Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Prison for Cartwright? or Pardon?

Michael Isikoff writes that James “Hoss” Cartwright - known as "President Obama’s favorite general" - pled guilty to the charge that he lied to the FBI about disclosing classified information and now faces a maximum of five years in prison. He and his lawyers will, however, "argue for no jail time at all." In addition, he will "push for a pardon before President Obama leaves office." His sentencing date is January 17, just three days before the end of the term.

The investigation has lasted four years and focused on a book and an article by Times reporter David Sanger.  A former Newsweek editor Daniel Klaidman was also involved. The New York Times called his prosecution - the administration's 10th involving classified documents - “chilling.” Isikoff writes:
Cartwright has told friends what many expected would be a major part of his defense: He only spoke to the journalists in the first place because it was his “understanding” the White House wanted him to — in part to wave them off false (and potentially damaging) classified details from another source. It was a defense he appeared to allude to in a statement released today. “It was wrong for me to mislead the FBI on November 2, 2012, and I accept full responsibility for this,” Cartwright said. “I knew I was not the source of the story and I didn’t want to be blamed for the leak. My only goal in talking to the reporters was to protect American interests and lives; I love my country and continue to this day to do everything I can to defend it.” 
His lawyer adds:
"Gen. Cartwright was engaged in a well-known and understood practice of attempting to save national secrets, not disclosing classified information ... His effort to prevent publication of information that might harm American lives or national security does not constitute a violation of any law.” 
See story here,

Friday, October 14, 2016

Illinois: Rauner's Reforms

In today's Chicago Sun Times, Governor Bruce Rauner says that that State has been "in critical need of criminal justice reform" for "years." He notes that, over the last 40 years, the State's prison population has risen from 10,000 to nearly 49,000 and adds:
... once offenders enter our criminal justice system, they experience a process that is out-of-date, costly, inhumane and ineffective. It doesn’t work for taxpayers, it doesn’t work for our employees and it doesn’t work for offenders. Illinois’ criminal justice system has failed to enact policies that would help to rehabilitate offenders so that they are ready to live productive lives. Nearly 50 percent of former offenders return to prison within three years after their release, either by committing new crimes or violating the terms of their supervised release. 
Rauner argues the people of Illinois "believe in redemption" and "second chances," because we all need "at one time or another" a "second chance to turn a wrong into a right."

In order to avoid "needlessly tearing families and lives apart," the State must "reform our broken criminal justice system," balance punishment with rehabilitation to reduce crime overall, reduce the prison population, reduce recidivism, and "help those who have paid for their crime find a positive path in life after serving their time."

Calling "criminal justice reform" one of his administration’s "top priorities," he has established the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. He is closing Stateville Correctional Center’s F House (an old, costly prison housing unit) and reopening and repurposing the Illinois Youth Center at Murphysboro. See full editorial here,

Mercy? No Thanks?

At USA Today, Gregory Korte has written a piece on a truly unusual circumstance. President Obama recently granted a conditional commutation of sentence to a prisoner who then refused to accept the condition and, consequently, the commutation!

Now, such a thing is far from unprecedented. But, in the Editor's mind, this gig was a little quirky. If one looks at such circumstances, in the past, rejected conditions are extreme burdens (have to leave the country, can never return, renounce this or that, etc.) or the cases are somewhat high profile, with a "political" dimension.

What's notable about this case is that the condition was mere attendance in a "residential drug treatment program." What? Really? The President of the United States offers you a commutation of sentence - something about as likely as a lightening strike for decades - and you quibble about that? The story behind this is likely very, very interesting. See Korte's story here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Obama's Commuted Life Sentences

Number: 275

Average distance between the recipient's sentence and the President's grant of commutation: 16.7 years

Average distance between the recipient's sentence and the effective date of the President's commutation: 19.5 years

Average distance between the President's grant of commutation and the commutation's effective date: 2.9 years

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Alabama: Siegelman Has No Application for Clemency!

Tim Lockette of the Anniston Star has followed the case of former Gov. Don Siegelman for some time now. He reports "more than 78,000 people have signed petitions asking for Siegelman’s release from Oakdale Federal Correctional Institution in Louisiana, where he has lived for most of the years since his 2006 conviction on bribery charges."

In addition, "more than 100 former state attorneys genera" have written a letter to President Obama urging his release.

Amazingly, however, Lockette has learned that Siegelman "has no official clemency application on file with the White House." That seems like a very odd strategy. See story here.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Illinois: 5 Pardons

The Associated Press reports Gov. Bruce Rauner "has granted clemency to five people and denied another 235 requests." This is Rauner's 12th set of grants since taking office last year and "fewer than 50" applications remain in the backlog from previous administrations.

