Find Post Investigations On:
Facebook Scribd Twitter
Friendfeed RSS Google Reader
» About This Blog | Meet the Investigative Team | Subscribe
Ongoing Investigation

Top Secret America

The Post explores the top secret world the government created in response to the attacks of Sept. 11.

Ongoing Investigation

The Hidden Life of Guns

How guns move through American society, from store counter to crime scene.

Have a Tip?

Talk to Us

If you have solid tips, news or documents on potential ethical violations or abuses of power, we want to know. Send us your suggestions.
• E-mail Us

Categories

Post Investigations
In-depth investigative news
and multimedia from The Washington Post.
• Special Reports
• The Blog

Reporters' Notebook
An insider's guide to investigative news: reporters offer insights on their stories.

The Daily Read
A daily look at investigative news of note across the Web.

Top Picks
A weekly review of the best
in-depth and investigative reports from across the nation.

Hot Documents
Court filings, letters, audits and other documents of interest.

D.C. Region
Post coverage of investigative news in Maryland, Virginia and the District.

Washington Watchdogs
A periodic look into official government investigations.

Help! What Is RSS?
Find out how to follow Post Investigations in your favorite RSS reader.

Hot Comments

Unfortunately I believe that we are limited in what we can focus on. I think that if we proceed with the partisan sideshow of prosecuting Bush admin. officials, healthcare will get lost in the brouhaha.
— Posted by denamom, Obama's Quandary...

Recent Posts
Bob Woodward

The Washington Post's permanent investigative unit was set up in 1982 under Bob Woodward.


Archives
See what you missed, find what you're looking for.
Blog Archive »
Investigations Archive »

Have a Tip?
Send us information on ethics violations or abuses of power.
E-Mail Us »

Other
Investigations
Notable investigative projects from other news outlets.
On the Web »
Top Picks »

Plea for a Pardon: The Hunt For a Free Pass

POSTED: 07:30 AM ET, 11/24/2008 by Derek Kravitz

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:

THE APPLICANTS


Michael Milken

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.


Edwin W. Edwards

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.


Randy "Duke" Cunningham

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.


Conrad Black

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.


Marion Jones

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.


Ignacio Ramos

Jose Compean

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

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
Previous: Picks of the Week: Allergies, Transplants and Deadly Infections | Next: UBS Clients Seek Amnesty, Rangel Tax Issue, Pardon Resurfaces for Holder

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



President Bush Will Pardon a Turkey before Human Beings.

My husband is about to pass his 22nd consecutive Thanksgiving holiday as a federal prisoner. If history repeats itself, President Bush, I am sure, will take yet another opportunity to pardon a turkey on Thursday. He will not show such compassion to the more than 200,000 people serving time within the federal prison system. This President has not shown much interest in exercising his pardon power on behalf of human beings.

Under President Bush, the Pardon Attorney may have been the most laid-back position in the administration. There has been virtually no attention paid to the thousands of applications for clemency that have been on file. President Bush has been reluctant to extend acts of grace to people in prison, except for friends of the administration like Scooter Libby.

My husband has had an application on file for executive clemency since 2003. He serves a lengthy sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. During more than 21 full years of imprisonment, he educated himself, earning an undergraduate degree from Mercer University and a graduate degree from Hofstra University. He has published several books on the prison experience that university professors from across the United States use to educate students on the subjects of criminal justice and corrections. He has maintained a clean disciplinary record and contributed to communities both inside and outside of prison boundaries. Most importantly, together we have built and nurtured a family that will assist his transition upon release. Those records of redemption should advance his candidacy for relief from his 45-year sentence. Yet under President Bush's administration, my husband's petition for clemency has gathered dust with thousands of others in the office of the Pardon Attorney.

With President-elect Obama, we are hopeful for a Pardon Attorney who will share the same vision as our country's new President. Rather than extinguishing hope, as President Bush so expertly did, President Obama inspires all Americans to reach their highest potential. Perhaps next year, some human beings, as well as turkeys, will receive acts of grace and compassion from our new President.

Wife of federal prisoner #16377-004

Posted by: Carmichael1 | November 24, 2008 12:49 PM

Nobody who has committed a drug offense deserves a pardon. You can argue for the law to be changed, but the pardon authority should not be used as a tool of policy; it undermines democracy. It is selfish and short-sighted to ask that the Presidential pardon power be used to undermine U.S. drug control policy on behalf of one individual.

