President Obama yesterday commuted the sentences of 111 inmates. This means he is letting convicted criminals out of jail early – before they have served the sentences handed down by the Judges who presided over their cases. Reporters are falling over themselves to label the entire group “nonviolent offenders.” In fact, President Obama has now commuted the sentences of 673 convicted criminals, a total just shy of the total number of sentences commuted by the 11 Presidential administrations immediately preceding his. Some argue this is a good thing, some argue it is bad. Almost all of the cases involved drug dealing. What struck me as ironic is that reporters have universally reported that those whose sentences were commuted are “nonviolent offenders.” Yet, when I argue against a stop and frisk of a suspected drug dealer in court, the Court almost universally cites to Pennsylvania precedent holding that drug dealers should be presumed to be violent, and thus police can use that fact to help support their decision to frisk the person for weapons. So which is it, I ask? Are drug dealers violent? Then don’t commute the sentences – or admit that Obama is letting violent offenders out early? Or are drug dealers nonviolent? If so, then don’t let police search them for weapons based in large part on their connection to drug-dealing. I don’t really care which way it goes, but I’m tired of hearing these two contradictory messages both treated as universal truths. How about just judging each case on its own merit?