Showing posts with label Clinton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clinton. Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bernard Goldberg's Unmerciful Ignorance

In this wildly unimpressive piece, Bernard Goldberg tries his hand at analysis of the clemency power which the Federalist Papers deemed so important to our system of criminal justice. Goldberg is no clemency expert, or even a student of the topic. He just knows what he reads in the newspapers, when freakish and rare "pardon scandals" attract the attention of everyone else. Imagine the quality that is about to follow!

First, Goldberg starts a ripping on Haley Barbour - thanks, Haley, you have done the pardon power so much good! Of course, this blog has done quite a bit of Haley Barbour ripping - but always at the expense of Haley Barbour, never at the expense of the pardon power. Golberg says "when Governor Haley Barbour pardoned a number of murderers on his last day in office, he was acting in the proud tradition of several other political hacks."

The impressive list that follows? Four names. Bill Clinton, Michael Dukakis, Mike Huckabee and George Ryan. Yep, no mention of Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush or Reagan. Go figure.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On Congressional "Support" for Pardons

In a 2004 Midwest Political Science Association conference paper (here), the Editor of PardonPower relayed the following anecdote:
Philander Chase Knox, the U.S. Attorney General from 1901-1904, discovered a culture of favor and expectation in Washington when he began his service in the second term of William McKinley. A member of Congress once approached him to seek a pardon for a robber who was also a “friend” and “great supporter.” When Knox balked at the request, the Congressman blurted angrily, “I understand that each Congressman has a right to two pardons during his term and I want this to be one of mine.”
The incident came to one's mind in 2001, as President Clinton was leaving office and granting all of those "controversial" pardons. Eventually, it was learned that several current and former members of Congress supported clemency applications in the final days of the Clinton administration. Among them were Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) and former Senator David Pryor (Arkansas). Representatives Earl Hilliard (D-Alabama), Charles Rangel (D- New York), Jim Ramstad (R-Minnesota), Dale E. Kildee (D-Michigan), Danny Davis (D-Illinois), Maxine Waters (D-California), Patrick Kennedy (D- Rhode Island) and Xavier Becerra (D-California) lobbied for pardons as well as former Representatives William Clay (D-Missouri), Esteban Torres (D-California) and Ron Dellums (D-California).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pardoned: The Duchess of Dearth

According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, Dorothy Rivers operated the Chicago Mental Health Foundation, the Pritzker-Grinker School for handicapped children and the Quality of Life Shelter (a home for pregnant teenagers). The seemingly admirable nature of her efforts attracted generous outside support.

The Pritzker-Grinker School was awarded more than two million dollars in special education contracts with the Chicago School Board between 1985 and 1994. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services awarded more than seven million dollars in contracts to Rivers for the housing needs of pregnant teenagers. Rivers also landed five million dollars in grants and funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). On top of all of that, Rivers ran a shelter for the homeless and was "visible" in charitable undertakings geared toward the black community, such as Jesse Jackson's Operation PUSH.

At the same time, the long-time Democrat and "social activist" Rivers had a life-style of symptomatic of fame and fortune. She was chauffeured to Neiman Marcus where she spent eight hundred dollars on a purse and thirty-five thousand dollars on a sable coat (which accompanied five fur coats). Her accounts at Elan Boutique and Allison's La Parisienne were also quite impressive. Rivers assisted her son in the purchase of a Mercedes Benz and spent more than two hundred thousand dollars in an effort to launch a record company.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bremer on Vennes, Part II

At Ripple in Stillwarter, Karl Bremer has posted the second in a three-part series on the "political pardon of Frank Elroy Vennes, Jr. Vennes' application for federal executive clemency was originally filed with the Office of the Pardon Attorney on July 12, 2000. Bremer writes that John D. Raffaelli, "one of Capitol Hill’s leading lobbyists with The Washington Group," referred Vennes to Margaret Colgate Love, a former U.S. Pardon Attorney now in private practice. But President Clinton never acted on application.

The application was, however, referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office November 6, 2000, returned to the Office of Pardon Attorney November 27 and then referred to the FBI on March 29, 2001. It already had been referred to Vennes' probation officer and the U.S. Attorney's office in North Dakota."

