Biden Uses Clemency Powers for the First Time

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
April 26, 2022Updated: April 26, 2022

President Joe Biden announced Tuesday the first use of his presidential powers to grant clemency, pardoning three felons and commuting the sentences of dozens more.

The U.S. Constitution grants presidents the power to forgive convictions or shorten sentences.

Biden is pardoning former Secret Service Agent Abraham Bolden, 86.

Bolden became the first black man to ever guard a U.S. president when John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Secret Service in 1961.

Bolden was charged with bribery for attempting to sell a copy of a Secret Service file in 1964. While he has maintained his innocence, Bolden was convicted and sentenced to six years in federal prison. He ultimately served more than three years with two-and-a-half years of probation.

Bolden has long been critical of the Secret Service and sought to expose misconduct within the agency.

Biden is also pardoning Betty Jo Bogans, 51, who was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in the Southern District of Texas. At the time of her arrest, Bogans was attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice, neither of whom were detained or arrested.

Bogans, a single mother with no prior record, was sentenced to seven years in prison, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Biden’s third pardon is Dexter Jackson, 52, who pleaded guilty and was convicted for charges related to allowing his business in Athens, Georgia, to be used to facilitate marijuana distribution.

Since his release from prison, Jackson has converted his business into a cell-phone repair service and hired local high school students through a program that seeks to provide young adults with work experience, according to the DOJ.

Biden is also commuting the sentences of 75 individuals, most of whom were found guilty of non-violent, low-level drug distribution crimes.

Biden has a long record of support for America’s war on drugs during his time in the Senate. Biden advocated for harsher penalties for both dealers and users of illegal drugs and authored some of the nation’s harshest drug laws in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

But Biden reversed course during his 2020 presidential campaign with promises of mass-clemency for marijuana users.

“I think we should decriminalize marijuana, period,” Biden said on a debate stage in 2019. “And I think everyone—anyone who has a record—should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.”

Biden’s act of clemency has won praise from Democrats in Congress.

“The power of clemency & redemption is profound,” wrote Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) on Twitter. “I’m thrilled that @POTUS is heeding our calls for bold action & pathways to healing, & I remain committed to passing critical legislation, like our #FIXClemency Act, to transform our clemency process & help end mass incarceration.”

“I thank @POTUS for taking this step toward repairing the damage that the failed ‘War on Drugs’ has done to our country, especially our most vulnerable communities,” wrote Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.).