Politics

Obama Lessens Drug Dealer's Sentence, Due to Typo

| by Allison Geller

President Obama used his power to grant clemency for the 10th time to correct a drug dealer’s prison sentence, which was 3 ½ years too long because of a typo.

Caesar Cantu, of Katy, Texas, will now serve out a sentence of 11 ½ years instead of 15 years due to Obama’s actions, the Associated Press reports.

U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser refused to grant Cantu’s request to reduce his time because he didn’t file it within the one-year statute of limitations. Cantu’s lawyer didn’t object to the sentence in 2006, when it was handed down.

Cantu, who had no previous criminal record, pleaded guilty to trafficking marijuana and money laundering for moving 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana. He didn’t know about the error until six years after the fact when his family sent him a copy of the presentencing report. Weber poorly represented him, he said in his motion from Louisiana’s Oakdale prison.

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"Given the circumstances of this case and the manifest injustice of keeping a person in federal prison for an extra three and a half years because of a typographical mistake, the president wanted to act as quickly as possible," said Obama press secretary Jay Carney. "This is a matter of basic fairness and it reflects the important role of clemency as a fail-safe in our judicial system."

The “typographical error” came at the “base offense level” of Cantu’s presentencing report, which calculate a sentence based on federal guidelines, taking into account the crime’s severity and the defendant’s record. The report inaccurately noted which part of the grid Cantu’s sentence should fall under, leading to the prolonged time. 

"None of us made that connection in seeing the difference," Cantu's former attorney, John Weber, said after Obama's announcement. "I'm happy that his sentence will be in the appropriate range of what it was supposed to be. Nobody wants mistakes."

Sources: Associated Press