Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

November 25, 2008 -- New York Times (NY)

Bush Issues 14 Pardons And Commutes 2 Sentences

By Eric Lichtblau

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

WASHINGTON -- President Bush granted 14 pardons and commuted two prison sentences on Monday, but the benefactors included none of the big names who had become the topic of speculation as Mr. Bush leaves office.

Mr. Bush has been relatively sparing in his use of pardons compared with past presidents, and the latest round of actions continued that pattern.

The closest any of the defendants came to celebrity was John E. Forte, a hip-hop artist and backup singer to Carly Simon who was convicted of aiding and abetting in the distribution of cocaine. (Ms. Simon put up the bail of $250,000 for Mr. Forte when he was arrested in 2001 at Newark International Airport.) Mr. Forte was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but Mr. Bush commuted the remainder of his sentence.

Amid a flurry of recent clemency requests that reached historic levels, a number of high-profile defendants have looked to Mr. Bush for help. They included Michael Milken, the former junk bond king convicted of securities fraud; Marion Jones, the former Olympic sprinter convicted for lying about her use of performance-enhancing drugs; Randy Cunningham, the former California congressman sent to prison in a bribery scheme; and John Walker Lindh, an American who pleaded guilty to serving with the Taliban.

There has also been growing speculation in Washington that Mr. Bush might issue blanket pardons to government officials and intelligence officers who took part in counterterrorism programs like Qaeda interrogations, to protect them from the threat of criminal prosecution.

But none of that came to pass on Monday. Those issued reprieves had been found guilty of mostly garden-variety offenses; one recipient, Leslie O. Collier, was issued a pardon for a 1996 conviction for the unauthorized use of a pesticide in killing bald eagles. Others who received pardons had been convicted of income tax evasion, unauthorized acquisition of food stamps, drug offenses and bank embezzlement, among other offenses.

The Justice Department and the White House offered no comment Monday on why the 16 people given clemency had been selected out of more than 2,000 pending petitions.

Four of the 16 people lived in Texas or were convicted there. There was no initial indication that anyone in the group had been a major donor to Mr. Bush's campaign or had personal ties to him.

Pardons by presidents leaving office have sometimes created controversy, including ones that President Bill Clinton issued to his brother, Roger, and Marc Rich, the fugitive financier, in 2001 on his last day in office. The Rich pardon was at the center of Congressional and criminal investigations and has become an issue in the expected nomination by President-elect Barack Obama of Eric H. Holder Jr. as attorney general because of Mr. Holder's role in it.

Mr. Bush has made relatively infrequent use of the broad clemency power granted to him in the Constitution, issuing 171 pardons and 8 commutations. He has issued fewer than half as many such actions as Mr. Clinton or President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Bush's most significant clemency came last year, when he commuted the sentence of I. Lewis Libby Jr., a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, after his conviction on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Mr. Bush has two more months in office to consider further pardons. Until then, "the president will continue to carefully review clemency requests and make determinations on a case by case basis," said Carlton Carroll, a White House spokesman.



The 14 people who were pardoned and 2 who had their sentences commuted by President Bush on Monday, as reported by The Associated Press:


Leslie O. Collier, Charleston, Mo., pleaded guilty to unlawfully killing three bald eagles.

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

Richard M. Culpepper, Mahomet, Ill., convicted of making false statements to the federal government.

Brenda J. Dolenz-Helmer, Fort Worth, Tex., convicted of concealing knowledge of a crime, medical insurance fraud.

Andrew F. Harley, Falls Church, Va., convicted of wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine in a general court martial at the Air Force Academy.

Obie G. Helton, Rossville, Ga., unauthorized acquisition of food stamps.

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

Geneva Y. Hogg, Jacksonville, Fla., convicted of bank embezzlement.

William H. McCright Jr., Midland, Tex., convicted of bank fraud.

Paul J. McCurdy, Sulphur, Okla., sentenced for misapplication of bank funds.

Robert E. Mohon Jr., Grant, Ala., convicted of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

Ronald A. Mohrhoff, Los Angeles, convicted for unlawful use of a telephone in a narcotics felony.

Daniel F. Pue III, Conroe, Tex., convicted of illegal treatment, storage and disposal of a hazardous waste without a permit.

Orion L. Vick, White Hall, Ark., convicted of aiding and abetting the theft of government property.

Sentences Commuted:

John E. Forte, North Brunswick, N.J., cocaine offense.

James R. Harris, Detroit, cocaine offense.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact