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Obama Pardons 17 Convicts: Past Presidents More Liberal

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 3, 2013 Last Updated: March 4, 2013
Related articles: United States » National News
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Obama pardons 17 convicts, using his clemency power for the first time in his second term. Obama has not used the power as freely as most presidents in the past. 

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media after meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House, March 1, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Obama has granted pardons to 17 federal convicts, the first use of the power of clemency in his second term. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media after meeting with Congressional leaders at the White House, March 1, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Obama has granted pardons to 17 federal convicts, the first use of the power of clemency in his second term. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

 

President Barack Obama issued 17 pardons on Friday, his first use of the presidential clemency power in his second term. It was a liberal use of clemency compared to the beginning of his first term, but still far more conservative than past presidents.

The U.S. Constitution gives presidents power to grant pardons to those convicted of federal crimes, except for in cases of impeachment. Obama used this power to grant only 22 pardons in the entirety of his first term. 

George W. Bush issued a combined 189 pardons in his two terms as president; Bill Clinton issued a combined 396 in his two terms. George H.W. Bush was a little more conservative in his single term, issuing only 74, but Jimmy Carter issued 534 in his single term. 

Historically, presidents have generally issued somewhere between 100 and 250 pardons annually, according to U.S. Department of Justice data dating back to 1900. The 1940s saw a spike in pardons under Franklin D. Roosevelt, with a record high for the century in 1944 of 424 pardons. 

Of the 17 pardons issued on Friday, most carried sentences of probation, house arrest, or fines. Only five had prison sentences: 

Michael John Petri of Montrose, South Dakota, was sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and distribution of, a controlled substance.

James Anthony Bordinaro of Gloucester, Massachusetts, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for conspiracy to restrain, suppress, and eliminate competition in violation of the Sherman Act (related to trade), and conspiracy to submit false statements.

Donald Barrie Simon Jr. of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was sentenced to two years in prison for aiding and abetting in the theft of an interstate shipment.

Lynn Marie Stanek of Tualatin, Oregon, was sentenced to six months in prison for unlawful use of a communication facility to distribute cocaine. 

Donna Kaye Wright of Friendship, Tennessee, was sentenced to 54 days imprisonment followed by probation and community service for embezzlement and misapplication of bank funds.

“As he has in past years, the president granted these individuals clemency because they have demonstrated genuine remorse and a strong commitment to being law-abiding, productive citizens and active members of their communities,” Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesman, told the New York Times. 

An introduction to the book “The Presidential Pardon Power,” by Jeffrey Crouch, notes that, “in most cases … presidents followed George Washington’s practice of granting clemency as an ‘act of grace’ or to serve the public welfare. Rarely did they deploy the clemency authority politically …”

Cases of Using Clemency for Political Gain

Crouch gives examples of the rare times clemency has been used for political gain: Thomas Jefferson offered it to convicts willing to give testimony against the alleged traitor Aaron Burr. Ulysses Grant refused clemency to witnesses against one of his personal secretary in the Whiskey Ring scandal (a case involving the diversion of tax revenues in a collaboration between whiskey distillers and government agents). 

Some Americans also cried foul when Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for crimes concerning the Watergate scandal.

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