President Barack Obama used the power of the nation's highest office Tuesday to correct a typo.
The 2006 error was made in a report used to sentence convicted drug dealer Ceasar Cantu, 46, of Katy, Texas, and added 3 1/2 extra years to his prison term. Obama commuted Cantu's sentence from 15 years to 11 1/2 years.
U.S. District Judge Jackson Kiser, who sits on the bench in Danville, Va., last year dismissed Cantu's request to reduce his time because it wasn't filed within the one-year statute of limitations and his lawyer didn't object at the 2006 sentencing.
The White House said Obama decided to grant clemency because it was the only way to correct the mistake.
"Given the circumstances of this case and the manifest injustice of keeping a person in federal prison for an extra three-and-a-half years because of a typographical mistake, the president wanted to act as quickly as possible," said Obama press secretary Jay Carney.
"This is a matter of basic fairness and it reflects the important role of clemency as a fail-safe in our judicial system."
Judge Kiser noted at sentencing that although Cantu didn't have a criminal record, the quality of drugs involved in his case — 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana — required a sentence within the recommended guidelines.
Cantu said he didn't discover the error until six years later when he received a copy of the presentencing report from his family and accused his former attorney, John Weber of ineffectively representing him.
"By failing to object to this clear error, a manifestly unjust and prejudicial sentence was entered in my case," Cantu wrote in a motion he personally filed from Louisiana's Oakdale prison, where he is serving his time.
Cantu’s ex-lawyer said no one noticed the typo during the original sentencing.
"I'm happy that his sentence will be in the appropriate range of what it was supposed to be. Nobody wants mistakes."
Obama commuted only one sentence in his first term but last December cut prison time for eight inmates sentenced under old guidelines that treated convictions for crack cocaine offenses harsher than those involving the powder form of the drug. Obama changed the sentencing standards for cases beginning in 2010.
Cantu plead guilty to trafficking marijuana and laundering money. His release date is now May 23, 2018.
It's only the 10th time Obama has used his power to cut the sentence of federal inmates.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press