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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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

    sameeker

    Imagine the savings to tax payers if they just legalized drugs already.
    -------–
    I've said many times I think pot should be legalized, but I think it stops there. I don't think a blanket legalization of drugs would save the taxpayer anything – on the contrary I think the effects on society would be devastating.

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

    Sound decision.

    December 19, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. just saying

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

    but that will be small comfort for you when it is one of your kids that dies from the easily accessible drugs. i guess you place no value on their life.

    December 19, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  4. Norm

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

    Imaging the savings if people grew up and quit using drugs.

    December 19, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  5. mbane

    USA has more people in jail than any other country! USA, USA, USA – We're no. 1

    December 19, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  6. Tommy G

    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!!
    --

    Holy mackeral! Are you stuck living in the 50's or 60's??? There is NOBODY in jail for smoking a joint these days. Dealers are the only ones getting this hard time. Nice smoke screen though!

    December 19, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. J.Vallet

    Great, but more definitely need to be done! Our Justice System needs overhauled like 10years ago!!

    December 19, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  8. QS

    I much prefer progress come in leaps and bounds, but baby steps is often better than nothing!

    December 19, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  9. just saying

    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.
    --

    that's what you get when you put liberals on the bench. drug dealers walking out of jail is what you get when you put a liberal in the white house. a total disregard for the laws of this country. it is why you have 10-20 million illegals in this country and a government that refuses to enforce the laws on the books.

    December 19, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. craig

    They don't want to tell you these were violent drug dealers selling crack to your children...

    December 19, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. JC Spidell

    So, I understand what is going on here, and why he has made this choice. I think this is a good thing as the drugs really are one in the same. Can't have one without the other! So, fine, however STOP TERRORIZING MJ Patients when your pardoning crack offenders!

    December 19, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. rs

    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.
    ___________________________
    Crack and Cocaine are made of the same material- yet one drug has unusually longer manditory prision terms. What the President was doing was about making a parity of punishment for a crime which involves essentially the same thing.
    Nice rant, is that on a recording or do you make it up fresh each time?

    December 19, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. franklovesfl

    I'm confused. I thought 'crack is whack'? Now its ok? Like a beer?

    December 19, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. obbop

    Please assist the released folks with obtaining a job at a livable wage. Thank you.

    December 19, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  15. mcr

    I don't particularly care that 8 people were released so much as how did 8 people out of the large volume in prison come across his desk? It's an honest question....like of ALL the things that need to be addressed in this country, this actually makes it across his desk?

    December 19, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Stewman

    It is a meek step towards showing the need for drug law reform. However, it a step in the right direction.

    December 19, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  17. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Most of these Teatards are crackheads & meth heads anyway. The should be happy their pusher is back on the street.

    December 19, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  18. CNN Moderation Avoider

    He needed 8 more votes for some reason I guess

    December 19, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. mcr

    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.
    ___________________________
    Crack and Cocaine are made of the same material- yet one drug has unusually longer manditory prision terms. What the President was doing was about making a parity of punishment for a crime which involves essentially the same thing.
    Nice rant, is that on a recording or do you make it up fresh each time?

    ------------

    Doesn't he have better things to be working on?

    December 19, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  20. rs

    just saying

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

    but that will be small comfort for you when it is one of your kids that dies from the easily accessible drugs. i guess you place no value on their life.
    __________________
    You mean like GUNS?

    December 19, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. Legalize all drugs...

    Legalize all the drugs you want because it won't make a difference to me because I don't use them... The last I checked people can get drugs on any corner in any big city... looks like the laws are useless anyways.

    December 19, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. Bamada

    We're a country that enforces equal standards more than others and it has its side effects.

    December 19, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Rep. Trey Radel can get his fix now.

    December 19, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  24. 52pan

    Buying the crackhead vote. Not surprising at all. When you're trying to buy the vote of criminals, you're getting pretty desperate.

    December 19, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. duts

    no, a start would be to remove POT from the schedule 1 list so you dont look as stupid as you act.

    December 19, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14