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Subject Bush Pardons 14, Commutes 2 Sentences
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Original Message Bush Pardons 14, Commutes 2 Sentences

(Nov. 25) - President George W. Bush's latest list of pardons does not include some high-profile criminals who still hope the president will grant them clemency in his final weeks in office.

On Monday, Bush granted pardons to 14 individuals and commuted the prison sentences of two others whose misdeeds included dealing drugs, evading taxes, killing bald eagles or mishandling hazardous waste.

The most recent batch, however, did not include any well-known convicts like junk bond dealer Michael Milken, who is seeking a pardon on securities fraud charges, or two politicians convicted of public corruption — former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., and four-term Democratic Louisiana Gov. Edwin W. Edwards — who want Bush to shorten their prison terms.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., noted that the list also did not include former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, who were convicted of shooting a drug smuggler and trying to cover it up. Ramos and Compean are each serving sentences of more than 10 years for shooting Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks while he was fleeing from an abandoned marijuana load in 2005.

"President Bush still has time to do the right thing and commute wrongly imprisoned Border Agents Ramos and Compean," Rohrabacher said. "The fact that the president has neglected to free these men from their imprisonment while freeing drug dealers, embezzlers and other criminals is insulting to the American people who have been begging and pleading for the president to release the agents."

Also unclear is whether Bush has any plans to give legal protection to government employees — in case they are ever charged — in connection with their role in harsh interrogators of terrorist suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Pre-emptive pardons would be highly controversial, but lawyers argue they would protect those who were following orders or otherwise trying to protect the nation.

Bush has been stingy about issuing pardons. Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as either President Clinton or President Reagan issued during their two terms in office.

On the latest pardon list were:

—Leslie Owen Collier of Charleston, Mo., who pleaded guilty in 1995 to unlawfully killing three bald eagles in southeast Missouri. He improperly used pesticide in hamburger meat to kill coyotes, but ended up killing many other animals, including the bald eagles. Collier, who was convicted for unauthorized use of a pesticide and violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, was sentenced Feb. 2, 1996, in the Eastern District of Missouri.

—Milton Kirk Cordes of Rapid City, S.D. Cordes was convicted of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits importation into the country of wildlife taken in violation of conservation laws.

—Richard Culpepper of Mahomet, Ill., who was convicted of making false statements to the federal government.

—Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer of Fort Worth, Texas, convicted of concealing knowledge of a crime. Dolenz-Helmer, the daughter of a Dallas doctor accused of medical insurance fraud, was convicted in connection with the doctor's case. She was sentenced Dec. 31, 1998, in the Northern District of Texas to four year's probation with the special condition of 600 hours of community service and a $10,000 fine.

—Andrew Foster Harley of Falls Church, Va. Harley was 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, Colo.

—Obie Gene Helton of Rossville, Ga., whose offense was unauthorized acquisition of food stamps.

—Carey C. Hice Sr. of Travelers Rest, S.C., who was convicted of income tax evasion.

—Geneva Yvonne Hogg of Jacksonville, Fla., convicted of bank embezzlement.

—William Hoyle McCright Jr. of Midland, Texas, who was convicted of bank fraud.

—Paul Julian McCurdy of Sulphur, Okla., who was sentenced for misapplication of bank funds.

—Robert Earl Mohon Jr. of Grant, Ala., who was convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

—Ronald Alan Mohrhoff of Los Angeles, who was convicted for unlawful use of a telephone in a narcotics felony.

—Daniel Figh Pue III of Conroe, Texas, convicted of illegal treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste without a permit.

—Orion Lynn Vick of White Hall, Ark., who was convicted of aiding and abetting the theft of government property.
Bush also commuted the prison sentences of John Edward Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., and James Russell Harris of Detroit. Both were convicted of cocaine offenses.

Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, an advocacy group in Washington, applauded Bush's decision to commute the sentence of Forte and Harris, who are serving long mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Forte has served seven years and Harris has been imprisoned for 15 years.

"We hope this is a sign of more pardons and commutations to come," Stewart said. "There are currently many low-level, first-time, nonviolent drug offenders who are serving sentences that do not fit their crimes and who would be incredibly grateful if the president gave them a second chance and a fresh start."

One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.

If 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, Obama advisers say there is little — if any — chance that his administration would bring criminal charges.
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