President Donald Trump issued 11 pardons and commutations on Tuesday afternoon. The 45th president’s constitutional use of the pardon power was immediately met with a diverse array of reactions that exposed severe fault lines among criminal justice reform advocates and the president’s critics.
Left-wing criminal justice reform advocates praised many of Trump’s pardons.
“The Blagojevich pardon will rightly draw all the attention and criticism, but there’s actually some good news here, too,” noted the Brennan Center‘s Justice Program Senior Counsel Ames Grawert. “Crystal Munoz, and Tynice Nichole Hall–all lower-level drug offenders–received commutations today [and] Judith Negron‘s case didn’t involve drugs but was *supported by* drug policy reform advocates.”
Other liberal attorneys pushed back on criticism of Trump’s constitutional use of the pardon power.
”Not that his choices are remotely laudable per se, but given all the things he’s done, I refuse to get incensed about the exercise of the pardon power,” tweeted criminal defense attorney Scott Greenfield.
“Agreed,” remarked an attorney known on Twitter only as @bmaz. “I am unpopular in this thought, but think it was actually good and righteous to commute Blago, who was seriously over-sentenced. Kerik is garbage, but who cares about him and the rest at this point? It just doesn’t matter. Like to see more regular people helped though.”
Here are all the people—a decidedly small number—given a shot at full redemption.
1. Edward DeBartolo, Jr.
The former San Francisco 49ers owner was convicted in 1998 of failing to report a felony after he paid $400,000 to Edwin Edwards, the former governor of Louisiana, in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. DeBartolo’s 49ers won five Super Bowls but the scandal cut his career short–though he avoided jail time by paying a $1 million fine and serving two years of probation.
“He’s the main reason why we won so many Super Bowls,” Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver and former 49er Jerry Rice said. “So today is a great day for him. I’m glad to be here and be a part of that. It’s just something I will never forget. This man, he has done so much in the community, has done so much in NFL football.”
2. Michael Milken
The financier was convicted of securities fraud and racketeering in 1990 after his firm went belly-up for selling high-yield junk bonds–resulting in thousands of job losses. That event, dubbed the “Valentine’s Day Massacre,” made Milken public enemy number one over the crime of insider trading. He was initially sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $600 million fine–but later had eight years slashed off his sentence after agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.
“He’s done this and he suffered greatly,” Trump said, while announcing Milken’s pardon. “He paid a big price; paid a very tough price.”
3. Ariel Friedler
The technology investor, entrepreneur and former CEO of Symplicity Co. was convicted of conspiracy to access a computer without authorization in 2014 after admitting that he attempted to break into competitors’ servers. Friedler ultimately served two months in prison.
According to his LinkedIn profile: “Ariel took [Symplicity from book form] and created a software product that is now one of the largest college recruitment platforms in the world. Symplicity was able to expand its presence at college campuses by deploying dozens of tools that automated and enhanced the way university departments communicated with students and other constituencies.”
4. Bernard Kerik
Perhaps the most controversial of Tuesday’s exercises in executive leniency, the former New York City Police Department (NYPD) commissioner under Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg was convicted of tax fraud and lying to officials after he accepted bribes from organized-crime figures, defense contractors and an Israeli businessman while serving as NYPD’s top cop and then, later, as the interior minister of Iraq under then-president George W. Bush‘s ill-fated Coalition Provisional Authority–which ultimately led the invaded foreign nation into a state of ethnically-based terrorism, full-bodied anti-U.S. violence and chaos.
Kerik was recently in the news after insulting impeachment witness Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman by calling him a “dick.”
5. Paul Pogue
The construction company owner from the north Texas suburb of McKinney admittedly felt he was overpaying his taxes so he skimped by about 10-percent over a three-year period. After being caught, he fessed up to the matter, paid the government back and accepted a plea bargain that resulted in three years of probation plus a $250,000 fine in addition to paying $473,604 in restitution. Sure to cause controversy is that Pogue’s presidential gift was apparently the result of an intervention by former GOP senator Rick Santorum–who once received an $11,000 campaign contribution from the Texas man.
“He paid 90% of his taxes,” Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s not like he didn’t pay taxes. He admitted he didn’t pay it because he thought he was paying too much. So he took a hit for it.”
