Monday, May 25, 2009

North Carolina: A Pardon Remembered

David Perimutt of the Charlotte Observer has a piece here on "Charlotte's Forgotten Activist and Celebrity" - Harry L. Golden. Readers of this blog may remember Mr. Golden's name from a previous discussion of the validity of clemency warrants (here). While Golden certainly doesn't retain the high name recognition he once enjoyed, he will always remain on the target of serious students of the pardon power. That is exactly why I have dedicated an entire chapter to his case in my forthcoming book, Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy.

Golden's book Only In America was a Nation-wide bestseller when it was revealed that he was actually writing under an alias. This effort was taken in order to conceal the fact that he was a convicted felon who spent significant time in the penitentiary system of New York. As an inmate, Golden also engaged in some questionable practices in order to secure an early release. While there may have been some chance Golden's rising star would fall from the sky, the revelation actually secured his place as a writer and social activist. Many famous persons publicly came to Golden's side and rallied in his defense. Thus, he continued to write (more than twenty books) and speak to a large and faithful audience.

For some odd reason, Golden (an outspoken life-long Democrat) decided to apply for a presidential pardon just three days before the end of the Johnson administration. The problem was that no one was projecting any possibility of a last-minute surge of pardons by LBJ, who had all but shut down the program months earlier in response to sharp criticism. That, more or less, placed Golden's application in the hands of Richard Nixon.

Several individuals in Nixon's Department of Justice asserted that Golden had no real "need" of a pardon and, on that point alone, were willing to look the other way. But, somehow, Golden's applications stayed alive. At one point, a clemency warrant was actually signed and sealed, but never delivered. Then the DOJ expressed concern that Golden may have filed a fraudulent clemency application (which is, in itself, a crime). The concern revolved around the fact that Golden had also been convicted for a second federal offense in the State of Alabama, but failed to list it on the application. Golden's lawyer was thus placed in the awkward position of explaining how the omission occurred. The path to the eventual pardon (granted by Nixon) was quite remarkable and when the right publisher for my book comes along, it will be revealed in full. It is too bad the story was not in print when President Bush "revoked" the pardon of Robert Isaac Toussie.

1 comment:

CB said...

What exactly were his crimes? A multi-state federal felon? I remember him as a Reader's Digest kind of author and never knew of this part of his background.

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