RSCM longtime client Ray Surrat receives clemency and is granted early release by President Obama during his last days in office. Tony Scheer is quoted in the story.
Surratt was serving a mandatory life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime, a penalty that his sentencing judge, prosecutors and defense team agreed was overly harsh but still could leave the 42-year-old North Carolina man locked up forever.
On Jan. 19, Surratt was left momentarily speechless by a call from one of his attorneys telling him that on Barack Obama’s last full day in office, the president had granted Surratt early release as one of the record number of commutations for inmates sentenced under severe mandatory minimum laws passed in the 1980s and 1990s.
Obama’s order reduces Surratt’s life sentence to 200 months, leaving him with less than three years behind bars if he completes a drug rehabilitation program.
“Ray was literally the poster child for why Congress should not tell a judge exactly what they have to do,” said Surratt’s longtime attorney Tony Scheer, who cried when he learned Surratt was on Obama’s final clemency list.
When Surratt heard the news in a call, “I’m not sure he really believed it,” Scheer said Wednesday.