Plea for a Pardon: The Hunt For a Free Pass
With President Bush set to leave office, the question of who he might pardon has become a fertile subject for debate by talking heads and pundits.
When it comes to pardons, Bush hasn't been the easiest president. He's granted only 157 commutations during his tenure (none of them high-profile cases). And most of his pardons have been long-resolved, petty cases that did not result in lengthy prison or jail terms.
Bush and his father, President George H.W. Bush, have been less inclined than some other presidents to hand out pardons. President Bill Clinton granted 459 and President Ronald Reagan awarded 409.
Margaret Colgate Love, the former United States pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997, told the National Law Journal that Bush has exercised a "very trivialized use of the pardon power."
Still, there's a hefty batch of pardon seekers this go-around, some 2,300 applicants, according to ABC News. Here's a look at some of Bush's possible pardon recipients:
Wall Street financier Michael Milken, who created the market for high-yield bonds in the 1980s, leading to his nickname the "Junk Bond King," has formally asked for a pardon from Bush.
Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989 as a result of the government's insider trading investigation of Wall Street. The next year, the San Fernando Valley billionaire pled guilty to six felonies.
Milken, 62, paid $200 million in fines and served 22 months in prison. He has since been an active philanthropist, using his $2.1 billion fortune to support medical research, including studies on prostate cancer, of which he is a survivor.
Milken submitted his petition in June and has hired Washington power attorney Ted Olsen, who served as Bush's solicitor general. Milken's last pardon attempt with President Bill Clinton failed.
Former Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards has also requested a Bush pardon. Edwards served four non-consecutive terms between 1972 and 1996. He was indicted in 1998 on racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud.
Prosecutors say Edwards, 81, who was known as the "Cajun Prince," was involved in illegal schemes to shake down riverboat casino owners and license applicants. He had been acquitted on separate charges in two other federal trials.
In 2000, Edwards was found guilty on 17 of 26 counts and was sent to a federal prison. He is eligible for release in 2011. Former President George H.W. Bush has supported commuting Edwards's prison time and has written a letter to the federal prison parole board.
Ex-California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham is seeking a pardon after being caught accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes and underreporting his income for 2004.
Cunningham, 66, resigned in 2005 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion. As a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, tens of millions of dollars worth of defense and intelligence contracts went to Cunningham's benefactors. The congressman was accused of accepting millions of dollars worth of gifts, including limousines, prostitutes and a house boat.
Cunningham was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison and ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution. He is currently incarcerated at a minimum-security prison in Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be eligible for release in 2013.
Cunningham's connections with defense contractors also brought trouble to two others now considered potential pardon seekers: former CIA officer Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and defense contractor Brent Wilkes.
Another recent pardon applicant is Conrad Black, the Canadian-born media mogul who was convicted of mail and wire fraud and obstruction of justice a year ago after diverting funds from his company, Hollinger International, for his "personal benefit."
Prosecutors say Black and three other executives had taken cash and other company assets without prior approval, scamming shareholders.
Black, 62, was convicted in Illinois in 2007 and ordered to serve 78 months in prison and pay a $6.1 million fine. He is currently incarcerated in a federal prison in Orlando and is set to be released in 2013.
Disgraced Olympic track star Marion Jones has asked for clemency from Bush.
Jones, 33, was stripped of her Olympic medals dating back to 2000 after she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. She was sentenced to six months in prison last January after prosecutors said Jones perjured herself during the BALCO drugs investigation and committed fraud in an unrelated check-counterfeit scheme.
Jones was released in September from a halfway house in San Antonio.
It's unclear what will happen to the cases of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of shooting a fleeing Mexican drug dealer in 2005.
The agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, were working near El Paso, Texas when they shot Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila, a drug smuggler caught with 743 pounds of marijuana.
Davila later filed a complaint against the two agents, who said they thought Davila was threatening them with a gun. Compean and Ramos were convicted and sentenced to 12 and 11 years in federal prison, respectively, on weapons charges.
Appeals for their commutation have come in from Colorado Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn and California Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein.
John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban" who was captured during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, has applied to have his sentence commuted, citing the case of Australian David Hicks, a Taliban trainee who had his sentence reduced.
In 2002, Lindh was indicted by a federal grand jury on 10 charges, including conspiracy to murder U.S. citizens or nationals. He later pleaded guilty to serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Lindh, 27, is incarcerated at a federal prison facility in Terre Haute, Ind.
OUT OF THE RUNNING
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who recently lost his bid for a seventh term, has been cast as an ideal candidate for a presidential pardon. "Uncle Ted" was found guilty Oct. 27 of seven counts of making false statements regarding gifts he received from a wealthy friend, oil executive Bill Allen.
But Stevens, 85, has said he is not going to ask Bush for a pardon, opting instead to try his case out in the appeals process.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of federal obstruction and perjury charges resulting from a grand jury investigation into the CIA identity leak known as the Plame Affair.
Libby, now 58, was sentenced to 30 months in prison in 2007 for his role in the case but President Bush commuted his sentence to exclude his prison term. Cheney's former aide, who served from 2001 to 2005, was still forced to pay a $250,400 fine and had his law license in the District of Columbia revoked.
THE PREEMPTIVE PARDON
Experts have debated whether Bush might extend a preemptive criminal pardon for administration officials involved in controversial counter-terrorism programs, including torture and surveillance.
Some political experts say such a move is unlikely, however, The Wall Street Journal reports, given that the president would have to disclose the crime he is pardoning.
By Derek Kravitz |
November 24, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
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