Showing posts with label pardon revisited. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pardon revisited. Show all posts

Friday, August 19, 2011

Claire E. George, R.I.P.

In 1991, retired CIA covert operations chief, Claire E. George was indicted on 10 felony counts of perjury, giving false statements and obstruction in his 1986 testimony to congressional panels and a federal grand jury investigating the so-called Iran-Contra Affair. George pleaded not guilty and, after a mistrial, was convicted of two counts of lying to Congress. He faced a possible five-year prison sentence and $250,000 in fines but, on Chistmas Eve, 1992, outgoing President George H.W. Bush pardoned him - as well as Caspar W. Weinberger, Robert C. McFarlane and three other Iran-Contra figures. George died of cardiac arrest Aug. 11.

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.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Becker on Ford's Pardon of Nixon

Last night, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library hosted a lecture by Benton Becker, a key advisor to the President on the pardon of Richard Nixon. More specifically, Becker was asked to research two questions 1) could a pardon be issued before any charges were filed? and 2) does the president have the right to issue a blanket pardon absolving a would-be defendant of whatever charges he may face? Becker filed a response here which gave Ford the "go" signal on both counts. Ford then sent him to Nixon's ranch in order to get Nixon to 1) sign over his presidential papers 2) accept the pardon in writing and 3) to convey to Nixon that acceptance of the pardon was an admission of guilt. See story here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Arizona: He's Ba-ack!

Former Gov. Fife Symington says he can do a better job than the current governor and, for that reason, he is considering running for governor once again. The re-run would be interesting, among other reasons, because Symington, a personal friend of Bill Clinton, was one of the recipients of Clinton famous last-minute non-vetted pardon bonanza! In 1997, a federal jury found Symington guilty of defrauding creditors in a real estate venture, but the conviction was overturned because a juror had been improperly dismissed during the trial. Clinton's pardoned ended any possibility of a new trial. See full story here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Judging from the first sentence of a recent piece in the Chicago Tribune, it would appear that Oscar Avila paid a dear price to land interviews with members of the terrorist group FALN. Writes Avila:
Alberto Rodriguez is either a patriot or a terrorist, depending on whom you ask.

Rodriguez was imprisoned for 16 years for his role in a series of bombings and today he says he has no "regret" for his actions. Of course, the clemency deal that he struck with the assistance of Eric Holder (during the Clinton administration) "required" him to "renounce" armed revolution. Another convicted FALN member, Ricardo Jimenez, asks philosophically: "Did I do something wrong?" And answers: "Our actions were in line with what the world was doing." See full article here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Carolina: A Pardon Remembered

David Perimutt of the Charlotte Observer has a piece here on "Charlotte's Forgotten Activist and Celebrity" - Harry L. Golden. Readers of this blog may remember Mr. Golden's name from a previous discussion of the validity of clemency warrants (here). While Golden certainly doesn't retain the high name recognition he once enjoyed, he will always remain on the target of serious students of the pardon power. That is exactly why I have dedicated an entire chapter to his case in my forthcoming book, Pardon Me, Mr. President: Adventures in Crime, Politics and Mercy.

Golden's book Only In America was a Nation-wide bestseller when it was revealed that he was actually writing under an alias. This effort was taken in order to conceal the fact that he was a convicted felon who spent significant time in the penitentiary system of New York. As an inmate, Golden also engaged in some questionable practices in order to secure an early release. While there may have been some chance Golden's rising star would fall from the sky, the revelation actually secured his place as a writer and social activist. Many famous persons publicly came to Golden's side and rallied in his defense. Thus, he continued to write (more than twenty books) and speak to a large and faithful audience.

For some odd reason, Golden (an outspoken life-long Democrat) decided to apply for a presidential pardon just three days before the end of the Johnson administration. The problem was that no one was projecting any possibility of a last-minute surge of pardons by LBJ, who had all but shut down the program months earlier in response to sharp criticism. That, more or less, placed Golden's application in the hands of Richard Nixon.

