In Honor of Chelsea Manning’s Release, Here’s a List of Prisoners Whose Sentences Obama Commuted

• May 17, 2017 2:17 pm


Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking troves of U.S. secrets, was released from prison on Wednesday after former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January.

In 2013, Manning was sentenced to a 35-year prison term for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks. But Obama commuted the bulk of Manning's sentence days before he left office, allowing the soldier, who has served seven years in prison, to be freed 28 years early.

Military prosecutors charged Manning with 22 offenses, which included violating the Espionage Act and "aiding the enemy." Manning, a transgender woman whose first name was Bradley at the time, was found guilty on several charges, but not for aiding the enemy. Critics argued that her actions disclosing sensitive intelligence to the public helped enemies like al Qaeda potentially gain valuable insight from the documents.

Obama granted clemency to 1,927 convicted criminals during his presidency, including 1,715 commutations and 212 pardons. With less than a week left of his presidency, Obama granted clemency to 273 federal inmates, including Chelsea Manning. He also commuted the sentences of 330 prisoners who were serving time for drug offenses in a single day.

Here is a list of some of the more controversial or noteworthy prisoners who Obama granted clemency while in the White House.

Oscar López Rivera

Just three days before he left office, Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar López Rivera, a member of the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by its Spanish acronym FALN, a leftist, violent group that sought complete independence for Puerto Rico. FALN was involved in more than 100 bombings across the United States in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which killed Americans.

In 1981, López Rivera was sentenced to 55 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and other felonies. He was given 15 more years in 1988 for "conspiracy to escape; to transport explosives with intent to kill and injure people; and to destroy government buildings and property," according to CNN. The FALN member was expected to be freed in 2051.

López Rivera said after being arrested that he was engaged in an anti-colonial war with the United States and therefore should be treated as a prisoner of war and tried in an international court. The U.S. government denied his request.

Former President Bill Clinton offered conditional clemency to López Rivera and several other FALN members if they renounced "the use or threatened use of violence for any purpose" in writing. López Rivera declined the offer.

In 2016, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) urged then-President Obama to release López Rivera.

Obama offered López Rivera unconditional clemency, which he accepted. Lopez Rivera was released on Wednesday, after serving 35 years in prison.

James Cartwright

On the same day of Manning's commutation, Obama pardoned retired four-star Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who had pleaded guilty to falsely denying he was the source of a leak of classified information. Cartwright was investigated for leaking classified information about Stuxnet, the computer virus used in a cyber attack against Iran's nuclear program. It is generally acknowledged that the cyber attack was a joint effort carried out by Israel and the United States.

At first, Cartwright denied allegations that he was the source of the leak before later pleading guilty.

Willie McCovey

Baseball Hall of Famer Willie McCovey was pardoned by Obama on Jan. 17. McCovey was fined in 1996 and received two years probation after he failed to pay taxes on income earned from 1988 to 1990.

Dwight Loving

In 1996, former Army solider Dwight Loving was convicted of murdering two taxi cab drivers in Fort Hood, Texas in 1988. He was one of the few military members who sat on death row. Obama commuted his sentence to life in prison without parole.

Douglas Kennedy

New Jersey inmate Douglas Kennedy was convicted of three counts of narcotics possession, conspiracy to distribute narcotics, two counts of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and two counts of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and eight years' supervised release in 2008, but the sentence was increased to 40 years in 2013.

Obama commuted his sentence so he would be released on May 19, 2017. The decision came on Obama's last full day in office and was one of the 330 commutations he announced that day for drug offenders.

An entire list of Obama's pardons and commutations can be found on the Department of Justice's website.