March 12, 2007
Putting the Libby pardon debate (and the crack sentencing debate) in context
This Bloomberg commentary by Ann Woolner, entitled "Libby's Case Tests Bush's Parsimony With Pardons," provides lots of valuable context for all the Libby pardon talk and also the debate over crack sentencing terms in the federal system. Here are snippets:
Willie Mays Aikens, 52, has done a lot of things in his life. In 1980 he hit two home runs in each of two World Series games, giving the Kansas City Royals their first Series win and himself a place in baseball's Hall of Fame. He later took up illegal drugs, became addicted to crack and pleaded guilty to trying to buy it in 1983. Another drug conviction in 1994, for selling 63 grams of crack, sent him away for 20 years.
He would have been freed long ago if the cocaine had been powder, but he's in the Atlanta federal penitentiary more than 12 years later. President Bill Clinton turned him down for a pardon. So did President George W. Bush. His lawyer, Margaret Love, is still trying. In the meantime, she says, she won't mind if Bush pardons Lewis "Scooter"' Libby, whose perjury and obstruction of justice convictions ignited speculation that the president will spare him from prison. "If pardoning Libby resulted in a more generous exercise of the power for ordinary people, then I would certainly favor it,'' Love said in a telephone interview from Washington.
So far, Bush has been the least forgiving of any president in almost 200 years. Not since Thomas Jefferson has a president exercised the power to pardon so rarely. In six years, Bush has granted 113 petitions for pardons or commutations of sentence, or fewer than 19 a year on average. In this arena, Bush broke his father's record for parsimony, however narrowly. During his four years as president, George H.W. Bush granted 77 petitions. Six of them were for members of his own administration....
The list of the forgiven over the years is 28,500 names long. A Puerto Rican nationalist who tried to kill President Harry Truman won clemency, and so did the physician who helped Abraham Lincoln's assassin escape, Samuel Mudd. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was pardoned for illegally contributing to the campaign of Richard Nixon, who was himself pardoned before he was even charged with the Watergate crimes that sent many of his aides to prison. George Washington forgave insurrectionists in the Whiskey Rebellion. Andrew Johnson pardoned Confederate rebels. And Jimmy Carter granted amnesty to those who dodged the Vietnam War draft....
Some 1,000 people betting through an online futures market are giving Libby a 62 percent chance of getting a pardon before Bush's term is out, according to John Delaney, who runs Intrade.com. The Washington Post column "In the Loop" has a contest going in which readers can predict the date of the pardon. Love herself has entered. She picked Dec. 24, 2008, when, like his father 16 years earlier, Bush will be headed out the door. Elections will be over, and the generosity of the season will be at full height. Unless Bush intervenes, Aikens will still have years to serve.
The Sentencing Project has this page providing more background on Willie Mays Aikens' sad story. Among other details, the page includes a link to this letter from baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. urging the Pardons Attorney at the Department of Justice to endorse clemency for Aikens.
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March 12, 2007 at 06:15 PM | Permalink
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Should Aikens be pardoned? Who knows? But it is likely that there are others who would be more deserving who will not.
Posted by: federalist | Mar 13, 2007 1:13:12 AM
I saw a story on ESPN on this issue, and what is not publicized (especially by his defense attorney), is that he was not only convicted of trafficking in crack, but he also possessed a weapon while he was trafficking, which added 10 years to his sentence. Reasonable minds can agree that the crack penalties are way too high, but reasonable minds also can agree that offenders with weapons should get longer sentences. Of course this part of his conviction is not publicized because it takes away part of the sympathy of the case.
Posted by: Kelly Nance | Mar 13, 2007 6:52:36 AM
I believe I am probably the source of much of the data in this item and I am pleased to see the information being shared in this manner. See:
As a baseball fan, I am also intrigued by the individual case that is described above. I wonder what the editors here think about pardoning dead people? Shall we clear O.Henry's name at last?
Posted by: P.S. Ruckman, Jr. | Mar 13, 2007 1:54:37 PM