Saturday, November 8, 2008

Watch List: Clarence Aaron

Syndicated columnist Debra J. Saunders is her annual plea for clemency on behalf of Clarence Aaron. In 1992, Aaron "introduced" two drug dealers. The introduction then resulted in a transaction involving 9 kilograms of cocaine. Five more experienced co-conspirators received shorter sentences than Aaron, who was a first time offender. Saunders notes:
There is something rotten to the core in a justice system that puts a twenty something first-time nonviolent offender away for life, while meting out lighter sentences for career criminals who know how to game the system. Life without parole also is the same sentence imposed on FBI-agent-turned-Russian-spy Robert Hanssen, except that it is worse for Aaron, who was sentenced in 1992. Hanssen was arrested at age 56. It turns out Aaron's most heinous offense was not the drug deal, but not having spent years getting arrested and learning how to roll through the criminal justice machine.
Saunders believes "the world is not a safer place with Aaron behind bars." Instead, it is "a poorer territory that throws away people because of a warped sentencing formula that ensnares the unwitting and spits out the truly dangerous." Aaron admits his guilt and has a "clean" prison record.

Interestingly, Saunders also writes:
... critics in the pardon community pretty much have given up on Bush commuting Aaron's sentence. They have put their hope into clemency from President-elect Barack Obama, who has been critical of the draconian federal mandatory minimum sentencing system. They believe that Bush will reserve his pardon power for political operatives, and ignore excessive sentences imposed on the unconnected.
The "proof" of the critics' hunches about the President is, of course, to be found in the fact that the name of Scooter Libby can be found in the pile of Bush's 6 commutations of sentence and 157 pardons! For more background on Aaron's case from PBS, go here.

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