- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico man is among the dozens of nonviolent drug offenders who had their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama on Monday.

John M. Wyatt of Las Cruces was convicted in federal court in Illinois on a charge of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He was sentenced in August 2004 to nearly 22 years in prison, eight years of supervised release and a $500 fine.

His commuted sentence will expire Nov. 10.

According to court documents, police in 2002 stopped a speeding RV driven by Wyatt and discovered more than a dozen duffel bags of marijuana inside.

Wyatt had argued that after the traffic stop ended, he was detained without reasonable suspicion and a positive alert by a drug-sniffing dog did not give the officer probable cause to search the vehicle.



But authorities say Wyatt seemed nervous and was shaking. An officer reported seeing an unusually elevated bed through the RV window.

At the time of the traffic stop, Wyatt was on probation. He had a prior controlled substance offense on his record as well as a conviction for escaping from custody.

Wyatt ended up being sentenced based on his status as a career offender.

In a failed appeal, Wyatt claimed - among other things - that he would not have pleaded guilty had his lawyer not assured him that he wouldn’t be subject to a career offender sentence.

In the cases of Wyatt and the other 45 prisoners to have their sentences commuted, Obama said their punishments didn’t fit the crime.

The White House plugged Monday’s action as one prong of a broader push to make the criminal justice system fairer while saving money.

Obama said the costs are over $80 billion a year to incarcerate people who often “have only been engaged in nonviolent drug offenses.”

Obama has issued 89 commutations during his presidency, most of them to nonviolent offenders sentenced for drug crimes. A commutation leaves the conviction in place but reduces the punishment.

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