President Commutes Central Texas Man’s Drug Sentence

WASHINGTON (December 19, 2013) President Barack Obama granted clemency Thursday to 21 people including a Belton man who was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine two decades ago.

Billy Ray Wheelock was sentenced to life in prison and 10 years’ supervised release and was fined $3,000 on June 9, 1993 after his conviction for conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine.

On Thursday Mr. Obama commuted his sentence to expire on April 17, 2014.

The president also commuted the sentence of Jason Hernandez of McKinney, who was convicted in 1998 of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine and other drugs.

Mr. Obama granted the commutations because of the disparity at the time of sentencing in the penalties for powder cocaine and crack cocaine offenses.

Under the law in effect at the time, penalties for crack cocaine offenses were much steeper than for those involving the same amount of powder cocaine, which critics said unfairly targeted black defendants.

The Fair Sentencing Act, which the president signed into law three years ago, narrowed the disparity significantly, but it wasn’t retroactive.

“This law began to right a decades-old injustice, but for thousands of inmates, it came too late,” he said in a statement Thursday.

“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year,” he said.

In all, the president granted commutations to eight people and pardons to 13 others Thursday.

Commutations

Clarence Aaron - Mobile, Ala. Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; attempt to possess cocaine with intent to distribute (Southern District of Alabama) Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Dec. 10, 1993) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Stephanie Yvette George - Pensacola, Fla. Offense: Conspiracy to possess cocaine base with intent to distribute (Northern District of Florida) Sentence: Life imprisonment, ten years' supervised release (May 5, 1997) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Ezell Gilbert - Tampa, Fla. Offense: Possession with intent to deliver cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Middle District of Florida) Sentence: 292 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 25, 1997) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to time already served

Helen Alexander Gray - Ty Ty, Ga. Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Middle District of Georgia) Sentence: 240 months' imprisonment (Apr. 19, 1996) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Jason Hernandez - McKinney, Tex. Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute controlled substances; possession with intent to distribute and distribute crack cocaine and methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a mixture of methamphetamine and cocaine hydrochloride; distribution of a controlled substance between 1,000 feet of a protected property; establishing a place for manufacture and distribution of controlled substances (Eastern District of Texas) Sentence: Life imprisonment; eight years' supervised release; $5,000 fine (Oct. 2, 1998) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to 240 months (20 years)

Ricky Eugene Patterson - Fort Pierce, Fla. Offense: Conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (Southern District of Florida) Sentence: Life imprisonment (Aug. 3, 1995) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

*Billy Ray Wheelock - Belton, Tex. Offense: Conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine; possession with intent to distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school; possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine (Western District of Texas) Sentence: Life imprisonment, 10 years' supervised release, $3,000 fine (Jun. 9, 1993) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Reynolds Allen Wintersmith, Jr. - Rockford, Ill. Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribute cocaine and cocaine base; possession with intent to distribute crack (Northern District of Illinois) Sentence: Life imprisonment, five years' supervised release, $1,000 fine (Nov. 23, 1994) Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on April 17, 2014

Pardons

William Ricardo Alvarez - Marietta, Ga. Offense: Conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin ; conspiracy to import heroin (District of Puerto Rico) Sentence: Nine months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (Apr. 30, 1997; amended Jul. 31, 1997)

Charlie Lee Davis, Jr. - Wetumpka, Ala. Offense: Possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; use of a minor to distribute cocaine base (Middle District of Alabama) Sentence: 87 months' imprisonment, five years' supervised release (Mar. 21, 1995)

Ronald Eugene Greenwood - Crane, Mo. Offense: Conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act (District of South Dakota) Sentence: Three years' probation, six months' home confinement, 100 hours community service, $5,000 restitution, $1,000 fine (Nov. 18, 1996)

Joe Hatch - Lake Placid, Fla. Offense: Possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Florida) Sentence: 60 months' imprisonment, four years' supervised release (May 15, 1990)

Martin Alan Hatcher. - Foley, Ala. Offense: Distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana (Southern District of Alabama) Sentence: Five years' probation (Nov. 9, 1992)

Derek James Laliberte - Auburn, Me. Offense: Money laundering (District of Maine) Sentence: 51 months' imprisonment subsequently reduced to 18 months due to substantial assistance, 2 years' supervised release (Oct. 2, 1992; amended May 21, 1993)

Alfred J. Mack - Manassas, Va. Offense: Unlawful distribution of heroin (District of Columbia) Sentence: 18 to 54 months' imprisonment (Apr. 5, 1982)

Robert Andrew Schindler - Goshen, Va. Offense: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud (District of Utah) Sentence: Three years' probation, four months' home confinement, $10,000 restitution (May 14, 1996)

Willie Shaw, Jr. - Myrtle Beach, S.C. Offense: Armed bank robbery (District of South Carolina) Sentence: Fifteen years' imprisonment (Aug. 7, 1974)

Kimberly Lynn Stout - Bassett, Va. Offense: Bank embezzlement; false entries in the books of a lending institution (Western District of Virginia) Sentence: One day imprisonment, three years' supervised release (including five months home confinement) (Nov. 9, 1993)

Bernard Anthony Sutton, Jr. - Norfolk, Va. Offense: Theft of personal property (Eastern District of Virginia) Sentence: Three years' probation, $825 restitution, $500 fine (Apr. 4, 1989)

Chris Deann Switzer - Omaha, Neb. Offense: Conspiracy to violate narcotics laws (District of Nebraska) Sentence: Four years' probation, six months home confinement, drug and alcohol treatment, 200 hours' community service (Jun. 25, 1996)

Miles Thomas Wilson - Williamsburg, Ohio. Offense: Mail fraud (Southern District of Ohio) Sentence: Three years' imprisonment (suspended), three years' supervised release (Jul. 15, 1981)


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