Comments Off on Obama commutes sentence of Robert Joe Young, 52, of Joppa, Alabama; Convicted of distributing 5 POUNDS of Methamphetamine per week for almost 2 years

President Obama commuted an Alabama man’s meth-trafficking sentence today, along with 45 other federal inmates who will be released in November.

Robert Joe Young, 52, of Joppa received a 20-year prison sentence in 2002 and is currently being held in McCreary penitentiary in Pine Knot, Ky.

The government said in earlier court records that from “August 2000 until January 19, 2002, the defendant was distributing methamphetamine on a regular weekly basis of about 5 pounds per week.”

In a short video today the President said the prisoners whose sentences were being commuted were not hardened criminals.18203980-large

“The punishments didn’t fit the crime and if they had been sentenced under today’s laws nearly all of them would have served their time,” said Obama, who has a speech tomorrow in Philadelphia where he will outline proposed criminal justice system reforms. “I also believe there’s a lot more we can to restore the sense of fairness at the heart of our justice system.

“And to make sure our tax dollars are well spent even as we are keeping our streets safe.”

Young pleaded guilty to several charges in federal court, related to methamphetamine distribution, possessing guns at the time he was found with drugs. He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice related to an allegedly coerced confession from a co-defendant that he presented to the court. He was sentenced in December 2002.

In describing Young’s arrest, prosecutors said 726 grams of a mixture that included methamphetamine were found in Young’s car and three guns were found in his shop. A later search found 222 grams of a substance that included methamphetamine, according to court records.

Young had argued following his guilty plea that his court-appointed lawyer had not adequately represented him, he did not voluntarily enter the plea, that the government did not have sufficient evidence for the charges, that it breached his plea agreement and he did not knowingly waive his right to appeal.

The court rejected those arguments.

In November 2014, new sentencing guidelines reducing possible penalties for drug trafficking went into effect The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to allow those sentences to be applied retroactively and allowed prisoners to petition to have their sentences reconsidered.

Montgomery-based attorney Susan James worked with Young on his post-conviction appeal back in 2003.

“Somebody trying to be totally objective would say, looking at the file, ‘If all this happened, there’s no way that guy got a fair shake,'” James said. “If you’re looking at fairness, if it’s looked at as a whole.”

James said Young’s case included a claim by the government that he submitted the co-defendant’s confession knowing it was false. She said they argued prosecutors had not proven he knew it was false and she said the government’s arguments around that issue should not have led to his original attorney withdrawing from the case.

James said the federal gun laws in drug cases also have a significant effect on a defendant’s willingness to plead guilty. In Young’s case three guns were found on his property, at the time of his arrest, the first gun is five-year sentence add-on, James said, a second gun can lead to a 25-year add on. She said the prospect of facing such a long term influenced Young’s decision to accept a plea, shortly before a jury was to be selected.

Prosecutors said Young’s sentence was reduced by more than 50 percent from an original 45-year possible sentence as part of his plea agreement.

James said she was glad to see Young’s sentence reduced.

I see a lot of cases where people ought to have their sentences commuted, including Gov. Siegelman, but I’m happy when it happens,” she said. “I think the drug sentencing laws are overly harsh, even though some great strides have been made by the Obama Administration to make more equitable the application of the drug laws.”

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates released a statement after the clemency announcement made today by President Obama.

 “Last year, the President asked the Justice Department to develop criteria for identifying and recommending for executive clemency those non-violent, low-level offenders who received harsh sentences they would not receive if sentenced today,” she said. “The President’s decision to commute the sentences of 46 more individuals today is another sign of our commitment to correcting these inequities.

“We will continue to recommend to the President appropriate candidates for clemency, and we will continue to work with Congress on recalibrating our sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders.”

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/07/president_obama_commutes_alaba.html

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