Obama Commutes Sentences of 214 Prisoners, More Than 9 Past Presidents in Single Day | NBC Chicago
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Obama Commutes Sentences of 214 Prisoners, More Than 9 Past Presidents in Single Day

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    In this photo taken May 4, 2016, President Barack Obama speaks in Washington. President Obama on Aug. 3, 2016, cut short the sentences of 214 federal inmates, including 67 life sentences, in what the White House called the largest batch of commutations on a single day in more than a century.

    President Barack Obama on Wednesday cut short the sentences of 214 federal inmates, including 67 life sentences, in what the White House called the largest batch of commutations on a single day in more than a century.

    Almost all the prisoners were serving time for nonviolent crimes related to cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs, although a few were charged with firearms violations related to their drug activities. Almost all are men, though they represent a diverse cross-section of America geographically. 

    UK Police: 'Fatalities' at Grande Concert

    [NATL] UK Police: 'Fatalities' at Grande Concert

    British police on Monday said an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena left at least 19 dead and 50 injured.

    (Published Monday, May 22, 2017)

    Obama's push to lessen the burden on nonviolent drug offenders reflects his long-stated view that the U.S. needs to remedy the consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements that put tens of thousands behind bars for far too long. Obama has used the aggressive pace of his commutations to increase pressure on Congress to pass a broader fix and to call more attention to the issue. 

    One of the inmates, Dicky Joe Jackson of Texas, was given a life sentence in 1996 for methamphetamine violations and for being a felon with an unlicensed gun. He told the ACLU in a 2013 report that a death sentence would have been preferable, adding, "I wish it were over, even if it meant I were dead." 

    WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    [NATL] WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews kiss after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday. Her niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William.

    (Published Saturday, May 20, 2017)

    Another recipient, Debra Brown of Tennessee, was convicted of selling cocaine in 2002 and sentenced to 20 years. Both Brown's and Jackson's sentences will now end Dec. 1, along with most of the rest of those receiving commutations Wednesday. 

    All told, Obama has commuted 562 sentences during his presidency — more than the past nine presidents combined, the White House said. Almost 200 of those who have benefited were serving life sentences. 

    The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    [NATL-NY] The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)

    "All of the individuals receiving commutation today — incarcerated under outdated and unduly harsh sentencing laws — embody the president's belief that 'America is a nation of second chances,'" White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote in a blog post. 

    Eggleston said Obama examines each clemency application on its specific merits to identify the appropriate relief, including whether the prisoner would be helped by additional drug treatment, educational programming or counseling. He called on Congress to finally pass a criminal justice overhaul to bring about "lasting change to the federal system." 

    Presidents tend to use their powers to commute sentences or issue pardons more frequently at the end of their presidencies, and Obama administration officials said the rapid pace would continue during Obama's final months. 

    "We are not done yet," Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said. "We expect that many more men and women will be given a second chance through the clemency initiative." 

    ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    [NATL] ‘T-Rex’ Spooks Horses on City Street

    A person in a Tyrannosaurus Rex costume allegedly growled at a pair of horses pulling a carriage in Charleston, South Carolina. The horses were frightened and caused the carriage to jackknife, injuring the driver.

    (Published Friday, May 19, 2017)

    Though there's broad bipartisan support for a criminal justice overhaul, what had looked like a promising legislative opportunity for Obama's final year has mostly fizzled. As with Obama's other priorities, the intensely political climate of the presidential election year has confounded efforts by Republicans and Democratic in Congress to find consensus. 

    Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug offenses, arguing they lead to excessive punishment and incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries. With Obama's support, the Justice Department in recent years has directed prosecutors to rein in the use of harsh mandatory minimums. 

    'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    [NATL] 'Not Going to Stop': Haley Promises Support for Syrians

    Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, spent two days in Jordan and toured the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees on Sunday. She said that the Trump administration's stated intent to slash humanitarian aid worldwide would not affect U.S. support for the crisis in Syria.

    (Published Monday, May 22, 2017)

    The Obama administration has also expanded criteria for inmates applying for clemency, prioritizing nonviolent offenders who have behaved well in prison, aren't closely tied to gangs and would have received shorter sentences if they had been convicted a few years later. 

    Civil liberties groups praised that policy change but have pushed the Obama administration to grant commutations at a faster pace. The Clemency Resource Center, part of NYU School of Law, said more than 11,000 petitions are pending at the Justice Department and that the group believes 1,500 of them meet the administration's criteria to be granted. 

    Three Men Arrested in Death of 6-Year-Old

    [NATL] Three Men Arrested in Death of 6-Year-Old

    Three young men were arrested hours after a 6-year-old boy was found shot dead in his mother's stolen car near Jackson, Mississippi on Thursday, May 18, 2017. Authorities say the suspects will be charged with capital murder.

    (Published Friday, May 19, 2017)

    But the calls for greater clemency have sometimes sparked accusations from Obama's opponents that he's too soft on crime, an argument that is particularly resonant this year as presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton trade claims about who is best positioned to keep the country safe. 

    "Many people will use words today like leniency and mercy," said Kevin Ring of the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "But what really happened is that a group of fellow citizens finally got the punishment they deserved. Not less, but at long last, not more."

    Fox News Founder Roger Ailes Dies at 77

    [NATL] Fox News Founder Roger Ailes Dies at 77

    Fox News broke the news of the death of founder Roger Ailes Wednesday morning, months after Ailes was ousted as chairman and CEO following a series of sexual harassment allegations. 

    (Published Thursday, May 18, 2017)