Trump pardoned 12 hashish prisoners on the best way out. Listed below are their tales
When President Donald Trump issued his last-minute pardons early Wednesday morning, much of the attention went to the official forgiveness he gave to his friends and cronies. But for some people convicted of past marijuana-related crimes, Trump’s relentlessly stormy tenure also ended positively. Among the 143 people Trump granted pardons or changed sentences were 12 whose lives were disrupted by the nation’s failed drug war.
Lawyers welcomed the move. “These pardons and conversions, especially given the recent momentum of state legalization, are further evidence of the overwhelming support from both parties for broad-based cannabis policy reform,” said Sarah Gersten, executive director and general counsel of the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit Organization dedicated to reforming the cannabis criminal justice system.
Barley noted that she hopes more of this will come from the new president. About 40,000 people still suffer behind bars due to our country’s unfair and unjust policies to criminalize cannabis.
You can help free America’s cannabis prisoners. Here is how
12 free and unencumbered
Trump’s pardons, announced less than 12 hours before his term in office, will free 10 men and one woman from prison and apologize for another who has already been released.
Those who have received pardons or commutations are listed below.
Craig Cesal, 61 years old
Craig Cesal was serving a life sentence for possession and conspiracy to distribute cannabis. The Chicago area resident was a nonviolent offender who told the Washington Post, “My crime was my Chicago truck repair business repairing trucks operated by a Florida long-haul company whose drivers were selling marijuana in the south.”
Craig Cesal, owner of a truck repair company, was serving a life sentence on charges of marijuana trafficking in the early 2000s. (Courtesy photo of Last Prisoner Project)
In 2002, US border guards discovered 1,500 pounds of marijuana trapped in a hidden compartment in one of his trucks at a checkpoint in Texas. DEA agents towed the truck to Georgia, where the cannabis was delivered. Cesal told the Chicago Sun-Times that he “never received any direct income from marijuana.”
The White House said Cesal has “an exemplary disciplinary record” and looks forward to reintegrating into society and contributing to his community.
Ferrell Damon Scott, 58 years old
Ferrell Damon Scott had served nearly nine years of life imprisonment for possession with intent to distribute marijuana when Trump commuted the remainder of his sentence.
Ferrell Scott: Life in prison for doing a job that is legal in post-ban states today. (Courtesy photo of Last Prisoner Project)
According to Scott’s report, he was arrested in 2007 for transporting cannabis, which is now a legal task in dozens of states. Scott turned down a plea deal for 12 years – on the grounds that it was too much time for a marijuana crime – and faced life behind bars.
Trump’s testimony stated that the prosecutor who tried his case “doesn’t believe it [Mr. Scott] deserves a mandatory life sentence ”and that Scott“ would not have received such a severe sentence ”under today’s guidelines for conviction.
Corvain Cooper, 41 years old
Corvain Cooper served more than 7 years of life in prison for nonviolent participation in a marijuana distribution conspiracy. After growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Cooper opened his own clothing store in his old neighborhood. In 2013 he was arrested for playing a minor role in a marijuana distribution operation.
Corvain Cooper, a clothing retailer, has been given a federal three-strike sentence after a minor marijuana arrest. (Courtesy of the Last Prisoner Project)
By refusing to name others and choosing a trial instead of accepting a plea deal, he ended up with a three-strike verdict far worse than his more culpable co-conspirators.
If his trial had taken place today, the judge could have “followed his avowed desire for a sentence less than compulsory life,” according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Instead, Cooper was sentenced to life in federal prison. The original arrest allegations that resulted in his life imprisonment are now treated as a misdemeanor under California law.
John Knock, 73 years old
John Knock is a first time nonviolent offender to consume only marijuana and serve 24 years in prison.
He was convicted of conspiracy related to a conspiracy to import cannabis from Canada and Europe.
Knock wrote on a Mercy website: “I have been incarcerated for this crime for twenty years and I am no doubt nearing the twilight of my life. I ask for grace, compassion and forgiveness and for the chance of a second chapter in my life. “
John Knock was to spend the rest of his life in federal prison. (Courtesy photo of Last Prisoner Project)
James Romans, 49 years old
After his arrest in 2010, James Romans was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in a marijuana distribution conspiracy.
