Obama Frees Clarence Aaron and Seven Other Drug Offenders Sentenced Under Old Crack Law

As J.D. Tuccille
earlier this afternoon, President Obama
eight commutations today, which is eight times the
number he had issued in the first 59 months of his administration.
The best-known prisoner who will be freed as a result of today’s
clemency actions is Clarence
, who was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in
1993 for his role in arranging a cocaine deal. Aaron’s case
received a lot of publicity recently thanks to reporting by
ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer, who
that his clemency petition probably would have been
granted by George W. Bush if the Office of the Pardon Attorney had
not omitted important information from its evaluation.

Another commutation beneficiary, Stephanie George, received a
life sentence in 1997 for letting her boyfriend stash his crack at
her house. New York Times reporter John Tierney

her case in a front-page story last December.
Thanks to Obama’s commutations, Aaron and George will both be
released next April instead of spending the rest of their lives
behind bars.

All of the prisoners whose sentences Obama has shortened
Eugenia Jennings
, whose petition was granted in 2011) were
convicted of crack offenses prior to passage of the Fair Sentencing
Act, the 2009 law that reduced penalties for possessing and
distributing the smoked form of cocaine. That law, which passed
Congress almost unanimously, reflected a consensus that the old
penalties were inappropriately harsh, but it did not apply
retroactively. It should therefore be a no-brainer to shorten the
prison terms of crack offenders sentenced under the old rules,
which virtually everyone now agrees were unjust. Families Against
Mandatory Minimums estimates there are 8,800 such prisoners. As of
today, Obama has used his clemency power to help 0.1 percent of

Obama nevertheless deserves credit for acting, albeit belatedly
and timidly, on his avowed belief that thousands of people in
federal prison do not belong there. In addition to issuing these
commutations, he has endorsed the Smarter
Sentencing Act
, a bill co-sponsored by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) that would allow some crack offenders
convicted before 2009 to seek shorter sentences. But as Obama
demonstrated today, he does not have to wait for congressional
action. It is completely within his power to free any federal
prisoner whose sentence he deems unjust. If he exercises that power
a little more, he will not be in danger of going down in history as
least merciful president ever

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/19/obama-frees-clarence-aaron-and-seven-oth

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