'Snookered' Out of Pardon, Convict Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two weeks after he testified before the grand jury investigating former President Clinton's flood of eleventh-hour pardons, federal inmate Garland Lincecum waits here at the county jail, soon to return to a U.S. penitentiary in Texas.

Sixty-seven years old, his hair has gone white and his teeth are rotting.

He has served just two years of a seven-year sentence for fraud. In his mind, he should not have done one single day.

Lincecum paid for a presidential pardon, he said. His brother cashed in his retirement account, his elderly mother liquidated her savings and he chipped in too. Altogether about $235,000 was handed over to a Little Rock, Ark., company allegedly tied to Roger Clinton for what Lincecum said he was promised would be his ticket to freedom.

Still he sits in jail, and still he simmers. Roger Clinton and the Little Rock company strongly deny that they misled the Lincecums, but the family feels they were had.

"I wanted a pardon because I didn't want to go to prison," he said in a jailhouse interview. "But I was snookered. As things began to settle in, I realized I'd been took. And I don't like it one bit."

In his first interview as the chief accuser of former President Clinton's half-brother, Lincecum told The Times this week that he all along considered Roger Clinton the moving force behind the alleged scam.

Lincecum's claim that he paid for a pardon but didn't get one goes to the heart of the federal investigation of the 177 clemencies issued by President Clinton on his last day in office.

Outlining for the first time what he has said to prosecutors, the federal grand jury and congressional investigators, Lincecum said:

* He never met Roger Clinton but that the president's brother was pointed out to him on a hotel balcony while Lincecum was negotiating in the lobby with one of Clinton's associates about paying for the pardon.

* He spoke with Roger Clinton on the telephone, and the president's brother told him: "We're working to solve your problem. . . . I can get anything from my brother."

* He was told the money was going to a Washington law firm that would draw up the pardon application and that it would be part of a package of six pardon requests that Roger Clinton was presenting to his brother for approval.

* He was repeatedly given excuses for why the pardon was not coming through, including the president's concern about political fallout from other controversial pardons he granted.

* Finally, he was told that he would be set free on Clinton's last day in the White House: Jan. 20, 2001.

Clinton granted 140 pardons that day, and several of them ignited a furor over allegations of improper influence and political favoritism. Charges of pardons for money prompted congressional hearings and, eventually, the federal grand jury investigation in New York.

Among the presidential clemencies being investigated by federal prosecutors are Bill Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich and the commutation of Los Angeles drug dealer Carlos Vignali's prison term.

Former President Clinton has said he considered only the merits of each case in deciding whether to grant clemencies.

The Lincecum affair seems to have intrigued prosecutors the most. Lincecum testified before the grand jury for two hours June 6, and his family appears to have turned over the largest amount of money by far.

For his part, Lincecum said he was crestfallen when he realized that his family's money had been spent for nothing.

"I looked at the list in the newspaper the next morning," he recalled. "I thought for sure I was going to be on it. I sure wasn't."

Prison has not been kind to Lincecum. He said he suffered a mild heart attack and also was put in "the hole"--solitary confinement--for four months after he had an altercation with another man. He said he has seen fights and one stabbing.

His mother lives at the family home in Roanoke, Texas, and is 85 years old. "I'm here and I can't pay her back, and she'll probably die while I'm in prison," he said.

Roger Clinton, 44, in an interview with The Times in February, acknowledged that he had indeed promised six people that the president would grant them pardons. But he insisted that they were some of his closest friends and that he never solicited or accepted money from anyone in return for lobbying on their behalf.

Roger Clinton, a sometime rock musician who lives in Torrance, said he left the list of his friends' names at the White House for the president to see and later chatted with his brother about the names--only to find out later that the president had passed on his request.

Roger Clinton, through his attorneys, also has denied that he was connected with the Arkansas company, and he has suggested that if his name was used to raise money, it was done improperly.

On Thursday night, Roger Clinton appeared on CNN's "Larry King Live" and reiterated that he had not accepted any money.

"I'm not saying he's lying," he said about Lincecum. "I'm saying he didn't pay me, and I never got any money. There was no money exchange with me."

