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Why Executive Clemency Has a Foul Aroma

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The frequency of executive clemency in this and the previous Administration is far short of the historical norm.  I suspect this is soon to change; DOJ has all but begged its numerous friends (and future law partners) in the defense bar to "suggest" good candidates for pardons or commutations. 

Many, including me, believe that the recent reluctance to use clemency stems in part from its scandalous misuse by Bill Clinton on his way out the door on January 20, 2001. Probably the most famous of these episodes was the pardon granted fugitive billionaire Marc Rich  --  a pardon facilitated by then-Deputy AG Eric Holder, through a series of (at the time) undisclosed calls to White House Counsel's Office, calls that intentionally circumvented normal DOJ procedures. Another was for the President's half-brother, Roger Clinton, a drug dealer who had finished his prison sentence.  Yet a third was for Susan McDougal, who stonewalled the grand jury investigating the Whitewater scandal and had served 18 months for criminal contempt.

Given that illustrious lineup, people generally do not remember the pardon given Mel Reynolds, a Democratic Congressman from Chicago (where else?), who had been convicted of an odd combination of bank fraud, sexual assault, obstruction of justice and solicitation of child pornography. (Mr. Reynolds' seat was filled by that relative choirboy, Jesse Jackson, Jr., who merely swindled his campaign for three-quarters of a million dollars).

If you were wondering why reluctance to grant clemency lingers, here's a clue:  Mel is back in the news.
The Associated Press has the story, which begins:

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- Just over a year ago, former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds tried to shed past disgrace with a potent campaign slogan: "Redemption."

It didn't work then and now Reynolds, once a rising star in the Democratic Party whose career collapsed when he was convicted of rape two decades ago, is under arrest again, this time for allegedly possessing pornography and violating immigration laws in Zimbabwe.

Reynolds, who had won some prominence in Zimbabwe for helping draw investment to hotel and office projects, was being held in custody and was expected to appear in court soon, immigration official Ario Mabika said Tuesday.

The ex-politician, who lost his seat in Congress almost two decades ago because of the statutory rape conviction, was arrested Monday by police and immigration officials at a Harare hotel, according to the state-controlled newspaper, The Herald. He allegedly brought several Zimbabwean models and other women to his hotel room where he took photographs and videos.


What's the takeaway?  More, I think, than merely that executive clemency can be used for the crassest political and even personal reasons.  It's that it can be used for people who never stopped being criminals.  This is something we need to bear in mind when we hear the (alternately) whining and snarling demand that people should be "given a second chance."

The next question should always be, "A second chance to do what?"



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| “It's that it can be used for people who never stopped being criminals.” |

 Which is why parole/clemency for murderers should not be countenanced,
the stakes being of the highest calibre.
~Adamakis

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