Friday, December 3, 2010

Obama Drops His First Pardons!

682 days into his presidency, Barack Obama, the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power, has finally discovered the dark corners of Article II of the Constitution and, you know, the whole "checks and balances" thing. Yes, today, the President has granted 9 pardons. Why, even William Henry Harrison, who only served 32 days before having the poor taste to die, found a way to grant 3 pardons!

We expected at least a little action from Mr. Obama just about nowsince 1 out of every 2 pardons granted over the last 39 years has been granted in the month of December. The offenses addressed in the 9 most recent pardons are distributed across decades as follows:

    1960s (2)       1970s (1)       1980s (3)       1990s (3)    

As a result, the average distance between each sentence and the subsequent presidential pardon is a whopping 28.3 years! Even the smallest distance is over 11 years.

The retributive justice hawks in the Department of Justice must be mighty proud of the Nixonian law-and-order smack down that has kept most of this AARP-like group at bay for decades. Poor 73-year old Russel Dixon ... his liquor law violation was more than 50 years ago (that is to say, before President Obama was even born)! Dixon says he just wanted to clear his name before he died!

James Banks, now 66-years-old, was only 27 when he got caught stealing less than $100 worth of plywood and nails from a construction site. Yes, you read that right! The horror!

Ronald Foster, now 65-years old, committed his crime when he was an 18-year-old Marine serving in Vietnam. But Foster clearly had no business being eager for mercy, given the utterly shocking, heinous nature of his crime (whittling the edges of coins so as to trick vending machines). Unspeakable! Thus, the determination on his clemency application, filed in 2008, absolutely required a good 32 months of deliberation.

Floretta Leavy (a retiree from the Army) waited 46 months. 58-year old Tim Gallagher filed his application sometime in 2006! Roxanne Hettinger first applied way back in 1993!

Yep, one thing is for certain: this group of kids (including 85-year-old Laurens Dorsey and Edgar Kranz, an Air Force retiree) will think twice before ever violating the law again! As Samuel T. Morison (a former staff attorney in the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Department of Justice) has pointed out, increasingly pardons are granted to people who need (or can actually benefit from) them the very least.

Six out of the nine pardons were granted to individuals whose violations were, even at the time they were committed, considered so minor that they were not even given prison time - or even so much as a jail sentence. Instead, they were merely placed on probation. Imagine the vast amounts of precious political capital President Obama has spent in making such risky decisions! How can he possibly expect to win in 2012?

Here is some additional information on today's 9 pardon recipients:

James Bernard Banks (1972) UT, illegal possession of government property (2 years probation)
Russell James Dixon (1960) GA, liquor violations (2 years probation)
Laurens Dorsey (1998) NY, false statements (5 years probation, restitution)
Ronald Lee Foster (1963) NC, coin mutilation (1 year probation. fine)
Timothy James Gallagher (1982) AZ, cocaine (3 years probation)
Roxanne Kay Hettinger (1986) IA, cocaine (30 days, 3 years probation)
Edgar Leopold Kranz, Jr. (1994) military (24 months)
Floretta Leavy (1984) IL, cocaine/marijuana (1 year and 1 day)
Scoey Lathaniel Morris (1999) TX, counterfeiting (3 years probation, fine)

Can President Obama say "no?" Yes, he can! To date, he has received 3,389 new petitions for federal executive clemency. At the beginning of fiscal year 2010, there were 4,716 petitions pending. He has denied 1,288 petitions and an additional 842 have been "closed without presidential action."

As we ponder Hope and Change, let us remember that there are still yet a few more potentially sleepy, late Friday afternoons remaining in the Holiday Season.

Dear reader, please take just a second or two to read our - if we may be so bold - highly prescient post re these pardons, composed well before they were granted: "Let Us Be the First to Complain."


Anonymous said...

What a Joke 9!

Ginger Whitacre said...

This action today by the President provides further evidence (like I stated in my post earlier today) that the clemency process is "COMPLETELY broken and dysfunctional".
Ginger Whitacre

Anonymous said...

Mrs.Leavy is my first cousin and all I can say is in a world of so many faces, God can find you...Just as she deserves this day, I'm sure the other 8 deserved the freedom just as much...God will continue to bless them all nine.

