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  In Final Act, Clinton Issues Pardons

By John Solomon
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001; 4:25 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON –– President Clinton ended his tenure Saturday by pardoning 140 Americans, erasing the criminal records of his brother Roger, Whitewater business partner Susan McDougal and 1970s kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst in a mix of personal and historical acts of clemency.

The orders Clinton signed two hours before leaving office also spared one man from execution and cleared the cloud of scandal from two former Cabinet confidants – ex-CIA director John Deutch and ex-housing chief Henry Cisneros.

Deutch had been discussing a possible plea deal with Justice Department prosecutors to settle allegations he mishandled classified government information when the pardon muted his case.

He was not alone. Former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington also received a pardon that effectively ends prosecutors efforts to restore criminal charges against him.

"I'm humbled and gratified," said Symington, a Republican convicted in 1997 on six of counts of bank and wire fraud who later overturned the charges on appeal.

The list, which included 36 commutations, also was notable for those it did not include:

Webster Hubbell, a former law partner of Hillary Rodham Clinton convicted in the Whitewater investigation, had not sought a pardon; Jonathan Pollard, a former Navy analyst imprisoned for spying for Israel; one-time Wall Street financier Michael Milken; former senator and Abscam figure Harrison Williams; and Leonard Peltier, convicted of killing two FBI agents on an Indian reservation in 1975.

He did, however, pardon fugitive commodities trader Marc Rich, who fled to Switzerland in the 1980s to escape federal charges of financial fraud, tax evasion and racketeering. The Swiss had refused to extradite him.

Clinton, himself spared from indictment in a deal Friday with prosecutors, also commuted the prison sentences of 35 people and the death sentence of an Alabama man.

The president spared David Ronald Chandler from being executed in an Alabama drug case in which questions have been raised about his federal conviction for ordering the murder of an associate-turned-informant. Chandler must remain in prison.

"God bless President Clinton," said Chandler's wife, Deborah. "We kept praying for him to get back to court."

Others who prison sentences were commuted included:

–former Navajo Nation leader Peter MacDonald, sent to prison in connection with a bloody riot in 1989.

–former Chicago area Rep. Melvin J. Reynolds, sent to prison for engaging in bank fraud and campaign violations and having sex with an underage campaign worker.

–Susan Rosenberg, a 1970s activist who was sentenced to 58 years in prison for her participation in the bungled 1981 Brink's armored car robbery that left two policemen and a guard dead in Rockland County, N.Y. In prison, Rosenberg has renounced all radical activity and been a model prisoner.

–Linda Sue Evans, 53, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for her part in a conspiracy to stage a bombing at the U.S. Capitol in 1983 to protest the U.S. invasion of Grenada, as well as for illegally buying firearms.

Clinton and his staff labored over the pardons – some intensely personal, others more traditional – for several hours in his final days. They settled on a list in the wee hours Saturday, but the president asked to sleep on it before signing the orders.

One of the final decisions left to be made concerned McDougal, the former business partner who went to prison rather than give testimony about the president sought by Whitewater prosecutors.

"I am so grateful," she said. "There are tears down my face right now, I don't think I stopped crying since I saw the announcement."

McDougal was convicted of fraud along with her ex-husband, the late failed savings and loan owner James McDougal, in a 1996 trial at which Clinton testified by videotape. She said she was anxious about her pardon request, wondering if the Clintons harbored any anger toward her.

"It might have been human nature to hold some anger toward me because the investigation had to do with business dealings my husband and I had with them," she said.

McDougal's pardon came just one day after the Whitewater investigation was closed down under a deal in which Clinton gave up his law license and admitted make false testimony under oath about Monica Lewinsky in return for prosecutors agreeing not to indict him.

A lesser known Whitewater figure, Stephen A. Smith, also was pardoned. Smith, a former aide to Clinton when he was Arkansas governor, had been convicted of a misdemeanor in 1995 in the Whitewater probe.

McDougal only served 3½ months of a two-year prison term for her four felony convictions before a federal judge released her because of a back problem.

But her freedom was short-lived. She defied a judge's order to answer Whitewater prosecutor's questions before a federal grand jury and was returned to jail for 18 months for civil contempt.

Roger Clinton, Bill Clinton's under-achieving half brother, was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty in 1985 to conspiring to distribute cocaine. He cooperated with authorities and testified against other drug defendants. He has since focused on an entertainment career.

Hearst grabbed headlines in the 1970s when, as a 19-year-old heiress, she was kidnapped by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army. She was later sent to prison for a bank holdup in San Francisco.

Her prison term was cut short by President Carter, but her convictions remained on record until Clinton's pardon.

MacDonald, 72, the ailing former Navajo leader, has been in a Fort Worth, Texas, medical prison since 1992. He was one of the famed Navajos used by the U.S. military during World War II to stump the Japanese by using their native tongue as a communications code.

He later rose to chairman of America's largest Native American tribe, but became ensnared in controversy and eventually was sentenced for his role in a Window Rock, Ariz., riot that killed two in 1989.

Deutch's pardon spared the one-time spy chief and top Pentagon official from deciding whether to enter a misdemeanor plea deal in connection with his mishandling of national secrets on a home computer.

Cisneros was Clinton's first housing secretary. He resigned in 1996 amid an investigation into allegations that he lied to the FBI about payments he made to a former mistress. In 1999, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

© Copyright 2001 The Associated Press

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