White Pardons Attorney should go to prison
Deliberately contravening the responsibilities of his office, apparently for his own pleasure, deserves punishment of the harshest sort. Dafna Linzer reports in ProPublica:
The U.S. Pardon Attorney failed to accurately share key information with the White House regarding a federal inmate seeking a commutation, the Justice Department’s Inspector-General concluded today in adetailed 20-page report. The findings determined that in overseeing the case of Clarence Aaron, the pardons attorney, Ronald L. Rodgers, engaged in “conduct that fell substantially short of the high standards expected of Department of Justice employees and the duty he owed the President of the United States.”
The inspector-general’s office said it was referring its findings regarding Rodger’s conduct “to the Office of the Deputy Attorney General for a determination as to whether administrative action is appropriate.”
The report also recommended that Rodger’s office begin reviewing files to locate “other instances” similar to the Aaron’s case “to ensure that the information provided to the White House,” in clemency decisions accurately reflects the facts.
The Inspector-General’s office began looking into the Aaron case earlier this year in response to requests from Congress that came in the wake a story in May co-published by ProPublica and Washington Post. The story revealed that while Aaron had won crucial support for a commutation from the prosecutor’s office in Mobile, Ala., and the sentencing judge there, Rodgers, who opposed Aaron’s release, had failed to accurately convey the full extent of those views to the White House. Acting on Rodgers’ advice, President George W. Bush denied Aaron’s request for commutation in the final weeks of his presidency, on Dec. 23, 2008.
Kenneth Lee, who served as associate White House Counsel then,said that had he seen the actual views provided by the U.S. attorney in Mobile, and U.S. District Court Judge Charles Butler Jr., he would have recommended Aaron’s immediate release from prison four years ago.
Just after our story was published, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., called on President Obama to direct an investigation into the handling of Aaron’s petition and to reconsider his request for clemency. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., specifically requested an investigation by the Inspector-General, “in the wake of reports issued by the ProPublica and The Washington Post,” the report said.
Rodgers, a career civil servant and former military judge, took over the pardons office in 2008. Despite increasing scrutiny and calls for his resignation, he has remained in office. Under his leadership, denial recommendations have soared while actual pardons have been rarely granted.
Aaron’s story was part of a series by ProPublica, and co-published in The Washington Post, on the Office of the Pardon Attorney. The series, which included the first statistical analysis on pardon recommendations, found that white applicants are near four times as likely as minorities to be pardoned. . . .