Obama Commutes Sentences of 61 Drug Offenders, Including 11 From Florida

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Photo by Pete Souza/White House

Today, President Obama cut short prison time for 61 people who had been sentenced under outdated, draconian, or ineffective sentencing laws. He was set to speak at 2 p.m. 

According to a White House statement, "More than one-third of them were serving life sentences. To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences." 

The statement also said, "For the first time in a quarter century, Americans across the board acknowledge that the criminal justice system is broken and needs to change. This is no longer a partisan issue: Republicans and Democrats agree that many sentencing laws are outdated and unnecessarily harsh. We are continuing to work in bipartisan fashion to secure those much-needed, long-overdue reforms in Congress so that thousands more deserving individuals may benefit from the second-chance that these individuals earned today." 

New Times has in the past explored the issue of overly harsh sentences in a story about Valerie Bozeman, whose sentence was commuted by Obama last year, and pot smuggler Randy Lanier, a racecar driver who had his sentence cut short. 

Of those who had their sentences cut short today, several were from South Florida: 

Jeffrey Sapp of Fort Lauderdale was serving a 20-year sentence to be followed by ten years' supervised release for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and  a related conspiracy charge. He committed the crimes in 2001 and was sentenced in 2003.  Now, with Obama's move, he will be released July 28. Just last year, federal Judge Donald Graham denied a motion to reduce Sapp's sentence. His former federal public defender, Samuel J. Smargon, did not return a call for comment by presstime. 

Marvin Bailey of Hollywood, also known as Larry Anderson, had been sentenced to life in prison in West Virginia in 1996 for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base and a related conspiracy charge, as well as aiding the travel in interstate commerce to promote the distribution of cocaine. Thanks to Obama, his sentence will now expire on March 30, if he pays the balance of a $25,000 fine. His former defense attorney George B. Vieweg III did not want to comment. 

Obama also commuted the sentences of three defendants from Miami: 

Henry Claude Agnew 
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base; Southern District of Florida
Sentence: 262 months' imprisonment; five years' supervised release (November 24, 2003)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2016.

Carmel Bretous 
Offense: Conspiracy to import at least five kilograms of cocaine; importation of five kilograms of cocaine; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine; possession with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine; Southern District of Florida
Sentence: 235 months' imprisonment; five years' supervised release (November 6, 2001)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2016.

Wayne Parker 
Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; Northern District of Florida
Sentence: 420 months' imprisonment; ten years' supervised release; $1,500 fine (November 23, 1999); amended to 360 months' imprisonment; six years’ supervised release; $1,500 fine (March 8, 2001)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on July 28, 2016.

There were a few other from Florida, including Tampa and Panama City.  Here is the complete list. 


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