Several individuals in Nixon's Department of Justice asserted that Golden had no real "need" of a pardon and, on that point alone, were willing to look the other way. But, somehow, Golden's applications stayed alive. At one point, a clemency warrant was actually signed and sealed, but never delivered. Then the DOJ expressed concern that Golden may have filed a fraudulent clemency application (which is, in itself, a crime). The concern revolved around the fact that Golden had also been convicted for a second federal offense in the State of Alabama, but failed to list it on the application. Golden's lawyer was thus placed in the awkward position of explaining how the omission occurred. The path to the eventual pardon (granted by Nixon) was quite remarkable and when the right publisher for my book comes along, it will be revealed in full. It is too bad the story was not in print when President Bush "revoked" the pardon of Robert Isaac Toussie.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Senator Dodd: Pardon for a Partner

Kevin Rennie, a former state legislator, has a piece at the Hartford Courant which discusses Sen. Christopher Dodd's support for the 2001 pardon of Edward R. Downe. The pardon was one of many that was granted "without the traditional review by the Justice Department" at the end of the Clinton administration. Downe had been convicted of tax and securities fraud. Rennie notes that Downe's real estate development partner, William "Bucky" Kessinger, had purchased a 1,700-square-foot home in Ireland with Dodd in 1994 for $160,000. Dodd and Downe also purchased a condominium together in Washington, D.C., in 1986. Says Rennie:

A presidential pardon is a rare possession, especially when the man pardoned, Downe, still owed millions to the Securities and Exchange Commission for his violations. Rarer still, however, is the real estate developer, like Kessinger, who appears to have left hundreds of thousands of dollars in appreciated value on the table for his minority-share partner. Dodd appears to have latched onto one — and, on paper, has turned a profit like the Wall Street pirates he once loved but now disdains.

See full article here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

History Detectives

PardonPower took its dog and pony show to St. Louis, Missouri, this past weekend, to do some filming for an upcoming episode of the ever-popular History Detectives. The area was quite beautiful and the folks that I met up with there were focused, but fun to work with. The interview was conducted in the main study area of the Missouri History Museum Library (a very beautiful building with fantastic resources) by 'History Detective' Tukufu Zuberi, a sociologist with the University of Pennsylvania. While visiting in the area, we also took the time to stop by the Campbell House Museum. My grandfather (Col. John Hamilton Ruckman) and his sister (Marjorie Campbell Ruckman) were great-great-grandchildren of Hazlett and Catherine Campbell. I guess that makes me a great-great-great-great-grandchild. The Campbell House was truly amazing, and the guides are friendly, enthusiastic about their work and informative. It is a must-see for visitors to the area. When the History Detectives episode is scheduled to air, PardonPower will make an announcement. It should be interesting.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Arizona: Commutation Revisited

The Arizona Republic features a fascinating piece on Winnie Ruth Judd who, at age 26, was charged with the murder of Agnes Anne LeRoi, 32, and Hedvig "Sammy" Samuelson, 24. Although Judd was married to a 56-year-old physician at the time, it was rumored that she, LeRoi and Samuelson were all vying for the affections of another man. Prosecutors argued the victims were shot while asleep. But their mutilated bodies were discovered in pieces of luggage abandoned outside Central Station in Los Angeles. Judd (aka "The Trunk Murderess" and "The Blond Butcher") was sentenced to hang, but "declared insane" at the last minute and spent almost 40 years in a State hospital. Although she escaped seven times, her death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1952 and she was paroled in 1971, just before Christmas. Conspiracy theorists have focused on extra-marital affairs, high society connections and politics when looking back on the case. See story here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

California: A Pardon Revisited

This article, from Buffalo's Artvoice, reminds those that need reminding that country music legend Merle Haggard was once the recipient of executive clemency. In 1972, then California Governor Ronald Reagan granted a pardon to Haggard, who spent time in San Quenton for burglary. The article notes:

