The Early Release Of Federal Drug Crime Felons Is Likely To End In The Trump Administration

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,023 federal prisoners during his time in office, more than the last 11 president combined, a practice which will almost surely end during President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

The majority of the recipients of these commutations are serious drug offenders, many of whom have used firearms in the process of their activity. On Tuesday, Obama announced the commutations of 79 federal prisoners. One of those dealers commuted, Eric Cornell Foster, was sentenced in 2007 to life in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine. Now, Foster will be out of prison in 2018.

The National Association of Assistant US Attorneys (NAAUSA) has come out against the Obama administration’s policies of commuting the sentences of federal drug criminals. In a letter to the president last year, the NAAUSA’s president Steven Cook called on Obama to release for each commutation: “The recommendation of the U.S. Attorney and law enforcement officials in the district of conviction; a detailed description of the drug trafficking crimes that resulted in the conviction; and the defendant’s criminal record.”

“Making this information available will allow the American people to judge for themselves whether the current prisoner release stream is prudent, much less necessary,” Cook wrote.

The White House has not released the information the NAAUSA called for and did not respond to a Daily Caller inquiry about why they haven’t. TheDC has looked through the individuals whose sentences have been commuted and have found several with previous drug convictions. The lack of information the White House has released also hides the seriousness of some of the offensives of these felons.

For example, a White House press release said that John Franklin Banks, who was sentenced to life in 1998 and now will be released in 2022, was imprisoned for a “continuing criminal enterprise.” Federal court documents though reveal that Banks was a high level drug dealer. A federal judge wrote in a 2008 opinion, “The defendant was held responsible for 3.5 kilograms of crack cocaine and 40 kilograms of powder cocaine.” Forty kilograms of cocaine is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Cook told TheDC, “We absolutely hope and expect that the aggressive clemency program presently underway will end when President-Elect Trump takes office.”

Trump’s appointed attorney general, Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has also come out strongly against Obama’s commutations.

“President Obama continues to abuse executive power in an unprecedented, reckless manner to systematically release high-level drug traffickers and firearms felons,” Sessions said in August. He also pointed in his statement to changes enacted by the Sentencing Commission under Obama which have made over 45,000 drug traffickers eligible for early release.

“President Obama has said he would like ‘criminal justice reform’ to be his ‘legacy item.’  Unfortunately, history and common sense tell us that rushing to release federal prisoners will have long-lasting, harmful consequences, particularly for our nation’s most vulnerable communities,” Sessions went on to say.

His senate office did not return a request for comment.

Trump has not commented specifically on commutations and changes enacted by the Sentencing Commission. He has though called for “law and order” and said “we have to get a lot tougher” when it comes to crime.