Obama commutes sentences for eight drug offenders

Posted at 5:34 PM, Dec 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-19 17:34:08-05

(CNN) — President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of eight people convicted of drug crimes who have each served long prison terms, the White House said on Thursday. He also pardoned 13 others.

A Norfolk man, Bernard Anthony Sutton, Jr., was one of the 13 individuals who received a presidential pardon. He was sentenced to three years’ probation, $825 restitution and a $500 fine for theft of personal property back in 1989.

Obama, who has sparingly used his pardon and commutation powers, also provided relief to people convicted of crack cocaine offenses under laws calling for strict mandatory sentences.

The eight offenders have each served more than 15 years in prison, which the White House said amounted to “unduly harsh sentences issued under an outdated sentencing regime.”

If convicted under current sentencing laws, those people would be given lighter sentences, the White House added.

Obama has decried the disparity between mandatory punishments for crack cocaine use versus the powdered form of the drug. In 2010, he signed the Fair Sentencing Act in a bid to bring the penalties closer together.

“Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” Obama said in a statement.