Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Begging your pardon: President's use of pardon power parsimonious compared to predecessors

Mary Flood over at the Chronicle's Legal Trade blog has the raw list of presidential pardons and provides excellent information in the comments on the scope of pardon power.

Hardly Reaganesque, President Bush has pardoned fewer than half as many people as either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, the last two-term presidents, did in their tenures, AP reports - 157 so far. The two cases from Texas pardoned were notable less for their favoritism than for their absolute commonness - a gun dealer from South Texas and a Denton septuagenarian convicted of wire fraud - and a distance of more than twenty years from conviction:

Mariano Garza Caballero Brownsville, Texas
Offense: Dealing in firearms without a federal firearms
license; 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(a)(1) and (2). Sentence: November 1, 1984; Southern District of Texas; 34 days imprisonment, four years probation, and a $1,000 fine.

Carl Harry Hachmeister Denton, Texas
Offense: Conspiracy (to commit wire and mail fraud);
18 U.S.C. § 371.
Sentence: January 22, 1985; District of Utah; three years probation and $39,330 restitution.

The rest of the list includes drug peddlers, embezzlers, and other reformed offenders who surely must each representat of a much larger class of people similarly situated. Why the President would pardon these 15 and not the tens or even hundreds of thousands of other reformed felons with long-ago offenses is anybody's guess. As for the two from Texas, here's more from AP:

Carl Harry Hachmeister, of Denton, said he found out Monday when a caller from the Department of Justice informed him of the pardon.

"You get in trouble once," he said. "Everybody makes mistakes and I made a mistake and I paid for it."

Hachmeister was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in Utah and sentenced in January 1985 to three years probation. He was also ordered to pay $39,330 in restitution.

Hachmeister said he owned his own business tiling floors in homes and businesses but is retired. He declined to explain his conviction, calling it "a long, drawn-out thing."

Also pardoned was Mariano Garza Caballero of Brownsville. He was sentenced in 1984 to 34 days in prison and four years probation for dealing in firearms without a license.

The Associated Press could not locate a working phone number for Caballero.

There's nothing particularly conservative, much less "compassionately conservative," about stingy use of pardon power, so other than a general failure to pay attention to the matter, I couldn't explain why the President has pardoned so many fewer than his predecessors. I'm happy for the Texas two, but Hachmeister's observation, "everybody makes mistakes," puts its finger on what bothers me about this pardon list: Why pardon this handful of people, when so many just as worthy are in the same situation?

Doc Berman called the batch of 15 pardons and one commutation "uneventful," and here's a brief discussion of the list from the blog "Pardon Power." Also, h/t to Doran for the head's up on Mary's post.


Anonymous said...

You REALLY want to know some facts?

Anonymous said...

How did these people actually get pardons ~ did they apply in some way or were they just picked at random? We dont have this system in the UK so I have no idea how it works