Just before departing the Capitol on Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed the release of seven prisoners serving sentences for marijuana charges.
The now-former president’s commutations included Michael Pelletier, 65, and Corvain Cooper, 41, both serving mandatory life sentences under President Joe Biden’s now-infamous 1994 crime bill. Pelletier, a paraplegic, was convicted and sentenced for smuggling marijuana from Canada to Maine — both of which later legalized the drug.
Pelletier lost the use of his legs as a child and has struggled — especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “I don’t have much strength in my arms due to lack of physical therapy,” Pelletier explained, “so the prison staff hired another prisoner to push me around the compound. He died from COVID.”
Despite also suffering from type-2 diabetes, Pelletier survived the novel coronavirus. He said that his petition has been waiting since its submission “during the Obama clemency project, but was never ruled on.” But even before finally being freed, Pelletier was optimistic. “I honestly believe President Trump will be the man who will end this nightmare and reunite me with my family,” he said.
Cooper, meanwhile, had already seen one of his sentences reduced to 25 years by Trump’s First Step Act. Unfortunately, the provided reductions were not retroactive.
In November, Cooper’s attorney Patrick Michael Megaro told the New York Post:
Biden is responsible for the 1994 crime law that [resulted in] Corvain Cooper being sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for marijuana and the Obama-Biden administration was directly responsible for the prosecution and conviction of Corvain Cooper under the 1994 crime law.
On Wednesday, Megaro said “the system failed Corvain Cooper; Barack Obama’s promises not to seek lengthy prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders and to grant clemency to those that were unjustly impacted proved to be hollow promises.” Now, after years of waiting, he will finally be free.
Trump signed 73 pardons and 70 commutations in total on January 19, his final full day in office. They were issued early Wednesday. Others offered mercy for their non-violent marijuana life sentences were Ferrell Damon Scott, Anthony DeJohn, Craig Cesal, and James Romans.