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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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. dwayne

    It's better than spending 78000 dollars a year to house them in prison.

    December 19, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @jfpaosdjfoawe "The President should have no power to change criminal sentences. "
    Almost every president from G.Washington has used the presidential pardon.
    There is no better promotion for liberal causes than a conservative speaking his mind or lack thereof.

    December 19, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. roosevelt rugless

    Don't U just love OUR PRESIDENT

    December 19, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  4. svann

    Cue the "soft on crime" comments!

    December 19, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. jameis

    The president has no business changing the decision of a jury or judge. The president should not have the power to free anyone. our system of government needs an update and overhaul. our system may have been the best at one time, but times have changed and our government needs to change with it.

    December 19, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. SSSS

    At least he didn't pardon any bankers. Or people who donated to his campaign.

    December 19, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. BobInDenver

    Perhaps if in a few years Obama's precious little daughters get hooked on crack or meth his tune will change?

    December 19, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  8. Where is the information???

    OK, when can expect some actual reporting here?

    Who are they? Are they all black? Were they all dealers? Why just these 8? Why not ALL if you want true justice? Will anybody be monitoring them to make sure they don't deal anymore? Were the victims of their crimes consulted?

    $20 says all of these criminals are back in jail in one year for selling drugs again.

    December 19, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. MIukw

    Is this guy now the head of the Judicial branch as well? =Unbelievable=

    December 19, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Andrey

    Well, Rob Ford, Toronto Mayor smocked crack cocaine, so it can not be that bad! Some people die of drags, that's true, but they are all drug addicts anyway: so no need for such a harsh sentence!

    December 19, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. smith

    @Sniffit-Are you really comparing crack to tobacco? That is by far the dumbest comparison I`ve ever heard. You are truly a retard.smh

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

    Poor black criminals was freed by Obama

    December 19, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  13. rabid wolf

    And the Toronto mayor continues to dance

    December 19, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. Chuck

    Is he bailing out his old Coke Dealers?

    December 19, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. smith

    @oharris-Nice racist comment you posted. Go ahead stick up for crack heads and dealers, it really gives a impression. President Obama would see you as a disgrace.

    December 19, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. lc

    This is the only good thing this president has done. We have far too many people in prison in this country and many do not need to be there. If there is no benefit to society by imprisoning somebody, such as a low level drug dealer or user, then let them out. It's ironic that the supposed most free nation in the world has the largest prison population.

    December 19, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. alaskan1st

    Where is the information???
    OK, when can expect some actual reporting here?

    Who are they? Are they all black? Were they all dealers? Why just these 8? Why not ALL if you want true justice? Will anybody be monitoring them to make sure they don't deal anymore? Were the victims of their crimes consulted?

    $20 says all of these criminals are back in jail in one year for selling drugs again.///////////////////////////////
    ////////////////////////////////////////

    You forgot to ask if they were actually dealing.

    December 19, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. luckjoe

    Obama's next big pardon is going to be for 11 million people who are in our county illegally. They will then qualify for food stamps, housing assistance, free health care and earned income tax credit. The 11 million illegals are low income potential Democrates bought and paid for with your hard earned tax dollars.

    December 19, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Empress

    You know I'm reading some of these comments and it's funny how some of you jump to judge so quickly. If there are 10 people 5 of which who were sentenced 40yrs in prison for selling crack cocaine and 5 people who were sentenced for 10yrs for selling the powdered form of cocaine (same amount of cocaine) there is clearly something wrong with this our justice system. It is only natural that they should be sentenced the same amount of time for selling the same amount of drugs. Do you all hate so much that you don't even see that??? WOW!! I bet if it were one of your sons or daughters that made a mistake and got sentenced 20yrs when someone else got sentenced 5yrs for the same exact crime you would be singing a different tune. All of the presidents have used their power to pardon before but I guess it was different with them..

    December 19, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Jay

    Let me take a wild guess here – the majority (if not all of them) released were black...

    December 19, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  21. TTe Tom

    Yeah, what about the two Border Patrol officers rotting in jail unjustly, for doing their duty?

    Criminal governance.

    December 19, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  22. Buffy the vampire slayer ate my goat

    I laugh at most of you frootloops... it happens ...no matter what party is in, its called power and you'll never have it so go back to your imaginary world of self importance. BAWAHAHAHAHAHA!

    December 19, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  23. smith

    What is wrong with people? Pot is one thing, but crack. Crack turned our cities into warzones. Guess all these pro-crack people don`t remember the 80`s.

    December 19, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. difference

    There is a difference between Crack and Coke. Crack is enhanced to the level that it is dangerous. If these were dealers, there is a level of malicious intent, as far as I am concerned. Whether 15 yrs was enough for these people, I don't mind that the President made that call. I just didn't like the comparison that Coke and Crack should be considered equally judged.

    December 19, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. HamiltonHabber

    Could have been worse, he could have pardoned Nixon.

    December 19, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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