Friday, August 7, 2009

Federal Judge Calls for Obama Clemency!

Josh Gerstein, at notes U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman (an appointee of President Clinton) is calling upon Barack Obama to commute the 27-year sentence that he was forced to impose on one Byron McDade. At present, President Obama has not granted a single pardon or commutation and is about to pass Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush, placing himself among the very slowest presidents in history. In a recent opinion, Judge Friedman wrote:
"Twenty-seven years is a very long time ... None of Mr. McDade's former co-defendants or co-conspirators received more than a seven-and-one-half-year sentence. While each of them pled guilty and provided substantial assistance to the government by testifying against Mr. McDade (and some provided assistance in other ways), this sentence is disproportionate."
However, when the sentence was handed down, federal sentencing guidelines required the 324-month term. Gerstein notes that, today, those guidelines are "advisory as the result of a Supreme Court decision in 2005." Friedman specifically recommended that the president reduce the sentence to 15 years in prison followed by supervised release.

Over the years, PardonPower has seen numerous instances where federal judges have expressed concern or displeasure with sentences and, in doing so, referenced the president's power to pardon as a clear solution. In some instances, such references are a kind of brush-aside tactic ("Don't seek relief here. Go get it from the president, if you think you are so deserving.") Of course, it is also common for clemency applicants to seek the support of judges and prosecutors.

But Judge Friedman's advisory tone and level of specificity do seem a little unusual. And even more newsworthy is his opinion's direction to the Clerk's Office to send a copy of the opinion to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) in the Department of Justice "to be forwarded to the President"! One wonders if Judge Friedman will receive one of those mechanical letters from the OPA, reciting proper procedures for federal executive clemency applications! See Judge Friedman's opinion here. See Gerstein's piece here.

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