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July 19, 2008

Will Prez Bush become merciful again as his term concludes?

This great new New York Times piece, headlined "Felons Seeking Bush Pardon Near a Record," raises the important question of whether Scooter Libby and lots of other felons will be the beneficiary of a final blast of compassionate conservativism from President George W. Bush.  Here are snippets from today's must-read article:

Felons are asking President Bush for pardons and commutations at historic levels as he nears his final months in office, a time when many other presidents have granted a flurry of clemency requests.  Among the petitioners is Michael Milken, the billionaire former junk bond king turned philanthropist, who is seeking a pardon for his 1990 conviction for securities fraud, the Justice Department said. Mr. Milken sought a pardon eight years ago from President Bill Clinton, and submitted a new petition in June.

In addition, prominent federal inmates are asking Mr. Bush to commute their sentences. Among them are Randy Cunningham, the former Republican congressman from California; Edwin W. Edwards, a former Democratic governor of Louisiana; John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban; and Marion Jones, the former Olympic sprinter.

The requests are adding to a backlog of nearly 2,300 pending petitions, most from “ordinary people who committed garden-variety crimes,” said Margaret Colgate Love, a clemency lawyer. Ms. Love, who was the United States pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997, said the backlog was overwhelming the vetting system, meaning that many petitions might not reach Mr. Bush’s desk before he leaves office. “I have cases that date from the Clinton administration,” Ms. Love said. “I have cases that I filed in the last two or three years and have not even gotten any word about the first step of the investigation being authorized. It’s unbelievable.”...

As the administration wrestles with the cascade of petitions, some lawyers and law professors are raising a related question: Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs?....

The Justice Department does not release a list of petitioners, but will say whether specific people have requested pardons or commutations. The New York Times submitted nearly two dozen names of prominent felons.

The department said it had not received petitions from several recently convicted political figures, including I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff; Jack Abramoff, the former Republican lobbyist; Bob Ney, a Republican former congressman from Ohio; and George Ryan, a former Republican governor of Illinois.  The department had also not received petitions from several people associated with major financial scandals in recent years, like at Enron, WorldCom and Adelphia, nor from Conrad M. Black, the conservative former newspaper publisher, nor Martha Stewart.

It also has no petition for Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, two former Border Patrol agents whose case has become a cause célèbre among some conservatives. They were convicted of shooting a fleeing drug smuggler along the border with Mexico and trying to cover it up.  The pair are ineligible to apply for clemency through normal procedures because their cases are on appeal. But in January 2007, Mr. Bush told a Texas television interviewer that he would review the agents’ cases; presidents are free to give pardons and commutations to people who have not submitted a petition. In July 2007, for example, Mr. Bush eliminated Mr. Libby’s prison sentence even though he had not applied for a commutation.

Far more commutation petitions are being submitted than in the past, largely because of changes to federal sentencing in the 1980s: the abolition of parole and the institution of tough sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum terms.  One of the charges against the Border Patrol agents, for example, carried a mandatory 10-year sentence. Mr. Bush has received 7,146 petitions for a reduced sentence — more than five times as many as Mr. Reagan received.

But the pardon office has not grown in proportion to the workload.  Ms. Love argued that the backlog and delays were “a major flaw in the justice system” because clemency is becoming more important. Sentences are longer, and the stigma of being a felon has increased because of added background checks for many things, including gaining employment and doing volunteer work, she said. “If we really want to give people a second chance,” Ms. Love said, “then we have to include a pardon which is reasonably available to them. It’s not, now.”

July 19, 2008 at 08:22 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Not sure but didn't Bush sign the second chance act? I would think that he would show some compassion to some people who deserve second chances.

Posted by: BS | Jul 19, 2008 6:48:43 PM

I am a citizen of the United State. And I love this country, however along the way I have made a number of bad decision. These bad decisions have all been misdemeanor in nature ,but none the less ,the result has been I go to jail' Pay a fine or both. The point is justice finds and carries out do process in response to my unlawful actions.That brings me to this Each very serious and who's evidence can and should be considered. The law has spent its time, And tax payers money to let me know this simple truth < NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW.> let us insure that this fundamental truth is not enforced on some; but not spread to all

Posted by: joe usa | Dec 26, 2008 5:00:58 PM

I am a citizen of the United State. And I love this country, however along the way I have made a number of bad decision. These bad decisions have all been misdemeanor in nature ,but none the less ,the result has been I go to jail' Pay a fine or both. The point is justice finds and carries out do process in response to my unlawful actions.That brings me to this Each very serious and who's evidence can and should be considered. The law has spent its time, And tax payers money to let me know this simple truth < NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW.> let us insure that this fundamental truth is not enforced on some; but not spread to all

Posted by: joe usa | Dec 26, 2008 5:06:50 PM

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