Release Man Convicted Under Outdated Drug Laws

Target: President of the United States Barack Obama

Goal: Grant clemency for a man convicted under draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

In the 1980’s, William Underwood promoted, managed, and jump-started the careers of several pop and R&B acts. But in 1988, at the age of 34, Mr. Underwood was arrested on drug charges. In 1990, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole under draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, even though the man had no felony history.

Had Underwood been convicted under laws that exist today, chances are he would be a free man by now, and it is with this in mind that President Obama must grant William Underwood clemency before leaving office.

The events leading up to William Underwood’s 1990 conviction paint a picture of 1980’s federal law enforcement attitudes toward drug offenders as more maverick than just. Underwood was convicted by a jury on unspecified RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges and sentenced to three 20-year prison sentences that were to run concurrent of each other. Mr. Underwood objected to these findings on Sixth Amendment grounds, as the unspecified RICO charges meant that Mr. Underwood was not aware of the nature of the charges lobbied against him in the first place.

A jury-less special hearing between the judge, prosecution, and defense determined Mr. Underwood’s criminal activity continued past November 1, 1987, meaning he was eligible for newly-enacted sentencing guidelines courtesy of the Reagan Administration and Congress. Again, Mr. Underwood objected on Sixth Amendment grounds, but was sentenced to life without parole, as laid out in the new sentencing guidelines.

Interestingly, a 1986 FBI document stated his case was closed “due to lack of activity,” which questions the validity of the entire court process.

Mr. Underwood has been in prison for 26 years and has exhausted all of his resources. He has been denied access to the courts. Mr. Underwood has a unique case, for every case precedent that has been used to deny his appeals has been ruled unconstitutional. William Underwood is also a model prisoner.

It’s time to send him home.


Dear President Barack Obama,

William Underwood has spent 26 years in prison, convicted under questionable circumstances and draconian laws that are no longer in effect as they were at the time of his conviction. Mr. Underwood has objected repeatedly on grounds that his Sixth Amendment rights had been violated over the course of his trial, conviction, incarceration, and appeals.

Had Mr. Underwood been convicted under today’s sentencing guidelines, he would probably be a free man by now.

Mr. Underwood is a model prisoner and until his 1990 conviction, had no felonies on his record. He has a family — a wife, children, and grandchildren — who certainly would love to spend as much time as they can with a man who is in his early sixties.

As President of the United States, the Constitution grants you the power to grant clemency. Mr. President, you have the Constitutional right to send this man home to be with his family.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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