Pollard Seeks Place on Bill's Xmas List
Rachel Donadio - The Forward (NY) - December 15, 2000
As the sun sets on the Clinton administration, Jewish leaders and advocates for Jonathan Pollard are urgently calling on the president to add the convicted spy to his list of "Christmas pardons" and grant him clemency.
In the past 10 days, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Pollard himself, and his lawyers have written letters asking President Clinton to grant Pollard clemency on humanitarian grounds. Pollard, a former Navy analyst has just completed his fifteenth year of a life sentence for spying for Israel.
While many observers say that Pollard's chances of pardon are slim, others say that a series of recent legal developments in the case might prove more promising. Both the Conference of Presidents and the former spy's attorneys are asking the president to examine evidence of potential government misconduct. They note that Pollard's previous lawyer did not appeal the life sentence, thereby denying Pollard an evidentiary hearing.
"He's considering it for others, I hope he will certainly consider it for Pollard," the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, Malcolm Hoenlien said about Mr. Clinton and clemency.
The president is said to be considering granting clemency to three people implicated in the Whitewater case, as well as Michael Milken, the former Wall Street financier convicted of securities fraud, and Native American activist Leonard Peltier, convicted in 1977 of murdering two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"A lot of questions have been raised that have added to the readiness of people to say "it's time to let him go", Mr. Hoenlein said. "If the president would grant him clemency, it would save him from a long legal battle."
In September, Pollard's new lawyers, Eliot Lauer and Jacques Semmelman, both seasoned criminal attorneys who signed onto the case in April, filed two separate motions with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. One asked that Mr. Lauer get access to the secret documents that resulted in Pollard's conviction. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union wrote an amicus brief in support of that motion.
The other motion asked the court to vacate Pollard's sentence on the grounds that his previous lawyer, Richard Hibey, had failed to respond adequately to a highly controversial secret document, the so-called Weinberger memo, which was issued by then-Secretary of State Caspar Weinberger the day before Pollard's sentencing.
When the memo emerged, Mr. Hibey did not seek an adjournment, which the court would have been compelled to grant and which would have allowed Pollard time to respond to the charges in the memo, his new lawyers contend. Nor did Mr. Hibey seek an evidentiary hearing concerning the material in the document or object to the memo as a breach of the plea bargain that Pollard had made.
Last month, the government responded to the second motion, saying that it did not have to address the issues of the plea bargain violations or the lack of an original appeal because the statute of limitations for such objections had expired. Messrs. Lauer and Semmelman said they would be filing their objections shortly.
Pollard's lawyers say he was given a stiffer sentence than that handed to most people convicted of spying for allies of the United States. Along with their December 11 letter to Mr. Clinton, they include a comparative chart of 14 other cases. "None of the sentences come close to the life sentence imposed on Pollard," they wrote.
Esther Pollard, the spy's second wife and a full-time advocate for his cause, said she was feeling "tremendous confidence" about the recent developments. "Confidence not only in the justice of our cause, but in its ultimate success - his release," Mrs. Pollard said. "I want him home yesterday, and the only one who can do that is the president," she added.
Mrs. Pollard said that her husband, whom she visits once a month in a federal prison in Butner, N.C., was suffering from numerous ailments resulting from his time in prison, including chronic arthritis, and [unbiopsied] growths in his sinuses, and that he was being denied proper medical attention.
Yet many in the security community have vehemently opposed Mr. Clinton's granting Pollard clemency. "I think it would send a message that we are no longer enforcing the law according to what the sentencing requirements are," said Norman Polmar, a defense analyst and author. "Mr. Clinton would also have an issue that the head of the CIA, George Tenet, said that he would resign if he's given clemency."
Mr. Tenet's reported opposition to clemency for Pollard was said to have caused Mr. Clinton to back out of a promise to release the spy as part of a package agreement between the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the Wye Plantation in November 1998. The dispute over Pollard nearly caused the collapse of the painfully negotiated Wye Agreement.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Pollard has long maintained that Israel has not been supportive enough of her husband. "What is really sad is that Israel should be asking America, but they have completely excused themselves from any concern or initiative about Jonathan Pollard," Mrs. Pollard said.
Israel maintains that it has always pushed for a review of the case and every prime minister since Pollard's arrest in 1985 has supported his release.
Over the years, many elected officials - most of them either Jewish or with large Jewish constituencies - have called for Pollard's release, including Senator Schumer. Senator Lieberman, on the other hand, sides against granting him clemency. Others have questioned the due process issues in the Pollard case and called for the release of the Weinberger memo, most, recently Hillary Rodham Clinton, who did so in the course of her Senate campaign.
Yet none of these efforts has yielded results. "Jonathan's case has been exploited as a kind of political football," Mrs. Pollard said. "It creates a lot of publicity for politicians, but nothing for Jonathan."
Those who oppose Pollard's freedom argue that he never showed enough remorse for what he did. Instead, they say, he is even revered as a hero by some Jews. "Pollard could apply for a parole but then he'd have to apologize, and he will not admit he's sorry for what he did," Mr. Polmar said.
Yet Mrs. Pollard said that when he was eligible for parole in 1995, Pollard's lawyers advised him not to seek it because they believed his request would be denied and it would block his chances of being considered for clemency for 15 years.
In his letter to Mr. Clinton this week, Pollard said that he has always shown remorse. "I fully appreciate what I did was wrong. Grievously wrong," he wrote. "My intent was to help Israel, but I had no right to violate the laws of this country or the trust it had placed in me. I had no right to place myself above the law."