Persuaded, Adams recommended Critz for a pardon.
In 2005, Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey stayed up late one night to review pardon recommendations. He read Critz’s — and spiked it. “I am strongly opposed to this pardon,” Comey wrote in an e-mail to his chief of staff the next morning.
Comey was “troubled,” he wrote, by Critz’s “lack of candor about his prior convictions and his repeated driving offenses, as well as his illegal possession of a firearm. In short, he lied to the FBI during the pardon interview and lied to the Pardon Attorney on his application.”
Comey noted that Thompson, the Savannah prosecutor who wrote in support of Critz, resigned in 2004 after an internal Justice Department investigation determined he had misused his office to support a fellow Republican.
“A pardon is an act of grace, and so it was always important to me to see how the person conducted himself during the pardon application,” Comey said in a recent interview. “If you are going to pick a slice of life for them to be on their best behavior, this is it.”
Comey’s dissent could have been the end for Critz, but it proved only a temporary setback. Two months after Comey resigned from the department, Associate White House Counsel Brett Gerry was nudging Adams for more pardon candidates. Adams suggested Critz, who had not yet been formally denied.
In a memo to Comey’s successor, Paul McNulty, Adams vouched personally and in writing that the likelihood of Critz “ever committing another crime is almost nonexistent.” A copy of his positive recommendation for Critz was enclosed. Three months later, Critz’s pardon was official.
In an e-mail, Critz said he did “not wish to be interviewed or to answer any questions” for this story.
Adams said he does not remember the specifics of the Critz case, only that it was a “close call.”
“If Comey recommended no, he probably had a good reason for it,” Adams said. “On the other hand, Paul McNulty recommended for it, and he’s a man of goodwill as well.”
Adams said seeking a pardon to inherit property or win a franchise was a compelling reason.
“If the need is for licensing or business ownership or to obtain a franchise, that will help and the office will try to push [the case] further,” he said.
Adams also said an applicant’s honesty in the process was significant. “In some applications, unfortunately, the person is just not that honest about the extent of involvement in the offense or dishonest about other things,” he said. “Cases that showed dishonesty like that probably won’t go in the right direction.”