Biden cuts sentences of 2 prisoners from Michigan with drug-related convictions

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Two prisoners from Michigan were among 75 nonviolent, drug-related convictions commuted by President Joe Biden, the White House said. 

The clemency announcements Tuesday were Biden's first of his presidency. The administration released the news as it kicked off a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

The prisoners from Michigan whose sentences were reduced by Biden are Mario Cruz of Grand Rapids and Jesse Alan Trimue of Burton.

Cruz was convicted in January 2017 in the Western District of Michigan of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute an unspecified quantity of cocaine and heroin. 

His sentence of 10 years in prison was commuted to expire a year from now, on April 26, 2023, with the remainder to be served in home confinement, though his three-year term of supervised release will remain intact, the White House said. 

Trimue was convicted in the Eastern District of Tennessee on charges of conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 5 grams of methamphetamine and 50 grams or more of methamphetamine mixture. 

Biden commuted his 10-year prison sentence to expire in one year, with the remainder to be served in home confinement — also leaving intact the eight-year term of supervised release.

Another prisoner, Rachel Lynn Hanson, hailed from Richton Park, Illinois, but was sentenced in Michigan's Western District in 2015 for possession of an unspecified quantity of cocaine with intent to distribute. 

Biden commuted her 12-year prison sentence to expire in a year on April 26, 2023, serving the remainder in home confinement, followed by a three-year term of supervised release.

Biden in a statement said that many of those who received commutations have been serving their sentences on home confinement during the pandemic, and that several were serving "lengthy" sentences and would have received shorter terms had they been convicted for the same offenses under the 2018 sentencing reform law passed under the Trump administration.

"America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation," Biden said. "Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities."

Biden also granted pardons to three individuals Tuesday. Those receiving pardons are:

— Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy's detail, faced federal bribery charges that he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor's request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

• Betty Jo Bogans, 51, was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no prior record, received a seven-year sentence. In the years since her release from prison, Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing cancer treatment, and has raised a son.

• Dexter Jackson , 52, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 for using his pool hall to facilitate the trafficking of marijuana. Jackson pleaded guilty and acknowledged he allowed his business to be used by marijuana dealers.

After Jackson was released from prison, he converted his business into a cellphone repair service that employs local high school students through a program that provides young adults with work experience. Jackson has built and renovated homes in his community, which has a shortage of affordable housing.

When he ran for president, Biden promised to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. and called for nonviolent drug offenders to be diverted to drug courts and treatment.

The Associated Press contributed.