Obama grants Portsmouth woman clemency

Cathy Lee Jones (Photo courtesy Jones' family).

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Portsmouth woman was granted clemency by President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

In 2003, Cathy Lee Jones was sentenced to 21 years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin and cocaine.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Nicole Jordan, Jones’ daughter. “She’s been gone a long time. She’s missed out on a whole lot.”

Jones pleaded guilty to the drugs charges in January 2003. The 53-year-old woman has been behind bars for 12 years. Jones’ sister, Allison Jones, has seen her three times since she’s been in a West Virginia prison.

“I’ve been praying every day and every night for my sister to be home with me,” Allison Jones said.

Allison Jones and Jones’ other daughter got unexpected calls from West Virginia on Wednesday. The calls were from Jones, who said she would be released early on April 15, 2015.

“I don’t usually ride through the tunnel, but I will go through the tunnel on April the 15,” Allison Jones said. “I’ll be flying through it. Gotta go pick her up at the bus station.”

Jones was one of eight people granted a commutation by President Obama on Wednesday. Twelve other people from across the country were pardoned. Jones was the only person from Virginia who was included in the Clemency Initiative, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said.

“While all eight were properly held accountable for their criminal actions, their punishments did not fit their crimes,” Cole said in a statement online.

Cole said Jones and the others wouldn’t have received so much time in prison had they been sentenced in 2014. He added, Jones and seven others in prison are non-violent, low-level offenders, who don’t have a significant criminal history or ties to gangs.

Allison Jones and Jordan said all they could do was cry when they found out about Jones’ early release.

“I just got down and I prayed, and I cried, cried, cried,” Allison Jones said.

Grateful for Jones’ early release, they say they have so much to look forward to in four months.

Jones’ family members don’t deny the drug charges she was convicted of in 2003. According to the family, she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” To this day, the family said, they don’t understand how she got caught up in it. They are grateful she’s getting an early start on her second chance and that she will be with family years earlier than planned.

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