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President commutes sentence of Fugees producer

President George W. Bush commuted the sentence of a former Fugees producer who has spent seven years in prison for cocaine possession with intent to distribute.

That means John Forte will soon be freed after serving about half of his 14-year sentence. He was one of two men whose sentences for cocaine offenses were commuted Monday night, along with 14 pardons granted.

Forte co-wrote and produced two songs on the Fugee’s 1996 album “The Score,” a Grammy-winning hit. As a rapper, he also released two albums himself, the second of which (“I, John”) included a duet with singer Carly Simon.

Simon posted bail for Forte at the time of his arrest and had urged for his release. Messages left with her publicist were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Forte was arrested at Newark International Airport in 2000, and later found guilty of possession of 31 pounds of liquid cocaine with the intent to distribute.

Julie Stewart , president and founder of the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums , applauded Bush’s decision to commute the sentences of Forte and another man who had been imprisoned for 15 years. Stewart said sentences for many “low-level, first-time, nonviolent drug offenders” don’t fit the crime.

Presidents often issue many pardons toward the end of their terms, though Bush has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That’s fewer than half as many as either President Clinton or President Reagan issued during their two terms in office.

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