Obama commutes Rockford man's life sentence - New York News

Obama commutes Rockford man's life sentence

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Attorneys for Reynolds Wintersmith got the word Thursday from the White House, that he will soon be a free man.

It's a case that became a rallying cry against lengthy prison sentences for non-violent offenders, and a commutation that the family has been fighting for for several years now.

Thirty-nine-year-old Reynolds Wintersmith has spent more than half of his life locked away on a federal charge of dealing crack cocaine.

It was an arrest that happened in Rockford when he was just 17-years-old, and that resulted in a life sentence.

Thursday in a statement, President Obama commuted the sentence of Wintersmith and seven others who the President said were imprisoned under "an unfair system."

"All I could do was praise God, I mean when I got the news over the phone I couldn't even talk, I dropped my phone and just started praising God, I'm just so thankful right now my soul just cries out hallelujah," Wintersmith's sister, Rashonda Wintersmith said.

Rashonda Wintersmith said she never gave up hope that her brother would be released.

It was the result of work by the Federal Defender's office in Chicago, which championed the case along with the ACLU of Illinois, a spokesman called Thursday a great day for the family and justice

"It's also an incredibly powerful signal the President has sent today that he will use this power to begin addressing this problem of lengthy sentences, in fact life sentences, that are applied to people who did not commit violent crimes," Ed Yohnka of ACLU Illinois said.

Yohnka said the 20 years that Wintersmith has already served was too long.

The commutation means that Wintersmith will be released April 14th, which can't get here soon enough for his sister and supporters.

"April is just right around the corner compared to life without the possibility of parole, plus 80 (years). So no it doesn't feel like it's taking long because at one time he had no out date," Rashonda Wintersmith said.

Attorneys in the federal defenders office spoke to Wintersmith Thursday over the phone. He was overjoyed at the news and said he intends to make the president proud and when he gets out he will work hard to do that.

Wintersmith is serving his term at the federal correctional institution in downstate Greenville, Ill.

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