Begging Your Pardon, President Obama!

White House turns back on clemency, including reduced sentences

A banker convicted of fraud might not win over the public's heart. But Peter Stanham makes what could be considered a strong case for sympathy.

Stanham moved to the United States in 1972 from Uruguay and settled in the Miami area. He and his wife raised six children there and now have 14 grandchildren. He worked his entire career in the U.S. for Bankest, a Florida-based company. In addition to his career, Stanham assisted hundreds if not thousands of Uruguayan visitors to the U.S. over many years—work that earned him honors from the Uruguayan government.

In 1998, Bankest founded a joint venture with Espirito Santo Bank, and that's where the fraud began. At the time, Stanham was on the board of directors, reporting to two brothers, Eduardo and Hector Orlansky. In the fraud, Bankest presented false invoices to the joint venture, which led ESB to increase its investment in the company. That money was used to finance several bad investments, which grew the debt to $150 million.

Stanham wasn't directly involved in the fraud, but he knew about it and failed to report it, according to his commutation petition. By the time he was indicted, he had retired and moved to Uruguay, but he agreed to return to the U.S. to face the charges. Five of his co-defendants—including the two main people behind the scheme—pleaded guilty, served their time, and have since been released. But Stanham elected to go to trial. In 2006, after a lengthy trial on charges of conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering, he was convicted.

The judge sentenced him to nine years in prison and ordered him along with his co-defendants to repay $164 million. That was actually a significant departure from the sentencing guidelines, which called for a 16- to 20-year sentence. The judge made a point of saying that the evidence showed "overwhelmingly" that Stanham was not involved in the actual fraud and never made a nickel from it. The judge went on to describe Stanham as a "very good man," who led an "exemplary life." A man of fairly modest means, Stanham couldn't hope to pay off his debt, but he did repay some of it.

Ironically, Stanham got a worse sentence than just about everyone but Hector and Eduardo Orlansky, the key figures in the scheme. Moreover, because of his status as a noncitizen (he had a green card but never obtained U.S. citizenship), Stanham couldn't be housed in a minimum-security camp, nor could he take advantage of other programs that would reduce his sentence.

And then it got even worse. He was initially housed at an immigration facility in Miami, where he could see his family. In April 2008, he was abruptly transferred 1,000 miles to a facility in Big Spring, Texas, that is run by a private contractor. The Bureau of Prisons has thus far refused to return Stanham to Miami, which forces his family to take two airplane flights and an hour's ride across Texas to arrive by 5 a.m. just to see him.

"He has spent over three and a half years in conditions more punitive and restrictive than any of his co-defendants, even including the masterminds of the fraud whose sentences are more than twice as long as his," his clemency petition argues. (In all, he has been incarcerated 62 months.)

Stanham was also diagnosed with prostate cancer and currently takes eight medications for various ailments. He has written of his "deep remorse" for his role in the fraud and noted that he got a nine-year sentence for a crime he didn't create, manage, or profit from.

As for supporters, Stanham has many. Writing in 2007, then Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez noted that under his country's laws, Stanham's age alone would have been enough to allow home confinement. "This long prison term seems a severe punishment for an elderly man with no prior criminal record, particularly in light of his many years of public service," Vázquez wrote. Luis Herrera, the Uruguayan president from 1990 to 1995, described Stanham as a "good and decent man."

Such letters might not mean much. But even the man who sentenced him, U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan, wrote to Obama's pardon attorney in 2008 to say that he supported a reduction of Stanham's sentence to three years, given his "lack of personal profit motive, health, age, conditions of confinement," and agreement to be deported.

Even the bank, which was the victim of the fraud, took no position either for or against Stanham's deportation.

In part as a result of the Stanham case, Uruguay in 2009 signed an international treaty that would have allowed his transfer to his home country, and then the Uruguayan government immediately made that request.

But the Justice Department rejected the transfer because Stanham still technically owed that $164 million restitution—again, an amount he could never hope to pay, an amount from which he didn't profit. And there it stands. Every month, Stanham's wife makes the long journey to Texas to see him, and son Nicholas follows every other month.

Peter Stanham's habit in prison is to write a letter a week, which he mails to his family. The letter is then retransmitted via e-mail to hundreds of his supporters. In return, he gets about 50 letters a week. "That system has helped him stay sane and in touch," Nicholas Stanham says.

The paralyzed process under Obama in which requests remain ignored does have one perverse advantage.

"Of course it's frustrating," says Nicholas Stanham, "but in some ways, I would rather have no answer than a negative answer."

grayman@villagevoice.com

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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.

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

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.

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…!

SAKARA
SAKARA

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

 
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