Four drug offenders with ties to North Dakota had their sentences commuted or pardoned by President Barack Obama on Tuesday in his latest and likely last round of such measures that have largely been taken for nonviolent drug offenders.
Brian Keith Solum, who served three years in prison and four years of supervised release after being sentenced for conspiracy to distribute cocaine in 1993, was one of 64 Americans pardoned Tuesday.
When reached by the Herald Wednesday, Solum said he was happy to learn of his pardon. He said the process was long -- he applied for a presidential pardon four years ago.
“There should be forgiveness and second chances,” Solum said.
Today, Solum serves as the president of the Outdoor Adventure Foundation, a Fargo-based nonprofit organization that provides outdoor experiences to disabled veterans and those with life-threatening illnesses.
He founded the organization in May 2009, after serving as the North Dakota ambassador for the Hunt of a Lifetime organization, according to a 2010 Herald story. The piece highlights a hunting trip sponsored by Solum’s foundation that included an 18-year-old with bone cancer, a disabled veteran from Moorhead, former World Wrestling Entertainment star Shawn Michaels and outdoors TV personality Keith Mark.
Solum said that being a convicted felon was very inhibiting to him as a business person. He said he got the right to vote back in 2007, but has had to identify himself as a felon since his conviction. Now he won’t.
Vogel Law Firm worked on the pardon on Solum’s behalf.
The White House also announced commutations of sentences for three with connections to the region.
Adan Nieves Martinez was sentenced in 2007 in federal court in Fargo to 20 years in prison for trafficking drugs in Grand Forks. Alberto Chahia was sentenced in Fargo to life in prison later that year on drug charges related to both possessing and intending to distribute controlled substances. Sean Anthony Ogle, Minneapolis, was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distributing a controlled substance for transporting methamphetamine from the Twin Cities to Fargo in 2008. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
All three men received commutations from Obama. Martinez will be released in May. Chahia’s sentence was reduced to 15 years, eight months -- so long as he enrolls in a residential drug program. Ogle had his sentence cut to 14 years and will also have to enter a residential drug program.
Martinez was convicted along with eight other men of distributing bulk amounts of a wide range of narcotics in Grand Forks, court records show. The eight were convicted of trafficking more than 500 grams of methamphetamine, more than 5,000 grams of cocaine, over 1,000 grams of heroin and in excess of 100 kilograms of marijuana. The group was part of a conspiracy that transported the drugs from Texas and distributed narcotics throughout the Red River Valley.
Martinez specifically was indicted for distributing more than 100 grams of methamphetamine in Grand Forks and in Hallock, Minn., 105 grams of cocaine in Grand Forks and 14 pounds of marijuana in Grand Forks in 2005.
Chahia, aka Chingone, was convicted for his involvement in a methamphetamine distribution ring that moved the drug from California and distributed it throughout the Red River Valley, both in North Dakota and Minnesota, according to court documents. He received a life sentence in October 2007.
Chahia was described as the midlevel manager of the drug ring, which prosecutors said had ties to the Mexican Mafia, according to Forum News Service archives. The ring was charged with bringing 4 pounds of meth into the Fargo-Moorhead area.
Ogle was convicted of selling methamphetamine to drug dealers in Fargo, according to court documents. He would regularly make trips from Minneapolis to Fargo to distribute ounces of methamphetamine in 2008.
According to a White House announcement posted to social media, Tuesday’s 209 commutations mean that Obama has commuted the sentences of a total 1,385 people, more than the sum of the past 12 presidents, going back to Franklin Roosevelt.
According to White House records, Obama has also granted pardons to a total of 212 people, bringing his total number of grants of clemency to 1,597.