In a famous story from country music lore, the first time Merle Haggard met Johnny Cash he told the Man in Black how seeing him play a New Year’s Day concert in 1958 inside the walls of San Quentin prison left him a changed man. Cash admitted he didn’t recall Haggard being on the bill. Haggard replied, “I wasn’t in the show, I was in the audience.”
In a 2004 interview with CMT (here), Haggard said the pardon was a complete surprise:

Absolutely. They kept it under wraps. There was some effort on my brother-in-law's part, who was part of the Reagan team when he was on the West Coast, and my brother-in-law was friends with [Reagan adviser] Michael Deaver and people who were in a position to examine my case, and they found that I was improperly convicted and had no representation because I was poor and things of that nature, and ... 12 Supreme Court judges and Ronald Reagan -- the governor -- found it right to pardon me. God, it meant everything.
Haggard returned the favor by playing at a Reagan Ranch party and calling for Reagan's image to appear on Mount Rushmore! Interestingly, the Artvoice article notes Haggard was out "in late 2007 stumping for Hillary Clinton, even writing a song for her." PardonPower apologizes for failing to add Haggard's name to the list of those supporting Clinton who had been pardoned (see post here).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Alabama: Pardon Revisited

Lance Griffin of the Dothan Eagle has written a great little article on former Alabama Attorney General Richmond Flowers (D) who also ran for governor in 1966. Flowers was convicted on federal charges of extorting payments from life insurance companies in return for being allowed to do business in the state in 1969. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison and fined $10,000. But Flowers claimed the charges were "politically motivated" and served less than two years before being paroled in 1974. Griffin reports that Flowers was pardoned by Jimmy Carter in 1978. This can be commonly seen in obituaries and, as a result, on various web pages. But PardonPower has a copy of the clemency warrant. It is clearly signed in June of 1980, the last year of Carter's term. According to Griffin, Flowers’ application for pardon listed as references: Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Sen. Ted Kennedy and then-Attorney General of Minnesota Walter Mondale, Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and others. See full story here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

West Virginia: Clemency Revisited

In 1967, Eugene Blake was convicted for the murder of then 18-year-old Donna Jean Ball. Blake was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. But in 1976 Gov. Arch Moore (R) commuted Blake’s sentence to "life with mercy" and opened the door for the possibility of parole. Five rounds in front of the State Board of Probation and Parole were unsuccessful, and a sixth application (in 1979) was unanimously rejected.

According to the Wheeling News Register, "an extensive petition and letter writing campaign was waged by many prominent local citizens to persuade Moore to commute the sentence." The result was a three-page, single-spaced petition "with hundreds of signatures, dozens of letters were sent to Moore from Ohio and Marshall County residents, Catholic church priests and nuns, businessmen and others. McKenzie, who also served as a former Wheeling police chief and Ohio County sheriff." So, Moore granted clemency and, later, the murder was expunged from Blake's record. Now, the News Register reports"
As a result, on Oct. 17, 1984, 13-year-old Maryann Hope Helmbright was raped and shot to death in Wheeling—and if the Belmont County prosecutor proves his case, the March 19, 1982 murder of Mark Withers, 21, of Lansing, also will be attributed to Blake.
See full story here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Georgia: A Pardon Revisited

In August 2005, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles granted a pardon to Lena Baker. The Board believed Baker should have been charged with voluntary manslaughter instead of first-degree murder. The twist was that Baker had been denied clemency once before, back in 1945, and went on to became the only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair. Her final words were, " "What I done, I did in self-defense. I have nothing against anyone ... I am ready to meet my God." Actress Tichina Arnold is now playing Baker in "The Lena Baker Story," a featured film at the Atlanta Film Festival. See story here and here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Florida: A Pardon Revisited

