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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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Obama commutes sentences of 2 Louisiana men

Obama commutes sentences of 2 Louisiana men

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Two Louisiana men were among 46 inmates nationwide whose prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses were commuted by President Barack Obama.

On Monday, Obama cut the sentences of Brian Nickles, a 46-year-old man from New Orleans, and James Nathan Walton, a 42-year-old man from Thibodaux.

Both men are black and were serving 20-year sentences for drug offenses and were due to be released in 2021, according to federal records.

Nickles is locked up at a federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, and Walton in a federal prison in Pollock, Louisiana.
Obama wrote a personal letter to each of the 46 individuals to notify them of their commutations. Their sentences all now expire on Nov. 10.

A commutation leaves the conviction in place, but reduces the punishment.

Nickles was convicted of two counts of distribution of more than 50 grams of cocaine base and Walton was convicted of one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base.

Obama's move was part of a broader ongoing effort by his administration to make the U.S. criminal justice system fairer. Obama has now issued 89 commutations during his presidency, most of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug crimes under outdated sentencing guidelines.

"These men and women were not hardened criminals," Obama said in a video released by the White House, noting that the overwhelming majority of the 46 had been sentenced to at least 20 years.

Among the 46 inmates are 14 who were sentenced to life in prison.
Obama said "their punishments didn't fit the crime."

The 46 sentence reductions announced Monday are the most presidential commutations in a single day since the Lyndon Johnson administration in the 1960s. Obama has commuted the sentences of 89 people, surpassing the combined number of commutations granted by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.

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