The presidential pardon process: Contrasting race with results

Denied: An unemployed African American man from the District who sought a pardon to improve his financial stability and better care for his son. He was recommended for denial because he lacked financial stability. The applicant was 19 at the time of his only conviction, for selling 15 grams of crack cocaine. The pardon office noted that he had a post-incarceration bankruptcy and that his son was born “out of wedlock.” Children born outside marriage to another black applicant were described as “illegitimate.”

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Pardoned: Seven white applicants with children from what the pardon office described as “previous” or “non-marital relationships.” At least three white applicants with bankruptcies, including one person who filed twice.

Denied: A Vietnam-era veteran of Asian descent who was convicted of stealing two videos, two candy bars and a newspaper. The $12 theft was a federal misdemeanor because it took place at a national park concession stand where his wife worked. The man was sentenced to a year of probation and paid a $500 fine. In his pardon application, the man expressed remorse for “a dishonorable act.” The pardons office noted that he had not taken full responsibility for the offense and had a bankruptcy.

Pardoned: Four white applicants who were ordered to pay at least $10,000 each in restitution to federally insured lenders for financial crimes. Three whites who paid more than $200,000 each in unpaid taxes, fines and interest to the Internal Revenue Service.

Denied: An African American man sentenced in New Jersey to two years’ probation for collecting $2,625 in unemployment benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board when he was employed. He had pleaded guilty, had no other convictions and expressed remorse, but the pardons office found that he acknowledged only “one of his three illegitimate children” and had not disclosed two prior arrests. He was denied for lack of candor and employment instability.

Pardoned: A white man from Illinois sentenced to five years’ probation for submitting false unemployment claims to the Railroad Retirement Board for $3,050 while working elsewhere. He has three children from three different marriages, two of which ended in divorce. For years he illegally possessed firearms to hunt, but the pardons office excused it because the state had erred in issuing him a firearm owner’s card.

Denied: An African American man convicted in 1961 at age 18 of breaking into a parked freight car with friends to steal beer. Years later, Illinois erroneously issued him a firearms card; he used and owned guns for years. In 1993, he was charged with reckless conduct with a firearm when he shot in the air in what he said was an attempt to scare off a suspected burglar. He did not disclose the incident to the pardons office and, as a result, was recommended for denial.

Pardoned: Four white applicants with prior arrests for underage drinking in addition to their pardoned crimes. At least four white men were pardoned who illegally owned or used guns. The most violent offender President George W. Bush pardoned was a white man sentenced to 12 years in prison for a 1963 armed robbery in Los Angeles. With a shotgun and pistols, he and two accomplices took nearly $20,000 from three female tellers. He sought a pardon, in part, to restore his right to use firearms.

 
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