NRA, Firing Duds on Clemency

In a piece entitled "Obama Releases Armed Drug Traffickers," the NRA says the President's "much-ballyhooed executive clemency program" is "releasing felons who had been convicted of using firearms in drug trafficking crimes."
“Before last month, 13% of inmates receiving clemency had used a firearm in the offense,” the article states. “For those granted presidential mercy last month, it was 22%.” In other words, nearly one in four prisoners who will gain early release by presidential decree used a firearm to commit the offense for which the person was imprisoned.
It is, perhaps, a shocking enough claim, to the uninformed. But that is about as far as all that goes. First, of course, there is no constitutional limitation on the pardon power re violent crimes / gun use. Presidents have pardoned armed robbers, murderers, multiple ax murders, would-be presidential assassins, Mafia gangland executioners, Nazi saboteurs and child molesters.

If Obama were doing ANYTHING in that neighborhood ... we would all know about it.

Second, while the NRA suggests those whose sentences were commuted "used a firearm to commit the offense," even a casual reading of the descriptions published in newspapers all over the nation is a bucket of cold water on the drama.  When you read "carrying or use of a firearm during a drug crime," you know something is up. "Or" ? Likewise, when you read "carrying a firearm" or "felon in possession of a firearm / ammunition," you might be bright enough to know that weapon may - or may not - have been "used" in any meaningful sense of the language. Then there is, "aided and abetted in the possession of a firearm." The street criminal gun slinging imagery (while emotive) simply ignores the expanding scope of federal statutes and the pile-on-then-bargain-away strategy of federal prosecutors.

The NRA takes the President to task for having "increased the scope of his pardons and commutations" by shifting "his strategy to reach more serious and violent offenders" (something any president can do). He is not "merely seeking to correct extraordinary injustices or reward exemplary rehabilitation on a case-by-case basis" (again, something any president can do).  He is using "his own judgment" to reflect "more lenient sentencing guidelines of modern times" (again, something any president can do). A former U.S. pardon attorney - who served under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, some of the darkest hours for the pardon power - says Obama's behavior amounts to "a genuine re-sentencing. It’s unprecedented” (which is entirely wrong).

Finally, the NRA says the President is "even granting early release to inmates considered 'career offenders' and sentenced to life terms" (again, something any president can do). While this may very well have been the conventional wisdom at the time of sentencing, the NRA should simply have the courage to come out and state the premise underlying its commentary: rehabilitation never happens. People never change. Years, sometimes decades of prison records and the opinions of judges, prosecutors, jurors and prison official just don't matter. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

Of course, all of this is smoke and mirrors. The NRA is simply trying to make political hay in an topical space where partisanship, histrionics and dishonesty have carried the day far too long. It's all about picking at the President, Democrats and Hillary Clinton, in order to rile gun owners. The NRA may have millions to spend on lobbying but, when it comes to writing about clemency, it seems to be low in intellectual resources. See full story here.

Commutations: Obama Second Only to Wilson

With the recent grant of 102 commutations of sentence, President Obama passed Calvin Coolidge and is now second only to Woodrow Wilson in the matter of granting commutations

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge

Obama's Commutations: Impact

President Obama’s Commutations of Sentence
Years Between Original Sentence and Clemency
0 – 5
6 to 10
11 to 15
16 to 20
21 to 25
26 or more

Obama's Fourth Year Commutations

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Obama's Clemency Grants

Full, Unconditional
Commutations of Sentence
Conditional with Remission of Fine
With Remission of Fine

Rare Air: October Mercy

Today the President has granted 102 commutations of sentence.

To date: 70 pardons and 774 commutations of sentence.

Click on Image (Above) to Enlarge

Developing ...

Ricky Ray, Karla Faye and Keith Cooper

According to the Washington Post, Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Mike Pence "has issued only three pardons in Indiana since he took office in 2012." The Post notes that, in contrast, his predecessor, Mitch Daniels, "issued more than 60 during his eight years" as governor of Indiana. The Post probably should have also noted Daniels granted only 1 request in his first four years.

In addition, there is the case of Keith Cooper, which the Post describes as "complicated." Cooper and another suspect were arrested for attempted murder and armed robbery in 1997. Cooper claimed he had never even met his co-defendant, but matched a description, was convicted and given a 40-year prison sentence. The Post says "evidence of Cooper’s innocence surfaced years later."

DNA from a hat left at the crime scene "belonged to someone else." It was later traced to another man who had committed a murder in Michigan some years later. Victims and eyewitnesses have also "since recanted their original statements about Cooper" and have accused a police detective of "manipulating" them into "identifying" him. Consequently, Cooper left prison in 2006, after serving less than 10 years. Amazingly:
... Cooper’s co-defendant, Parish, had been exonerated. In 2005, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned his conviction. Parish also had won a civil rights lawsuit against Elkhart County officials, along with a nearly $5 million settlement ...
However, the Post reports, a judge gave Cooper "two options." He could "pursue a new trial" and possibly remain in prison a few more years, awaiting the outcome, or he could "accept a deal" allowing him to exit prison with his felony conviction "intact." Cooper chose a "deal" in 2006, but is now seeking a new trial ... and a pardon ... from Mike Pence.

