President Barack Obama issued 209 commutations and 64 pardons on Tuesday with only days left in his Administration. The majority affected had committed nonviolent drug crimes. President Obama made reforming the nation’s drug laws a priority during his second term.
The highest profile commutation went to Army Private Chelsea Manning who was convicted for leaking 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks. Manning had been sentenced to a 35 year sentence and is currently serving the sentence in an Army prison. Manning’s sentence is being significantly reduced in that she will finish her sentence now on May 17.
The commutation is different from a pardon in that Manning will still be seen as guilty and the sentence will remain on her record.
The White House argued in favor of Manning’s commutation by pointing out that she plead guilty to charges during her trial without a deal. She had also already served six years.
President Obama also pardoned James Cartwright, who previously served as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cartwright pled guilty to one charge of making false statements to federal investigators and was set to be sentenced on January 31. Cartwright provided information on America’s efforts to destabilize Iran’s nuclear program. Military leaders and both of the journalists Cartwright spoke to wrote letters on his behalf, arguing for leniency before the judge.