Criminal Justice

Obama commutes sentence of man sentenced to an extra 42 months because of a typo

President Obama has commuted the sentence of a drug offender who was sentenced to an extra three and a half years in prison because of a typographical error in a sentencing document.

The commutation trims Ceasar Huerta Cantu’s sentence by 42 months, a correction of the mistake, report the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Cantu pleaded guilty in 2006 to money laundering, and conspiracy to possess marijuana and cocaine with the intent to distribute, the Times says. A presentence report wrongly listed his base offense level at 36 instead of 34, numbers that are used to determine the sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.

Cantu discovered the error when his family sent him a copy of the presentence report, after he had been imprisoned for six years. He wrote a motion seeking reconsideration of his sentence, but a judge rejected it because it was filed after the one-year deadline.

Prison officials say Cantu has been a model prisoner. With good-time credit, Cantu can be released in May 2015, the Times says.

Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman told the Times that it’s a shame it took presidential action to correct what all acknowledge was a mistake. “It sounds like a bad dystopian novel or a Kafka novel that a typo could even lead to three and a half years in prison,” he said. “Something’s very rotten in our system.”

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.