Marni Perrymond

Anonymous said...

The good thing is, he has now granted a few pardons. If he pardons at the average over the last two presidents he stills has 93 to 200 more to go.

life for pot said...

I would of course like to see commutations granted as a class. My personal choice is non-violent, marijuana only offenders serving life without parole.

Anonymous said...

You can't get "life without parole" just for pot.

I assume you're basing your comment on the story of the "kingpin" who, a year or two ago, got busted with over a ton of pot, convicted of selling 3-4 tons. being a felon in possession of 80+ firearms, running an illegal drug importing organization, and failing to pay income tax on all of his proceeds. All federal crimes.

That's what got him in prison for life. He's not a "non-violent, marijuana only offender." By the way, since 1984 there is no parole in the federal system.

So you have nothing to worry about. Real "non-violent, marijuana only offenders" are not, repeat NOT, getting "life without parole."

Source: I'm a former prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is incorrect. There are Federal, non-violent marijuana only prisoners serving life without parole. Of course they were designated as kingpins.

Pot smuggling in the 70s and 80s was a non-violent enterprise. These inmates were convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute.

They are now in their 60s, many of them doing wonderful things by mentoring younger inmates convicted of very violent crimes.

These violent inmates will be released while we continue to pay $ 40,000.00 per year to incarcerate guys serving Life for Pot.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Ruckman, do you beleive there will be more before the end of the year? Also do you think we will see more on a regular basis?
Waiting in line!

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. said...

EDITOR: Bottom line is, no one really knows with great certainty. However, since you asked, it is my instinct that we will see more pardons this month. I agree with Lardner, who says these 9 were probably just granted now, so as to avoid being the slowest president ever to exercise the pardon power. Will pardons then be granted more regularly - like they were throughout most of history? I just don't see any reason whatsoever to hope for (much less expect) that kind of change.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply. This blog is a life line to those of us who wait and hope for a a pardon.

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding that if a petitioners application for pardon is denied,they will be notified. However, if an application is, "closed without presidential action", is the petitioner notified...?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the update. We are watching and listening...

Anonymous said...

My prediction is that Obama will grant more pardons this month -- at the same time as a more conventionally patriotic activity (e.g. visiting troops in Afghanistan). He is obviously uncomfortable with the issue and doesn't want it to be the main news of the day.

Mr. Ruckman, thank you for this blog. I too am waiting to hear about my petition, and I'm sure that I check this blog even more than my e-mail!

JC said...

I was wondering if anyone could provide an answer to the post above which asked:

"It is my understanding that if a petitioner’s application for pardon is denied, they will be notified. However, if an application is, "closed without presidential action", is the petitioner notified...?"

I applied for a pardon in 2009. My crime was committed in 1991 and I was released from federal custody in 1995. My Supervised Release ended in 1998.

I went through the FBI background checks where they interviewed my neighbors, references, employer, co-workers, etc. This process was completed around December 2009. I have not heard anything since that time and I am simply wondering if my application has been closed, denied, or was recommended for approval but has not been signed.

On the Pardon Attorney website it says you will be notified if your application is denied (or approved, obviously), however it does not state if you will be notified if your application is closed without Presidential action.

I was 20 years old when I went to Federal Prison. Since my release I have been married (15 years now), had a daughter, worked for the same company for 13 years, working may up to management and making six figures (I left that company in 2009 during the start of the downturn and took a similar level position at another large company).

Since my release I have also completed by Bachelor’s degree and my MBA (all at “real” brick and mortar schools, not mail-order schools ;-)). Other than a non-moving traffic violation a couple of years ago, I have had no further “brushes with the law”. I would like to think that I am a good candidate for a pardon.

When I was looking for another job after leaving my first employer in 2009, it became a real issue when I had to check yes to that infamous question on job applications. My years of experience in a management level position, my education, my reputation in my previous company, my stellar credit rating, my stable home life, and my support of various community activities meant nothing once employers saw that check mark. There were a number of good opportunities that I lost out on because of this and in the end it took me over a year to find another job. Granted, I love my current position and am glad that I was available to take this job. My fear is for the future and if I ever have to try and find another job. How long might it take me the next time??

Anonymous said...


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