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STEVE ELLIOTT

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[Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]

Advocates Will Push Next Administration on Sentencing Reform

President Barack Obama on Tuesday, January 17, commuted the sentences of 209 people incarcerated in federal prison, and handed out 64 pardons. This brings the number of prisoners who have been granted clemency under President Obama to 1,597.

Clemency was granted to five marijuana lifers whose sentences were commuted. This included the sentences of four Moreno brothers (five of whom were given life sentences for marijuana back in 2001), as well as that of Ernest Gonzalez, all of Texas. Among the commutations and pardons granted were those for 14 prisoners sentenced for marijuana only, or for marijuana plus “money laundering,” a common add-on charge.

Two other commutations were issued for harsh marijuana sentences, along with seven pardons for sentences which had already been served.

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Michael Collins, Drug Policy Alliance:
“We are grateful for the President’s actions, but this new Congress must now step up to the plate on sentencing reform”

The commutations and pardons represent the Obama Administration’s push to overhaul the criminal justice system through clemency, making it fairer while saving the government money. President Obama has been pushed to do more to release those serving time in prison under harsh drug laws that have imprisoned an enormous amount of individuals.

Just last week, President Obama wrote an article in the Harvard Law Review outlining his Administration’s work on criminal justice reform. These could possibly be his last round of commutations.

“We are grateful for the President’s actions, but this new Congress must now step up to the plate on sentencing reform”, said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “There are still thousands of people in prison serving unfair sentences for drug offenses, and we need to fix that.”

Advocates fear that Donald Trump will take a tougher approach to criminal justice and clemency. Many were heartened, however, when House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently committed to moving sentencing reform in this Congress.

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Tony Papa, Drug Policy Alliance:
“There are thousands of people in prison who should also be granted their freedom by President Obama”
[DPA]

Papa, who recently received a pardon from the state of New York, just released his new book, This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency, which highlights the roadblocks he faced after he was released.“There are thousands of people in prison who should also be granted their freedom by President Obama,” said Tony Papa, media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, who was granted clemency in New York State in 1997 after serving 12 years under the Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first-time nonviolent drug offense.

“I am praying that Obama grants every single one of them clemency before he leaves office so they can have second chances in their lives,” Papa said.

Marijuana Clemency: Commutations and Pardons

Clemency granted through sentence commutations or pardons to 15 individuals who had been convicted only of marijuana offenses, or of marijuana plus “money laundering,” were as follows:

CANNABIS COMMUTATIONS

• German Gallegos – Fabens, TX

Offense:         1. Importing a quantity of marijuana greater than 100 kilograms; possessing with intent to distribute a quantity of marijuana greater than 100 kilograms; Western District of Texas
2. Supervised release revocation (Importation of a controlled substance; possession with intent to distribute); Western District of Texas

Sentence:        1. 240 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release (July 16, 2008)
2. 24 months’ imprisonment (four months consecutive, 20 months concurrent) (July 16, 2008)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 188 months’ imprisonment, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

• Ernest Gonzalez – Mathis, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; Southern District of Texas

Sentence: Life imprisonment (June 13, 2006)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 210 months’ imprisonment, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

• Pablo Gonzalez, Jr. – Corpus Christi, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; Southern District of Texas

Sentence: 135 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (July 28, 1999); amended to 120 months’ imprisonment (February 27, 2015)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017.

• Cesar Moreno, Sr. – Roma, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; Southern District of Texas

Sentence: Life imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $25,000 fine (April 27, 2001)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017 and unpaid balance of the $25,000 fine remitted.

• Eduardo Moreno – Roma, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; money laundering, aiding and abetting (two counts); Southern District of Texas

Sentence: Life imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $25,000 fine (March 30, 2001)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017 and unpaid balance of the $25,000 fine remitted.

• Lazaro Moreno – Roma, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; Southern District of Texas

Sentence: Life imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $25,000 fine (April 12, 2001)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017 and unpaid balance of the $25,000 fine remitted.

• Luis Moreno – Roma, TX

Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana; conspiracy to commit money laundering; Southern District of Texas

Sentence: Life imprisonment; five years’ supervised release; $25,000 fine (April 27, 2001)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on May 17, 2017 and unpaid balance of the $25,000 fine remitted.

POT PARDONS

• Kurt David Christensen – Portland, OR

Offense:  Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana (District of Arizona)

Sentence:  60 months’ probation (January 3, 2001)

• Arthur Martin Gilreath, aka Arthur Martin Gilbreath – Pine Knot, KY

Offense:  Conspiring to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana (Eastern District of Kentucky)

Sentence:  One year of imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (February 14, 1992) (as amended January 8, 1993)

• Randy Wayne Maxwell – Pine Knot, KY

Offense:  Conspiring to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana (Eastern District of Kentucky)

Sentence:  One year of imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (February 14, 1992) (as amended January 8, 1993)

• Roger Burel Patterson – Dahlonega, GA

Offense:  Possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Northern District of Georgia)

Sentence:  24 months’ imprisonment; three years’ supervised released; $5,000 fine; $970 restitution (January 14, 1999)

• Mary Frances Perez, fka Mary F. Pena – Deming, NM

Offense:  Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana (District of New Mexico)

Sentence:  24 months’ imprisonment; four years’ supervised release (January 20, 2000)

• Jimmy Wayne Pharr – Belmont, MS

Offense:  Conspiracy to distribute marijuana; possession with intent to distribute marijuana; use of a communication facility to arrange delivery of marijuana (two counts) (Northern District of Mississippi)

Sentence:  Six months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (February 2, 1990)

• Kevin Sharod Smith – Great Falls, MT

Offense:  Importing a quantity of marijuana (Western District of Texas)

Sentence:  18 months’ imprisonment; three years’ supervised release, conditioned upon the performance of 200 hours of community service (December 1, 1999)

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