Former President Obama shortened the sentences of nine Wyoming non-violent drug offenders before leaving office Jan. 20.
The reductions were part of the Obama administration program to reduce sentences some believe are out of step with today’s values and are holdovers from the War on Drugs. The moves came in contrast to practices in Wyoming where legislators recently stalled sentencing reform that had similar goals. That delay came in the face of questions from prosecutors and Gov. Matt Mead.
In Obama’s case, reductions were considered for prisoners who met various criteria, such as the probability of receiving a lighter sentence under today’s guidelines, having served a significant portion of their time, and other factors. The administration started making the commutations in March 2015, to non-violent prisoners convicted on federal charges. The last two were made this month.
Obama commuted four sentences imposed for methamphetamine trafficking and/or conspiracy, three involving cocaine, and two involving a variety of drugs. In all but one case, prisoners will have served at least a decade behind bars.
The most recent reduction, and potentially the largest, was to Clarence Rex Burnell, who the Department of Justice listed as a LaBarge resident. A judge sentenced him in 2008 to life imprisonment on meth conspiracy, distribution and aiding-and-abetting charges. The commutation made this year will set him free in 2019, after more than 10 years behind bars. A release condition requires him to enroll in residential drug treatment.
Gregory A. Garton, sentenced in 2008 to 75 years, will serve 30 years, according to the Department of Justice. He was convicted of conspiracy in meth, coke and marijuana delivery schemes, aiding and abetting, actual distribution of meth, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Obama’s commutation, also made in 2017, set a release date in 2038.
In December 2016 Obama shortened John Gronski’s 30-year sentence imposed in 2001 for conspiracy to distribute meth. He set Gronski’s release date for December of 2018, making his term more than 17 years.
Levi Wilson will walk free in 2018 after serving 12 years of a 20-year sentence, according to the Department of Justice listings. Wilson had been sentenced in 2005 on charges he possessed cocaine with the intent to distribute it.
Earlier last year the former president commuted Derwlyn Rosborough’s 20-year sentence to almost 14 years. Rosborough, convicted in 2001 of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute the drug, was to be freed last Dec. 1.
Convicted cocaine-base distributor Gregory E. Graham was ordered to be freed last October after serving almost 11 years of a 25-year sentence. He had been convicted in 2005.
Shannon Lee Blake will serve almost 9 years of a 20-year sentence when she is released in May 2018. She was sentenced in 2007 on charges of conspiring to distribute meth and possessing the drug with the intent to distribute it.
Angela LaPlatney of Casper walked free last summer after serving 11 years of a 20-year sentence. She had been convicted in 2005 of charges she conspired to possess and distribute meth. As with many of those set free early, original release terms remain in place and require years of supervision after leaving prison.
In 2015 Obama reduced the 20-year sentence of Amado Garcia, convicted in 2001 of meth and heroin charges. He was scheduled to be set free after serving almost 14 years. Prosecutors convicted him of conspiracy to possess meth with the intent to distribute it, plus aiding and abetting meth and heroin possession.
This story was updated to correct Gregory A. Garton’s name, originally published incorrectly as George — Ed.