For some 19,500 inmates serving time for crack cocaine offenses, this holiday season carries the hope of a reduced sentence. The Washington Post today has a story about one-time slugger Willie Mays Aikens, a poster child for what many consider to be a vast -- and vastly unfair -- disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s recent decision to ease crack sentences by two levels, or an average of 27 months, could help Aikens, who is serving more than 15 years for possession and distribution of 64 grams of crack.
A former first baseman and heavy-hitter for the Kansas City Royals, Aikens saw his sports career go to ruin in the 1980s as he battled cocaine addiction. He was arrested in 1994 and charged with six counts of distributing cocaine base. He maintains to this day that police prodded him to cook the cocaine into crack so they could get him on a steeper sentence. Within hours of the commission’s decisions, Aikens was on the phone with his lawyers, trying to figure out how to proceed.