December 19th, 2013
01:54 PM ET
4 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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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 (331 Responses)
  1. smith

    I wonder how many lives were ruined or ended by these crackdealers and their poison.

    December 19, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. Moochelle Be Fat Mang

    He never quits looking out for his hommies.

    December 19, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Thomas

    Freshman GOP Rep. Trey Radel of Florida pleads guilty on a charge of cocaine possession and is sentenced to a year of probation
    -------------------------------------------------
    Correct. He purchased his last bag from an undercover.
    He proceeded to take them to his house, so as to keep the situation under wraps, so to speak, and proceeded to tell them when asked that yup, there's more drugs here at home.
    One year probation.
    Really?!

    @ Rudy NYC
    Yup. Saw the "I got off because I suffer from affluenza" kid on the news.
    My son had to come and pick my mouth up off the floor.
    He killed 4 people. Got one year probation.
    That family is experiencing what Trayvon's family experienced: the loss of a loved one and their killer walking away scott-free.
    But hey, at least the cops were all over Zimmerman when he THREATENED his girlfriend.
    How about that, huh?!

    December 19, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. Repp55

    would be interesting to see if any connection to fund raising and the individuals involved and/or their families...

    December 19, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. Cornhole Wessed

    0bama came to that conclusion,...but only after a long hard consultation with Larry Sinclair in the backseat of a limo.

    December 19, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. Torn

    Just commute all non-violent drug offenders' sentences and legalize it all.

    December 19, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "He never quits looking out for his hommies."

    I love how you guys consistently make my arguments for me. Yes, we know, racism is at the root of the GOP/Teatrolls' 5 year hissy feet. Keep on piling on the evidence. Please proceed.

    December 19, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    "He never quits looking out for his hommies."

    I love how you guys consistently make my arguments for me. Yes, we know, racism is at the root of the GOP/Teatrolls' 5 year hissy fit. Keep on piling on the evidence. Please proceed.

    December 19, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. karl from az

    Commute ALL, then we won't need prisons!

    December 19, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. don in albuquerque

    My, my, my........Read these posts. The Racist Right is Running Rampant today.

    December 19, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. OldSchool

    A reasonable position, I imagine there are more people who should have their sentences similarly commuted...

    December 19, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Ograf

    I want to know if all these offenders were African American, and if they were it is a policy based on race alone and is wrong on so many levels.

    December 19, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Joseph

    There should be no penalty as long as 15 years for anything but murder or a scenario where you basically ruin the rest of someones life be it physically or financially. And this right after that punk kid got zero time for killing 4 and ruining several other lives; guess how much i care a person who wanted to get high decades ago gets to walk free? guess...

    December 19, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. Obamalover

    Obama was like, hey, I did crack too. You're free to go. I'll lock up 1 million pot smokers in your place.

    December 19, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. GhostDogNY

    What President doesn't? Hell, what everyday person does not? Nothing wrong with fixing the disparity through commutation. 15 years + for drug dealing, ony 8 cases out of millions seems just. The sentence must fit the crime. Powder is no different from rock. Same stuff different format, same affect.

    December 19, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. Crashman

    Releasing crack users who have been in prison for 15+ years. Why not? Since rich guys caught snorting coke get probation.

    December 19, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. Mikey

    Those who choose to pretend that much of the hatred of the President is racial need only read the comments on this string to realize just how wrong they are. Then again, those may be the same people.

    Further observation: This is one of those days that looks like it's furlough day at the asylum. TP wackadoos abound.

    December 19, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  18. yo!

    crack cocaine sentencing have been unfair and severely punitive and it's laws blatant racism.

    December 19, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  19. CJ

    Only in the mind of a liberal. Justice and fairness, two words that definitely don't belong together in this context.

    December 19, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  20. unknown11

    Gee, isn't the world a better place. I am sure that they will rush right out to get jobs and join the neighborhood watch. There has to be thousands of crackheads in jail. How did these get picked?

    December 19, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  21. Nathan

    Why should someone who used crack get a much longer sentence than someone who used powder cocaine? The only difference is one group primarily used one and another group primarily used the other. The law was unfair in its application and is being rectified now. To all those who don't like it. Get over ourself.

    December 19, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  22. Cornoel Wessed

    pResident 0bama came to that conclusion,...but only after a long hard consultation with Larry Sinclair in the backseat of a limo.

    December 19, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  23. John

    Whew, this is a huge relief. We really have to coddle and nurture our criminals more.

    December 19, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. Name

    Always got to be negitve people just shut up already!!!

    December 19, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. unknown11

    Does anyone else find it strange that all the comments to a political forum need to be "moderated". I understand that this is not the government limiting free speech, but you would think that news organizations would be really reluctant to moderate political speech. Of course, I might say things that disagree with liberals. Oh, the horror.

    December 19, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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