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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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.
This is a good thing. The drug sentencing disparities are truly harsh.
I bet they are all blacks
Surprised I haven't heard an eight more votes jab
Was Limbaugh one of them commuted?
I'm sure he'll have them over to meet the family, spend the night have a fun time.
More of those "If I had a son this is what he would look like."
And you right wingnuts wonder why normal people think you are brain dead. Go back and read your own stupidity.
Got eight new suppliers now. Never know when he might need a crack hit.
that's good. when you run out of problems to solve and rounds of golf to play when prez, i guess this is what you spend your time on.
Obama needs to be a statesman! Lower the corp tax rate. Fumigate dodd/frank forever. Believe in supply side econ. Drug addiction is a mental illness. Read churchill. He should have a monument in every us city.
you know they are Bill
Putin grants amnesty to thousands of nonviolent offenders with overly harsh sentences.
Obama commutes the sentence of eight.
I noticed some black druggies get life in prison, but Trey Radel gets nothing. Maybe when a person is arrested, they should tell the police they are republicans, and then they won't have jail time.
Interesting. In the US you can go to jail for fifteen years for using crack cocaine, while you can do no jail time at all for killing four people.
@Bill- I bet they are all blacks
So what are you suggesting, only blacks use drugs in this country,and no whites use drugs, if i call you a racist you will say that i am playing the race card.Right wing ignorance is a disease that unfortunately spreads, and i bet maybe you are an old out of touch whiteman? your kind you are usually racist.
They were probably his homies.
@Bill who said "I bet they are all blacks"
Being that the law unfairly targeted the black community, I too guess that they must all be black.
15 years for drugs while the guy that murdered my brother in law was out in 8. Crazy!
What?! He let 8 people out of jail after only serving 15 years for victimless crimes?! Permissive librils are ruining this country.
"I bet they are all blacks"
And I bet you're all kinds of stupid.
"Obama, who has sparingly used his pardon and commutation powers"
As if that will deter the Teatrolls. Yawn.
" I got these double cheeseburgers man, pleaase, double cheese"
i bet they're all american
Bravo! He finally had the guts to do what's right. The drug laws in this country are truly insane. They're still going after Bernie Goetz for a tiny amount of weed. Total waste of tax money.
Bill, I will take that bet cause you are a jerk inciting racism.
Our Mayor in Toronto is white and a crack smoker.
Yeah Bill! You're right! We all know that only Black People smoke crack! Those paint chips you ate as a child are finally rearing it's ugly head, you moron!!!!