Paul Fields reunites with his daughter After 7 years in prison.
The former President of the U.S. Barack Obama, last year received a letter from Corrina Fields,
a second-grader, outlining all the things she wanted to do with her dad if he got out of prison.
she listed, Ride bikes. Go to the park. Play basketball, drawing pictures of each of the activities.
On his last day in the White House, the president granted Corrina her wish, including her father
, Paul, among the 310 drug offenders who received clemency as he prepared to leave office.
In his two terms, Obama pardoned or commuted the sentences of nearly 2,000 people, mainly
nonviolent drug offenders, who he believed were serving sentences that were overly harsh.
“I have so much to make up for when I get home,” Paul told Yahoo News from the federal prison
in Virginia where he’s spent the past seven years. “Both to her and my wife.”
Corrina was just 5 months old when her father was busted for growing more than 100 marijuana plants
in his basement in Tennessee. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana and was sentenced to
15 1/2 years. The stiff sentence was triggered by Paul’s prior convictions for possessing
— and in one case growing — small amounts of pot. These convictions tipped him into the
“career offender” category, which requires judges to hand down the maximum penalty for
Paul and his wife, Pari, who has stuck by him through his years in prison, both think what he did was stupid
and reckless. But they were also shocked that Paul was sent away for so long. They thought such long
federal sentences went to drug kingpins — not a small-time amateur trying to make extra cash. Paul met
people in prison who were dealing thousands of pounds of marijuana a year. His entire crop would have
yielded about 5 pounds, he estimates.
“I am definitely guilty of being a pothead that continued to make stupid decisions with my lifestyle,” Paul
wrote in his clemency application.
Before his bust, Paul worked as a manager at a pizza chain restaurant, but his passion was music. He drove
hundreds of miles to follow around jam bands like Phish and the Grateful Dead in his spare time. He met his
wife, Pari, at a music festival in 2005, when he struck up a conversation with her between shows. She
immediately liked that he seemed smart and kind — two qualities she had been waiting decades to find in
In 2008, Paul lost his job as manager of the pizza restaurant, and Pari got pregnant with Corrina. They moved
to Johnson City, Tenn., in search of work. “We had a baby coming without any income,” Pari recalls. “It was
just scary. I think both of us were like, how are we going to pay for stuff?”.
Fearing they wouldn’t have enough money to support the baby, Paul decided to try to grow and sell a larger
amount of weed than ever before. He had grown pot and sold some to friends in the past, but always in small
amounts, mostly to supply himself. Paul often thinks about how in this pivotal moment, he made the wrong
“I should have gone the other way,” he said. “I had a good career in the pizza business.”
Pari, who knew about Paul’s plans but didn’t participate, also regrets not trying to stop him. “I wish I had said when
I got pregnant, ‘This is going to have to stop,’” she said. “I was scared about it. I was worried about it all the time.”
In October 2009, law enforcement raided the Fields’ house and found the plants. Paul learned that his close friend,
a groomsman at his wedding, had informed on him to receive a lighter sentence for his own growing operation
— adding a sense of betrayal to the brew of terrible emotions Paul felt.
“I hadn’t harvested a single plant when the raid happened, and we lost everything,” Paul recalls. “And then I’m staring
in the mirror going, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’ The most irresponsible thing I could do as a husband and a father.”