Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2017
Source: Fresno Bee, The (CA)
Copyright: 2017 The Fresno Bee
Note: Does not publish letters from outside their circulation area.
Author: Michael Doyle


WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the 20-year
prison sentenced imposed on Richard Ruiz Montes, convicted in 2008 for his
role in the Modesto's pot-dealing California Healthcare Collective.

In one of his final presidential acts, Obama used his executive authority
to cut Montes' sentence by more than half. Now held at a federal facility
in Atwater, according to the Bureau of Prisons' inmate locator, the
36-year-old Montes will be released May 19.

He is identified as Richard by the White House and Bureau of Prisons, but
has also been known as Ricardo. The White House listed his hometown as

His original sentence would have kept Montes incarcerated through
September 2025, following his conviction on charges of conducting a
continuing criminal enterprise, manufacture of marijuana and possession
with intent to distribute marijuana, and related charges.

His partner with California Healthcare Collective, Luke Scarmazzo, was not
included on the list of 330 commutations issued Thursday. Scarmazzo is
being held at Mendota Federal Correctional Institution and is set for
release in 2027, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

The two men were operating a medical marijuana dispensary, which took in a
reported $6 million to $9 million in less than two years, before their

Scarmazzo and Montes said they never intended to break the law. They
obtained a business license, paid taxes and made sure patients had
doctors' notes before purchases.

The latest actions brought the total number of commutations granted by
President Obama to 1,715.

"We are grateful to President Obama for the historically large number of
grants in a single round and in total," said Cynthia W. Roseberry, project
manager for Clemency Project 2014, which has advocated for inmates.
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