December 19th, 2013
01:54 PM ET
8 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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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. alaskan1st

    Sniffit
    "how many people did these sellers of poison kill and injure?"............ask the tobacco industry that question.

    December 19, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. jfpaosdjfoawe

    The President should have no power to change criminal sentences. If you think your sentence or the law is unfair then go through the court system where it belongs.

    December 19, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  3. dina

    I see all the bigots are out in force. You realize sounding like a simple bigot gives you zero credibility, right?

    December 19, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. alaskan1st

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

    Did I miss the part where they were dealers?

    December 19, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "Sniffit
    "how many people did these sellers of poison kill and injure?"............ask the tobacco industry that question."

    Indeed. BTW, note the quotes...I wasn't saying it, I was quoting someone and then responding.

    December 19, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "The President should have no power to change criminal sentences. "

    I'll be sure to let Madison know that next time I take a trip in my hot tub time machine.

    December 19, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. nk

    I agree with this.

    December 19, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  8. alaskan1st

    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.
    ////////////////////////////////////////

    Looks like they do it to liberals too. Make a better point.

    December 19, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. oharris30

    Mooshelle and smith and all you other Obama haters. whites have been doing this for generation. Your time is OVER! THis country is changing an it is people of color time now. If you don't like it, get out of our country. Thank you President Obama. Now get all the other innocent Blacks out and make sure the criminal whites do their time in prison instead of at home.

    December 19, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  10. mrl

    must have all been his college buddies

    December 19, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. mrl

    why are all comments moderated in a political press forum... kinda bogus

    December 19, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  12. paul

    Hey Dina! I be interested to know if he engaged in any racial profiling when he made his decsions. Things that make you go Hmmmmm!

    December 19, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. don in albuquerque

    Come on all ya all real 'Mericans. Lets go wave a confederate flag in front of the white house!!! BENGHAZZZZI!!!!!!!!!!

    December 19, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  14. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    @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.

    I suspect the CNN Moderators have their hands full deleting posts from "conservatives" who call President Obama a N#&%#r and his wife a chimp. So, yes, we do need a sanity check on this thread.

    December 19, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. Sorkh Razil

    Eight more democratic votes. Eight more welfare dependents.

    December 19, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. The law

    _Very strange, but then again it's Obama..

    December 19, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  17. freedom

    I am surprised that he hasn't pardoned his buddy Blagojevich.

    December 19, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  18. TONE

    @Ric
    Because i use the term whiteman that made me a racist?

    December 19, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  19. Pat

    So, if not these non-violent drug dealers, drug distributors, or drug kingpins, who commits all of the violence associated with drugs?

    December 19, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. ANNIER

    15+ years for drug offenses, yet we have criminals who murder/rape children/spouses out in <8years. Something wrong somewhere!

    December 19, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. JiminNM

    So, was there racial equality in his pardons?

    December 19, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  22. honesty&truth

    Where does personal responsibility come in? A drug dealer isn't forcing drugs to people, just like Wal-mart doesn't force you to buy from them. Drug dealing is capitalism at its finest supply in demand. Without a demand the supply would not be their. So the next time you sit on a jury of a drug case think about that. Cigarette companies sell poison to people everyday and so do alcohol companies, but that's okay right? Also think about this when you go to prison you are surrounded by other prisoners. You spend your time learning the ins and out of crime not being rehabilitated. Treating people as less than human by locking them in cages is not the solution.

    December 19, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  23. Silence DoGood

    @dina
    I see all the bigots are out in force. You realize sounding like a simple bigot gives you zero credibility, right?
    ----------–
    Remember this come voting time! These are the foundation of the GOP.

    December 19, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. fair and balance

    Think about all those saving and loan white white collar criminals of the 80s that got out quickly. Yet yall complain of 8?

    December 19, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  25. jamie

    Looks like Obama is reconnecting with his base. Crackheads.

    December 19, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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