Bremer then meticulously begins to trace an impressive series of campaign contributions before writing, "Vennes’ pardon petition was referred back to the U.S. Attorney’s Office September 4, 2002." He then notes:
Normally, according to sources familiar with the process, the Deputy Attorney General would sign off the OPA’s recommendation and send it on to the White House. In this case, however, Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson sat on it for six months and then returned it to the OPA.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama: 8 More Pardons to the Tiny Little Pile

Because this is exactly what late Friday afternoons are for: the Obama administration has announced that the President has decided to granted eight presidential pardons. At this point in time (11:55 pm Central), there is absolutely nothing about any of the pardons on the Office of the Pardon Attorney's newly designed web page (here). So, the story originates from the White House's Office of the Press Secretary (here).

The offenses addressed by today's pardons were committed between the years of 1975 and 2001. As a result, on average, each appears a full 24 years after-the-fact (slightly less than the President's overall average of 26.3 years). The average known age of Obama's clemency recipients is 60! Randy Dyer waited 35.9 years for his pardon! Only four of today's recipients spent any time at all in prison.

If Ronald Lee Foster took the trophy for most innocuous offense in the last batch of Obama pardons (for mutilating coins in order to fool vending machines), or James Banks (for taking some plywood and nails that were not his), then 61-year-old Bobby Gerald Wilson has to take the trophy in this round. Wilson aided and abetted in the possession and sale of illegal American alligator hides. Will a cameo appearance on Swamp People be forthcoming?

Michael Ray Neal's manufacturing, assemblage, modification and distribution of equipment suitable for unauthorized decryption of satellite cable programming was certainly a public menace! Who can forget it?! Thus, it took the Department of Justice more than three years to process his application! Dyer first applied back in 2004. Allen Peratt applied back in 2003.

President Obama has now granted a mere 17 presidential pardons (all announced on Friday afternoons) and, amazingly enough, zero commutations of sentence. He has been in office for 850 days. How does he compare to other Democratic presidents? By this point in his own administration, Bill Clinton had granted 55 pardons and commutations of sentence. Jimmy Carter had granted 312 pardons and commutations and JFK had granted 381. Lyndon Johnson had granted 717 pardons and commutations.

Indeed, only a Republican, George W. Bush, has been slower to grant a single commutation of sentence. Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) notes fairly enough:
"We’re happy that these eight people will have their civil rights restored by this presidential pardon, but it's sad that the Justice Department has not brought the president one prison sentence to shorten. It can’t be true that there isn't a single person among the 210,000 currently in federal prison who shouldn't be there. In fact, during the campaign the president acknowledged that federal prisons are filled with nonviolent offenders serving excessive sentences. Why, then, can’t he find one to commute?"
This is a question Stewart and FAMM member Natasha Darrington are bound to place on the table when they speak to the U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing on crack guideline retroactivity, Wednesday, June 1, in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building located at 1 Columbus Circle Northeast in Washington, DC, adjacent to Union Station. The hearing begins at 8:45 a.m. and will last until 3:00 p.m.

Today's Pardon Recipients (and Background Links):
Randy Eugene Dyer - Burien, Wash. 62 years old
Danny Alonzo Levitz - Angola, Ind. 59 years old
Michael Ray Neal - Palm Coast, Fla. 46 years old
Edwin Alan North - Wolcottville, Ind. 65 years old
Allen Edward Peratt Sr. - Sioux Falls, S.D.
• Christine Marie Rossiter - Lincoln, Neb.
• Patricia Ann Weinzatl - Prentice, Wis.
Bobby Gerald Wilson - Summerton, S.C. 61 years old

See our previous posts on Obama's previous pardons here:
Let Us Be the First to Complain
Obama Drops His First Pardons

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pardons: The Unimportant Topic that Makes / Breaks Candidates

We often receive e-mails and comments which essentially make the same point: Who cares about pardons? There are so many other important things about which to be concerned. Why should anyone bother so much about the circumstances of criminals? 

Presidential election campaigns must be very odd things for persons of this mindset to behold. Consider the last go-round, in 2008:

Hillary Clinton was asked about her husband's questionable pardons when it was observed that several recipients were making donations to her campaign. When she badgered Barack Obama about his relationship with Bill Ayers, in a Nationally televised debate, Obama bluntly reminded Mrs. Clinton that her husband pardoned several of Ayers' associates in the Weather Underground. Obama was asked whether or not he would consider a pardon for Tony Rezko. Rudolph Giuliani was asked if he would pardon Bernard Kerik. Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was asked if she would pardon Senator Ted Stevens. Vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was not to keen on the idea of a pardon for Jonathan Pollard. Every Republican candidate was asked, during the debates, how they felt about a potential pardon for Scooter Libby. And every Democratic candidate had something to say about the eventual commutation of sentence he received from George W. Bush. Mitt Romney downright bragged about the fact that he never granted pardons. Mike Huckabee was roundly criticized for granting too many.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Remembering Ellis H. Parker (The American Sherlock Holmes) is featuring an excellent story on an individual that PardonPower has been thinking about for years, the "American Sherlock Holmes," one Ellis H. Parker. More specifically, the piece, written by Danielle Camilla, focuses on the grandson of Parker, Andrew Sahol, who is "methodically piecing together a mystery in search of the truth."

