SoCal man released from prison after Obama commutes 15-years-to-life drug sentence

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After serving 10 years in federal prison, a Southern California man whose sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama became a free man on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (KABC)

After serving 10 years in federal prison, a Southern California man whose drug sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama walked out of a correctional institution Wednesday morning as a free man.

Keldren Joshua's joyful mother and other relatives were waiting for him with open arms as he exited the Terminal Island facility.

"I'm feeling very wonderful," Joshua, wearing a Raiders hat and T-shirt, said with a broad smile. He was not allowed give interviews to the media.

More than a decade ago, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute 500 grams of methamphetamine. In 2006, such a crime carried a minimum sentence of 10 years. Joshua received a 15-years-to-life sentence because of prior traffic offenses.

Cheryl Shiver said her son previously had never "been to jail, never shot anybody, killed anybody, raped anybody."

"What's his criminal history? Well, when he was arrested he had outstanding traffic warrants," she said.

After Joshua was sentenced, the Department of Justice under the Obama administration lowered the minimum sentences for nonviolent first-time drug offenders.

When Joshua exhausted all of his legal appeals, his case was taken up by the Federal Public Defender's Office.

MORE: Obama commutations include Riverside mother serving life sentence

In 2014, Obama directed the Justice Department to prioritize clemency petitions for individuals convicted of nonviolent drug offenses who were serving longer sentences than they would have received two years ago.
Joshua called his mother on Aug. 3 to tell her he was being released early.

"It was on my birthday when I got the call. ... All I said when I picked up the phone was: 'Did you get it? Did you get it? Did you get it?' And he was just laughing," Shiver said. "He said yes and I just screamed at the top of my lungs."

Andre Townsend, a federal public defender who worked on Joshua's case, was on hand to greet him outside the prison gates on Wednesday.

"He's not a gang member. He had a very minimal criminal history," Townsend said. "He had a very minimal role within his offense."

Joshua is one of nearly 600 inmates whose sentences have been commuted by Obama since the president took office. According to the administration, many of those sentences were commuted because they were outdated or unduly harsh.

Standing just steps away from the correctional facility, Joshua expressed his gratitude to the assembled well-wishers.

"Thank you, guys, for putting in your time and waiting for me," he said.
Related Topics:
newssentencingprisondrug bustillegal drugspresident barack obamaexclusiveLos Angeles CountySan Pedro
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