President Obama has message for St. Louis area men granted commuted sentences

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – The White House announced Thursday that on his last full day in office, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 drug offenders, including three men from the greater St. Louis area.

Those three men were identified as:

  • Ladarius Venice Cook – Florissant, MOOffense: Possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base (crack); felon in possession of a firearm; Eastern District of Missouri

    Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; eight years’ supervised release (June 28, 2007)

    Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to a term of 200 months’ imprisonment, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

  • John McCray, Sr. – East Saint Louis, ILOffense:Conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine base; distribution of heroin and cocaine base; Southern District of Illinois.

    Sentence: 240 months’ imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release; $750 fine (March 6, 2007)

    Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on January 19, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

  • Carlos Whitehead ─ St. Louis, MOOffense: Manufacture and possession with intent to distribute cocaine base; possession of heroin; possession of cocaine; possession of marijuana; Eastern District of Missouri.

    Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (August 25, 2006)

    Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on January 19, 2019, conditioned upon enrollment in residential drug treatment.

The moves brings to a total of 1,715 people who had a sentence commuted during the Obama presidency. The announcement came with a pointed message from the president to all of those who were shown clemency, delivered by White House Counsel Neil Eggleston:

“…you have been granted a second chance because the President sees the potential in you. After reviewing each of your stories, the President concluded that you have taken substantial steps to remedy your past mistakes and that you are deserving of a second chance. You and your stories have been essential to the President’s successful exercise of his clemency authority. Stories of rehabilitation and growth, of families reunited, and lives turned around – these are the stories that demonstrate why our nation is a nation of second chances… As the President has written to you, your example will influence whether someone in similar circumstances will get his or her own second chance in the future. Make the President proud with how you use your second chance.”

However, at least one St. Louis resident who was previously granted that second chance is back in trouble with the law. Ezekiel Simpson had a sentence commuted in 2015 after serving almost a decade in federal prison for cocaine trafficking. He was recently arrested for trafficking heroin.

“We’re never gonna be perfect on predicting on who’s going to take advantage of a chance and who isn’t,” United States Attorney Richard Callahan told FOX 2. He said that less than 10 percent of the 3,000 federal prisoners in Missouri on supervised release ended up getting sent back to prison, and called it acceptable, when figuring in the taxpayer costs for prisons.

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