Begging Your Pardon, President Obama!

White House turns back on clemency, including reduced sentences

For the past three years, a 75-year-old former banker from Miami named Peter Stanham has been marooned in an overcrowded, often violent federal immigration jail in Big Spring, Texas. He sleeps on a bottom bunk in a room with 16 other detainees.

In 2006, Stanham was convicted in connection with a bank-fraud case in Florida and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Because he wasn't a U.S. citizen, though he had lived here for 30 years, authorities sent him to the immigration system, rather than the minimum-security prison typically associated with white-collar criminals.

For five years, his family has been asking presidents Bush and Obama and the Justice Department for his release, so he can be deported to his native Uruguay to live out the rest of his days.

Even the judge who sentenced Stanham is on his side, and the prosecutor doesn't oppose it. Despite favorable letters from them and more than 400 people, including four former presidents of Uruguay, the Obama administration has neither ruled for nor against his petition—even as Stanham gets older and more frail.

"We don't say he's been wrongfully accused, but he's really being punished more than anyone wanted him to be punished," says Stanham's 43-year-old son, Nicholas, a Miami-based real estate lawyer. "He's still going to be deported, and that's still a punishment. He probably won't be able to come back here, a country he loves. Where he has six children and 14 grandchildren. That's the idea: Commute it, so he can be deported."

Drayton Curry is in even more danger of running out of time. At 92, he is the nation's oldest federal prisoner. In 1991, he was convicted in North Carolina of involvement in a drug-trafficking conspiracy. It was a nonviolent crime, but he was sentenced to life in prison under the nation's "three-strikes" laws, even though he had never been accused of committing any violent acts. (He had been convicted twice previously in connection with drug conspiracies, although the second of those convictions, in New York, was essentially for agreeing to pay someone's phone bill.)

Despite his age, his poor health, his good works in prison, and the fact that he has already served nearly 20 years, Curry cannot even get Barack Obama's pardon office, run by Bush holdover Ronald Rodgers, to rule on his petition.

The Stanham and Curry cases are only two of thousands of clemency applications pending before the U.S. Department of Justice, and they illustrate a troubling aspect of Obama's presidency: his resistance to using his power to grant pardons and reduce prison sentences. One could argue that, in this instance, Barack Obama has been less merciful than George W. Bush, who as Texas governor presided over more executions than any other governor in U.S. history.

Many people who are languishing in prison and pleading for pardons or commutations of sentences might not be the ideal sympathetic "victims" of the justice system who can garner public support. But the justice system does allow for pardons and commutations, and presidents have historically granted requests for clemency from thousands of people—not just people like financier Marc Rich, who had fled to Switzerland to escape prosecution. After high-powered lobbying and campaign contributions, Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton at the end of his presidency; that and several other pardons and clemencies became highly controversial.

The Obama administration has been more than skittish. Obama took nearly two years to issue his first pardon and has granted a total of only 17—nearly all for old, relatively minor convictions—and either rejected or ignored every single clemency petition that has been filed. Last May, with one stroke, he denied some 2,000 clemency petitions without explanation. Is it really possible there wasn't one valid clemency petition out of 2,000? Could it be because the backlog was so big, it was becoming an embarrassment?

Some former Justice Department officials charge that a serious review of these petitions doesn't even really take place anymore—a criticism supported by a recent Justice Department Inspector General's probe.

Ten of Obama's 17 pardons involved crimes that took place prior to 1990, including a 1960 conviction of a moonshiner, a 1963 conviction for "mutilation of coins," a 1972 case involving a guy who stole plywood and nails from a construction site on a military base, and a 1985 conviction for the possession of alligator hides. Another, from 1991, involved stealing cable-TV signals. And yet another: conspiracy for trading away a firearm without paying the transfer tax.

Although there must be much more compelling cases, most of Obama's pardons (the power is written into the U.S. Constitution) don't seem to be great examples of a leader finally dispensing justice to the wronged or rehabilitated.

In fact, Obama is about to set a modern record for going the longest of any president without commuting a sentence, says P.S. Ruckman, Jr., editor of the Pardon Power blog and a political science professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, Illinois.

Meanwhile, several governors are actively using the power—and for high-profile cases. For example, Ohio governor John Kasich, a conservative Republican who formerly hosted a Fox News show, recently commuted the death sentence of a man who murdered a 72-year-old woman, citing the man's "brutally abusive upbringing." Prior to that, Kasich commuted the sentence of another death-row inmate.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
19 comments
MrsJC
MrsJC

In a country where people are always waving a cross because Religion rules where does compassion come into the picture?

What Would Jesus Do" I believe the answer is to seek  justice.So where are all the cross bearing citizens? This is an obvious injustice. Didn't anyone learn in church to care for others? Shame on any one who considers them self to be a moral and religious person and turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Those who have the ability to take action and help do nothing  can spend eternity wondering why they have been forsaken. We are supposed to be our brother's keeper.

 

Did Jesus not say:   

‘I assure you that whatever you failed to do to the humblest of my brothers you failed to do to me.’

Paul Rusin
Paul Rusin

Rwjohnson40: The Obama Justice Dept., also failed to prosecute the New Black Panthers for intimidation at the polls in Philadelphia; tried to prosecute terrorists (enemy combatants) in U.S. courts, instead of in military courts where they belonged; put together a failed 'Fast & Furious' gun running scheme to track illegal weapons in a foreign country w/o that countries permission, caused the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of Mexican citizens, and the deaths of at least one U.S. border patrol agent. He's doing a bang up job.

Rwjohnson40
Rwjohnson40

The justice department under Obama and Holder will be remembered in history as one of the worst! They have failed to prosecute Bush-Cheney war crimes. They are going to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in California. They supported the extension of the Patriot Act with all the privacy invasions you can imagine. Holder makes Alberto Gonzales look like Louis Brandis!

