Human Rights

Bush's Bizarre Pardon List

A hip-hop artist and a former Detroit police sergeant are among 16 people to be pardoned or to have their prison sentences commuted by President Bush.

A Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist and a former Detroit police sergeant are among 16 individuals to be pardoned or to have their prison sentences commuted by President Bush.

The new round of White House pardons announced late last night are Mr. Bush's first since March, and come less than two months before the end of his presidency.

The beneficiaries' crimes include drugs conspiracy, tax evasion, poisoning bald eagles, dumping hazardous waste, bank embezzlement and theft of government property.

John Edward Forte, a Grammy Award-winning rapper, is arguably the best known of those pardoned. He was arrested at Newark International Airport in 2000 after being found with a briefcase containing $1.4m of cocaine and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Forte, who has always protested his innocence, co-wrote and produced two songs on The Score, the Fugees' Grammy-winning 1996 album and several singers, including Carly Simon, had joined a campaign for his pardon, claiming he was not given a fair-trial.

The singer, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, will be released after serving half of a 14 year sentence.

So far Mr. Bush has been sparing in granting clemency, handing out a total of 117 pardons and eight commutations during his two terms in office, including cutting the two-and-a-half year sentence of Scooter Libby, the former White House aide to Vice-President Dick Cheney.

He has turned down more than 8,000 pleas for pardon, and the number he has issued to date is less than half as many as either Presidents Clinton or Reagan.

More are however expected before he leaves the White House, and several high-profile individuals are hoping to benefit.

Most prominent in the U.S. are two politicians convicted of public corruption who are asking Bush to shorten their prison terms -- Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a former Republican Congressman for California who was jailed for eight years in 2005 after he pleaded guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes, and Edwin W. Edwards, the four-times Democratic Governor of Louisiana, who was sentenced to 10 years in 2001 for racketeering.

Michael Milken, a billionaire financier and philanthropist known as the junk bond king, who served two years in prison from 1989 after admitting securities fraud charges, is also hoping to clear his name.

Conrad Black, the disgraced British-Canadian media tycoon and former proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, who is serving six years in a Florida jail for fraud and obstructing justice, is also appealing for clemency.

Much speculation has dwelled on whether Mr. Bush might issue pre-emptive pardons to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists after the September 11 terror attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.

If Mr. Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.

At the same time, Mr. Obama's advisers say there is little if any chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled. Criminals seeking a pardon apply to the administration by filling in forms, and are vetted and interviewed by the FBI.

On the latest pardon list were:

John Edward Forte, jailed for 14 years for cocaine offences, will also be freed next month, after serving half his term.

Leslie Owen Collier of Charleston, Missouri, who pleaded guilty in 1995 to unlawfully killing three bald eagles after he improperly used pesticide in hamburger meat to kill coyotes, but ended up killing many other animals. Collier was convicted of unauthorized use of a pesticide and violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act in 1996

Milton Kirk Cordes of Rapid City, South Dakota, convicted of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits importation into the country of wildlife taken in violation of conservation laws

Richard Micheal Culpepper of Mahomet, Illinois, sentenced to five years' probation in 1988 for making false statements to the federal government

Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer of Fort Worth, Texas, convicted of concealing knowledge of her Dallas doctor father's involvement in medical insurance fraud. She was sentenced on New Year's Eve 1998 to four year's probation with 600 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine

Andrew Foster Harley of Falls Church, Virginia, convicted of wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine during a general court martial at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs

Obie Gene Helton of Rossville, Georgia, sentenced to two years' probation in April 1983 for unauthorised acquisition of food stamps

Carey C. Hice Sr. of Travelers Rest, South Carolina, convicted 12 years ago of income tax evasion and sentenced to 120 days of home confinement

Geneva Yvonne Hogg of Jacksonville, Florida, who was sentenced to five years' probation in 1980 for bank embezzlement

William Hoyle McCright Jr.
of Midland, Texas, a former executive vice president of First National Bank of Midland, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison in the 1980s for making false entries, books, reports or statements to a bank

Paul Julian McCurdyof Sulphur, Oklahoma, who was sentenced to five years' probation in 1988 of misapplication of $112,000 of bank funds

Robert Earl Mohon Jr.of Grant, Alabama, jailed for three years in 1987 for conspiracy to distribute marijuana

Ronald Alan Mohrhoff of Los Angeles, jailed for one year in 1984 for unlawful use of a telephone in relation to a drugs offence

Daniel Figh Pue III, a former production superintendant from Conroe Creosoting in Conroe, Texas, convicted of of illegally transporting and dumping more than 1,500 gallons of hazardous creosote sludge in a ditch

Orion Lynn Vick of White Hall, Arkansas, convicted of aiding and abetting the theft of government property.

Mr. Bush commuted the prison sentence of James Russell Harris of Detroit, Michigan, a former police sergeant who was jailed for 30 years in 1993 for bribery, money-laundering and escorting shipments of cocaine. Mr. Harris is said to have been co-operative with the government while in prison, and is now very ill.

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