Colyer commutes Emporia veteran's sentence for drug charges

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Outgoing Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer granted two final pardons and commuted the sentence of an Emporia veteran who served in Iraq.

Regina Carter was convicted on April 20, 2016, of drug possession with the intent to deliver. She was sentenced to eight years in prison and is currently housed at Topeka Correctional Facility.

On Friday, the 40-year-old Carter's sentence was cut by more than half, down to 43 months. In his commutation, Colyer noted that not only her original sentence was greater than many others given to a first time offender, the statutory penalty has since been reduced.

He also pointed to her combat service, which left her suffering from PTSD and a high disability rating from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs as a result. She was given an honorable discharge from the Army.

“As a state we need to look at our veterans and the challenges they face so we can help them return to civilian life,” Colyer said. “Programs such as veterans court and drug treatment combined with appropriate penalties may result in better long-term outcomes.”

Following her sentence, Carter will serve 36 months of post-release supervision. She must also be evaluated by professionals at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs who will refer appropriate treatment and undergo random drug testing. Additionally, Carter will have to enroll in an institution of higher learning and work towards getting a degree. Colyer said in his commutation that she was close to getting a degree already.

"I have concluded that in the totality of the circumstances she is deserving of a second chance," Colyer said.

2 pardons granted

Colyer has granted two pardons for people who were convicted on drug charges as well. Chris Rickerson and Wandalen Thomas had been convicted of felony drug possession, in 2006 and 1992, respectively.

“After a rigorous review process, I personally spoke with each of the individuals receiving clemency and while I am hard on crime, I believe in some cases people deserve a second chance,” Colyer said.

Rickerson served his sentence and now runs Elite Staffing Solutions, which works to help people find jobs and avoid drugs, the Governor's Office said. In 2017, it won the Wichita Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year award.

Wandaleen Thomas, who now lives in Fountain, Colorado, also completed her sentence. She now runs WT's Military Cuts, a barbershop that targets military members and their families.

Both of them had received favorable recommendations from the Prisoner Review Board.

Colyer's office says he denied pardon requests of 21 other applicants who had been convicted of crimes ranging from multiple murders, rapes, child sex crimes, and drug crimes.