6. David Safavian
The criminal justice reform advocate was initially arrested and charged with several crimes related to the Jack Abramoff lobbying and corruption scandal. He was at first convicted on four of five charges and sentenced to 18 months in prison before a court unanimously reversed those convictions due to his defense being unfairly limited. After a new trial, Safavian was convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements and sentenced to a year in prison.
“Having served time in prison and completed the process of rejoining society with a felony conviction, Mr. Safavian is uniquely positioned to identify problems with the criminal justice system and work to fix them,” the White House said in the statement that very few with knowledge of the law and Safavian’s post-prison work were wont to dispute.
7. Angela Stanton
The best-selling author, TV star and motivational speaker previously served six months under house arrest for her role in a stolen vehicle ring involving fraud, embezzlement and theft. Since being released, she turned her life around and authored the popular memoir, Life of a Real Housewife: Tell The Truth and Shame The Devil.
Her pardon was promoted by Alveda King, niece of the Civil Rights legend Martin Luther King, Jr.–and apparently for good reason. According to the White House’s official statement: “[Stanton] works tirelessly to improve reentry outcomes for people returning to their communities upon release from prison, focusing on the critical role of families in the process.”
8. Rod Blagojevich
The former Illinois governor was famously convicted of attempting to sell Barack Obama‘s former U.S. Senate seat after he became the nation’s 44th president.
Some in Illinois were none-too-pleased with the Blagojevich commutation, however, with Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin calling the hair-obsessed former politician “rogue on steroids” when he “abused the office.” Durkin added: “I guess Donald Trump’s not concerned about the state of Illinois next November.”
9. Tynice Nichole Hall
The prison educational teacher is a mother who was harshly victimized by the nation’s failed War on Drugs. She served nearly 14 years of an 18-year sentence for allowing her boyfriend to sell cocaine out of her house–but was never accused of any crime with an actual victim or of doing anything violent whatsoever. Her clemency request was promoted by the criminal justice reform organization Clemency for All Non-Violent Drug Offenders Foundation (CAN-DO Foundation), which promotes justice through clemency—and which scored several victories in Tuesday’s slate of clemency decisions.
Notably, another advocate for Hall was Alice Johnson, the grandmother was famously freed thanks to Kim Kardashian‘s influence with the Trump White House.
“It will be a phenomenal blessing to my family when I am released,” Hall told CAN-DO. “I have been absent most of my adult life so to rekindle my family’s love and be able to fill the gap of my absence will make my family whole again. Being able to have a full and complete family reunion will provide my family with great joy. We have all fought for so long to bring me home, which will close the missing link in our family circle.”
10. Crystal Munoz
Johnson also worked to secure Munoz’s commutation after she also fell prey to the waste and cruelty of the drug war. According to the White House, she spent 12 years locked in a cage for “having played a small role in a marijuana smuggling ring.” Notably, this commutation was also supported by various other criminal justice reform advocates–including the author’s alma matter by way of the Texas A&M University School of Law Criminal Defense Clinic. Editor’s note: Gig ’em.
CAN-DO noted: “Her nightmare began when DEA agents visited Munoz’s home. They assured the young mother of an infant daughter, who happened to be pregnant with her third child at the time, that she was not in any kind of trouble. The agents claimed they merely needed to speak with Crystal to get a few questions answered and details cleared up about an incident that had taken place 3 years earlier.”
11. Judith Negron
Yet another victory for CAN-DO, Johnson and her life’s work after incarceration was the commutation of Negron’s 35-year sentence for defrauding the federal government while she owned a healthcare company.
“I will be returning back home to my husband of 27 years and my two amazing (now teen) sons who have been there for me no matter how far I have been sent,” she told CAN-DO. “I will utilize my newly acquired plumbing skills to gain employment at my husband’s commercial pool construction business. I will continue to be involved in Alternatives to Violence Project (an international non-profit organization that dedicates their work to reducing prison violence – among other settings) of which I am currently the Inside Coordinator at Coleman-Camp. I will continue to implement my artistic talent as a tool to assist children of incarcerated parents in exploring better forms of expression when dealing with the stigma brought about by their parent’s mistakes.”
[image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
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