Three men from the Tampa area are among the nearly 50 federal prisoners who received commuted sentences by President Barack Obama on Monday.
Anthony Leon Carroll of Tampa, Roy Larry Lee, 63, of St. Petersburg and Marlon McNealy, 42, of St. Petersburg have all been imprisoned since the early 1990s after being convicted of distributing cocaine.
The convictions will remain on their records, but with the commutations their sentences will end years, and in some cases decades, earlier.
“Oh, thank God, I’m just so happy, happy, happy,” said McNealy’s aunt Mary McNealy, of St. Petersburg, when she heard her nephew will soon be released.
She still keeps an old stack of newspapers from Aug. 18, 1983, the day McNealy, then only 22, was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and intentionally distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine base.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen him — many years,” McNealy said. “He never hurt nobody or did nothing that bad. He was always nice and easygoing and respectful; I’m sure he still is.”
McNealy and Lee were among 14 on the list of 46 who were serving life sentences.
Lee was sentenced on May 3, 1990, to life in prison. He was charged with possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine. Carroll has been in prison since Sept. 3 1993, and was sentenced to nearly 22 years and five years’ supervised release for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute.
The offenders who received commuted sentences, 11 of whom are from Florida, were not “hardened criminals,” Obama said in a video posted on the White House Facebook page on Monday. Nearly all would have completed their sentences if they were convicted for the same crimes in 2015, Obama said.
Their prison sentences will now expire on Nov.10, when they will be moved to a halfway house where they can qualify for release under the U.S. Bureau of Prisons policies.
“Their punishments didn’t fit the crime,” Obama said in the video. “I believe that at its heart, America is a nation of second chances, and I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”
In personal letters to each prisoner granted a commutation, Obama wrote that he chose them out of thousands that applied because they have “demonstrated the potential to turn your life around.”
The commutations were part of a larger effort to reform the criminal justice system by reviewing sentencing laws and guidelines, as well as reducing punishments for non-violent crimes, according to the White House.
Obama has commuted 89 sentences during his time in office, mostly for federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses. He has commuted more sentences than the last four presidents combined, and the most of any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who granted 226, according to U.S. Department of Justice Statistics.
The prisoners given the commutations have all served more than 10 years in prison, have had good behavior, are non-violent, and would have received much shorter sentences under current regulations, according to U.S. Department of Justice qualifications.