Natchez man’s prison sentence commuted by President Obama

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

NATCHEZ — A Natchez man is among 111 federal inmates whose sentences were cut in the latest round of commutations by President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Charles Harrison was sentenced in federal court in Natchez to nearly 22 years in 2007 for possession with intent to distribute cocaine base. The commutation ends his sentence in two years if he enrolls in drug treatment.

Harrison was pulled over while on probation in March 2006 for an expired license plate on his vehicle. During the traffic stop, narcotics officers noticed in “plain view” cocaine base and a crack pipe in the possession of a passenger in Harrison’s car, according to federal court documents.

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Harrison was found to be in violation of his probation, and his probation officer elected to conduct a field visit, during which Harrison told the officer when asked that he had cocaine in the house. He led officers to the cocaine base — 148.7 net grams — which was seized by narcotics officers.

Two inmates from Louisiana were also included in the commutations.

Kevin Huff of New Orleans was originally sentenced on cocaine possession-for-distribution charges in 2001 to 25 years — a sentence cut by 25 months in 2008. Obama commuted the sentence Tuesday to expire on Dec. 28.

Danielle Bernard Metz of New Orleans was sentenced to life in prison in 1993 on charges including possession with intent to distribute cocaine and money laundering. Now, the sentence ends Dec. 28.

Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug convictions, arguing they lead to excessive punishment and incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries.

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said the commutations underscored the president’s commitment to using his clemency authority to give deserving individuals a second chance. He said that Obama has granted a total of 673 commutations, more than the previous 10 presidents combined. More than a third of the recipients were serving life sentences.

“We must remember that these are individuals — sons, daughters, parents, and in many cases, grandparents — who have taken steps toward rehabilitation and who have earned their second chance,” Eggleston said. “They are individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes.”

Eggleston noted that Obama also granted commutation to 214 federal inmates earlier in the month. With Tuesday’s additions, Obama has granted the greatest number of commutations for a single month of any president.

Eggleston says he expects Obama to continue using his clemency authority through the end of his administration. He said the relief points to the need for Congress to take up criminal justice reform. Such legislation has stalled, undercut by a rash of summer shootings involving police and the pressure of election-year politics.

Eggleston said Obama considered the individual merits of each application to determine that an applicant is ready to make use of their second chance.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.