President Barack Obama has pardoned 78 people and shortened the sentence of 153 others convicted of federal crimes, the greatest number of individual clemencies in a single day by any president, the White House said Monday. Among the list are five people from our region. The three local men who received commuted sentences are:
Milton DeJesus-Bones, Philadelphia: Bones was sentenced on January 30, 2001 to life imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and attempt to possess with intent to distribute cocaine. His prison sentence was commuted to 360 months.
Kareem Myers, Philadelphia: Myers was sentenced on March 16, 2007 to 262 months’ imprisonment and eight years of supervised release as well as a $1200 fine for distributing five or more grams of cocaine base. His prison sentence was commuted to expire on December 19, 2018 and unpaid balance of $1200 remitted at the time of his release and conditioned upon the enrollment in residential drug treatment.
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Tyrone Trader, Chester, Pennsylvania: Trader was sentenced to life in prison, 10 years’ supervised release and a $1000 fine back on September 29, 2008 for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine and distribution of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. His prison sentence was commuted to a term of 300 months’ imprisonment and unpaid balance of a $1,000 fine remitted at the time of his release, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.
The two people from our area who were pardoned are Doretha Doreen Rhone of Philadelphia who was sentenced to three years’ probation and $3,060 restitution back on March 14, 1989 for theft and Edward John Hartman of Westampton Township, New Jersey who was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, three years’ probation, a $3000 fine and unspecified restitution back on July 11, 1986 for conspiracy.
A pardon amounts to forgiveness of a crime that removes restrictions on the right to vote, hold state or local office, or sit on a jury. The pardon also lessens the stigma arising from the conviction.
Neil Eggleston, Obama's White House counsel, said Obama has now pardoned a total of 148 people during his presidency. He has also shortened the sentences of 1,176 people, including 395 serving life sentences.
Eggleston said each clemency recipient's story is unique, but a common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them. Pardon recipients have shown they have led a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way, he said.
Commutation recipients have made the most of his or her time in prison by participating in educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment, he said. Not all of those receiving commutations will be set free right away. Some will see their sentences end in 2017 or 2018 — long after Obama leaves office — and in some cases on the condition they participate in drug treatment programs.
"These are the stories that demonstrate the successes that can be achieved by both individuals and society in a nation of second chances," Eggleston said.
The commutations were announced as Obama vacations in Hawaii during the holidays. Obama leaves office falling short in efforts to overhaul the nation's criminal justice system. Congress could not reach agreement on legislation that would lead to shorter sentences for some.
Pointing to a prison population that has increase from 500,000 in 1980 to about 2.2 million today, the administration had argued that thousands of people were serving sentences disproportionate to their crimes and that the financial toll of incarcerating them increased financial strains for the government.
Eggleston said he expects Obama to issue more commutations and pardons before he leaves office. He called clemency a tool of last resort and said "only Congress can achieve the broader reforms needed to ensure over the long run that our criminal justice system operates more fairly and effectively."
The pace of commutations generated criticism on the campaign trail earlier this year with President-elect Donald Trump warning voters that their safety could be at risk because of Obama's move to set prisoners free ahead of schedule. "Some of these people are bad dudes," Trump said in October after another batch of Obama commutations.
The Drug Policy Alliance, which has supported Obama's efforts, said it was worried going into the next administration.
"We need the president to pick up the pace of commutations before he leaves office," said Michael Collins, a deputy director at the alliance.