Begging Your Pardon, President Obama!

White House turns back on clemency, including reduced sentences

The former justice official cited earlier, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, says Obama should appoint his own pardon attorney (Rodgers is a Bush appointee) and place him under control of the White House Counsel, rather than the Justice Department.

In any case, the current system is doubly difficult bureaucratically. The White House is actually re-reviewing the recommendations, which adds yet another layer of scrutiny to the process and further winnows the field.

Adding evidence to this official's comments is the recent report issued by the Justice Department's Inspector General. The report charitably points out that the Pardon Attorney's Office "utilized a reasonable approach" to investigating the merits of these requests and is "processing" petitions faster. But the meat of the document is actually a fairly tough criticism of that office's work during the current administration.

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Holder: burned in Clinton-era pardons scandal
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
Holder: burned in Clinton-era pardons scandal

One of the pardons granted by Obama does seem to fit with the goals of the program: that of Allen Peratt, a former drug addict and methamphetamine trafficker who found God in prison and became a minister. Peratt set up a church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and spent the past 20 years ministering to convicts and other people living on the margins of society.

But by the numbers, at least, Obama's quality of mercy in this sphere is rock-bottom. Over the past 100 years, 22 percent of clemency petitions were granted. Between 2005 and 2010, that number dropped to 3 percent. In the period solely under Obama, who has been in office since January 2009, the number is zero.

Meanwhile, the backlog has only blossomed, doubling in six years. The IG report says that, as the number of petitions increased, the president "did not make any decisions on clemency, either up or down, for his first two years in office."

Meanwhile, half of that backlog was stuck in the White House for an average of almost 10 months. So Obama simply wasn't acting on the requests. Moreover, the FBI, U.S. Attorneys' Offices, and other federal law-enforcement agencies weren't responding quickly to the pardon attorney's requests for paperwork. In one case, an agency didn't respond for 16 months.

"We found that on average it took almost two years to process clemency petitions from the receipt to the president's final decision, which may have contributed to the growing backlog," the report says.

The report also indicates that Rodgers himself handles all of the commutation petitions. "Presently, the Pardon Attorney processes all commutation petitions with the assistance of two OPA support staff members, rather than assigning the commutations to OPA attorneys," the report says.

Love, one of Rodgers's predecessors, says: "It's hard to see how one lawyer could possibly have investigated and prepared a meaningful report on the over 3,000 petitions that have been denied by Obama and another 1,000 apparently awaiting action. This report is very revealing. It documents the destruction of the apparatus."

Whether by political consideration or internal politics, people like Peter Stanham and Benjamin Share are languishing in this clemency purgatory created by the Obama administration. And they're not even receiving either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Share was convicted six years ago in connection with a scheme to bribe an official to obtain a government contract for a Navy base in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Share was 76 years old at the time and was owner and operator of Vector Systems Inc., a Pennsylvania defense contractor. Before that, he had been chief legal counsel for the Navy base. He was sentenced to serve 10 years, with a release date in 2015. Now 83 and in worsening health, Share is housed in the Minersville, Pennsylvania, minimum-security federal prison.

For the past year, his daughter, Linda Share, has been waiting for an answer to her clemency appeal from the White House and the Justice Department. She has heard only silence.

Once her own daughter graduated from high school, Linda Share sold her home and relocated to her father's house, so she could be closer to him and conduct what has become a full-time campaign to win his release. She wants her father to be allowed to go home and serve out the rest of his sentence under house arrest, under which he would get better medical care than he would in prison.

In a letter to Obama's pardon attorney, Linda Share writes that her father feels profound remorse for his conviction. "His age and health, coupled with the time he has left to serve, make it highly unlikely that he will live to serve out his sentence," she wrote. "So he comes before you now a different and broken old man . . . His sentence is truly a death sentence . . . I am seeking your compassion as one who hopes you can understand the depth of love a daughter has for her ailing yet imperfect father."

In addition to more than a dozen of letters of support filed with the pardon attorney's office on behalf of Benjamin Share, the judge who sentenced him to prison has also written that she backs the home-confinement request. Moreover, the case prosecutor provided a letter saying he "neither supports nor opposes" home confinement.

Despite that, there has been no sign of any action one way or the other. "I moved with the hopes that I could care for him if he was placed in home confinement," Linda Share says. "I'm not asking for his sentence to be changed, but I believe he's served enough time in prison at this point. So far, we haven't heard anything."

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