August 03, 2016
Five Philadelphia-area men are among 214 individuals who had their sentences cut short Wednesday by President Barack Obama. That total marks the most commutations granted on a single day in more than a century.
The president commuted the drug-related sentences of Jose Del Valle of Philadelphia, Alberto Maisonet of Philadelphia, John Nicholas Gargano of Folcroft, Delaware County, Morris Dabbs of Trenton and Richard D. Reid of Wilmington.
Reid also was serving time for a firearms offense.
The 214 commutations include 67 individuals serving life sentences. Almost all of them are serving time for nonviolent crimes related to cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs. But some, like Reid, were charged with firearms violations related to their drug activities.
Nearly all of the prisoners are men, although they represent a diverse cross-section of America geographically.
"All of the individuals receiving commutation today — incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws — embody the president's belief that 'America is a nation of second chances,'" White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post.
Del Valle was sentenced to life imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release on Sept. 7, 2007. He was found guilty of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, possession with the intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and aiding and abetting. Obama commuted his prison sentence to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.
Maisonet was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison followed by eight years of supervised release on Feb. 23, 2005. He was found guilty of two counts of distribution of a cocaine base, two counts of distribution of cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and four counts of illegal use of a communication facility. His commuted sentence will expire Dec. 1, 2016.
Gargano was sentenced to 20 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release on Nov. 20, 2004 for conspiracy to distribute methylenedioxymethamphetamine and ketamine, and distributing and possessing with intent to distribute ecstasy. He also was concurrently sentenced to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and $212,379.38 in restitution for unauthorized use of access devices and conspiracy to commit identification and credit card fraud.
Nearly six years later, Gargano was concurrently sentenced to another eight years and four months in prison, with five years of supervised released on Nov. 8, 2010 for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine. Obama commuted his sentence to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.
Dabbs is serving 20 years in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. His initial sentence, issued on Feb. 29, 2000, of 30 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release, was twice reduced. His commuted sentence will expire on Dec. 1, 2016.
Reid was sentenced to 25 years in prison and 10 years of supervised release on Sept. 4, 2007 for five counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, possession of crack cocaine and possession of marijuana. Obama commuted his sentence to expire on Aug. 3, 2018 – with the condition that Reid enroll in a residential drug treatment program.
Obama has commuted 562 sentences during his presidency — more than the past nine presidents combined, the White House said. Almost 200 of those who have benefited were serving life sentences.
Obama's push to lessen the burden on nonviolent drug offenders reflects his long-stated view that the United States needs to remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements that put tens of thousands behind bars for far too long.
Presidents tend to use their powers to commute sentences or issue pardons more frequently at the end of their presidencies, and Obama administration officials said the rapid pace would continue during Obama's final months.
"We are not done yet," Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said. "We expect that many more men and women will be given a second chance through the clemency initiative."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.