Fact Check

Man Pardoned by Obama Arrested for Murder?

Reports that a Florida drug trafficker pardoned by President Obama was re-arrested for the murder of his girlfriend are junk news.

Published Mar 6, 2017

A Florida drug trafficker pardoned by President Obama was re-arrested three months later for the murder of his girlfriend.

On 28 February 2017, the Underground Report web site published an article positing that a Florida drug trafficker who had been pardoned by President Obama was re-arrested three months later on charges that he had murdered his girlfriend:

Just 94 days ago, James G. Winters of Gainesville, FL was pardoned from a life sentence by former President Barack Obama.

Yesterday Winters was arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Joanna Walker.

Walker was reported missing by family early last week. Her body was discovered on Sunday, in the trunk of an abandoned 1998 Toyato Corrola in an Orlando Publix parking lot.

Though the tags were removed the car was traced by to Winters and Officers made the subsequent arrest, booking Winters on one count of first degree murder.

During his presidency, Obama granted pardons or clemency to an unprecedented 1,927 criminals.

James Winters was serving a life sentence for drug trafficking and weapons charges.

None of this was true. No one by the name of James G. Winters was pardoned by President Obama or arrested on murder charges in Florida in February 2017. The photograph of "James G. Winters" that accompanied the article was actually a picture of a man named Avery Draughty, who was arrested in California in March 2015 and charged with a killing that had taken place over a year earlier.

The only source reporting this information was the Underground Report, a known fake news site. So known, in fact, that at the foot of every article the site's creation has since added a link to a page explaining his deliberate spread of fabricated reports (and the public's reception of them):

When I started this [fake news] site, I had no idea that the stories would garner this much attention. While writing them, I was aiming for stories that no one would believe, but rather would be satirical in an age where disinformation is so prevalent. Just for fun, I decided to post some of the stories in Trump fan groups on Facebook to see the reactions.

To my surprise, the Trump masses embraced my stories as fact, almost universally. It seemed that there wasn’t anything I could write that was too wild or outrageous to be believed by this particular audience.

If I wrote about CNN being fake news and connected to ISIS, readers would agree wholeheartedly with my fabricated article. If I wrote about a black liberal or Obama supposedly saying something controversial, the response was unbridled racism and hatred. When I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s new emails that proved she was a child sacrificing maniac, people screamed for her head.


The Underground Report.   "Man Pardoned by Obama 3 Months Ago Arrested for Murder."     28 February 2017.

The Underground Report.   "BREAKING: Satire Makes Fools of Gullible Trump Supporters."     3 March 2017.

The Sacramento Bee.   "Man Arrested in Rancho Cordova for 2013 Sacramento Killing."     15 March 2015.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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