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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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.
"Sparingly used his powers"? lol! Why crack dealers and not pot users? Odd choice of drug offenders. Wonder why?
Crack heads. The idiot is turning CRACK HEADS loose. There is nothing too low for this president, NOTHING.
Funny how the same baggers who want the government to stay out of our business and let us drink booze and smoke cigs and eat fatty foods all we want, are blasting Obama for this. Can you say Hypocrites........or Racists
Obama has finally realized this... Thanks Obama for that. I hope he make medical marijuana legal before his term over. Also he won't put any one in jail for the first time drug users....
@ Tone-do some research. It is the black community that uses the vast majority of crack. The ghetto rats can't afford better drugs on their welfare checks.
I'm sure you defend while folk when they're carjacked and murdered by black youth. Funny how the percentage of blacks in prison is so high, but black population isn't close to white. Keep blaming other rather than take responsibility.
Obama would have gone to prison himself for drug use when he was younger if he had been caught. It is time to stop this ignorant war on drugs, no I do not and have never used illegal drugs, and let most of these people out of lockup.
I do not think the president should have the power to do this UNLESS the criminals were convicted under Federal Law.
If they were convicted under State law and sentenced according to State guidelines, he should not be able to over ride it.
Now if they were convicted in Federal court, under Federal laws, then he should have the power.
More than good – sorry to even hear people have been in jail 15 years for drug use. Drug use alone as a crime should get rehab not jail in the first place. And then they talk about prison overcrowding. It is a lose-lose.
Too little too late. He has failed to do the right thing and push for the federal legalization of weed. I would have expected the biggest weed smoker in his high school to be a lot cooler and more helpful once he became president.
Does receiving a pardon give them back their right to vote? Democrats are the best at getting out the voters. What a crock.
All crack heads stick up for each other. Obama's people are all crack heads!!!
Yes we need to change all drug sentencing laws as they are not right. Doesn't matter what color you are under the law.
War on drugs ? Let's have a war on poverty .
Rights wingnuts may be brain dead, but they still suck.
So 8 people were commuted because they law was harsh on them. A judge's duty is to interpret the law as he/she feels fit...at the same time be fair and unbiased. One thing that should be looked at is the history of the criminal. Is 15 enough for the charge...in my opinion it could be...but I guess since I don't have all the facts who am I to say? Hopefully they changed their lives and live to provide for their community...and not like they provided in the past...LOL
Let me guess.. they were obama's illegal family or his sons.
8 Obama relatives back on the street. Is it true they were Muslims from Kenya.
What was the nature of the crimes? Selling the drugs? Using the drugs? Stealing and selling people's property to buy the drugs? Selling drugs to kids? Were the crimes truly victim-less crimes? What were the races of those released?
They will all have a shot at the "Family Feud" Game show in the near future. Part of the Obama "shove my culture up your butt" plan.
He pardoned Bush/Cheney Rumsfeld for war crimes on August 20, 2013. Now he's pardoning crack offenders. Does he have something to hide?
Obama: Hey Homies. You're free..free at last. God all mighty you're free at last.
See, what Bill said was completely idiotic. Rather than leave it alone, or call him out for being an idiot, you then had to inject the terms "right wing" and "whiteman." Now you are just as guilty of mindless, offending blanket-statements as the racist you chastise. Not the way to raise the dialog.
I wonder how many lives were ruined or ended by these crackdealers and their poison.