Trump Grants Clemency to Two Dallas Men Convicted in Drug Cases

NBC 5 News

There were 143 names on the list of pardons and commutations announced after midnight Wednesday in the final hours of President Donald Trump's White House term.

Two men with Texas ties were included in the flurry of clemency action that included rap performers and ex-members of Congress as well as other allies of him and his family.

James Brian Cruz

James Brian Cruz was convicted in 1997 for his role in a meth-dealing ring in the Dallas area. He had served about half of his 40-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville where he's been incarcerated since 2000.

Several former inmates he has counseled, along with Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a well-known Trump supporter, vouched for his character..

Cruz's projected release date was April 10, 2034. Trump commuted his sentence to time served.

He was also sentenced to five years supervised release, a $25,000 fine and a $100 special assessment. Trump's order left those parts of his sentence intact.

Cruz's attorneys, Cory Liu and Johnny Sutton, released the following statement from their client:

"I want to thank President Trump for commuting my sentence and setting me free. I am so happy to be given a second chance. It is impossible to express the gratitude I feel towards my family and friends who never gave up on me and fought for my freedom. I will be forever grateful to Ms. Alice Johnson and her team for believing in me and advocating at the highest levels for my release. Not many men get second chances in life, and I plan to make every day God gives me on this earth count like it was my last."

Liu and Sutton, of the Ashcroft Law Firm, also released a statement saying they were honored to help Cruz receive a second chance at life.

"He served 21 years of a 40-year sentence imposed after he committed a drug offense when he was just a teenager. During his time in prison, he became a devout Christian, led Bible studies and was involved in prison ministry, mentored other inmates, and truly earned this opportunity to restart his life. We wish him the very best and are privileged to have played a role in his release," the firm said.

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Ferrell Damon Scott

Ferrell Damon Scott was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Supporters said under modern sentencing guidelines Scott would not have received such a harsh sentence.

Former Acting United States Attorney Sam Sheldon, who prosecuted his case wrote he “… strongly does not believe that [Mr. Scott] deserves a mandatory life sentence.”

Scott has had an exemplary behavior record and appealed to President Obama for clemency but was denied.

Scott was 13 years into his life sentence serving time at the United States Penitentiary in Beaumont when Trump granted clemency, he is now 58 years old.

Scott told supporter Alice Johnson, the CAN-DO Foundation:

"If given a second chance, I won’t need a third chance because I am not simply rehabilitated, but regenerated and rejuvenated. A fresh new soul willing to reclaim my life. At the end of the day when this is over, I will consider it a minor setback for a major comeback. My second chance will be founded upon the idea of personal responsibility and conformity to both the laws of men and God. I will no longer waste my God-given talents, but marshall the forces of my mind to lend in the construction of self, family and community. I am not bitter, upset nor will I complain about my conviction - I am sorry for my crime and pray for forgiveness."

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