Biden grants clemency to 2 Utahns convicted of drug crimes

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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in his tenure in the Oval Office, President Joe Biden exercised his clemency powers for 78 people on Tuesday, granting pardons to three people and commuting sentences for 75 people.

Of those who received commutations, two are Utahns in federal prison.

Among those whose sentences were commuted are Karen Cox, of Salt Lake City, and Martin Vandemerwe, of Price, according to a press release from the US Department of Justice. Both Cox and Vandemerwe were sentenced to federal prison after being convicted of crimes related to the distribution of methamphetamine.

Court records show Cox was indicted by a grand jury in federal court in Wyoming for conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. The indictment, which was handed down in September 2015, states that the charge would face a prison sentence of 10 years to life. A jury found Cox guilty of the charge in April 2016 and she was sentenced to 11 years in prison and five years of supervised release after serving her prison sentence.

With her sentence commuted, Cox’s sentence will now expire on April 26, 2023. She will be released and the remainder of the sentence will be served under house arrest. She will still have to serve a five-year probation and she will still have to pay compensation.

Vandemerwe was also imprisoned on drug charges. In February 2007, he was indicted by a grand jury in federal court in Utah for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. The indictment states that Vandemerwe intended to distribute at least 50 grams of methamphetamine.

Vandemerwe was convicted by a jury in a trial in October 2008. Vandemerwe was sentenced to 20 years in prison in September 2009, as well as a five-year term of supervised release, according to court records.

Now that Vandemerwe’s sentence is commuted, he is expected to be released from prison on April 26, 2023. The remainder of his sentence will be served under house arrest, along with the five years of supervised release.

Federal prison records show that Cox and Vandemerwe are being held in a federal facility in Phoenix.

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Jacob Scholl joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. He covers northern Utah communities, federal courts, and technology.

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