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President Obama Grants Clemency to Grateful Dead Fan Serving Life in Prison

At the age of 25, Timothy Tyler knew where he was supposed to die. He’d never been to prison, but after selling LSD and cannabis to a police informant, he was sentenced to life in prison in 1992. He was a Grateful Dead fan who participated in the same recreational activity as many other Deadheads: He smoked weed and used a lot of acid.

But Tuesday, President Barack Obama granted sentence commutations to 111 federal prisoners. This was in addition to the 214 federal inmates Obama granted commutations to earlier this month. As the White House describes them, these are “individuals who received unduly harsh sentences under outdated laws for committing largely nonviolent drug crimes.”

One of those individuals was Tyler. His family had previously petitioned the President to reconsider Tyler’s sentence, stating he had “made mistakes when he was young, but after 22 years in prison, he has more than paid his debt to society.”

A Business Insider feature profiles Tyler as young man with a troubled past, suffering from mental illness and an abusive relationship with his stepfather. But he felt “at home at the Dead shows” and followed the band all around.

The judge sentenced Tyler to life in prison because of two previous felony drug convictions, even though both had resulted in probation; the third conviction meant Tyler had violated the controversial “three-strikes law,” which required mandatory minimum sentences for repeat drug offenders. Congress passed the laws in response to the crack epidemic in the 80s, though, as the White House stated above, they are largely considered outdated and harmful today.

With his clemency, Tyler’s sentence is set to end August 30, 2018, after which he will enroll in residential drug treatment. It’s a Deadhead Redemption.

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