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A longtime senator is raising a red flag over President Obama’s continuing efforts to release drug dealers from federal custody.

On Tuesday, Obama announced the commutation of sentences for another 79 mostly drug-dealer convicts.

That makes more than 1,000 mostly drug-dealing felons who have been granted freedom by Obama, which the Associated Press noted is more commutations than the past 11 presidents have granted combined.

Among them also are a number who have been convicted of firearms violations related to drug crimes.

Obama has claimed it makes “no sense” for those offenders to serve extended terms in prison, sometimes even life sentences.

On Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the senior member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised an alarm.

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“We need to be very careful about letting convicted criminals out of jail early, particularly ones convicted of serious drug and firearm offenses,” he said. “Among the criminals who have received commutations are individuals who destroyed lives and shattered families in their communities.

“The largest cocaine trafficker in Topeka, Kansas, should not be a candidate for early release. We’ve made real legislative progress recently in the fight against illegal drug use, and it’s important that we not undermine our efforts through ill-advised commutations and early releases,” he said.

He had, only a few days earlier, written in National Review that caution was appropriate.

That was after Obama’s previous announcement of the commutations of another 98 felons.

“No doubt there are instances where a guilty defendant receives an overly harsh sentence. Perfect justice is not possible in an imperfect world,” he said. “But we need to be very careful about letting convicted criminals out of jail early, particularly ones convicted of serious drug and firearm offenses. Illegal drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine inflict incalculable harm on our communities, destroying lives and ravaging families. Gun violence similarly shatters the lives of victims and their families and has a profoundly negative impact on community well-being.”

He said he agrees, as do others in Congress, that the mandatory minimum sentences used now can result in unjust outcomes.

“As an initial matter, it’s important to keep in mind that many incarcerees pled down from more serious crimes. That is, the offense for which they’re serving time is not the offense initially charged, or the most serious offense for which the government could have won a conviction. In the plea bargaining process, both sides make concessions in order to avoid the uncertainty of trial. The defendant agrees to plead guilty, while the government agrees to forego more serious charges. Thus an individual caught dealing drugs may agree to plead guilty to simple possession, or a person arrested with ten kilos of cocaine may plead guilty to possessing a much smaller amount,” he said.

“The point is not that such individuals should face harsher penalties than their plea deals provide for – that would be unjust – but rather that an offender’s crime of conviction does not necessarily reflect his or her actual danger to the community. Keep this in mind when you hear talking points about ‘low-level offenders.’ Many such offenders in fact committed more serious crimes, but pled down to lesser offenses to avoid trial.”

That list of 98 offenders included 19 with firearm offenses, including use of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime, he pointed out.

Many were drug dealers.

“These are not eighteen-year-olds selling small amounts of marijuana to their friends in the locker room. These are hard-core drug traffickers. Many were caught with more than a kilogram of cocaine or heroin. With our nation – and state – in the midst of an ongoing drug epidemic, we cannot afford to be letting hundreds of serious drug traffickers out early without assurance that they will not return to their criminal ways.

“One individual whose sentence President Obama recently commuted committed his first felony when he was only 16 years old and ran the largest cocaine ring in Topeka, Kansas. Hardly the type of offender who should be a candidate for early release.”

WND reported in October that Neil Eggleston, counsel to the president, wrote on the White House blog that the sentences for drug dealing were “unduly harsh.”

He pointed to Shawn Leo Barth of Bismarck, North Dakota, as an example.

Barth had been caught on counts of “conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute methamphetamine; distribution of a controlled substance methamphetamine; possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance marijuana; possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; felon in possession of a firearm/ammunition.”

But David Horowitz recently wrote at the Conservative Review what while Obama “touts these criminals as low-level drug offenders, almost everyone in the federal system is a hardcore drug trafficker in which violent crime is a way of life.”

“Many of the sentences were originally plead down simply because it is always easier to nail a prosecution on drug charges, even when the individual was originally arrested for armed robbery or even murder,” he pointed out.

“A quick search shows that at least 16 of these individuals were convicted of firearms charges, including using a firearm in the furtherance of drug trafficking. This, at a time when Obama is trying to clamp down on law-abiding gun owners.”

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