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Jun-16-2012 00:49printcomments

Man Gets Three Life Sentences For Simply Witnessing a Drug Deal

Mandatory minimum sentences were imposed under the regime of the late Ronald Reagan and his War on Drugs.

Clarence Aaron

(SYRACUSE, NY Kulture Kritic) - Clarence Aaron went to prison in 1993, at the age of 23. He was involved in a drug deal, but was neither the buyer nor the seller. He didn’t touch the drugs or collect any money. All he did was introduce the two men involved in the transaction and it has cost him his life.

Aaron didn’t plead guilty when he was arrested, largely because he didn’t believe he did anything wrong. Because of this, he received three life sentences. Neither Presidents Bush nor Clinton chose to commute the incredibly long sentence given to a young man who was in college and had no criminal record.

An investigation by the website ProPublica finds that the Bush White House was never given all the facts on Aaron’s case. This leaves it up to President Obama to decide if Aaron should be allowed to go free.

Mandatory minimum sentences were imposed under the regime of the late Ronald Reagan and his War on Drugs. Seth Ferranti, a long time prisoner who writes for TheFix.com, says that President Obama “was critical of the mandatory minimum drug penalties, and talked about second chances” while campaigning for office, “Yet he is on track to be the least forgiving President in US history.”

“He has pardoned just 23 people, including one commuted sentence,” says Ferranti, who was also convicted for drugs. “His current pace puts him firmly among the most conservative American Presidents to use these powers. So much for second chances.”

Aaron’s case has now gotten more attention after various journalists have profiled him in national media outlets. But there are other inmates, such as Rodney Stanberry in Alabama and Mario Lloyd in Illinois, whose cases still don’t get the attention they deserve. In fact, there are thousands of men, mostly black and brown, who received several life sentences for very simple crimes, while their foreign “connects” who imported billions of dollars worth drugs were given very light sentences.

Kenneth Lee, an attorney who worked under President Bush, said that if he’d had the information on Aaron’s case at that time, he would have allowed him to go free. He says that Ronald Rogers, the current pardon attorney, didn’t provide those in the White House with all the facts they needed to be fully informed about the case.

As The Post reports:

“Instead, Rodgers offered no new recommendation to the White House and did not revise the old one. He did not pass on years of favorable prisoner reports describing Aaron’s successful rehabilitation. He also made no mention of an affidavit Aaron filed with the pardons office in 2007 in which he expressed further remorse and asked “for a second chance to be a productive citizen.”

All eyes are pointing toward President Obama and whether or not he will deliver any of the pardons he promised. He’s given few second chances thus far, and people wonder if he will do so if given a second term in the White House. I personally wonder if this president is aware of the long list of campaign promises he’s broken and if he ever plans to make things right. We all agree that the War on Drugs is wrong, so it makes no sense that there are men and women in prison who should not be there. If someone is innocent, they should not be in prison, there is no disputing that fact.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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Ingersoll June 17, 2012 6:37 pm (Pacific time)

The House Democrats passed the crack mandatory minimums in 1986 and 1988. They controlled Congress. Can't blame this all on Reagan.

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