Posted by: jim16 | November 24, 2008 1:01 PM

You also realize, of course, that it is a longstanding requirement that applicants have finished serving their sentences and therefore, your husband would not qualify under Department of Justice rules in place for the past several Administrations, Republican and Democrat.You may not like the rules, but don't blame Bush for that, blame the entire system. Obama won't pardon your husband either, since he still won't qualify.

Posted by: jim16 | November 24, 2008 1:05 PM

As a Texas resident, and a former observer of Bush as governor in the state with the most active Death Row in the nation, I can personally assure people that he is a ruthless automaton incapable of human concern for anyone.
Remember, he's the nut who mocked Karla Faye on the eve of her execution.
He has no soul.
The only thing he might be moved over is if the petitioner is someone he considers to be in his "social class."
The two I see on this list that need pardons are Ramos and Compean, who were unjustly prosecuted for shooting a drug dealer and who are serving long sentences for justice gone awry.
Their pardon would give strength to our Border Patrol agents, but since Bush doesn't give a fig about security along our Southern border unless his buddies like Blackwater and the militant Texas militias who vote Republican benefit by no-bid contracts, Ramos and Compean can probably kiss dust, as well.
The reason I know that the cases of Ramos and Compean are justified is that our local Congressman, Ted Poe, a former state district judge has demonstrated their cases were prosecuted in error and he ought to know.
As a State District Judge, Poe was known for his careful, hard-nosed administration of justice.
If Congressman Poe (R-TX) finds fault, then fault is there for all to see.
I don't think they have a chance, personally.
George is not known to actually have a beating heart.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | November 24, 2008 2:44 PM

jim16 wrote: "You also realize, of course, that it is a longstanding requirement that applicants have finished serving their sentences and therefore, your husband would not qualify under Department of Justice rules in place for the past several Administrations, Republican and Democrat.You may not like the rules, but don't blame Bush for that, blame the entire system. Obama won't pardon your husband either, since he still won't qualify."

The pardon power is absolute, and the President can pardon whoever he wishes at any stage of the criminal process (naturally, only after a crime is committed, not before). There is no actual requirement that the person have fully served their sentence, otherwise commutation (making the punishment less sever, e.g., shortening the sentence) would not exist. Consider Ford's pardon of Nixon - it was a blanket pardon for any and all crimes he might have committed while in office (not even elaborating on which crimes) and it was granted before Nixon had even been indicted for anything. As for Scooter Libby, Bush commutted his sentence before he ever set foot into prison. I know the department of justice has requirements for making formal requests for pardons (perhaps to make it more orderly and help the DoJ assist the president in sifting through the large number of applications), but such requirements in no way limit the President's prerogative to pardon. Naturally that means that pre-emptive presidential pardons would only seem open to those who can obtain the President's ear through connections. Sad but true.

Posted by: marecek | November 24, 2008 6:22 PM

For those of you who have your noses to the sky about forgiving an individual for a wrongdoing, all I have to say is that you just didn't get caught. Whether trivial or serious, the crime you didn't get caught at makes you a criminal by proxy. Simply put, no one's innocent, I don't care who you are or what your background is. We're human, we ALL make mistakes.

To deny someone the basic ability to make a living, feed his family and himself and simply abandon them to fend for themselves is selfish, stupid and subject to come back and bite back. How? When a criminal leaves jail, he's given a few bucks and a "see ya." Other than a parole officer who typically could care less, the criminal goes into a society that's rejected him. He typically has no accountability and no safety net. What's going to happen much of the time? You got it - recidivism. I realize each person is a case-by-case and many are not worthy of trusting ever again - believe me, I know. I lead a New Life Behavior class in the jail system. But once the criminal realizes that while he may be out of jail, he's still essentially imprisoned, he feels like a caged rat, forced to scrounge. He relapses and gets put back into the system and the cycle repeats itself. As taxpayers, we end up footing the bill and every year, costs uptrend exponentially.

I don't know what the "answer" is or if there even is one, but I can tell you that the facts and figures I've seen from states that allow record expungement support the case that many get back on the right track.

There's a difference between being soft on crime and being stupid on crime. I don't dare suggest a cohabitative environment with no questions asked, no, but at least consider options to reintroduce past offenders, who are sincerely living a changed life, back into society. Create some rules; establish guidelines and those who fail, remand back to the system.

Posted by: sightminer | November 26, 2008 1:18 AM

Please read related article titled "Turkeys never keep a criminal record" at http://www.cliffyworld.com/blogs

Posted by: Cliffyworld | November 26, 2008 8:25 PM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




characters remaining

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company