Obama commutations include Riverside mother serving life sentence

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Josephine Ledesma, left, has received a commutation of her life sentence for drug offenses. (KABC)

President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 214 federal inmates, most of them serving time for drug offenses.

The group included at least half a dozen inmates from Southern California.

The move was the largest batch of commutations on a single day in more than a century, according to the White House. It included 67 people serving life sentences.

Among those receiving commutations was Josephine Ledesma of Rialto, who was convicted in the early 1990s for possessing with intent to distribute cocaine and given a life sentence.

Her children were overjoyed at getting the call Wednesday from their mother that she was going to be free soon.

"It's the happiest day of my life," said her daughter, Lizette Ledesma.

For 24 years the only way Lizette could see her mother was to visit her in federal prison.

Supporters of Ledesma said she was transporting money as part of a drug deal, doing a favor for a family member. She knew she did something wrong, they said, but she never expected to get a life sentence.

"Back in the '90s, sentencing was very strict, it was the war on drugs," said her son, Caesar Ledesma.

Ledesma is expected to be released in a few weeks. Then after spending a few months in a halfway house, she'll be moving in with her family in Riverside.

Almost all the prisoners that Obama released were serving time for nonviolent crimes related to cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs, although a few were charged with firearms violations related to their drug activities. Almost all are men, though they represent a diverse cross-section of America geographically.

All told, Obama has commuted 562 sentences during his presidency - more than the past nine presidents combined, the White House said. Almost 200 of those who have benefited were serving life sentences.

He is expected to issue more commutations before his term ends, according to administration officials.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related Topics:
newssentencingpresident barack obamajailprisondrugsRiversideRiverside CountyRialto
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