Yesterday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 61 drug offenders. Here is a list of the 61.
I have three observations. First, Obama did not commute the sentence of Weldon Angelos, the poster child (and rightly so) of the sentencing leniency movement. Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling marijuana. The sentencing judge, conservative Paul Cassell, followed the sentencing guidelines. He has called the sentence the must troubling of his career on the bench. In February, he asked Obama to commute it.
Yet, Angelos was not a beneficiary of Obama’s largesse. Although Obama has now commuted hundreds of sentences, as far as I know Angelos remains in prison, where he has languished for more than a decade.
Could it be that Team Leniency wants Angelos locked up so it can continue to use him to support the argument for sentencing leniency?
Second, several of those whose sentences were commuted have convictions for carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. According to a source who is investigating the records of the 61 in detail, at least one assaulted a police officer. Naturally, the White House press release doesn’t mention this.
Third, all or virtually all of the offenders were dealing hard and dangerous substances. One case, that of Larry Nokes, involves “conspiracy to distribute controlled substances; possession of a controlled substance.” In all other cases the controlled substances are specified and are not limited to marijuana or to simple possession. In essence, the commutations are for crack, coke, and PCP dealers.
The recidivism rate for offenders who commit such crimes exceeds 75 percent within five years. And this figure only encompasses those who are caught. Drug crimes typically go unreported because dealers and customers don’t report them.
The commutations thus represent wanton disregard by President Obama of, among other problems, the heroin epidemic sweeping the nation. And given that the fact that some beneficiaries engaged in firearms offenses, they also represent hypocrisy on the part of a president who purports to be concerned about America’s “gun culture.”