Ramona Brant called her oldest son, Dwight Barber, first when she got the news on Friday: President Barack Obama had commuted her life sentence for a 1995 drug conspiracy conviction and she would be free in four months.
Brant, who grew up in Freeport and is now 52, had to leave behind Dwight when he was 4 and her other son, DaJon, when he was 3, after a federal judge reluctantly gave her a life term because of mandatory sentencing guidelines.
But with Obama’s clemency, Brant will be able to walk out of the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn after serving 20 years on April 16.
“It’s the best news,” said Barber, now 25, in a telephone interview from Charlotte, North Carolina. “I can’t stop smiling. I’m so excited.”
Barber said his mother would come live with him at his home along with his daughter Moira — now 9 months — and the baby’s mother, Monique Love.
Brant’s story is like many of the 95 people whose drugs sentences were shortened by Obama through his act of clemency on Friday.
“I never thought that by traveling with my children’s father during his drug buys or answering the phone and conveying a message would land me in prison for the rest of my life. That is what happens when you’re sentenced to a conspiracy charge,” Brant said in a story about her on the website of CAN-DO, a pro-clemency group in Santa Monica, California.
“I even left him and moved back to New York after he struck me,” she said. When he promised never to hit her again, she moved back to Charlotte — a decision she regrets because “it cost me my life.”
Attorney Jason Cassel of the Albritton law firm in Longview, Texas, said he filed her petition for clemency on June 1 at the request of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women.
The quick response by the White House probably was a result of her circumstances at the time of her arrest.
“She was involved in an abusive relationship. She had no prior criminal history whatsoever. She wouldn’t have been in that situation [involving cocaine] but for the relationship,” Cassel said in a telephone interview.
“The other part of it is that the judge that sentenced her, and sentenced her twice, was frustrated that he had to impose a life sentence because of the sentencing guideline,” Cassel said.
Now the sentencing guidelines are no longer mandatory and judges have more discretion, he said.
Meanwhile, Dwight Barber is looking ahead. “I’ve been telling one of my cousins that 2016 is going to be a good year,” he said.