Winemaster2
Winemaster2

The US Justice department suck to high heavens and the people employed there are just patronage hacks doing bidding of the system that is rotten to the core. That is precisely this nation is stacked high with ever growing prison population and the taxpayers burdened with his unholy and down right idiocy. Let alone this business of clemency and pardons which may not be front burner issue, the DOJ is uncaring, negligent and down right abusive when it come to the proliferation of use, abuse, exploitation of these intelligence agencies, their outsourced cohorts all the way down from the CIA, FBI, any and all military intelligence, NSA etc who are with coercion and conservative republican instigators in the first place do absolutely nothing to stop harassing innocent US citizens. Obama administration does not even know or just does not care to find out what is really going on.

His initial mistake is to keep all the conservative republican Bushee and others including a slew of them in the DOJ, FBI Directors himself his subs, even Bill Gates the Bush DOD Secretary etc. Then he assembled himself with Clinton hog wash advisers relating to the economy , the banking fiasco, the siege mentality that this nation is saddled with, plus this big white elephant of the home land security. The whole national security entourage is gun ho conservative, with mind set that the rest of the world is US enemy. This this ideology goes back to Reagan conservative revolution and was triply reinforced when Bush/ Cheney took over with Karl Rove in the WH, Condi Rice as National Security Adviser, Rumsfeld at DOD and these conservative republicans for 8 years engaging in the secret govt of executive privilege with aiding, abetting of the conservative republican dominated US Supreme court that condoned all the Bush / Cheney hog wash that led this nation to be economic terror siege, ideologically divided, polarized and on a fast track of self destruction from within.

Obama is stuck with priorities that he cannot fix or resolve because the US Congress in which over 85% of the people has no confidence and the Judicial Branch of the Govt is equally malfeasance, derelict, abusive and corrupt. Jurisprudence in this nation is a business and the connected good old boys fix everything as per what they consider is right. Guilt or innocence is totally irrelevant..

Let us assume that what is presented in this article is absolutely correct. Nevertheless this system is not working because the Judicial Branch is far more wacko, dysfunctional, and passing the buck. These Judges at all levels, except for a handful, are all inefficient, negligent, control freaks, exercising abuse, and power. The prosecutors vicious dogs, that lie, cheat to score convictions to enhance their careers.

If the DOJ is bogged down and the Executive out of the loops in these cases, where clemency and pardons petitions are not handled, there is an alternative. In 100% of the cases after judgement is dished out the trial judges, who are aware of the circumstance, conditions, health status, age etc have the authority to change things and retain jurisdictions. All that needs to be done is that the attorneys for the defendants file modification of sentences considering mitigating and extra ordinary circumstances. The trial Judges and their colleagues in the Courts where the initial trials took place can review the sentences considering the mitigating factors, conditions, age, medical status and all. Why put the onus on to the Executive and the DOJ for some other hack to waste the taxpayers money and just expand the mess for the executive level politicians to complicate the existing mess.

These trial judges, their cohorts and thousands of them with their senior status can start reviewing this mess and start releasing and or modifying the sentences.

Nevertheless just at the US Supreme Court that only works 9 months a year, the rest of these high and mighty judges are even worst when it come to some compassion, doing the right thing and help this moribund nation that is bogged down in the sewer of its own creation.

Alva
Alva

LIVE A LAWFUL LIFE W/O COMMITTING CRIMES AND THIS BEGGING FOR MERCY WOULD NOT BE NECESSARY. PEOPLE WHO WERE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND SHOULD HAVE CONSIDERED THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR CRIMINAL, NONE LOGICAL, ACTIONS PRIOR TO. WE ALL COMMIT LAW VIOLATIONS BUT THESE PEOPLE WENT THE EXTRA STEP ... PUTTING THEM AND THEIR LOVED ONES IN JEOPARDY. JUST THINK!

BlackHeywood
BlackHeywood

To some people life in prison means just that. I happen to agree.

MikeL
MikeL

It's as simple as this..... Do the crime! Do the time!

jpaint
jpaint

Maybe the judicial system should take responsibility for its own actions!!! Village Voice, can you please write an article worth reading! And maybe next time, ask Obama what's going on instead of writing such distracting bullshit.

MaryYoung15
MaryYoung15

....my sisters friend makes $50 an hour on the computer. She has been out of job for 9 months but last month her cheque was $6200 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read about it here CashMany.com

Sakara
Sakara

never ending liberals cry baby stories about how illegal aliens who do crimes shouldn't be locked up in jail but sent home to their native scumbag countries to live the high life.

Sirreene
Sirreene

Sakara - did you even READ the article? The man is not an illegal alien. He has a green card. You would rather pay for his incarceration with your tax dollars? I would rather he be sent home to the country of this birth.

jpaint
jpaint

you're an idiot.

SAKARA
SAKARA

and i guess i gotta go to your level and say; SO ARE YOU!

Linda
Linda

Tomorrow brings another birthday for me. Another birthday spent without the only living parent I have to spend the day with. Next month the President will actually pardon something and it will be a Thanksgiving turkey while my family along with the Curry & Stanton family and over 1,000 other families await a decision from the Pardon Attorney's office. Unfortunately not all of us have all the time in the world to wait for this decision. Linda Daughter of 83 year old inmate Benjamin Shareawaiting a decision since October 2010

TioDon
TioDon

Waaaaaaa, I don't care.

James Hodges
James Hodges

The turkey deserves a pardon… it didn’t do anything… If you can’t do the time… don’t do the crime…! “Not all of us have all the time in the world to wait for this decision...?” I beg to differ they have all the time that’s left on their sentence…!

 
Loading...