going to put people in jail because they have cancer?