Despite his denials, allegations persist that Roger Clinton and the Arkansas company actively sought cash payments in return for promised favors, especially as the president's second term wound down.

Solicitation or acceptance of money in return for the promise of a pardon would constitute fraud and bribery, attorneys say.

Another man, Richard Cayce, has said he was hit up for $35,000--money that he said he paid when he was promised that Roger Clinton could help him get diplomatic passports to enhance his international business efforts.

Lincecum was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy in July 1998. He was prosecuted in Manhattan, the same federal district that is now conducting the wide-ranging grand jury investigation into the Clinton White House pardons.

Lincecum said Cayce, an old friend, introduced him to the Arkansas company, identified as C.L.M. From the start, Lincecum said, he was told that the initials stood for the last names of Roger Clinton, former Arkansas state Sen. George Locke and former University of Arkansas football star Dickey Morton.

Locke is an old friend of Roger Clinton's, with whom he served time in prison in the 1980s for their involvement in a cocaine ring. Roger Clinton sought a pardon for Locke, and, while Locke did not receive one, Roger Clinton did.

Like Roger Clinton, both Morton and Locke have steadfastly denied through their attorneys any influence peddling and have said that the money was being raised for charity.

Cayce, in a proffer given to federal authorities, told a story similar to Lincecum's. He said that Lincecum advanced him $35,000 to pay C.L.M. for help in getting diplomatic passports, which also never came through.

Lincecum, Cayce said, "came to see me and ask if I could talk to Dickey and his group about getting a pardon, as he felt that he was falsely convicted."

Lincecum said he met with Morton in August 1998 at the Embassy Suites hotel near Love Field in Dallas and was told he would have to come up with $200,000 for his pardon.

"We sat in the atrium there and talked," Lincecum recalled. Morton "said he worked with Roger and [Locke] and that the senator had been Roger's cellmate in prison.

"I said, 'Are you sure this can be done and done legitimately?' He said, 'Oh yes. The president can pardon anyone he wants to.'

"Dickey Morton said they had a law office that did this in Washington."

During the meeting, he said, Morton "kept looking up on the landing. There was a fellow standing up there. I am now sure it was Roger Clinton; I've seen pictures of him since."

Morton told Lincecum, "You should be out in three months after going in," he said. "He said, 'That's the way it has to work.'

"He said, 'When can you raise the rest of the money, the $200,000?' " Lincecum said they wanted cashier's checks made out to C.L.M.

He said Locke then walked up. "He confirmed that they could get the pardon, and would get the pardon, and had done it before. The senator said he had gotten one for himself, even." (He had not.)

Lincecum said Morton added that the money would be a "gift" to Roger Clinton because "Roger didn't do [anything], that primarily it was his contacts" at the White House.

He said they added that his pardon application would be part of a six-application package that Roger Clinton would give to the president.

The next month, Lincecum said, C.L.M. officials pressed him again for the money, but he could not raise it on his own. In the end, his brother, Guy, and his mother, Alberta, cashed in their savings to come up with $100,000 each.

The Times has obtained copies of the two cashier's checks, as well as hotel receipts that attest to meetings the Lincecums said they had in delivering the money.

Lincecum said that in October 1998 he spoke with Morton on the telephone and Morton handed the phone to a third man, whom he understood to be Roger Clinton. It was then that Roger Clinton assured him that a pardon would come his way, Lincecum said.

Lincecum went to prison in April 1999. As the months went by, he telephoned and wrote Morton but rarely got an answer. He said his family also inquired about the pardon. None of them could get to Roger Clinton.

"They kept saying I would get it," Lincecum said. "First they said it was delayed because Bill Clinton commuted a lot of the Puerto Rican inmates," a decision that prompted an angry fallout from the public.

"The second time, some other incident came up. The third time, we were promised it would be in August of 2000. Dickey Morton told us that I was on the list and I would be approved at that time.

"I asked where . . . was the paperwork I was supposed to sign, and I was told it would be delivered right before I was pardoned."

Finally, he said, "they said it will be done when [President Clinton] leaves office."

It was not. Now does he expect a refund?

He scoffed. "Maybe elephants are going to fly too."

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