Friday, March 27, 2015

Michigan: Little Mercy. Great Connections.

Gov. Snyder
Alan Gocha, Jr., received a pardon from Governor Rick Snyder, but says he is "sort of puzzled" that the pardon is "of any interest." It is a familiar refrain. Recall, Bill Clinton professed to be surprised that anyone was had any concern at all about his record breaking pardon dump, which included persons who did not even apply for pardon, were not eligible and were fugitives, donors or relatives. Indeed! What's to see here?

What is notable about Gocha's pardon?

First,  the pardon power is so meticulously ignored in Michigan, it is notable if anyone gets a one. The Associated Press reports that the State's Parole Board recommended clemency to only 11 of 750 applications since Snyder came into office.

Second, Gocha had personally met the governor "on several occasions" at "different events" and the governor had a distinct memory of it. The Associated Press reports that he (the governor) "even corrected a reporter's pronunciation of Gocha's name (Go-SHAY')." In most instances, governors have no clue who they are pardoning, much less those they have simply "met" here and there!

Third, Gocha was a public official and active in politics. In 2011, for example, Governor Snyder appointed him to the Talent Investment Board (something Gocha did not disclose on his pardon application). Governor Synder also remembers Gocha as "a good candidate." Gocah is puzzled that the Governor granted a rare pardon, to an appointee, and personal acquaintance? Sure he is!

Fourth, Gocha, in a sense, made his conviction more of a "public" interest by a series of legal challenges. The Associated Press summarizes his story as follows:
Bloomfield Township officers stopped Gocha for straying from his lane after midnight on Dec. 21, 2007. He lied about drinking alcohol and refused a roadside breath test because of "sheer panic," according to his testimony at the parole board. He agreed to take a test at the police station about an hour later. His blood-alcohol level was 0.11 percent, above the 0.08 threshold for drunken driving. Gocha claimed police had no reason to stop his Saturn Outlook, but that was a losing argument. "He's got half of his car in the oncoming left turn lane," Judge Kimberly Small said after watching the dash-cam video. "This isn't even a close case." Gocha pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and was sentenced to six days in jail. He continued to challenge the stop in higher courts. By spring 2011, he had lost at every turn. 
Fifth, it is not uncommon for pardon applicants to wait many years for forgiveness of offenses committed decades ago, oftentimes offenses so minor that they spent zero days in jail. Gocha, however, applied for pardon in April 2012, and was pardoned in December of 2014.

Sixth, Gocha's pardon application was supported by "a Republican strategist who is the Chamber of Commerce's former lawyer and a Snyder appointee on the Michigan Employment Relations Commission." He gave $26,500 to the chamber's political action committee from 2011 through 2013. Gocha's legal firm also is the agent for ETC Capital, which gave $2.5 million to the Republican Governors Association last August. In October of 2013, the group gave $276,000 to the Michigan Republican Party.

We would never suggest that notable, politically connected persons are never deserving of clemency. But, what we do say is, when the state poses as a merciless tough-on-crime hard head, for the rest of society, but notable, politically connected persons are pardoned ... well ... it is even less tolerable than it might otherwise be. Indeed, it stinks. See story here.

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