Man Charged In Triple Murder Was Released From Prison Early Under New Drug Sentencing Guidelines

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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An Ohio man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her two children would still be in federal prison serving out his drug sentence had it not been for new guidelines that retroactively reduced prison time for crack dealers.

Wendell L. Callahan, 35, was arrested on Tuesday after allegedly fatally stabbing his 32-year-old ex-girlfriend, Erveena Hammonds, and her daughters, seven-year-old Breya Hammonds and 10-year-old Anaesia Green. Callahan also stabbed Hammonds’s boyfriend, who showed up to the scene of the crime unexpectedly. The boyfriend survived.

But as The Columbus Dispatch reports, Callahan would still be in prison were in not for the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s efforts to retroactively reduce prison sentences for crack dealers.

The Commission, which was formed in 1984, sets sentencing guidelines for the federal court system.

Callahan was initially sentenced in 2007 to 12-and-a-half years in federal prison for dealing crack. But according to The Dispatch, his sentence was reduced by a total of more than four years in response to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s initiative.

Dealers of cocaine, the powder form of crack, have historically received relatively lighter sentences because of differences in how the two drugs are classified. The sentencing disparity has also been seen as a race issue. It is estimated that 80 percent of convicted crack traffickers are black while a majority of cocaine dealers are white. That means that blacks have historically received harsher sentences for what criminal justice reformers believe is essentially the same drug.

Because of the push to erase that disparity, the initial 150 month sentence given to Callahan — who is black — was reduced to 110 months in 2008 and again in 2011 to 100 months. He was released from federal prison on Aug. 9, 2014 with federal prosecutors citing the convict’s good behavior in prison and because it was determined “that his early release did not present a danger to the safety of the public.”

In 2008, when the U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a retroactive reduction in crack cocaine trafficking sentences, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey criticized the plan, saying that it would “pose significant public safety risks.”

In a House hearing in Feb. 2008, Mukasey said that while he supported some reforms to drug sentencing, he opposed them for convicts with violent criminal histories, a category which includes Callahan.

He was charged in 1999 in a nonfatal shooting, according to The Dispatch. He was also arrested in 2006 for attacking and choking Hammonds. According to a police report from the incident, Hammonds said that Callahan likely would have killed her had a Good Samaritan not intervened.

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