21 December 2005

Got Pardons?

What is the secret to getting pardoned by the President for your prior drug dealing offense? Well, one approach is to then become a lawyer and work for a major Republican donor.

Wendy St. Charles, now 49, was among 11 people who received presidential pardons.

In 1984, she was sentenced to four years in prison in Illinois for conspiracy to conduct a narcotics enterprise and distribution of cocaine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

She was also put on four years of special parole and four years of probation, which were to run consecutively with her sentence. . . .

Currently, she is a licensed attorney who works for MDC Holdings, Inc., the largest Denver-based home-building firm and one of the top 10 home builders in the U.S.

Larry Mizel, chair of the MDC Holdings Inc., and his wife, Carol, are major supporters of the Republican Party and its candidates, donating thousands of dollars to their campaigns

Snark aside, I don't have any problem at all with this pardon. The main reason for a pardon in a case like this is to eliminate the collateral effects of being an ex-felon (inability to buy a gun, inability to receive certain kinds of employment, etc.). When someone has served their time and gotten their life on the right track, this is entirely appropriate.

My biggest quarrel with Bush on pardons is being too stingy and not too generous. This kind of relief should be available as a matter of course to anyone who serves their time and has reformed and lived a law abiding life for decades. Another quarrel, of course, is with the strong tendency of pardons to end up benefitting political friends of the President (and on this score, Clinton was guilty as well).

The last quarrel I have with this is that the pardon power was not really invented to clean up the records of people who are already out of prison and admit that they were criminals -- legislation really would be a better way to deal with these cases. The real reason for the power is to allow the executive branch to redress injustices that the judicial branch has for some reason or another not been able to right - cases of dubious guilt, or case where someone's other good deeds call for mercy, or cases where someone who is guilty received a sentence that was simply too harsh, often a reflection of the hysteria of an earlier time or even the drama of the sentencing hearing itself. Those kind of pardons have been exceedingly rare in this administration.

Hat tip to the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.

Footnote: The Rocky has this line in its story: "[Special parole and probation]were to run consecutively with her sentence". This, of course, is nonsensical. Sentences either run concurrently with another sentence (i.e. at the same time as), or consecutively to another sentence (i.e. one after the other). Sentences never run "consecutively with" another sentence.

No comments: