Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Pitiful Daily Kos on Gov. Pawlenty

The Daily Kos is featuring a story entitled: "Pawlenty pardoned serial child molester so wife could open up day care center." As a headline, it is quite the eye-catcher. As a device for communicating factual information, however, it is an utter and complete failure.

In fact, Pawlenty and a State Board unanimously granted an "extraordinary pardon" to Jeremy Giefer who, in the eyes of the law, had completed a short (45-day) sentence and had been a law-abiding citizen for a period of time prescribed by law. That is to say, at the time of their (note the plural) decision, there was no evidence whatsoever, that anyone anywhere was even aware of even so much as a mere notion that Giefer was a "serial child molester" (shocking headline notwithstanding). Even today, in its enthusiasm to condemn Governor Pawlenty, the Daily Kos is, in its headline, convicting someone who is simply accused of crimes. Is this the new mindset of the political "left" in this country?

In a transparently crippled presentation of the factual background of the case, the Daily Kos writes:
Giefer didn't just have sex with that 14-year-old girl, but knocked her up. They ended up getting married, and his former victim/wife is the person wanting to open up that childcare facility. Pawlenty and the rest of the pardon board based their pardon on the bizarre notion that statutory rape was okay if the man sticks around and marries the victim.
The Board, of course, did not "base" its decision on such notions (not in any normal sense of the language) because Minnesota state law simply does not allow the Board to do so. The law (for extraordinary pardons) requires that applicants serve their time. Giefer served his 45-day sentence, way back in 1994. The Board considered that. It had to.

The law also requires that applicants go a period of time (10 years for violent crimes and 5 years for non-violent offences) without being convicted "of any other offense." At the time of the "extraordinary pardon" (2008), there was zero evidence that Giefer had broken any law in 14 years. The Board considered that. It had to.

In sum, when the Daily Kos says there was "no justification" for the extraordinary pardon of Jeremy Giefer, it is hopelessly clueless.

Recently a spokesperson for the governor, added that the Board also considered the fact that the "victim" of the 1994 offense (a minor) had supported clemency - and who on earth wouldn't have considered that? - and the fact that the couple had also gotten married. The Board, of course, did not have to consider any of that, but it did - as would any reasonable person. Indeed, Minnesota law (much more reasonable than the Daily Kosinvites the Board to consider the "character and reputation" of the applicant. What it does not allow is a decision "based" on such  considerations.

On the other hand, we think that the Daily Kos does have one thing right. The fact of the matter is that lazy, biased, sensationalist journalists and bloggers will always be around to second-guess decision making processes related to clemency. It could be one pardon recipient gone bad out of 6,000 but they will eagerly burn down the house to roast the pig. And, it is exactly that kind of behavior that discourages governors and presidents from using their clemency powers. Better to err on the side of caution (by doing nothing) than pay the price of bad press (no matter how justified the decisions, or how unreasonable the press).

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