The Romans worked in low-wage construction in a suburb of Indianapolis in 2004 and struggled to support their children by selling cannabis. Eventually the Romans joined a larger distribution ring where he worked as a middleman, passing money from about 15 subordinate traders to an old friend who acted as his boss.
Jimmy Romans traded weed to make ends meet. He knew there were risks, but he didn’t think life in prison was one of them. (Courtesy photo of candoclemency.com)
“I knew there could always be consequences,” Romans told a HuffingtonPost reporter in 2013, but he never thought his role would lead to a life in prison.
The Huffpost reported that the federal judge specifically ignored a motion to reduce marijuana sentences in his case. “I think it’s wrong the places that have lowered cannabis rates,” she said. “So I don’t agree with that.” She added, “I think life imprisonment is appropriate in this case.”
For more information on Jimmy Roman’s story, visit the Can-Do Justice for Clemency Foundation website.
Michael Pelletier, 64 years old
Michael Pelletier was sentenced to life imprisonment for 13 years while Trump commuted the remainder of his prison term.
Michael Pelletier: A self-taught artist whose work helped fund his grace campaign. (Courtesy photo of Last Prisoner Project)
According to Last Prisoner Project officials:
“After Michael lost the ability to use his legs at a young age, he discovered the therapeutic benefits of cannabis. He was arrested for importing marijuana from Canada to the United States and was given an unparalleled prison life on two previous marijuana charges. “
Pelletier is an autodidact whose work can be seen and purchased on his website.
He has already been considered for release from Maine Federal Prison on health grounds. He served time on distribution and conspiracy convictions and had an immaculate disciplinary record.
Noah Kleinman, 45 years old
Trump converted Noah Kleinman’s six-year sentence to nearly 20 years in prison. Kleinman was convicted of illegally distributing marijuana in California in 2014.
Kleinman worked outside the borders during California’s medical marijuana years, using legitimate medical dispensaries as cover to conduct bulk shipments of illegal cannabis to non-legal states like New York and Pennsylvania.
A federal judge sentenced him to more than 17 years in prison. Read more of his story on pow420.com and in the Los Angeles Times.
Noah Kleinman conducted illegal cannabis shipments to the east coast using a California medical marijuana dispensary as cover. He served more than 17 years in federal prison. (Courtesy photo of pow420.com)
Way Quoe Long, 58 years old
Way Quoe Long is a nonviolent criminal who has served one of the toughest sentences for cannabis ever sentenced in federal court. At the time of his pardon this week, he had served nearly 25 years of his 50-year prison sentence for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.
Way Quoe Long served 25 years of a 50-year prison sentence for distributing marijuana, one of the harshest sentences for a cannabis crime. (Courtesy photo of Last Prisoner Project)
The Last Prisoner Project wrote, “Way Quoe Long is serving a de facto life sentence for a non-violent crime involving only marijuana.”
LPP notes, “He spends a long time in prison playing music and writing. He is currently writing an album called Rose Among Thorns. Although he has no way of recording from prison, he hopes that one day the world can hear his music. Way is currently supported by LPP’s compassionate release program. “
Anthony DeJohn, 46 years old
After more than 13 years in prison, Anthony DeJohn is released from a life sentence for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. You can find more of its history on the pow420.com website.
Anthony DeJohn, right, in an undated photo courtesy of Change.org.
Brian Simmons was serving five years of a 15-year prison sentence for a non-violent drug offense. He was convicted in 2013 of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cannabis.
Jonathan Braun served five years of his ten-year prison sentence before receiving Trump’s commutation. He was convicted of conspiracy in essential marijuana and money laundering.
Lynn Barney has been apologized after serving 35 months in prison. He was convicted of possession of a firearm as a convicted criminal after being arrested for distributing a small amount of marijuana. Trump’s statement described him as an “exemplary citizen”.
Dave Howard is a national magazine editor and award-winning author. His latest book is Chasing Phil: The Adventures of Two Undercover Agents with the World’s Most Charming Con.
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