Biden grants clemency to 2 Utahns convicted of drug crimes


Two Utahns will be released from federal prison early after President Joe Biden commuted their sentences Tuesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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

Of those to receive commutations, two are Utahns in federal prison.

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

Court records show Cox was indicted by a grand jury in Wyoming’s federal court on conspiracy to distribute over 500 grams or more of meth. The indictment, which was handed down in September 2015, states the charge would carry a prison term 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 completing the prison term.

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 in home confinement. She will still be required to serve a five-year term of supervised release, and she will still have to pay restitution.

Vandemerwe was also imprisoned due to drug charges. In February 2007, he was indicted by a grand jury in Utah’s federal court on possession with intent to distribute meth. The indictment says Vandemerwe intended to distribute at least 50 grams of meth.

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

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

Federal prison records show that both 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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