Broward woman who is serving life in federal prison for a crack cocaine conviction is one of 22 people whose prison terms were commuted Tuesday by President Barack Obama.Congratulations to Michael Caruso and Abby Becker. Well done.
Valarie Bozeman, 48, of Pompano Beach, who was also known as Theresa Brown, was sentenced to life in prison for a 1993 drug case. She has served more than 20 years in prison.
"She shrieked with joy," said Federal Public Defender Michael Caruso of the phone call when he told Bozeman the president was giving her a second chance. "This is a woman who is completely reformed. She is ecstatic that she can get back to South Florida. She just wants to be reunited with her family and be a productive member of society."
Bozeman's appeal and several attempts to get her life term reduced were all rejected by the courts. She is currently an inmate in Dublin, Calif., and is now scheduled to be released July 28.
Bozeman had some unlikely supporters: U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, the trial and sentencing judge, advocated for her early release, according to her defense team.
"[Valarie] wanted me to thank Judge Ungaro for her support all these years and for not forgetting her. She said that this only happened because Judge Ungaro has been her champion," Caruso said.
Ungaro had an aide respond to a request for comment Tuesday. The aide said the judge would "like to comment but she doesn't think it would be appropriate to do so."
Several officials from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons also wrote letters of recommendation for Bozeman and said she worked hard in prison and became a mentor to many other prisoners.
Bozeman's petition to have her prison term commuted was handled by Caruso, the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida, and Assistant Federal Public Defender Abigail Becker.
In an August 2008 letter to the trial and sentencing judge, Bozeman wrote that she had already served a lengthy punishment.
"I've done my time for the crime; it doesn't take me coming out of prison in a body bag to make the government succeed … I am rehabilitated. I won't fail myself, you or society. I have children and grandchildren," Bozeman wrote.
"I would like for you to grant me mercy and allow me to help society with the programs that are out there for the youth of today … How would they know there's a better way? How would they know unless someone is sent to tell them?"
Her mother, Nancy Bozeman, 72, of Pompano Beach, said her family is grateful to God, the president, her daughter's lawyers and Judge Ungaro.
"I do believe my daughter is one changed person and that I know in my heart," she said. "It's a very small house we live in but, praise God, we are going to have one very big party for her."
Also a big shout out to Judge Ungaro for stepping up on this case. Judges can make a difference.