April 21, 2006
Presidential Pardons to White Collar Offenders
President Bush announced the pardon of eleven individuals who were convicted of a variety of offenses, and as usual a substantial number of them fall into the white collar crime category (see U.S. Newswire story here). That is not a surprise because those convicted of such offenses are normally non-violent, which makes them more appealing for a pardon, and some may have political or social connections that can be used to assist in the pardoning process. Moreover, they (or their families) are probably more likely to be able to afford to retain counsel to assist in their applications.
Three involved tax offenses, and a fourth was convicted of a tax crime along with mail fraud. It is interesting that the pardons for those offenses would come so close to the annual tax filing day, amid a crackdown by the IRS and DOJ on tax evasion schemes. One pardon recipient was convicted of misprision of a felony based on assisting her then-boyfriend in covering up evidence related to his false statements relating to gun purchases, so I will count that one as a white collar crime. Other offenses include false statements (Sec. 1001) and conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The defendant who received the greatest punishment was Mark Hale, sentenced to three years for his role in a bank fraud involving the savings and loan at which he was CEO. Back in the early 1990s, the so-called "S&L Crooks" were the functional equivalent of Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers, and the like -- CEOs and senior managers accused of serious misconduct that had a substantial deleterious effect on the economy. At that time, a three year prison term (from the Bureau of Prison records it appears he served no more than two years) was a substantial punishment, although of course no where near the sentences handed out to Ebbers, John Rigas, and others. Hale, who is from Henderson, Texas, cannot be descirbed as a minor participant in the offense (see U.S. v. Wilder, 15 F.3d 1292 (5th Cir. 1994)).
To this point, President Bush has issued only 82 pardons, far fewer than any of his predecessors since 1945, including his father, who issued the next-lowest number, 296, and that in only a single term as President (See Office of the Pardon Attorney statistics here). Margaret Colgate Love, who served as the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice before entering private practice, has an analysis of the President's rather parsimonious exercise of the pardon power that is available on Doug Berman's Sentencing Law & Policy blog (here). (ph)
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I could be misreading the tables at the Pardon Attorney's website, but it looks like 296 was the number of petitions "closed without presidential action" under George H.W. Bush. His total granted petitions amounted to only 74 pardons and 3 commutations.
Posted by: JB | Apr 21, 2006 7:42:28 PM