Obama’s Clemency Sparing: ‘Justice’

Photograph by Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.

Thousands beg his pardon every year.

Few get it.

And today, President Barack Obama granted 13 pardons and commuted the sentences of eight others.

The eight winning shortened sentences had been convicted on cocaine charges. Six, from Mobile, Alabama, Pensacola and Fort Pierce, Florida, McKinney and Belton, Texas, and Rockford, Illinois, drew life sentences.

The 13 pardoned for their crimes had been imprisoned for distributing heroin, cocaine or marijuana or for money laundering or wire fraud, armed bank robbery or embezzlement or theft — and one for violating the Clean Water Act (he’d drawn three years’ probation, including six months of home confinement.)

The acts of executive clemency follow a law the president signed three years ago, the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the disparity between penalties for crack and powder cocaine offenses. This “began  to right a decades-old injustice,” he said in a statement today, `but for thousands of inmates, it came too late.”

The eight winning commuted sentences have served more than 15 years in prison, he noted.

`Commuting the sentences of these eight Americans is an important step toward restoring fundamental ideals of justice and fairness,” the president wrote. “But it must not be the last.  In the new year, lawmakers should act on the kinds of bipartisan sentencing reform measures already working their way through Congress. ”

Prior to today, the 22 presidential pardons and one commutation of sentence issued by Obama after four years in office amounted to the fewest granted by any full-term president since George Washington, by the count of P.S. Ruckman Jr., an instructor at Northern Illinois University, and an expers on the practice of executive clemency.

The followers of the writer O. Henry, long dead, are still waiting for a pardon for bank embezzlement in 1896.

The Justice Department isn’t big on posthumous clemency.

The 21 granted relief today don’t have to worry about that.


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