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America's Political Prisoner

I wrote earlier about how the Administration's on-the-fly (and false) explanation of the Benghazi murders led to the imprisonment  --  on a "parole violation"  -- of Nakoula Nakoula.  Mr. Nakoula had the misfortune of having produced the snarky Internet video, the "Innocence of Muslims," that got dragooned as the State Department's excuse for the attack on our embassy.  The video whipped up a spontaneous mob, so the tale would be told.

Only it was a classic Inside-the-Beltway cover story.  There never was a spontaneous mob.  There was a planned terror attack, one the embassy was ill-equipped to repel because the State Department for months had been turning a deaf ear to requests for more security.

That would have made a really, really bad story for an Administration that's been telling us al Qaeda is on the run, and an even worse story for the head of the bungling, distracted State Department, a lady rumored to have political ambitions.

What to do?  What else  --  create a fall guy!!!  And who better than a shady swindler with a funny name like "Nakoula Nakoula."  Put it on him and take him off to the slammer.

The only real problem is that America, up to now, doesn't have much of a tradition of taking political prisoners.
Fast forward to today.  We have to ask ourselves (1) what's the right thing to do toward Nakoula now, and (2) whether there's much chance the right thing is going to get done.  Paul Mirengoff has the story at Powerline, titled, "Grant Clemency to the Benghazi Scapegoat."  As Paul notes:

Now that Benghazigate is back on the front burner and Obama's "the video is to blame" narrative has been even more thoroughly discredited, it's time to grant clemency to Nakoula Nakoula, the guy who produced the video in question. After all, the White House plans to grant clemency to hundreds, or more likely thousands, of drug pushers. Why not do the same for the Benghazi fall guy?

There are distinctions, to be sure, between Nakoula and those in prison for facilitating the death-dealing heroin trade, First, Nakoula (now released to the custody of a Pastor) was a political prisoner. As Bill Otis points out, although Nakoula committed a low level parole violation, he was jailed because Team Obama needed a scapegoat for Benghazi -- someone who could take the fall, under false pretenses, for the Obama administration failures that led to the deadly attack.

Drug dealers, by contrast, are not political prisoners except under a radical left-wing narrative to which Obama has never publicly subscribed.

Second, Nakoula's video hurt some feelings, but never actually harmed anyone. This cannot be said of the heroin pushers whom Obama and Holder are so anxious to release.

But this distinction doesn't help Nakoula. These days, hurting the wrong peoples' feelings (in this case Muslims) is a huge offense.

Still, Bill Otis is right:

Putting people in the slammer because of the political needs of those in power is odious to American justice. It's the stuff of banana republics -- banana republics and tyrannies.

Nakoula's wrongful jailing cannot be undone, but the wrong can be addressed through clemency. Unfortunately for Nakoula, granting clemency would signal complete abandonment by the Obama administration of its false narrative that caused his imprisonment in the first place. That's not the stuff of banana republics, and it won't happen here.

It seems to me that the case for a pardoning Nakoula is strong.  Nakoula was con-artist, but was not engaged in violent or drug-related offenses.  He has finished the prison part of his sentence.  There is no evidence known to me that he has recidivated.  And mostly, of course, he was grievously wronged by those in power  -- nationally tarred and feathered and put on display as the man responsible for the gruesome murders of four American patriots.  He was then taken off to prison on what amounts to a pretext.

If our leaders had the conscience we should expect in them, President Obama would grant a pardon at the strong urging of Secretary Clinton.

Ladies and gentlemen, don't hold your breath.


Per the DOJ recidivism report you cited in an earlier post, 27.8% of those convicted of a public order offense are rearrested within 6 months. This increases to 77.9% over five years.

Since Mr. Nakoula has been out for a little over six months, so can be expected to have a 50.1% chance of being rearrested for another crime in the next 4.5 years. Pardoning him would just reduce his next prison sentence by removing a probation violation from the list of charges. And as you have repeatedly argued on this blog, short sentences make Americans less safe by putting more criminals on the streets.

Clemency for no one, politics notwithstanding, would seem more consistent with your anti-recidivism and incapacitation arguments.

As I was saying in one of my earlier posts, the system has no choice but to balance the risks of punishing the wrong man or punishing him too harshly, with the risks of making it so hard to convict and so easy to get a nothingburger sentence that the crime rate will spike, damaging innocent crime victims.

That insight is one I apply to my theory of executive clemency. I would not have a mass clemency, like the one Obama and Holder are planning, because that derogates the legislature's right to decide what should be illegal and what the minimum sentences should be. On the other hand, no clemency at all derogates the Framers' recognition that there my be the occasional, very unusual case in which the system has produced an obvious and grievously harsh result.

The Nakoula case is one such. Nakoula, in truth and in fact, had no role whatever in the four murders at Benghazi, but was called out belligerently, loudly and public by the very top leaders of the nation as the man responsible. They did this again and again on the most visible platforms they could find. And it was not only false; it was unworthy. They were doing it to provide political cover for their own lack of competence and preparedness.

Under those extremely unusual, if not unique, circumstances, Nakoula, swindler that his is, should be given clemency by the Administration that unfairly and falsely tarred him as, if effect, a mass murderer.

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