Obama Commutes Rockford Man’s Life Sentence

December 19, 2013

President Barack Obama has commuted the life sentence of a northern Illinois man sentenced 20 years ago for distributing crack and cocaine.

Under Thursday's order, the sentence of Reynolds Wintersmith Jr. will now expire on April 17. In a prominent 1998 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld sentences given to Wintersmith and four other Illinois men convicted in a drug-selling conspiracy in Rockford.

Molly Gill of the organization Families Against Mandatory Minimums said there are thousands of prisoners like Wintersmith.

“The president said that he can only do so much. He can commute the sentences for someone like Reynolds Wintersmith, so that that young man doesn’t die in prison," Gill said. "But he can’t change the laws that put Reynolds Wintersmith in prison for life. Only Congress can do that.”

Wintersmith’s conviction was his first offense, but the sentence was increased under the mandatory minimum sentencing formula. That is because there was also a gang member and a large amount of cocaine involved in the conspiracy.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio