Today, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight nonviolent drug offenders — including Clarence Aaron, a man who was sentenced to three life sentences in 1993 for his role in arranging a cocaine deal.
“He was absolutely overcome,” Aaron's attorney told the New York Times. “Actually, I was, too. He was in tears. This has been a long haul for him, 20 years. He just was speechless, and it’s very exciting.”
Aaron's sentence was nearly commuted under the Bush White House when his file came up in a stack of files to be considered by the pardon office.
The White House, frustrated by how few pardons were being processed through the office, selected Aaron's file as a promising case in 2008.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama supported commuting his sentence. The judge involved in the case supported commuting his sentence, telling the pardon office Aaron "should be granted relief" immediately.
But unfortunately for Aaron, the pardon attorney at the time, Lt. Col. Ronald L. Rodgers, ignored their recommendations, and instead resubmitted a denial that he had penned for Aaron in 2004.
The Justice Department wouldn't comment on Rodgers or how he handled the Aaron case.
Six of the eight were serving life sentences for their nonviolent crimes — including Stephanie George, who got life in 1997 when she let her boyfriend stash his crack in her home.
All were convicted prior to the passage of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which finally reduced the disparity between cocaine and crack sentencing.
More than 9,000 offenders still remain behind bars under the old sentencing guidelines.
[image via Shutterstock]