Sahol is also attempting to land one of those ever-so-popular posthumous pardons for his grandfather - something which was sought almost immediately following the great detective's death while serving out a six-year federal prison sentence with his son, Ellis H. Parker, Jr. (who was pardoned by Harry Truman). Mr. Sahol now claims to have "documented proof" that Ellis H. Parker was "framed."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Presidents, Pardons and Athletes

In honor of Barry Bonds, a repost from July of 2008:

I recently chatted with an enthusiastic and well-informed reporter about professional athletes and the pardon power. The interview was, of course, prompted by speculation regarding baseball's Roger Clemens (who has not been convicted of anything) and former track and field star Marion Jones (who received a 6-month sentence for lying to federal investigators). There is also a long-standing call for the pardon of deceased boxer Jack Johnson (who was charged with violating the Mann Act). The discussion gave me a chance to reflect on my memories of athletes and the pardon power. Having personally gone through the clemency warrants of thousands of individuals from 1789 to 2001, word by word, those memories were actually more distinct than I might have guessed.

Athletic prowess seemed to first show up in warrants in the 1800s. My memory is that they involved private foot-races, where individuals placed bets, or illegal fights of some sort. In some instances such events were actually rigged, so fraud was piled on top of gambling in prosecutions. My memory is also that these offenses were generally committed in the District of the Columbia, where the president exercises the pardon power much like a state governor.

The first appearance of more wide-scale, organized athletic events that I recall was during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. It stood out in my mind because Roosevelt was a boxing fan and the pardons were for a couple of boxers. Roosevelt also pardoned John L. Lennon, the nephew of boxing legend John L. Sullivan (who lobbied for the grant personally and without even an ounce of criticism from the media). I am not certain if that is a comment on Roosevelt, Sullivan or the media of the day.

Since the good old days, the stories of numerous athletes have appeared in clemency applications and warrants. Racing greats Junior Johnson (NASCAR legend) and Rick Hendrick (the "King of NASCAR") have received presidential pardons. Stunt pilot Laura H. Ingalls tried to secure a pardon for years, but never succeeded. She had been attached to the Nazis, so it was a tough sell. Joe Don Looney was a standout at the University of Oklahoma and an interesting character in the National Football league. He was pardoned for drug possession. Charles "Tex" Harrison was an All-American at North Carolina Central University and became a Harlem Globetrotter. Eventually he became the coach of the Globetrotters. This blog has also reported on former Kansas City Royals star Willie Mays Aikens who had pardon applications declined by both Clinton and Bush. Of course, there are others that are around the edges of the world of athletics - George Steinbrenner (who made illegal contributions to the campaign of Richard Nixon), Jimmy "the Greek" (pardoned by Gerald Ford), etc.

Do professional athletes enjoy any kind of "advantage" in the pardon process? Our data on pardons are so thin, it is not possible to render anything close to a scientific answer. But it would seem reasonable enough to theorize (if not assume) that professional athletes enjoy - if anything - the potential "advantage" of access. It is an advantage, of course, that is shared with all persons who are public figures. Granted, fame can be a double-edged sword in this circumstance. It can bring greater scrutiny and greater criticism.

Nonetheless, it would probably be easier for Roger Clemens or filmmaker Ken Burns (who supports the pardon for Jack Johnson) to walk into the White House, or the office of anyone else in the administration, than it would be for any of the seemingly nameless, faceless thousands that have applications waiting in the Office of the Pardon Attorney. And, if the Clinton pardon scandals taught us anything at all, it is that access can be terribly important. It does not necessarily determine the outcome (there were some who had access who failed), because there are certainly other constraints (both formal and informal). But it is apparent that access can, in some circumstances, win the day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Granting the First Commutation of Sentence

Over the last 12 presidencies, there has been an average of 329 days between inauguration and the granting of the first commutation of sentence. This number is, of course, heavily skewed by the data for the administration of George W. Bush - the slowest president in American history to grant any form of clemency. Excluding that administration, the number falls all of the way to 249. Regardless, the delay in the Obama administration - despite record numbers of applications for commutation of sentence - is more than twice the average for these recent administrations.

