Obama Commutes Sentences of 9 Californians in Federal Prison

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Eight men and one woman were granted clemency Wednesday in an historic move by the president in which 214 inmates’ sentences were commuted.
President Barack Obama shortened the sentences of 214 people Wednesday, the most commutations in a single day since at least 1900.

Nearly all were serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes, and 67 people were serving life sentences. Many of the 214 people will be set free at the end of the year, while others will remain locked up another year or two. Some of them will have to enroll in mandatory drug programs once released.

Here in California, the following nine people were spared in Wednesday’s move by the president:

Jose Luis Buenrostro – Stockton, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine; Eastern District of California
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (January 8, 1997)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 360 months’ imprisonment.

Charles Bynum – Torrance, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine; Northern District of Florida
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (May 27, 2003)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Aug. 3, 2018, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

Osvaldo Cisneros-Gutierrez – Earlimart, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 500 grams of methamphetamine; Northern District of Texas
Sentence: 292 months’ imprisonment; three years’ supervised release (Oct. 13, 2006)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 228 months’ imprisonment.

Darnell Crookshank – West Covina, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to manufacture phencyclidine; manufacture with intent to distribute phencyclidine, aiding and abetting; possession with intent to distribute phencyclidine; Central District of California
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (June 17, 1996)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.

Keldren Joshua – Los Angeles, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance; Central District of California
Sentence: 188 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release (Aug. 21, 2006); amended to 168 months’ imprisonment (Nov. 10, 2015)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.

Josephine Ledezma – Rialto, CA
Offense: Conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine); being aided and abetted by others, did unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally possess and cause to be possessed, with intent to distribute, a Schedule II controlled substance (cocaine); Western District of Tennessee
Sentence: Life imprisonment (Oct. 30, 1992)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Aug. 3, 2017.

Gregory Allen Liningham – Los Angeles, CA
Offense: Possession of more than 50 grams of “crack” cocaine with intent to distribute; Western District of Texas
Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release; $3,000 fine (Dec. 1, 1993)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.

Francisco Olivera – Modesto, CA
Offense:

1. Use of a communication facility in the commission of a drug offense; Eastern District of California

2. Conspiracy to manufacture and to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute; attempted manufacture of methamphetamine, aiding and abetting; possession of a listed chemical knowing that it will be used to manufacture methamphetamine, aiding and abetting; Eastern District of California

Sentence:

1. 48 months’ imprisonment; 12 months’ supervised release (March 16, 1998)
2. 324 months’ imprisonment (consecutive); 36 months’ supervised release (Nov. 3, 2000)

Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 288 months’ imprisonment.

Derwlyn Rosborough – Lake View Terrace, CA
Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine; District of Wyoming
Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; five years’ supervised release, $2,000 fine (December 5, 2002)
Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on Dec. 1, 2016.

The president has been pushing hard for shorter sentences for nonviolent criminals.

“This is a good day — not just for the 214 individuals who are getting a hard-earned second chance, but for the people at the White House and the Department of Justice and at advocacy organizations across the country who work every day to remedy injustices in our sentencing laws,” White House counsel Neil Eggleston told BuzzFeed, which first reported the news.

“We’re going to keep our foot on the gas pedal when it comes to reviewing applications for clemency, but we are also going to need leaders in both parties in Congress to pass long overdue reforms to our criminal justice system to achieve lasting change on the scale that is needed.”

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Credit: The White House

Obama has now commuted 562 sentences during his presidency, which the White House says is more than the last eight presidents combined. In May, Obama lessened sentences for 56 people.

While leading the way on shorter sentences, the president has been reluctant to issue full pardons compared to his predecessors. His 70 since he took office is the lowest of any president since James Garfield, who died six months into his term, according to Yahoo News.

A pardon essentially wipes clean the slate of a convicted criminal. A commutation only lessens the punishment.

Since the so-called “War on Drugs” began in the 1980s, the number of people in jail for drug offenses increased from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly half a million in 2014, according to The Sentencing Project, and one in nine people are serving life sentences. Advocates for reducing prison populations say that sentences of nonviolent offenses should be capped at 20 years.