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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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

    I suggest entire "LEGAL SYSTEN NEEDS REVAMPED". Totally outdated system with greedy bunch of lawyers, court system. Follow reformatory rule of punishment. Enough spending on these jails, legal system. The most primitive system in USA we find.

    December 19, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. ladies first

    amazing what to do i say put the president to the test let him have them in office and hang around him and his cabinet for a month that includes bunking down at the WH then see if he still charmed about the idea

    December 19, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    -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.
    ****************
    I figured you would have been pleased, since a scion of wealthy parents was able to hire a lawyer and get off. Oh, the power of money warms the hearts of the right wing, while they simultaneously scream about the laws not being enforced, they can see that the drug addicted spoiled offspring of someone they would undoubtably support is spared the punishment he deserves.

    December 19, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. Charlie

    Imagine all the money that could be saved if people quit smoking, quit overeating, quit driving too fast, quit drinking, quit eating junk food. People, it ain't the government's role, duty, or job to tell anyone what to do that is not interfering with anyone else.

    December 19, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Let's look at the judge in Pennsylvania who got sentenced to 30 years for sending young minorities to prison on drug offenses and imposing the maximum penalty just so the Prison Industrial Complex can keep their private jails filled to maximum capacity. It all boils down to $$$$.

    December 19, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. LamaDama

    If convicted under current sentencing laws, those people would be given lighter sentences, the White House added.

    So, legalizing crimes committed by the government itself should fit right in.

    He should know. He's what you'd call an ... nah ... you wouldn't.

    December 19, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  7. Sam

    And Rubashkin? 27 Years for a non violent first time offender!??... Can we get some justice here?

    December 19, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    ok, so these were drug dealers. you don't get these long sentences for simple drug use.
    -------------------------------------
    Yes, you can. Never heard of "three strikes and you're out"? You could get 25 years to life for a third misdemeanor drug possesion conviction. Never heard of a "Class X Felony"? Those crimes get automatic long prison terms. They were supposed to be deterrents. Instead, they've packed the prison systems with inmates costing tens of thousands of dollars per year, at a cost that is 3 and 4 times the cost of welfare. If you believe in Jesus, then, like Jesus, you can forgive those who have repented.

    December 19, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    52pan
    Buying the crackhead vote. Not surprising at all. When you're trying to buy the vote of criminals, you're getting pretty desperate.
    -------------------------------------------
    The President isn't running for office again, so what's he buying? By the way, they're convicted felons whose right to vote will have to be reinstated by their governor genius.

    December 19, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  10. Chuck Rogers

    Those pardoned should have been incarcerated for cannabis,not cocaine.Cannabis you know the dangerous drug that cures cancer?I know most of you do not believe that but the evidence is mounting and I will be right here to tell you "I told you so" cause we all have yet our government continues the lies.Sadder than sad...

    December 19, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  11. Rudy NYC

    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.
    ------------------------------
    Obviously you are grossly unaware of the facts surrounding the case. I suggest you do a web search for " affluenza " before you ever post on this topic again.

    December 19, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  12. Chris ev. al.

    So what .he made something work with a stroke of a pen. i bet their not out of jail yet...

    December 19, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    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.
    -------------------------------------------
    I thought you wingnuts were all about liberty? If people want to smoke crack, that's on them. Ask Rep. Trey Radel. Go back to your meth lab and chill.

    December 19, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  14. AlexInVegas

    Wow, some people are really out of touch. 15 years in jail for a nonviolent drug offense is outragous. If the person commits crime under the influence of said drugs then they get charged with that. In a free society the government shouldn't infringe on what people ingest. That's what education is for and after education if a person chooses to fall into the depths of addiction it becomes a medical problem but still not a criminal one until that person commits crimes while on that drug, say mugging someone for money or something else under the influence. It's 2013 and the war on drugs has been an utter failure, at least this is a step in rectifying that direction.

    December 19, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  15. DBCII

    I despise almost everything Obama does, but I am 100% on board with this. Our prison system is overflowing and non-violent drug users are unfairly punished because of our failed "war on drugs."

    December 19, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Gee, if Osama Hussein let them out.....I wonder what color/race they all are

    December 19, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Vinnie

    Fair is fair, I agree with that, but fair should be for everyone not just for a few. I know someone who came to this country at age 4. Raised here and got in jail at approximately age 30 on drug related problems. Already served 12 years of the 13 sentenced, and due for deportation to the country of birth once released next year. The laws applied to him is also outdated. He has a widowed mother, a minor child in US and does not speak the mother language. Where is fairness in this case?

    December 19, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair posted:

    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.
    ---------------------------
    I say legalize anything that is created by, or can naturally occur in nature. Criminalize anything that is man-made.

    December 19, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    "..that's what you get when you put liberals on the bench"......

    Judge Boyd is a Republican and will not be running again in 2014. I doubt she would call herself a liberal.......but,
    "that's what you get" when you just start commenting without knowing what you are talking about.

    December 19, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  20. Francisco Decastro

    15 years is too much for a cocaine user. I don't codone the use but that's ridiculous. Sure, getting arrested is part of the consequences for snorting coke, but that person is cause more harm to themselves than others. Of course they can steal and hurt others for their craving, but 15 years in jail is not the right way to go. That person will have a really difficult time adjusting back to the world specially depending on how old they are. I'm glad Obama got them out before it turned into 20 years.

    December 19, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    The Real TP posted:

    Rudy NYC
    Anyone else hear about that kid, deep in the heart of Texas, who had come down with a case of "affluenza"?...

    I figured you would have been pleased, since a scion of wealthy parents was able to hire a lawyer and get off. Oh, the power of money warms the hearts of the right wing, while they simultaneously scream about the laws not being enforced, they can see that the drug addicted spoiled offspring of someone they would undoubtably support is spared the punishment he deserves.
    ----------------–
    My man! I should have known that Big Tom would be on top of this one already. Talk about injustice. What makes it so bad is that the kid has had previous DUI incidents before, including one involving a female minor. He was a textbook example of willful, belligerent ignorance.

    December 19, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  22. Meki60

    it would be okay with me if Obama served the remaining sentences

    December 19, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  23. Bribarian

    No surprise, most corrupt administration in history.

    December 19, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  24. sean

    Typical comments from right wing fascist, I thought you tea party neo conservatives were about freedom and fairness, what happened? As always you want to allow the corporate bosses of the world too run free with our money and resources and keep non violent offenders in prison for life because it makes money for the people you worship. Absurd! Obama did the right thing, and you are wrong if that kid was in another state besides Texas, he would not have been allowed to go free Texas always allows it rich murderer's to go free, the Texas state court have nothing to do with federal law so quit whining to those who used that as a way to bash liberals.

    December 19, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. Nancy

    If you want an example of "cruel and unusual," look at the case of Clarence Aaron. The drug laws are seriously out of whack, and it's about time the president recognized it.

    December 19, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
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