Assumed Office
Date of First Commutation of Sentence
Number of Days Till
First Commutation
H.W. Bush
W. Bush
- - -
735 and counting …

* These data represent the result of a preliminary run - at the request of media - through an original data set on presidential pardons from 1789 to 2011. The author will edit / amend / correct the data after additional research, should the need arise.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Significance of the Lardner Warrant

In a previous post, we noted:
... Lardner also reveals, for the first time, information which is the by-product of the effort that he is making to complete a book on the history of pardons in the United States. Namely. Lardner reveals that he has discovered a clemency warrant (hereafter referred to as the "Lardner warrant") that was signed by George Washington much earlier than the first officially recorded clemency warrant by the State Department (April 15, 1794, to one David Blair). By State Department records, Washington waited 1,511 days before granting the first pardon. The Lardner warrant, however, was signed on February 28, 1791, only 669 days into the administration. We will discuss the ramifications of this finding elsewhere.
Here is the place for such explanation:

From a political science standpoint, from at least the work of W.H. Humbert (1941), the benchmark for the first presidential pardon has been April 15, 1794. This is, in fact, the date that is written on the first warrant in State Department records (National Archives, Microfilm Set T967). But the Lardner warrant places the first pardon of the administration at the 669th day mark (click on chart to the left, where each benchmark is noted). The discovery of the Lardner warrant means the following:

Countdown to Infamy: It's Official !

Today, President Obama passes Bill Clinton and officially becomes the slowest Democratic president in the history of the United States to exercise the pardon power (click on chart to the left).

That's right. Zero pardons or commutations of sentence in 673 days, despite thousands of new and pending applications. And the count continues! Incidentally, the average waiting period for all presidents is well less than one hundred days.

Now, the only question is whether or not Obama will wait still yet another 26 days and pass the slowest president since the two party system kicked in - George W. Bush. As 1 out of every 2 pardons over the last 39 years has been granted in the month of December, it doesn't seem likely that Obama will pass him. But, you never know!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Obama: Countdown to Infamy, 0 !

Today, President Obama has tied Bill Clinton as the  slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power. That's right. Zero pardons or commutations of sentence in 672 days ... and counting!

The average for all presidents is well under one hundred days.

Click on chart to the left.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Obama: Countdown to Infamy, 1 !

Tomorrow, President Obama will tie Bill Clinton as the  slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power. 671 days and counting! The average for all presidents is well under one hundred days.

Click on chart to the left.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chronicle: Free Clarence Aaron!

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Debra Saunders calls on President Obama to discover the pardon power and free Clarence Aaron from prison. Aaron was a first-time nonviolent federal drug law offender in 1993, when he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Saunders notes:
... his life-until-death sentence demonstrates that a system designed to be tough on drug kingpins has been subverted so that big-time dealers can do short time for testifying against their underlings ... Aaron is in prison for the rest of his life, while all but one of the career dealers have served their time and been set free.... because he was a college kid unfamiliar with the courts, Clarence Aaron did not know how to game the system
Aaron is now 41, has taken responsibility for his crimes and has had a good record in prison. Saunder also observes:
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama wrote that he hoped he could remain honest as a U.S. Senator. As president, he cannot honestly believe that a 23-year-old first-time nonviolent drug offender should be sentenced to life without parole.
See complete column here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Obama: Countdown to Infamy

658 days into his administration, President Obama has shown no sign that he is aware that the Constitution gives the president clemency powers. To date, the president has not granted a single pardon or commutation of sentence. On the other hand, the U.S. Pardon Attorney (a holdover from the Bush administration) has denied record numbers of clemency applications. In 14 days, Obama will pass Bill Clinton and become the slowest Democratic president in history to exercise the pardon power - readers may recall what a mark his administration made in the matter of pardons!

Obama's negligence is anomalous for many reasons. Democratic presidents have generally been more generous with pardons than Republicans. Former lawyers have also been more generous. Obama did not come into office in the wake of a major pardon controversy left by his predecessor (as did Bush, Clinton, Eisenhower, etc.) and he should not bring the reticence one might expect in a former governor. Throw in the fact that Obama has explicitly criticized mandatory minimums and disparities in crack cocaine sentences and, well, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Maybe, one day, someone in the national news media will bother to ask the President about this matter directly. Meanwhile the countdown is on!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baseball! October! No Mercy!

