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served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to "unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime."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

    If I had a crack dealer, he would look just like him

    December 19, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  2. sammy750

    President Obama should release all the Black prisoners held in the USA Prisons Look at the billions of $ the states would save. Many of them have been unfairly sentenced anyway.

    December 19, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  3. VTGUY

    No job, no education, no place to live.... wonder how long before they are arrested again for selling drugs to your kids.

    December 19, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "how many people did these sellers of poison kill and injure?"

    Even assuming your unsupported factual premise, the answer is still zero. They forced nobody to put these tings in their bodies. The ONLY true and effective way to reduce the drug trade is to reduce demand. Unfortunately, it is far FAR more lucrative for certain industries and corporations to keep people insisting that the focus should be almost entirely on p-ssing away money trying to stop supply, which will never ever work, and then p-ss away money on unequal enforcement efforts and excessive, inequitable jail sentences that are also entirely ineffective in terms of rehabilitation and deterrence.

    December 19, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  5. t3chn0ph0b3

    Shutting off replies? This place just gets lamer and lamer and lamer and lamer...

    December 19, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. Al

    Obama just want to try and out do Putin. Besides Obamas already got kick back money, now he too wants the drugs.

    December 19, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. patNY

    There is a racial component to the different sentences for crack and powder cocaine which needs to be addressed.

    December 19, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. willy

    You don't deal in drugs you have nothing to worry about.

    December 19, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  9. truth

    He should start commuting those serving student loan life sentences.

    December 19, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. Name

    You still get more time for weed then man made drugs

    December 19, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Malory Archer


    Got eight new suppliers now. Never know when he might need a crack hit.


    You're thinking of that repub guy from Florida. He's in rehab and with any luck, will be subject to MANDATORY RANDOM drug testing when he returns.

    December 19, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. BT

    He should release people serving long sentences for marijuana BEFORE considering releasing people serving long sentences for cocaine.

    December 19, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Trev

    Lighten up, fatty

    December 19, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. Malory Archer


    15 years for drugs while the guy that murdered my brother in law was out in 8. Crazy!


    Or the kid in texass who killed 4 people while driving drunk and was sentenced to 10 years probation.

    December 19, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  15. Malory Archer


    15 years for drugs while the guy that murdered my brother in law was out in 8. Crazy!


    Or the kid in texas who killed 4 people while driving drunk – three times the legal limit drunk no less – and got 10 years probation. That was beyond crazy. That was just messed up.

    December 19, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. Brent Jatko

    About time. We need to end this war now!

    December 19, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. don in albuquerque

    @Bill–But, but, but what about Radel? It appears he will get nothing, not even thrown out of office.....oh well, oops silly me. He his white with money, and a "respectable" man.

    December 19, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. Name who cares

    Somebody seen my rabbit?

    December 19, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Anyone else hear about that kid, deep in the heart of Texas, who had come down with a case of "affluenza"? Killed four folks and nearly two others in a DUI accident, with three times the legal blood alcohol limit in his blood. Got probation."

    Yes, but he was white and, well, rich. When rich, suburban white people fail to raise their children well, the GOP/Teatrolls.MSM call it an excuse. When poor, inner city black people fail to raise their children right, the GOP/Teatrolls/MSM call it genetic.

    December 19, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. Jeremy

    Turn the crack users free and meanwhile keep sending your DEA cronies to bust medical marijuana patients. Just another pathetic distraction by the evil pieces of crap that are running our nation into the ground.

    December 19, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. miguel

    Just wait unitl it s his last day in office. He is going to pardon all of these political hacks and make Clinton look angelic by comparison.

    December 19, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. airjackie

    By accident the drug raid agents mistakenly arrested a Congressmen as they have always be given a pass. Well some freshman Congress/Senators openly admit their drug use but never ever been stopped. Speaker Boehner clearly high and an alcoholic knows he is safe from arrest. But the Federal Judge/Prosecutor had to work with Boehner on how to assure Rep. Trey Radel could continue his job. Smart move charging possession of crack cocaine as a petty disorderly and not a felon. Then a small fine. The Judge had to review the Congress 2014 calendar to assure Radel would not lose his job as it's only 3 months listed for work and 9 months vacation/recess for Congress. Rep. Radel will be back to work 2015 ready to go. As for the other drug addict lawmakers the law enforcement has been put on notice no more mistakes only arrest minorities. Now the Court has found a defense for wealthy people who murder people to use the Affluenza Defense. Obama can't touch that.

    December 19, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  23. cristian saileanu

    good for obama
    and now for creating some jobs...

    December 19, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  24. croberts

    This is good thing if you want crack addicts running around robbing people to support their habits. WTG

    December 19, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. JFS3

    I'm not usually an Obama fan, but this is the right thing to do. Hopefully those 8 have learned a lesson and can move on with life.

    December 19, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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