Hard not to recall candidate Bill Clinton trying to out "law and order" his Republican opponent by allowing the execution of the "mentally insufficient" African-American Ricky Ray Rector, in 1992. Hard not to think of George W. Bush's seeming callousness toward the reformed Karla Faye Tucker, who was executed in 1998.

Pence’s general counsel says Cooper must exhaust all of his appeal options in court before petitioning for a pardon. The judicial process must first take its course. Blah. Blah. Everyone with even casual familiarity with the pardon power (state or federal) knows such matters constitute no real limitation on a governor's use of the pardon power, or a president's ... unless they chose to make such things a limitation. This a matter of discretion, not law. The truly critical thing here is how Pence uses the power given to him and the discretion he has to employ that power.

Posing as if he is constricted by law is ... quite unimpressive ... a giant red flag.

See full story here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pardon Power: Featured at ABA Journal

We are pleased to learn that the Pardon Power Blog is currently "featured" at the homepage for the American Bar Association's Journal.

See link here.

So, we welcome readers from that direction and look forward to educating / entertaining you.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Osler: Finish the Race!

At The Hill, Prof. Mark Osler recommends that the Obama administration consider re-directing its focus in the matter of end-of-term clemency. Specifically he recommends some ways to "expedite" the clemency process by identifying "relatively easy cases" :
For example, those convicted of non-violent crack offenses who did not get the benefit of a 2010 law lowering the sentences for that kind of crime could be quickly spotted, screened for prison behavior, and given clemency. 
Osler also recommends "attention" be given to
... those who those whose cases triggered career offender provisions through prior non-violent drug crimes, or cases where mandatory minimums were triggered by such priors. 
Osler says the Department of Justice could simply request data from the Sentencing Commission, which has a staff with "the ability to quickly assemble the numbers." He also notes the clemency process should observe "a quick proxy for prison behavior,"
Those who have behaved well will have worked their way down to medium or low-security facilities.
See full editorial here.

Missouri: Cowardice Over Courage?

At Riverfront Times, Danny Wicentowski notes the "days are dwindling in Jay Nixon's second — and final — term as Missouri governor" and that his "legacy" will probably be that of a "law-and-order politician."
In his first six years as governor, he granted just one commutation, reducing a convicted murderer's death sentence to life without parole. But in late December 2014, [he] started with nine pardons. He's since granted 52 more. On Friday, Nixon's office announced that he'd granted the largest single block pardons in his governorship, wiping away the criminal convictions of fourteen people. All had completed their sentences, rejoined society and stayed out of trouble. Only two had ever served prison terms. [Friday's] pardons follow the pattern established in Nixon's previous edicts: The cases involve relatively minor crimes such as theft and drug possession. None of the people affected are currently incarcerated. Some of the crimes date back a half-century or more.
But Wicentowski says "there's no shortage of worthwhile cases." The state legislature passed a repeal of the three-strike drug law that has put some away "for life," but the reform is not retroactive. Wicentowski says "more than 140 people are serving no-parole sentences under a law that Missouri's own lawmakers recognized as unjust."

It is possible that Nixon "is acting out of political cynicism" Pardoning only "safe" cases now will "protect Nixon in future campaigns and preserve his law-and-order bonafides."  But Wicentowski suggests that is to "choose cowardice over courage." See story here.

Clemency Denials

We are told numerous persons were informed that their applications for clemency were officially denied yesterday.

Developing ...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Trump to President Obama: No Pardons

"If she gets the chance, she will put the Oval Office up for sale, like she always does. Remember folks, she's been doing this for 30 years. She deleted and bleached 33,000 emails after a Congressional subpoena. You can't do that! And here's a demand I'm making today to President Obama: Mr. President, will you pledge not to issue a pardon to Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirators for their many crimes against our country, and against society itself? No one is above the law. Clinton and her cronies will say anything, do anything, lie about anything to keep their grip on power,"

Friday, September 30, 2016

Oh no! October is Coming !

Want a pardon or commutation of sentence? In October ... you can forget about it.

For seven years, Barack Obama has not granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence in the month of October. Over eight years, George W. Bush granted zero in the month of October.

But, there is more. Bill Clinton granted a total of seven pardons across his eight years in office during the month of October - all seven of them being granted in October of 2000. In his four years as president, George H.W. Bush granted zero pardons and commutations in the month of October.

What does it all mean? It means, across 27 years, four different presidents - both Republican and Democrat - have issued a grand total of 7 pardons in the month of October. Since all of them were granted by one president, in a single October, it means 26 of the last 27 Octobers have featured zero pardons and commutations. Toss in the last three years of Reagan's second term and it is 29 of the last 30.

The odds are better that the Great Pumpkin will appear ... next year!

blogger templates | Make Money Online