Bush pardons 14, commutes 2 sentences

Washington Post

Breaking a logjam of hundreds of clemency requests, President Bush on Monday granted pardons to 14 people and shortened the prison terms of two others.

The majority of the felons who won leniency were far from household names.

Andrew F. Harley of Falls Church, Va., was pardoned for wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine after a court-martial by the Air Force Academy in 1985 caused him to forfeit his pay and prompted his dismissal from the service.

Leslie O. Collier of Charleston, Mo., had been convicted of unauthorized use of a registered pesticide.


Obie G. Helton of Rossville, Ga., was pardoned after being convicted on charges of acquiring food stamps without proper permission and sentenced to two years probation in 1983.

Ronald Alan Mohrhoff of Los Angeles was also pardoned. Mohrhoff had been sentenced on a drug offense on Oct. 9, 1984, to one year in prison, followed by five years probation with 2,500 hours of community service. His offense was the unlawful use of a telephone in furthering a narcotics felony and was part of a much larger drug bust, according to news reports at the time.

Several other offenders who won leniency were convicted of run-of-the-mill white-collar crimes such as bank embezzlement, tax evasion and accounting violations.

Pardons give the recipients greater leeway to find jobs, live in public housing and vote, among other privileges.

Over seven years in office, Bush has been reluctant to use his near-absolute authority under the Constitution, awarding only 157 pardons and six commutations before Monday.

But people close to the process say that lawyers with political connections increasingly have approached the White House to seek relief for high-profile clients, including former junk-bond king Michael Milken, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe) and former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.


No one who received clemency Monday approached that level of national renown.

But Grammy Award-winning rap artist John E. Forte of North Brunswick, N.J., will be released after serving about half of a 14-year sentence for aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Forte, whose clemency bid was supported by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), has been scheduled for release Dec. 22. He had performed with the Fugees and is a friend of and former backup singer for Carly Simon, who lobbied lawmakers including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) for his release.

The process for pardons starts with an application to the Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Applicants undergo an FBI check, prosecutors and judges are consulted for their recommendations, and the submissions are forwarded to the deputy attorney general before moving to the White House counsel’s office and to the president.