In this editorial, looking back on the governorship of Reuben Askew (1971-1978), Martin Dykman notes:
In another defining moment, Askew in 1975 approved a full pardon for Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, blacks who had spent 12 years in prison, eight of them on death row, for another man's crime at Port St. Joe. News that he was considering the pardon was poorly received in the Panhandle and cost him votes in his 1974 re-election.
A later study by the Florida Commission on Capital Cases concluded 23 inmates on death row in the state were wrongfully convicted. See the Commission's study here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Texas: Pardon Revisited

The Board of Regents will soon vote on the appointment of Ross Margraves Jr. to the Texas A&M at Galveston's Board of Visitors. Margraves is a Houston lawyer, Galveston property owner and avid Aggie fundraiser. What makes it all interesting is that, in 1996, he was also convicted of using a state-owned plane for a personal trip while serving as a member of the board. In 2003, Margraves' felony was pardoned in a 9-to-8 vote taken by the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Gov. Rick Perry then endorsed the pardon. Margraves says the previous conviction "doesn't have anything to do with this." See story here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Arkansas: Pardon Revisited (Update)

In a recent post (here: Arkansas: Pardon Revisited), PardonPower discussed the case of the former Attorney General of Arkansas, Steve Clark, who now desires to be mayor of Fayetteville. Problem is Clark is a convicted felon. Good news is that he was pardoned by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, in 2004. It is now contended that Arkansas Supreme Court rulings suggest that a pardon alone does not make Clark eligible. The attorney for the secretary of state says an expungement of the conviction is required before Clark can run again. See story here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arkansas: Pardon Revisited

Steve Clark served as attorney general for the State of Arkansas from 1979-90 and was widely considered to be a potential Democratic nominee for governor in 1990. Then an investigation found that he had spent $ 115, 000 in such a way that he was eventually convicted of felony theft. Clark resigned from office and was fined $10,000. He was also ordered to pay restitution and court costs. In 2004, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee pardoned Clark, who is now an instructor for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Clark also collects fees to give speeches on addiction, ethics and the law. Now, he is considering running for Fayetteville mayor. The Arkansas State Constitution prohibits those who are convicted of embezzling public money or “other infamous crimes” from holding any office of trust in Arkansas, but Huckabee's pardon has cleared the way for Clark to return to the world of politics. See full story here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Maryland: Posthumous Pardon Revisited is looking back on an famous murder that took place 90 years ago. John Snowden was convicted of the murder of Lottie May Brandon and sentenced to hang on Feb. 28, 1919. His various appeals for a new trial were denied although many were not convinced that his trial was fair. Governor Emerson C. Harrington was lobbied to grant a commutation, a request that also drew the support of 11 of the jurors. But Harrington refused and, on the morning of the hanging, an anonymous letter emerged which said, "He was not the guilty man. I am the Man." On May 31, 2001, governor Parris Glendening presented the community that continued work to prove Snowden's innocence his posthumous pardon. For complete story, go here.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kentucky: Pardons Revisited

Today former governor Ernie Fletcher (R) met with victims of domestic violence whom he pardoned before he left office. Fletcher and his wife went over hundreds of cases and picked 21 women from the pile to pardon. Today, he met with some of them for the very first time. Antoinette Johnson spent five years behind bars for killing her boyfriend, whom she says abused her. Tracie English Gomez went in and out of her father’s custody and killed him when he continued to sexually abuse her. Mary Sue Jenkins feared for her daughter’s life and her own when she divorced her husband. She did not kill him, but "put him in the hands of people that did do it.” See full story here and here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

South Carolina: A Pardon Revisited.

40 years ago, three youths died and two dozen more were wounded by police gunfire on the third night of chaos that began when black students attempted to go bowling at a segregated bowling alley. Afterward, the police officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, but Cleveland L. Sellers was convicted of riot. He had been wounded by gunshot and was arrested while recovering in the hospital. Sellers was sentenced to one year at hard labor and released after seven months. He was pardoned in 1993 and became director of the University of South Carolina's African-American Studies program. See complete story here.

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