Washington: Bush Rejected Pardons For Many, But Left Pollard Petition Alive

VosIzNeias.com - January 27, 2009

News Source: LA Times

Washington - President George W. Bush, on his last full day in office, formally struck down the petitions for clemency of some high-profile politicians and businessmen, including former lawmakers Randall "Duke" Cunningham, Edwin Edwards and Mario Biaggi and "junk bond" financier Michael Milken, the Justice Department said today.

The chief of the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers, confirmed the pardon rejections through a spokeswoman, in response to queries from The Times' Washington Bureau.

The Justice Department said Bush also denied petitions for clemency for two men who became highly polarizing symbols of their eras. One of them was John Walker Lindh, the young American serving 20 years in prison for aiding the Taliban in Afghanistan at a time when it was fighting U.S. military forces just after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Bush also denied one of the longest-standing petitions for clemency, for Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder of two FBI agents during a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. His application had been under consideration since 1993, current and former Justice Department officials said.

Such denials can be a serious setback for those intent on winning clemency. After a denial a petitioner must wait two years to reapply for a pardon and one year for a commutation of a prison sentence, although they can also circumvent the Justice Department and appeal directly to the White House whenever they want. In some cases, a presidential denial can be a setback in other ways as well, and make it harder politically for the next administration to approve it, according to several current and former administration officials involved in the pardon process.

Bush, who has not spoken publicly about denying the pardons, did not make formal rulings on some other well-known figures, leaving their petitions alive. That long list includes former Illinois Gov. George Ryan; then-Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; Jonathan Pollard, a U.S. Navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel; media mogul Conrad Black; and telecommunications executives Bernard Ebbers and John Rigas.

Bush also denied clemency last Dec. 23 for Justin Volpe, the New York City police officer convicted of sodomizing Haiti immigrant Abner Louima with a broomstick, Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said today.

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  • See Also: Bush Rejected Flurry of Requests for Clemency: Washington Post