Bush Stingy With Pardons So Far

By: Gerri L. Elder

As President Bush’s second term comes to a close, there is speculation about who will receive pardons before his final day in the White House. Many defendants in high profile criminal cases seek clemency, but so far Bush has granted relatively few pardons in comparison to former presidents.

The New York Times reported that Bush granted 14 pardons and commuted two prison sentences on November 24; however, none of the big names frequently spoken about lately made the list.

Recipients of Bush’s graces were mostly people who had been convicted of crimes such as tax evasion, unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, drug offenses and bank embezzlement.

Leslie O. Collier was one of those issued a pardon by Bush. Collier was convicted in 1996 for the unauthorized use of a pesticide that killed bald eagles.

John E. Forté, a hip-hop artist and backup singer to Carly Simon, also received help from Bush and had the remainder of his 14-year prison sentence commuted. Forté was arrested in 2001 at Newark International Airport and later convicted of aiding and abetting in the distribution of cocaine.

Pardons did not come for many others who had submitted clemency requests to Bush. The President has yet to pardon Michael Milken, Marion Jones, Randy Cunningham, Edwin W. Edwards, Theodore B. Olson or John Walker Lindh.

There have been whispers that Bush might issue blanket pardons to government officials and intelligence officers who have played a role in counterterrorism programs in order to protect them from future criminal prosecution; however, those pardons have not been issued.

More pardons still could come before Bush turns off the light on his way out of the Oval Office for the final time. Former President Bill Clinton issued some controversial pardons, including one to his brother, on his last day in office.

So far Bush has been stingy with pardons. He has issued a total of 171 pardons and commuted 8 sentences so far, which is less than half of the amount of clemency requests granted by former presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. That’s not to say that he has never created a controversy by way of a pardon.

In 2007, Bush raised eyebrows when he commuted the sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr. Libby was a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.

After the most recent round of pardons, the White House and Justice Department issued no statement to explain how the 16 people who received clemency were selected out of the more than 2,000 pending petitions. White House spokesman Carlton Carroll said that the president will continue to carefully review petitions for clemency and decide each one on a case by case basis.