Parole Board Votes to Commute Sentences of Two Oklahomans

Last week, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted to commute the sentences of two Oklahoma men convicted of separate crimes. In the first case, the state Parole Board voted unanimously to commute Richard Sipe's 60-year-sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine to the seven years he has already served. 

Sipe was convicted in 2003 of aggravated manufacturing of methamphetamine in Oklahoma.  His 60-year sentence on the Oklahoma drug offense was the states most severe sentence for drug manufacturing

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections reports that, of the nine people currently serving time on a primary offense of drug manufacture, the average sentence is 24 years.  Sipe was arrested along with another person in 2002. 

His counterpart struck a plea agreement and was sentenced to eight years and released in 2005.  Sipe, who took his chances with a jury, was sentenced to 60 years for his drug offense.  Sipe's defense attorney says that the Parole Board saw clearly that Sipe's sentence was extreme.

Although his aggravated manufacturing sentence has been commuted to time served, Richard Sipe will remain in prison, serving a consecutive 10-year sentence for possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and failure to affix a tax stamp to a controlled drug.

In the second case, the state Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 to commute the manslaughter sentence of Lawrence Tyrone Watts, brother of former United States Representative J.C. Watts, R-Okla.  The convicted Watts was sentenced to 25-years in prison for the 2003 shooting death of Anthony Greco.  Watts has been incarcerated since late 2004.

Watts told the Parole Board that, on the day of the shooting, Greco had repeatedly harassed him for more money for work he had done, showing up at Watts's home, church, and business.  He says that Greco had threatened to kill him, and when he shot Greco outside the restaurant he owned, it was out of fear for his own life. The case will go to Governor Brad Henry for final consideration.

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