With the World Series afoot, we are reminded that, last year, around this time, we had a kind of compelling, irresistible, Major-League-Baseball-Saturday-afternoon-"Game-of-the-Week"-official-statistician-Alan-Roth-urge ...

We noted that, for eight years, George W. Bush did not grant a single pardon or commutation in the month of October. Bill Clinton granted seven pardons in October in eight years (all of them in October of 2000). George H.W. Bush granted zero pardons and commutations in the month of October. As a result: Across 20 years, three different presidents, both Republican and Democrat, a grand total of seven pardons had been granted in the month of October - and all of them by one president, in a single October.

Now, of course, we can add president Obama's administration to the analysis. Of course, he has yet to grant a single pardon or commutation of sentence. So:

20 of the last 21 Octobers, under night lights, against left-handed and right-handed applicants, both home and away, have featured zero pardons and commutations.

Yes, fans, it appears that the odds are better that the Great Pumpkin himself might appear. Maybe next year Linus!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obama: 60 Days from Making History

President Barack Obama has now gone 612 days without granting a single presidential pardon or commutation of sentence. Almost 2,000 applications are pending and a couple of thousand more are new and fresh.

In 60 days, however, President Obama will pass Bill Clinton (whose administration made quite the mark when it came to pardons), and will become the slowest Democratic President in American history to discover the clemency power.

It only took John F. Kennedy 19 days to do so. Carter waited 82 days. Harry Truman needed only 8 days after the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and only 6 days after being elected. Woodrow Wilson took only 9 days. Lyndon Johnson only waited 30 days after the death of John F. Kennedy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Incorrect Open Letter Sent Incorrectly to Obama is featuring an "open letter" to President Obama. Along the way, the letter mentions a "Saudi student" named Humeidan Al-Turki, who has, evidently, lost an appeal of his case to the Supreme Court. The letter notes that John F. Kennedy pardoned Hank Greenspan, "the leader of a smuggling network of arms to Israel." It notes that Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush pardoned Orlando Bosch, "one of the most aggressive terrorists who had masterminded the bombing of a civilian aircraft, one of his many terrorist acts." Finally, it notes that Bill Clinton pardoned Al Schwimmer "who was accused of organizing a network smuggling arms to Israel" and George W. Bush "issued a pardon" I. Lewis Libby "after being indicted on lying and perjury charges, the most ugly charges in the dictionary of American justice."

The letter then asks, rhetorically:
Mr. President, is the Saudi student’s (presumably accused of harassing his maid) action more serious than charges of those convicted of election fraud, bombing planes, lying, and possession and smuggling of arms and drugs?
PardonPower offers the following information as a public service: 1. At this point, Humeidan Al-Turki is not "presumably accused." He is, instead, convicted of aggravated sexually harassment of his Indonesian maid while keeping her in a condition of forced labor / servitude all for a wage of less than two dollars a day. He has also been sentenced to a prison term of 28 years. 2. Al-Turki was convicted in the State of Colorado, in Arapahoe County, in a state court, not a federal U.S. District Court. President Obama, however, cannot pardon persons convicted of state crimes. For information on clemency in the State of Colorado, follow this link3. George H.W. Bush did not pardon Orlando Bosch. For that matter 4. George W. Bush did not pardon Mr. Libby either. Bush merely commuted the prison sentence portion of Libby's punishment. See full "open letter" here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rostenkowski, Dead

Former Illinois Democratic Representative Dan Rostenkowski, who plead guilty to two (of seventeen original) counts of mail fraud and went to federal prison for a year and a half, has died at the age of 82. Rostenkowski served 18 terms in Congress, but feared that his obituary would generally be "Dan Rostenkowski, felon." Bill Clinton, however, granted the Chicagoan a presidential pardon, and the application was supported by former Republican President Gerald R. Ford (whose judgement in matters related to clemency is, of course, legendary). NPR reports Rostenkowski admitted to "hiring people on his congressional payroll who did little or no official work - but took care of his lawn, took photographs at political events and family weddings, helped his family's business and supervised the renovation of his house." Rostenkowski argued that his fraudulent use of thousands upon thousands of tax payers' dollar was a mere violation of House rules and not an actual "crime." Good bye, Dan. Good riddance! See full story here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

SHOCK: Obama Passes John Adams in Clemency Neglect

Barack Obama continues to make history in extraordinary ways!

This weekend, he passes a mark set by John Adams way back in August of 1798. That is when Adams granted his first presidential pardon (to a man convicted of larceny). Adams had waited 536 days into his administration before using the power that George Washington used in a somewhat controversial way just as he was leaving office.

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