Daily Egyptian

Obama commutes sentence of Carbondale man, a convicted drug-runner

By Luke Nozicka, Daily Egyptian

A convicted drug-runner from Carbondale will be released from prison early thanks to President Barack Obama’s commutation of 95 inmates’ sentences last week.

Edward B. Betts, 64, was sentenced July 27, 1992 to 30 years in prison and eight years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute in excess of 100 kilograms — more than 220 pounds — of marijuana. Obama’s Dec. 18 commutation set Betts’ prison sentence to expire on April 16 and reduced his supervised release from eight years to two. 

On Aug. 3, 1990, officers of the Southern Illinois Enforcement Group entered a room at the Marion Courts Motel on a search warrant unrelated to Betts’ case. They found him “convulsing on the floor and summoned medical assistance,” according to court documents.

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During an interview with a Williamson County Sheriff’s Department agent three days later, Betts said he made trips to Texas at the request of Alejandro “Alex” Vega — who was the subject of a Southern Illinois Enforcement Group investigation — to “pick up marijuana in quantities of 20 pounds or more.”

Vega, according to court documents, “was the kingpin of an organization that had been distributing up to 50 pounds of marijuana per week throughout southern Illinois since 1987.” He was originally sentenced to 240 months in prison, but because of his cooperation with the government, his punishment was reduced to 144 months.

Betts was one of Vega’s couriers or “runners” who transported marijuana from Houston to Illinois. 

Vega testified that Betts, who had three prior drug-related convictions in 1972, 1975 and 1988, made five to 10 trips to Texas for him. A co-conspirator testified that Vega told him Betts was one of his best runners.

A change.org petition was created nine months ago by user Alma Carder — who on the petition wrote, “Edward is my brother!!” — asking Obama to grant clemency to Betts. 

“It has been over 24 years,” the petition, which received seven signatures, read. “We were very poor and he used marajuana [sic] for his anxiety and depression. My mother died never seeing him again. She was deaf and disabled, and Edward was her caregiver. … The justice system can do better.”

Calls to Betts’ listed attorney went unreturned as of Sunday. 

Luke Nozicka can be reached at 618-536-3326, [email protected] or on Twitter @lukenozicka.

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