Houston Forward Times

24 December 2013 Written by  Hazel Trice Edney

President Obama Grants Clemency to 21

hero HandsBars - CopyTwenty-one people are experiencing a special Christmas this week as President Obama granted them clemency.

Eight received shortened sentences, most due for release in the spring.  Thirteen others received outright pardons. Most were convicted of non-violent drug offenses like possession or distribution of crack cocaine. The pardons and commutations received applause from the civil rights community which has long fought against the 100-1 disparities in crack and cocaine sentences.

"The administration is continuing to correct a badly drawn path by law and practice," stated NAACP Interim President/CEO Lorraine Miller.  "When the War on Drugs was initiated, too many laws were passed that were not fully thought through - one of those being mandatory sentencing for crack cocaine possession and other drug offenses that was partially driven by media sensationalism and faulty information on drug distinctions, their use, and their effects. Caught in the middle of that war were the poor and communities of color in America that are more likely to be targeted, caught and incarcerated for crack cocaine offenses."

Analysis by the NAACP concludes that "all of the men and women inmates whose sentences were commuted had served at least 15 years in prison. Six were serving life terms. Neither inmate would have been committed to those long terms under the new sentencing guidelines set by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2011."

The NAACP credits the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services for reporting that Blacks comprise approximately 13 percent and Whites comprise approximately 60 percent of illegal drug users in the nation.

"Yet, African-Americans make up 84.7 percent of crack cocaine convictions, while White Americans only make up less than 2 percent of those convicted," the NAACP reports.

"We are ecstatic that the administration has been able to continue the progress it has made in addressing this issue of disparities and injustices in drug related sentencing and offenses," said Hilary Shelton. "The Fair Sentencing Act signed into in 2011 sought to address the vast disparities in sentencing that has disproportionately harmed racial and ethnic minority citizens. It is our hope that the administration and the Congress will continue to work to correct these disparities in our criminal justice system."

The President granted commutations to the following eight individuals:

• Clarence Aaron - Mobile, Ala.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute (Southern District of Alabama)

Sentence:  Life imprisonment, five years’ supervised release (Dec. 10, 1993)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

• Stephanie Yvette George - Pensacola, Fla.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess cocaine base with intent to distribute (Northern District of Florida)

Sentence:  Life imprisonment, ten years’ supervised release (May 5, 1997)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

• Ezell Gilbert - Tampa, Fla.

Offense: Possession with intent to deliver cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Middle District of Florida)

Sentence:  292 months’ imprisonment, five years’ supervised release (Mar. 25, 1997)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to time already served

• Helen R. Alexander Gray - Ty Ty, Ga.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Middle District of Georgia)

Sentence:  240 months’ imprisonment (Oct. 8, 1996)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

• Jason Hernandez - McKinney, Tex.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances; possession with intent to distribute and distribute crack cocaine and methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride; distribution of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a protected property; establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances (Eastern District of Texas)

Sentence:  Life imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release; $5,000 fine (Oct. 2, 1998)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to 240 months (20 years)

• Ricky Eugene Patterson - Fort Pierce, Fla.

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Florida)

Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years’ supervised release (Aug. 3, 1995)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

• Billy Ray Wheelock - Belton, Tex.

Offense: Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine (Western District of Texas)

Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years’ supervised release, $3,000 fine (Jun. 9, 1993)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

• Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, Jr. - Rockford, Ill.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute crack (Northern District of Illinois)

Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years’ supervised release, $1,000 fine (Nov. 23, 1994)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

The President granted pardons to the following thirteen individuals:

• William Ricardo Alvarez - Marietta, Ga.

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin ; conspiracy to import heroin (District of Puerto Rico)

Sentence:  Time served after nine months’ imprisonment, four years’ supervised release (Apr. 30, 1997; amended Jul. 31, 1997)

• Charlie Lee Davis, Jr. - Wetumpka, Ala.

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; use of a minor to distribute cocaine base (Middle District of Alabama)

Sentence: 87 months’ imprisonment, five years’ supervised release (Mar. 21, 1995)

• Ronald Eugene Greenwood - Crane, Mo.

Offense: Conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act  (District of South Dakota)

Sentence: Three years’ probation, conditioned on six months’ home confinement, 100 hours community service, $5,000 restitution, $1,000 fine (Nov. 18, 1996)

• Little Joe Hatch, aka Joe Hatch Sr. - Lake Placid, Fla.

Offense: Possession with intent to distribute marijuana  (Southern District of Florida)

Sentence: 60 months’ imprisonment, four years’ supervised release (May 15, 1990)

• Martin Alan Hatcher. - Foley, Ala.

Offense: Distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Alabama)

Sentence: Five years’ probation (Nov. 9, 1992)

• Derek James Laliberte - Auburn, Me.

Offense: Money laundering (District of Maine)

Sentence: 18 months’ imprisonment, 2 years’ supervised release (Oct. 2, 1992; amended May 21, 1993)

• Alfred J. Mack - Manassas, Va.

Offense: Unlawful distribution of heroin  (District of Columbia Superior Court)

Sentence: 18 to 54 months’ imprisonment (Apr. 5, 1982)

• Robert Andrew Schindler - Goshen, Va.

Offense: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud (District of Utah)

Sentence: Three years’ probation, four months’ home confinement, $10,000 restitution (May 14, 1996)

• Willie Shaw, Jr. - Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Offense: Armed bank robbery (District of South Carolina)

Sentence: Fifteen years’ imprisonment (Aug. 7, 1974)

• Kimberly Lynn Stout, formerly known as Kimberly Lynn Cooley - Bassett, Va.

Offense: Bank embezzlement; false entries in the books of a lending institution (Western District of Virginia)

Sentence: One day imprisonment, three years’ supervised release (including five months home confinement) (Nov. 9, 1993)

• Bernard Anthony Sutton, Jr. - Norfolk, Va.

Offense: Theft of personal property (Eastern District of Virginia)

Sentence: Three years’ probation, $825 restitution, $500 fine (Apr. 4, 1989)

• Chris Deann Switzer - Omaha, Neb.

Offense: Conspiracy to violate narcotics laws (methamphetamine) (District of Nebraska)

Sentence: Four years’ probation, conditioned on six months home confinement, 200 hours’ community service (Jun. 25, 1996)

• Miles Thomas Wilson - Williamsburg, Ohio.

Offense: Mail fraud (Southern District of Ohio)

Sentence: Three years’ probation (Jul. 15, 1981)